I have watched a lot of my friends and family (remember, my family is not typically DNA related to me) post their messages of thanks. Many of them have had family over during this “holiday” — others have had wonderful times with their immediate family and friends that they have posted online. And I revel in their statements, smiling at each picture posted, and feeling the tugging at heart strings with other posts. Here, up near the Oklahoma border, its been a quiet time.
As the patter of cold rain pops on the roof and against any northern facing window, my iTunes churns out Duran Duran’s “Hold Back the Rain” as I type this. I have spent two days trying to work out audio files in putting the podcast together. I’m nearly finished – which equates mostly to me raising my fists to the sky and declaring my surrender. I watch my pool continuing to fill to nearly full-to-the-brim levels. And about the loudest statement of the entire day came from the cats when 6pm rolled around – their daily call for dinner.
But I am thankful. I am thankful for the quieter, far slower motion of life — something that I wanted in moving up here to sleepy-town Texas. Hopefully, my higher blood pressures will be alleviated from the change of pace. But still, I am thankful that my father had the foresight to save money in the way that he did. While I barely dipped into the money left to me, it certainly took a lot of the pressure of selling the house in Corinth. There’s not day that goes by that I don’t think about him – and miss calling him on the phone to check in on how things were going in Arkansas.
I am thankful for my Pagan family, as widely diverse, and so scattered that it is. Every time I get the chance to spend even five minutes with any of them – I am reminded how much unconditional love is there, as I managed to partake in with Chris Godwin down in Austin a few weeks ago. I spent ten hours driving that day to spend a little under two hours there. But I was treated like a family member by everyone I encountered there. Such wonderful people I have in my Pagan family. They certainly remind me daily that there is hope for humanity – despite what I manage to see when watching or reading the news.
I am thankful to my the God over my shoulder – Crow. I have learned show much from your example, as well as your teachings. I still remain your dedicated supplicant and dedicant. I am honored by your continued interest with me, and continue to honor you through tending of the flock.
I am thankful for my three furry girls, who come into daddy’s office from time to time to see what I am doing – or just to lay on the carpet while I play music. I cannot count the number of times I have turned to see my cats relaxed, laying on the floor while the Grateful Dead, Wendy Rule, Damh the Bard, or Bran Cerddorion are playing on iTunes. My little girls are everything to me…
I am thankful for my partner of the last 15-plus years. Pam has been with me through thick and thin…good times, and bad times. I rarely mention her, simply to keep my privacy — well, private. It was Pam that pushed me to getting my two degrees. It was Pam that encouraged me to teach in the college classroom. It was Pam that chose to understand when I quit my job in the face of being verbally and emotionally abused by an asshole of a boss. It was Pam that understood my need to keep my integrity in doing that, and stood by my decision during two years of unemployment because of it.
Lastly, if you are reading this, I am grateful for you – the people who read my blogs, and the people who listen to the podcasts. I never really understood the function that I have had as a podcaster and a blogger — at least not in the beginning. But I think I “get it” now — its to provide a little corner of the corners of the Pagan community – to showcase how “human” our collective community is, and to highlight how we are all connected together. I am truly thankful for those of you that I have had the privilege of interviewing, and those I have yet to interview (and you likely have no idea that you are in the target sights of my microphone…muhahaha). I am truly humbled by your interest in this blog, as a reader and commenter.
So, while you may not make a list of things to be thankful or you may not post it where others may see it…there’s plenty of people that help make you the person you are. I urge you to find those connections, strengthen them, grow them, find new ones…we are all on this wild ride together. We may as well hold hands and have a good laugh….
Connections. Inter-related points that seem to draw a conclusion that one might not be normally aware of. Relationship.
As I continue in my Bardic studies with the OBOD Gwers, and in reading several different Pagan authors, I am becoming increasingly aware of those strands of information and observation that make up a nearly invisible web with all of us.
For instance, I am currently compiling a list of major-league and minor-league baseball players who have been within the Cincinnati Reds’ major-league and minor-league teams. The database I am working on will eventually be fleshed out a bit deeper with hitting, pitching and fielding statistics for each level — but that’s on the far, far horizon. And yes, I am a database nerd. I have databases for a lot of other things as well. But there’s something I started to notice, as I have compiled the last ten years of Reds’ history. The staggering number of players that have come through those teams (nearly 900 total players).
That’s a literally sea of players that didn’t really make much of an impact on the team. There’s a forty-man roster that the Reds keep each year, and maybe a handful of players who have been on that roster on a continually basis over that ten years. That’s a lot of players who have only a short time with the team – for whatever reason. No, don’t get bored and think I am just talking baseball here. Hold tight.
That’s a lot of players that get left in the wake of the team’s yearly journey. Some move on to other organizations, others drop out of baseball completely. But these make up the flotsam and jetsam of the seasons, and are a part of the team’s story that rarely gets discussed. But this can be applied elsewhere too. Take, as an example, my own life.
Here at fifty, I have a handful of people that I call “friend”. Some, I only see from time to time, when our orbits can mesh – such as East Coast Gathering, Gulf Coast Gathering, Pagan pride Days, etc etc. However, my social circle of friends is very, very small. But looking back through the years, there are so many people that have passed through my life, and no longer are within those spheres of interaction. In a manner of speaking, they have become the flotsam and jetsam within my life. Many, have played an integral part of the shaping of who I am today.
And what about other aspects of Life? The coworkers I have had over the years play parts within the shaping of me as well. My coworkers at the Real Estate Services company I worked with — the folks at jobs.com who all managed to survive the dissolution of the company during the dot-com bubble’s burst — those folks who I worked with when I was the only member of my department that wasn’t in Austin — all the late hours I put in with people who were afraid of me because of my religious beliefs, and those that accepted me for who I was without question. Many of those people, I have not talked to in a decade of time (or more in some cases). My friends when I was in high school, many of whom have changed as much as I have — to the point, that we all find very little in common anymore. Some, I continue to maintain a friendship with – albeit under a very different paradigm — and others who have turned their back on me simply because I did not openly support their idea of “correct” politics. Those connections are still there – still active, still alive — even if the strength of that connection may be greatly diminished from what it was.
And to be quite frank, this is the easier aspect of connectivity to consider. Dig a little deeper, and you find other aspects that become connected. Your interactions with complete strangers in public, what you purchase (who from, etc etc), the manner in which a company does its behind-the-scenes business, and many, many other things. The connectivity is there, its just a matter of finding the strand, and following it to its source.
There’s also the manner in which we cultivate, strengthen, and maintain the connections we have. As a singular instance, I maintain a relationship/connectivity with Crow and Coyote through meditations, little rituals I observe at regular intervals, and allowing Them to both guide my hand at being curious. I know quite a few other people that maintain their connections with Gods, Goddesses, Spirits of Place, and Ancestors through a wide variety of other means. They cultivate, grow, and maintain their connections in the manner that assists them best.
Yes, a lot of understanding some of this comes from such mundane things as compiling a database that is for your own amusement. And while that revelation can be quite surprising at the moment – I have come to find that parsing something that may seem unrelated to issues on a Spiritual level shows how every action one takes in a day can be considered as “scared” when there is purpose providing the background. Even something mundane, and as silly as wanting to know who was a part of your favorite professional baseball team.
Well, six years ago today (11/23), I moved my blog over here to WordPress. Its changed a bit — such as the title going from “Footsteps on My Path” to “Life With Trickster Gods” — but the aim of the blog has always been the same. Its a chronicle of some of the topics I have come across in my Daily Path. Sometimes, I manage to talk about stuff from a Spiritual perspective, and sometimes I tackle topics of a mundane nature. But the thoughts are generally mine. There are some quotations that I have found to be profound enough to include, but for all intents and purposes, the blog is a chronicle of me.
The blog also continues the chronicle of me, as done in the past through my nine-year podcast: From the Edge of the Circle. I have had many instances of people telling me that they enjoyed what I did with that particular podcast. But to be honest, I found it to be cringe worthy from time to time. I am not built to be a celebrity of any kind. Nor am I the type to be a Spiritual Leader of any sort for anyone, except myself. And in a way, I found myself in some of that particular spotlight through the podcast.
And that is something I have had to come to grips with to some degree. There is a celebrity status that comes with putting your head above the crowd, and talking with a loud voice. I am far from being an authority on anything, except for what works for me. I have no desire to be the person that people see as a “shining example” of anything…and yet, just sitting in front of a microphone for nine years, blathering about whatever topic came to mind seemed to inspire some listeners to explore on their own Paths. or as I like to state in my typical self-deprecating manner, they saw someone as stupid and foolish as me doing this; they figured they could do as good a job, or even better for themselves.
I’ve noted before how terrified I get when people approach me with a statement that they are “long-time listeners of your podcasts…”. The spotlight is definitely not a place for me. I speak in front of a microphone attached to my computer. But I am not – in my own opinion – a good public speaker whatsoever. Some of my students in the college classes I have taught may disagree with that statement, but to be perfectly blunt and honest – even standing in front of them and talking about computers made me nervous as I could ever be. Its a lot easier speaking to a solid red light on my Snowball microphone.
Writing the blog is even easier. I just write what comes to my mind. And I hope its coherent. For me, I believe that writing blog posts is like opening another chapter in a book that folks get to read. For me, this is the safest manner to communicate – especially since I don’t have to try and interpret the way all the silent eyes staring back at me might be thinking – or how those eyes may be the indicator of whether my message is getting across or not. Damn communication…
There are days that I wish I was a bit more articulate behind the podcast microphone as Mojo and Sparrow of the Wigglian Way are. And there are days, I wish that my writing was as well thought out as that of John Beckett. And there are days that I am glad that I am not either of those days. Because those three folks are very, very excellent at what they do. And they all work hard towards those ends. And I feel that I would be competing with them. And then I remember the mantra that seems to be the primary voice of all the Pagan podcasters that are out there:
We do not compete with one another. We are each a singular voice in the wider conversation.
…and for me, this remains one of my biggest reminders about the Pagan community is within the various social media platforms. Its a giant conversation between a large number of people – sort of like what you witness at any festival event. People split off into various areas and groups – and they talk. Sometimes the conversations are private, and sometimes you can join in. Nine Hells, you can even start one…. And that’s really what this blog represents: conversation, communication, discussion… I’m not here to compete with anyone. Yes, I get statistical overviews for page views here, as well statistical overviews of the podcasts. And to be honest, the only thing the numbers tell me is how well the topic of interest resonates with the people who want to read. Beyond that, there’s not much interest or worry for me in that area. People will read the blog, that want to read the blog. People will listen to the podcast if they want to. Either way, I’ll continue writing posts; I’ll continue putting out podcast episodes with Upon a Pagan Path. Because I believe that it may be worth reading or listening to — just as another conversation/discussion within the Pagan Social Media Sphere… I will; however, continue to be freaked out when people tell me that they are long-time listeners of the show or long-time readers of the blog.
It was an interesting conversation during my lunch time that day. To get away from my desk, I took my cup of Ramen and my bottle of Gatorade out to a picnic table near my building. After a few minutes, a student approached me and struck up a conversation.
“You’re Tommy Elf” aren’t you?”
I was a touch stunned, this is not a name I am known for on campus. I slowly nodded, and indicated the seat opposite me when he asked if he could sit.
“I listen to your podcast all the time…”
I groaned inwardly. Its not the first time someone has realized who I was…even despite the fact that my little Pagan podcast is not all that well known – even after nine years of battering people’s ears. I slowly nodded as I put another forkful of noodles dried during the Ming dynasties into my mouth.
He carried on like a squeeing fanboy for a few minutes, but eventually came to a serious question that he felt I could answer.
“What’s it like to be claimed by a God? Or even a Goddess if you might know…”
I held my right hand up for a moment, to indicate that I was going to answer him – but only after I finished off the extremely salty broth that my Ming noodles had created from their Keurig water bath. When finished, I flipped my cup into the trash barrel, and turned to him. Worded slightly different from our conversation, this is what I essentially told him. And its only reworded because I don’t have a flash-card memory in my brain.
When Crow decided that I was a new interesting “shiny” to put His
attention to, I didn’t believe it for a moment. I’m not a remarkable person. I don’t have a particularly overwhelming charisma. There’s no way that I could even be close to being considered anywhere in the top twenty percent of the smartest Pagans about. I am truly about as ordinary as one can get without being Charlie Brown. So I spent a good deal of time just pushing back and saying “No, I’m not.”
And then one day, during a meditation, I came to realize that I could view this as a challenge. I could almost *dare* Crow to accept me. He’s a Trickster God, so this must be a trick, right? So I’m going to throw all my chips into the pot, and call. In a way, it was similar to the moment that Jesus Christ accepts his fate of being crucified during his one-way conversation with God during the song “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)” from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.
Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain?
Show me just a little of your omnipresent brain
Show me there’s a reason for your wanting me to die
You’re far too keen on where and how and not so hot on why
Alright I’ll die
Just, just watch me die
See how, see how I die
See how I die
Yeah. Pick up the gauntlet from a God. Smart move. But that’s a lot of the “how” aspect of things. What is like to be claimed by a God? Its not like having your best buddy in your pocket 24 hours a day. In a way, its like having someone constantly peeking over your shoulder, and making clucking sounds with their tongue at some of your decisions and moments. But that’s when Crow is there. And when I do something that is a bit disapproving or disappointing. There’s always the off chance that something needs to be done NOW and by YOU. That’s something that’s only happened once, but I know others whose patron deities can be a bit more forceful.
There’s also “good” stuff to go with the relationship as well. I get visions of places to visit that wind up being beneficial to my Spiritual Path. My trip to Mesa Verde was a result of one of these visions. And the resultant moment on the side of a cliff trail to see a glyph was one of the most intense moments I have ever had. A side trip coming back from Montana provided an extremely intense moment with Crow at Medicine Wheel, during the first few months that I had accepted the relationship I have. And I have no idea what to expect along these lines going into the future, but my visions still come to me.
I call it being “claimed” by Crow, but the reality is that as with anything else in the world around us – its a relationship. And its one that He has willing provided to me, and one I am willing to provide in return to Him. I can always say no…I can always change my mind. But I really don’t want to….
God, Thy will is hard but You hold every card
I will drink Your cup of poison
Nail me to Your cross and break me
Bleed me, beat me, kill me, take me now
Before I change my mind
So, yesterday I spent most of my day behind the wheel of my Forester. I don’t mind driving long distances, in fact I enjoy doing so. However, yesterday was a specific mission — and a chance to experience something I had not had the chance to do so yet. My mission was to get an interview with Chris Godwin, one of the most interesting Pagans I have ever encountered. And the trip was a success on that count. The other was to experience a Pagan Pride Day outside of the DFW area. I walked away from the Pagan Pride Day event, back to my car for a five-plus hour drive back home – extremely impressed on that count as well.
I spent a lot of time with Damh the Bard, Bran Cerddorion, Wendy Rule, Spiral Dance, Gaia Consort, Paul Newman, Omnia, Nico Vermaas, Kellianna, The Dolmen, Jim Faupel, and a few others that I cannot recall at the moment, playing on shuffle. It made the trip a lot of fun for my ears, and very relaxing for myself. Plus, a lot of this music I tend to use as background music when I am writing and meditating – so it was only natural for me to spend a lot of thought exploring various directions in my thoughts.
During my time talking with Chris, I lamented the fact that I would only be at the PPD event for a little under two hours. A trip from up here near the Oklahoma border to Austin is not a terrible drive. Its merely the amount of time that one spends on asphalt that makes it suck. Particularly when you have to make the return trip back in the same day. It seriously limits the amount of time you get to spend there. When I mentioned that there may be a hotel in my future for next year’s event, Chris was very quick to nix that idea over staying with folks in the area. And I have to say, that is one of the hallmarks I have come to know Chris by — he’s immediate generosity to people. Really, an amazing guy, and an example that many people could follow – myself included in that.
In light of the recent events in France, Lebanon and Kenya over the past few days – there have been signs that many people are willing to be examples like this as well. People who step out to comfort the hurting, shelter and house those that were being attacked…and even in the wake of such vicious violent acts, I see a small corner that seems to be getting turned. Where people are starting to see the point about valuing the beings that are. Certainly, this seems to be applied nearly exclusively to human beings, with some tendencies towards the animal world, but rarely a nod to plants, rocks, soil, water, air, or even microbes. But in my eyes, and my thinking, its a step towards understanding and relating to how inter-connected we all are.
Me…well I am an Animist. I believe in the life in everything around me. Even plastics, metals, rocks, soil…it all has life, it all has existence. Some of it moves far slower than we humans do. And in other aspects it moves far faster than we do. And at those extreme points on the spectrum, because we don’t perceive them, we tend not to believe in their existence as entities in the world around us. I am also a believe in the Gods and that they are all around. That we can communicate with them, and vice versa – provided we open our minds to the possibilities and potential. And through both of those lenses, I see the connectivity between all of us in the world around us. That’s the harder perception to view….
The far easier one is how we – as human beings – are connected with one another. Our economies are now tied globally together – thanks to a wonderful tool we all seem to use: the internet. We are connected in other ways as well. Violence that is rained down on people around the world affects us everywhere. We see it on our news feeds, on the televisions, hear it on our radios. We want information on how things are in other places around the world – and that ties us together. But if we understand that aspect of connectivity, the logical question is why would we project violence on to others? Power? Because they are different? Because our government said so? Because we have no other way to get our point across?
In my eyes, its a matter of getting people to understand our connectivity, that we are all the same – regardless of skin color, eye-color, dominant hand, hair color, place we were born, who are parents were, what country we live in, what region of our country we live in, our economic status. And while I would gallantly wish and believe that this would happen in my lifetime, I’m not overly naive. In two generations, we are still arguing out the perspective of skin color. Whether one skin color matters more than another. Which, I personally find silly. But I am only one person. Surely there are others that feel the same way. And there are. They make their voices known too – they talk about this topic everywhere else in the social media platforms, in face-to-face environments…And this is where the first step towards realizing the interconnected nature of us all starts. It will happen. Probably not in my lifetime. But to steal a line from Babylon 5: “The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.”
When I was at the Austin Pagan Pride Day, I walked throughout the festival area and looked at the folks there. Even after a short spat of rain, people were happy to be there. They were genuinely enjoying one another’s company. I met up with two folks that I had met for the first time in February, and was thrilled to see them. Very happy times for all that. In meeting Chris and his wife Amanda, they greeted me like a friend that they had not seen in a while. Almost like family. I met an individual from Ohio (I am obviously not giving names here), who I was able to converse with on a few military-related topics. When I left, he gave me a friendly hug, as if I was someone he had known forever. Another lady I met, I had a wonderful conversation with on Native American topics. You cannot have conversations like that with people that do not understand the connectivity between everyone and everything, nor with people who don’t value what that connection means.
Austin Pagan Pride Day was a wonderful event – a sheer joy of the two hours I spent there. Full of magickal moments, from meeting two individuals I had wonderful conversations with, seeing two friends that I was able to spend a few minutes of time with, getting hugs from both Chris and Amanda, and the magickal interview with Chris in the rain (yes, it rained on us while we were doing the interview). What I witnessed, and was a part of for those two hours, was a community of Pagans who valued and cherished the connections that they have with others. It was only two hours, but it was well worth ten hours of being behind the wheel of my Forester. And its connectivity like that, which I seek out — not just within the Pagan community, but everywhere.
How do we defeat individuals bent on such violent acts? Practice what we believe. Find the connectivity within your community. Find the connectivity within your environment. And place value on the connections, as well as on the entities on the other side of those connections. It may not happen in my lifetime. It may not even happen in the lifetimes of the next four generations. But it is certainly the right time, the right climate, and the right reasons to start the avalanche.