Life With Trickster Gods

One’s Spiritual Belief Should Never Be a “Numbers” Game

Ever so often, I hear/read fellow Pagans who lament the speed of growth for Paganism over the years. I will be honest, I know very little about the numbers of how Paganism may or may not be growing – and frankly, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it if I knew.

See, I work in statistics on a daily basis. Population growth is one measure that my college utilizes to predict such things as budget, employee cost, and a whole host of other financial positions. I completely grok what the point of that is. The college needs to predict aspects of base-line growth to determine things such as outreach needs, as well as determining larger scale projects that impact bottom-line costs. That stuff is necessary for working a business. I’m not sure its necessary for working with a Spiritual belief system.

Honestly, I am not trying to throw cold water on the idea of Paganism’s wider growth. In fact, I am always happy to see people come to Paganism, when they realize that this is where their Spiritual home is. Alternately, I am also happy when I see people come to Christianity or any other faith when they realize that is where their Spiritual home is. Just as I am happy when I see people accept Atheism or Agnosticism as their Spiritual (or not) home.

For me, its not a “numbers” game. I am not counting up the number of Pagans that are in the bucket I am, nor am I looking for a wild game of Spiritual Red Rover with the Christian faith (or any other faith for that matter). Its not quantity that matters, its quality. Specifically, quality for the adherent of (pick a faith).

IMG_9670Early in my search for a Spiritual home, I wandered to the southern Baptist faith. I was never comfortable with where I was. I didn’t enjoy the yelling and shouting at me. I could not correlate the concept that my soul was going to Hell unless I accepted Jesus ben Joseph as savior. I couldn’t fathom how a “loving” God would do this. But I glossed over those differences between what I believed, and what the over-arching aspect of this faith taught. Why?  Because I wanted to belong with these people. I found people that I thought were friends. I wanted to be a part of the crowd. I wanted to be one of the “numbers”. When I started questioning, I found that I wasn’t accepted because of that. I was drummed out for not “going along.”

Within Paganism, I don’t count myself as part of a number. I am a Pagan. I feel and experience the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits as individual entities. I walk a Spiritual Path that I have learned to define and develop for myself. My relationship with Fliodhas, Crow, and Coyote are between myself and each of Them. I have fellowship with other people who think very similar to myself, and I count many of them as friends. But its not because I need to be part of a number of people. Its because I have unique relationships with each of them as individuals.

It took me nearly twenty years to understand all of this for myself. So, when I hear people talk about a lack of growth within Paganism, or someone points out a study that marks Paganism at (x) percentage of the population; I smile inside. I remember when hearing those numbers heartened my soul. Now, my Spiritual beliefs fall to a population of one. Me. There are others that are similar. And we have forged friendships from this. But those friendships are based on who those people are as people. Not from what they believe or practice spiritually.

But I do hear the drums in the distance. And I realize that there will come a time where what I believe will be contested by others. But that is a post for another time….

 

 

Episode 017 – Exploring Pagan Ministry by Cat Treadwell

This episode, with huge thanks to one of the most awesome Druids I am happy to know, is a talk by Cat Treadwell entitled “Exploring Pagan Ministry”. I found the talk quite fascinating, and quite honestly it has helped change some of my mindset towards the concept of “Priest” within the bounds of Paganism. The volume was a bit light on the original file, so I tried to boost the volume a little bit. Hopefully, that worked well enough.

Congrats to the three winners of Shauna Aura Knight‘s books that were given away on the last episode. This episode, I am giving away two albums from Bran Cerddorion, “The Hour Before Dawn” and “Four Branches: Tales of the Mabinogi in Song”. To be the winner of the two albums, just send me an email to elfster@gmail.com (please include an address that I can ship these to you) before midnight (Central Standard Time, United States) on October 31st. That’s it. You win, you get the albums. Simple as that.

Closing out the show….I decided to dish out one of my favorite S.J. Tucker songs “Sultry Summer Night” from her “Stolen Season” album. One day, I’ll get the chance to catch this lovely lass live.

As always, if you hear music on any of the podcast episodes that you like – please take the time to buy from the artist. Please help support your independent Pagan artist! We want more music from this awesome people….

Email:  elfster@gmail.com
Twitter: @t_elfster
WordPress:  https://tommyelf22.wordpress.com  “Life With Trickster Gods”
Direct Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/paganpath/PaganPath017.mp3

 

Looking Forward on My Journey – Part 3

So, I enter into the third and final part of looking at my Spiritual journey…a look at today and the unknown reaches of tomorrow. I have discussed the aspects of why Druidry is the framework I choose to work with. My current daily work leans more towards impromptu ritual, finding the spiritual in the everyday mundane, and trying to find new connections with the Gods, the Spirits of Place and Ancestor. This includes a deeper look into my own DNA and Ancestry that started last year during a visit to “The Celts” exhibit in London during my UK trip at the New Year.

DNA-related family has never been a strong point of mine. I have never felt like I was part of my relations, as my Path in life is vastly different than any of theirs. But during my trip through the Celts exhibit, there was a lot of information relating to the DNA side of things. That started me to wonder why I am drawn so heavily to a Celtic framework, particularly over these last few years. The more I dig into my ancestral roots, the more it makes sense. The more it makes sense, the more I relate to aspects of Celtic mythology that I never paid much attention to previously. I honestly do not see some of the connections, but am starting to see small aspects of it in the way I relate to the environment around me. The result of look at my Ancestry has me finding out where my family comes from, how they might  have believed, and how they may have related to their native land.

There’s Fliodhas. An Irish Goddess of the Forest, that has found Her way into my everyday Life. I do not readily understand the connection, but She takes a prominent role in my daily Life. She is in every moment that I am outdoors, whispering in my ear about the beauty of Life and the connections associated with that – both readily known, and those that are far more subtle. Where that Path is drawing me towards, I have no idea. But I readily walk it, staff in hand.

And finally there’s Druidry. I started my Bardic Grade a few years back. And honestly, I started out on-fire. Just ready to get things done. And then Life happened. Job changes. The amount of money that was available at any given time. Many other personal issues. I faltered. I took steps backwards in my studies. I did a poor job of documenting where I was, what I did to get to that point. I wound up dancing back and forth in place. Last year, after a conversation with several people at Gulf Coast Gathering, I buckled down my resolve to finish, and changed my attitude towards my studies. As a result, I am continuing down the road with what I must learn in the Bardic Grade, and am taking far better notes – not just on what I am learning, but also HOW I am learning it. The idea/hope is that I will be able to take those lessons and apply those going forward into the Ovate Grade, provided I am accepted to move forward.

Lastly, there is my tie to two First Nations trickster Gods. Crow and Coyote. Coyote started my journey, with lessons concerning the degree of seriousness I approached the world around me. I have learned to be a bit looser with the way I approach the world, and to not only find the positive in the world — but also find the humor in situations. Even when things look catastrophically bad. Earlier this month, I purchased a camper. I have no idea how to back it up properly. To get it into my driveway, I drove through my front yard in order to pull it down my driveway in a semi-straight line. That, I could back up. It certainly smacked of being a silly situation….and I can laugh about it. It happened. It was a silly solution, but it was still a solution.

Every day is a new moment for me. I greet the sun’s rise, and try to approach the day with a new motivation, a new vision to accomplishing tasks set before me, and with new eyes so I can try and discover new pathways that I did not notice before. At the end of the day, I say goodnight to the sun, and ask for the promise that He will rise again for tomorrow’s dawn. I set aside my frustrations over the course of the day, and prepare for an evening where I can relax, read, or study. My daily Path is about constantly learning, focusing, relaxing, and then refocusing again – all with the measure that each day is a new start. And each new day allows me to take new, fresh steps on my daily Path…find new connections I had not considered before, and strengthen the connections I already have. My Past through the Catholic faith, the southern Baptist faith, and within Wicca have helped bring me here. Whether the lessons I learned were negative, positive, or neutral does not matter. There was something to be gleaned from those times within my life. Paganism is the stream that brought me to where I am now, opened my eyes and mind to the perspective of individual Gods and Goddesses, and has renewed my faith in that perspective each and every day. I am on a pathway of Druidry, as a Polytheist Pagan. That’s who I am. But I can never discount or demean where I have come from. All of that is a part of me as well.

IMG_9670

Remembering My Journey – Part 2 – Wicca, Paganism, the US Military and the Gods

From the very beginning, it was obvious to me that Wicca was not a complete fit for me. I was still grappling with the concept of duality (God and Goddess) within the bounds of what I had been taught. In trying to understand that both God and Goddess were separate entities, I fell back to my Catholic roots. Much like there was Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the concept of God and Goddess found fertile ground in my understanding of my personal spirituality. It still wasn’t quite what I believed, but I barely had any manner of explaining how I really felt about the concept of God, Goddess, and my own personal approach. So, this was enough for me for the time being. I could shoehorn my own beliefs into this, at least for the time being. Perhaps the terminology and concepts I would learn going forward would be helpful in generating my own perceptions. So like a lady trying on shoes in Al Bundy’s shoe store, I pushed as much as I could into the boundaries provided, and pretended that it fit.

July 1992

Me – USAF – July 1992

Now, I joined the United States Air Force in 1986, so here I was just a little over a year in and I found my first area of controversy. I worked the night shift at the Carswell Air Force Base (Fort Worth) data processing facility. My shift was comprised of five individuals and myself. Of those five, four were charismatic Christians. Like charismatics in the military, they were over-the-top about their beliefs, and not afraid to shove their beliefs down your throat. My first night on shift, with Drawing Down the Moon to read, lead to all kinds of problems. I caught attitude from all four of these preacher-types. One of them lived three doors down from me in the dorms. He continued the same in-your-face moments with me outside of the work place. Complaints to my chain of command about my work ethic started to crop up. I went from being the guy who knew the mainframe system better than the civilian engineers from UniSys to being the problem child. In 1990, my transfer orders for Germany came in, and I danced inside at the idea of being away from these people.

Practicing Pagans -- Stars and Stripes -- 13Oct1992 -- Page 14Practicing Pagans -- Stars and Stripes -- 13Oct1992 -- Page 15

Germany proved no different. I wound up in another duty section with a born-again Christian, but here my beliefs were respected. As long as I kept my beliefs to myself, there were no problems. Religious discussions were typically avoided. And I found a group of individuals who were not only sympathetic to my position as a Pagan, when I was featured in the centerfold story of “Practicing Pagans” for the Stars and Stripes newspaper – they kindly poked fun at me (my last name was misspelled as “Ban Hook” in the story). This was also the time frame where I parted ways with Wicca.

As I noted before, Wicca never really fit what I understood as my own personal Spirituality. I just never had the words to understand. But I did have the companionship of the people that were part of the coven I studied with. When I left for Germany, I had none of that. I was on my own. And I had a better understanding of Paganism; a better understanding of the dual concepts of the God and Goddess; and a stronger understanding of polytheism. I finally had concepts that fit what I believed – a wider, more expansive view of the perspective of Deities, specifically Gods and Goddesses. With no group to provide an anchorage, I started to explore my own concepts of Paganism. Without that safe harbor of a coven, I found other Pagans in my nearby communities. We banded together under the moniker of “The Pagan Support Group” (which always seemed silly for a title), and I started to learn more about how other Pagans approached their beliefs, their rituals, and their Spirituality. It was here that I started describing myself as a “neo-Pagan”. I wasn’t trying to recreate something from earlier history. I was constructing my own Path through the forests.

And the forests of Germany was where I once again found myself feeling free. Much like the years where I spent time volksmarching as a kid through the woods – I found myself taking long walks in the woods very near to the military base housing I lived in. And it was in these woods that I had my first experience with a Spirit of Place.

Carving at a Roman Spring

Celtic/Roman Shrine – Kindsbach, Germany

I was walking along a ridge above the Celtic/Roman shrine that you see in the picture. This is just west of a small town called Kindsbach, which itself is just west of the outskirts of the city of Kasierslautern. It is in the wooded area just to the south of the football field on the west side of Kindsbach. The ridge above this comes to the edge of a small 40-ish foot cliff to the path that runs right part this shrine. The area is frequently walked by the residents of the area, and they pick up most of the trash. I spent time getting the stuff that they generally missed or was a bit too far for them to reach. On this particular day, I had gotten close to the edge of the ridge, which kicks my Acrophobia into high gear. So I sat down with my back against a tree and tried to collect my breath. I shut my eyes, and felt a presence. I neither heard nor felt any specific communication, but felt a feeling of “thanks”. At first I took no notice of it. But every single time I came back, I felt that same feeling. And on the day I knew would be my last time there – when I knew I was going back to the States the next day – I could feel sorrow at my leaving. I stayed there until nightfall, which is not advised because of the wild boar population. When I walked back to my microbus (what I was driving at the time), I stopped and turned back to look at the wooded visage in front of me. It felt like a small child was hugging both of my legs tightly. I’ve never forgotten that feeling, and will return some time in my lifetime to revisit this place.

That single experience opened my eyes to a much wider world of Spirituality. Monotheism, and Duotheism would never be workable concepts for me. I finally had the words to understand what I believed. I believe in many Gods, Goddesses, Spirits of Place, Spirits of Ancestors….polytheism. The belief in many, individual Gods and Entities. Now my Spiritual Path would lead me to find a framework on which to build my personal Spiritual beliefs upon.

 

Remembering My Journey – Part 1 – Pre-Pagan Beginnings

Usually, for the blog, I think of a topic that piques my interest and write. Sometimes, its a response to another blogger’s post. And every once in a while I get a question from someone wanting me to write on something. That’s the case for this particular post. One of the folks over at the podcast’s page on Facebook commented that it would be interesting if I blogged about about how I came to where I am on my own Spiritual Path. I have talked about little pieces of this throughout the blog. But never all of it at once. So, let’s give it a whirl. Warning:  this is going to be in a couple of pieces….

img_0159While my true walk into a Pagan Path starts somewhere around 1987, the true beginnings are much further back than that. Back in my pre-teen years. I was raised in a military (US Air Force) family, and moving from location to location was the theme of the week for me. I was born in Tokyo, Japan, moved to Washington DC; Del Rio, Texas; and Weisbaden, West Germany in the span of a handful of years. From the age of six, I started doing volksmarching with my parents on the weekends, which usually had us walking 10 kilometers in the German fields and forests. At the end of the walking, I got a nice little medal (which I still have a huge pile of these), and my parents would stop at one of the local vendors to get soft drinks for my mother, my sister and I while my father enjoyed a local brew. Walking in the forests and open fields provided me with the love of being in the forests and fields that I have today. Looking backwards, this is really the start of where my personal Spiritual Path begins.

But that’s the reverence of Nature part. My first taste of the Gods comes in nearly the same time frame. As I have posted before, it was through a set of Encyclopedias. The Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses were presented to me in this way. And this also helped fuel a love affair I have had in World History with the Roman Empire. It was nearly a decade later, that Gary Gygax and TSR helped me see the wider world of polytheism, through the deities__demigods_front_cover_first_editioneyes of Dungeons and Dragons. Yeah.  AD&D helped to open my eyes with the interesting and (for a teenager with little desire to read) expansive tome “Deities and Demi-Gods”. Once again, Roman and Greek Gods and Goddesses were presented, but so were Norse, Celtic, Sumerian, Japanese, Chinese, and many others. It literally allowed me to see a world filled with Gods and Goddesses that were individual entities. Of course, none of that filtered into my mind as real, tangible entities. After all, Dungeons and Dragons was just a game where you used your imagination. There definitely was more to come.

All during this time, I was being brought up in Catholic schools. Not because my family was Catholic, both of my parents were Protestants who didn’t go to church. I was sent to Catholic schools to get “a better education than I could in public schools,” which I certainly did. I finished next to last in my class in overall GPA. But my collegiate test scores showed that I was capable of far more than I ever managed in class. In my senior year of high school, I decided to move on from the Catholic faith system, I never participated in the mass other than to stand, sit and kneel at the appointed times. I never took communion, nor did I ever sit in a confessional (I think Father Reising would have had a heart attack if I confessed all the “sins” I had committed by the time I was seventeen). I moved along to the southern Baptist faith, which seemed to have prettier ladies and a co-ed softball team I could play on (my interests were hardly along the Spiritual lines at this point in my life).

My experiences within the southern Baptist soured me completely on religion as a whole. All I heard about was how I was a disappointment in the eyes of God. How I needed to hit my knees and beg forgiveness every single day of my life, in the hopes of having begged hard enough that God would let me into “Paradise” when everything was done. I constantly heard from adults that my long hair was “not acceptable” – a comment that was always made out of the earshot of others. Honestly, if I wanted to hear comments like that, I only needed to go home and listen to my conservative father’s comments after he had a beer or two.

It doesn’t take me long to move on from this, and I spend a few years not even thinking about my religious beliefs. I join the military, and leave the “religion” area of my dog tags blank. While in the military, I begin dating a Wiccan. She was a few years older than me, but we attempted to make a go of things. One of the first things that was brought up was her beliefs. She handed me three books to read before we even started our overall conversation: Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon”, Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance”, and Raymond Buckland’s “Witchcraft From the Inside”. Of the three books, I really get into Adler’s. I wind up purchasing a copy of this from a local Pagan book shop for myself, and read through it another four times. The year?  Yep, we’ve reached that 1987 point that I mentioned before. Where things go from here….is part of the next post.

Finding Safe Places….Thoughts on #MyPolytheism

IMG_5745Over on Facebook,  a really intense conversation took place concerning Polytheism. A lot of the conversation focused on a blog site which gives polytheists who feel somewhat steamrolled by a lot of the folks with bigger blogging audiences and what are essentially louder voices. It is called #MyPolytheism and has become a place where many of the diverse and lesser heard voices of Polytheism can be found.  Heard without judgment. Heard without argument over what is right and wrong. Heard, where their voice is given equal weight, and equal respect.

In the course of the discussion on Facebook, much of what was said focused on the importance of #MyPolytheism. One of the more intriguing set of questions, came from Alley Valkyrie, which I am going to attempt to answer from my own perspective. To be fair, these questions were not asked of me, and I messaged Alley privately asking if it was alright if I not only quoted her for the questions, but could I also try to do this with a blog post.

Can you understand the need for something like #mypolytheism as a “safe space”? Can you at least see how and why that has become necessary? Can you acknowledge that there is a significant population within the polytheist community that feels the need for a space free from abusive judgement?

Now, at first glance, this looks an easy straight-forward answer that would requiring no more than four to five sentences to answer. But. That would only be scratching the surface. Essentially answering only the cosmetic part of this. There’s a lot more deeper down, which requires a lot more processing, not just on my part. I will get to that a little further down in the post.

As I noted before #MyPolytheism is a place where Polytheists with smaller voices can be heard. I write this blog. I constantly discuss my relationship with the Gods. People read it. Through that, I wind up having a bit of a louder voice. There are those that don’t have blogs – they don’t have time to write, they have other priorities in their life, whatever the reasoning. Through the #MyPolytheism blog site they can express their point of view.

Within many of the social media spaces where folks have “gathered” to discuss the concepts of polytheism, these #MyPolytheism contributors can feel intimidated by some of the discussion that takes place. Especially when some folks start proclaiming that there is only one correct way to be a polytheist.

“You must do [this] to work with the Gods.” “If the Gods are not speaking to you in [this manner], then you are not speaking with the Gods.” “I am a [Priest/Priestess/long-time follower] of this [God/Goddess/Spirit] and if [They] are not speaking to you in [this manner] then you are not connecting with them.” And so on.

In my opinion, this is what “Gatekeeping” looks like. People who guard the gates to the concept of Polytheism and have made themselves into the self-appointed bouncers. Again, my opinion here, but that does nothing but kill the notion that the wider arching concepts of inclusive have built over the last few decades within both the Pagan and Polytheist movements. Granted, the modern Polytheist movement – to my knowledge – isn’t nearly as old as that of modern Paganism , but neither needs an enforcer providing litmus tests to who does or doesn’t qualify. After all, you really don’t need an application and a resume to approach the Gods. You need faith. In them. In yourself. And the unique relationship you develop with a God, Goddess, Spirit of Place, Spirit of Ancestor is between you and Them. But there is plenty of judging that goes on within the social media platforms, which intimidates those that do not meet the qualifications as presented by some fictitious Gatekeeper.

#MyPolytheism provides a space where these folks’ voices can be heard. It also provides a place where contemplative conversation can take place. In essence, a place where the folks that feel somewhat marginalized or forgotten in the overall conversations that take place, can participate.

But why do attitudes such as the Gatekeeper Complex rise up? This, is a tougher question to answer. Remember, just a few paragraphs ago, where I said that this goes deeper? Let’s grab a shovel and dig a bit more.

People feel the need to be “wanted” and “included” in things. The reason that so many folks got riled up on the conversation was that they felt the smaller voices within Polytheism were being discounted or dismissed. Now, whether that’s the case or not – I cannot say for sure. However, Solo Polytheists – those that work alone, as I do, are seemingly left out of the conversation, simply because they practice alone. In practicing alone, the stigma is that these folks do not want to participate in building community. Which is not a true statement, in my mind, as everyone is part of the Community at large. They participate at a level that is comfortable for them. Now, when people hear “Community building” they think in terms of the physical, and that’s not always the case. There’s also “Community building” online, which is what I believe the My Polytheism project is promoting.

There were times, within the Facebook conversation that things got a little heated. I know I was in that boat. I said things a little stronger than I had intended to. That was the moment. Now, looking back on yesterday’s conversation, I can see that the lines from Gloria Estefan’s “But the Words Get in the Way” is somewhat suitable.

But the words get in the way
There’s so much I want to say

As I have noted, I’m not the best writer in the world. Sometimes, I write the wrong statement, or I don’t write enough to thoroughly explain myself. Sometimes I write a statement, thinking that others already understand where I am coming from. When I haven’t even realized that people who read me are not me. They might be starting in the conversation from a different place.

Or, maybe its not so much that there’s so much that we all want to say, but that there’s so much that we add to what we read and hear. In thinking back through all of this, sometimes its a matter of trying to hard to read between the lines and guess at some hidden meaning. Or if my perspective is not part of those represented, I feel slighted because I wasn’t represented in what was said, and assume that my perspective is being tossed on the ground and trampled into the dirt as being unworthy of the conversation. I will admit, right up front, that communication i not the easiest thing – particularly just the written word. I’m no wordsmith. To be honest, I’m not even a very good writer. In face-to-face discussion, I can see the person’s face, watch their body language, and get cues as to whether what I am saying is being received correctly. Or if the metaphor or analogy I am using as an example is coming across correctly. I don’t have that when I am writing. An excellent writer can write well enough to remove most doubt as to what is being said. And sometimes, we as readers, inject our own bias into what we read. All of which can garble the overall concept of what is being said.

I do realize that #MyPolytheism has its detractors. For whatever reason. You won’t find me among those. To me, it is a place where people can voice their perspective. Without judgment. Without being told that they are wrong. And hopefully, those that do come to read what is being said, do so with an open mind. Receptive to what is being said. And ready to ask questions relating to how and why – without injecting aspects of “that’s wrong because…” Or to be encouraging of what these individuals are doing. After all, it can be a scary thing to add your voice to the wider shouts. I applaud those folks who do so.

The fun thing, is that I learn more about my own relationship Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas by seeing how others have their relationships with the Gods. With something like My Polytheism, I get the chance to experience – second-hand – the relationships that others have with the Gods. And in my opinion, that makes all of our experiences stronger, when we talk, communicate, and exchange ideas. No Gatekeepers are necessary.

The Whispers From the Four Directions

Do you hear the sound on the wind?
The beating wings of crows?
Do you hear that on the wind?
The whisper of Andraste and Segomo
Do you hear the spears and swords beating on shields?
Teutates! Teutates! Teutates!
For the protection of Land!
For the protection of Tribe!
For the protection of kindred Spirit!
Standing Rock is the battle line.
—Robyn Birchleaf, 9/7/16

Its been a while since I have dusted off of my old poetry moniker. Back in my early days as a Wiccan, this was also my “Craft” name. Eventually, Wicca faded as a part of my life, but the moniker continues as my writing name.

This piece of poetry I wrote last night. I had set some music from the Johnny Whitehorse series of albums on rotation, and pulled on my headphones to block out noise. As I listened, I let my mind wander to my inner grove, while watching my stone circle in the backyard being bathed by the sprinkler system. It eventually brought my mind to the perspective of water, which naturally led my mind to what is going up in North Dakota. People were protesting, as peacefully as they could, the building of an oil-transport pipeline underneath the Missouri river. Any leak at or near this point threatens the clean drinking water source for the peoples of this area, and everyone else downstream. This includes farmers, whose crops feed the markets of this country where people shop for their food. Odd how all of that is so interconnected when you think about it, right? Not really, to be honest.

There’s nothing truly odd about the interconnection of all of us. What we do to the environment, our communities, ourselves, others, the animals, the air, the water, the land….it affects all of us to one degree or another. That’s a huge part of what I have come to understand and relate deeply to within my Druidry. There’s more than a “Circle of Life” – there’s an interconnected web, where everything finds harmony to one degree or another with everything else around. Everything that is, except mankind.

As human beings, we have managed to be arrogant enough as a species to consider ourselves above everything else in Nature. As a collective species, we have even managed to excuse that arrogance with “divinely inspired” spiritual perspectives that categorize the earth, the animals and everything else to the position of a giant grocery store for our use and abuse. We place ourselves above everything else, and then excuse our abuse and overuse of resources by declaring that there will be an end to this Earth, and the righteous will be flung up into the heavens to enjoy a plentiful and never-ending paradise. The wicked will be sent to a place of eternal damnation. And the planet and the animals?  Who cares? Its use will be finished. We can just wade it up, and pitch it over our shoulders. After all, we’ve managed to create a very disposable society in the same vein. But I digress slightly…

lakota-siouxWhen I wrote that last night, I was remembering that time and again, the clarion call of the Wild Hunt’s horn in my dreams and meditations. I remember a few meditations that were filled with whispers on the wind. “The battle draws closer”  “I do not ask for war. But I do ask you for to defend when the time comes”  “Remember, your staff is not just for aiding you in your walking”  Those were some of the louder whispers that I heard. For me, a determined peace-loving Druid, to speak of hearing whispered words of war is a difficult thing. I don’t like violence of any sort. I prefer to find peaceful, negotiated manners of dealing with conflict. But many times over the past months, I have been reminded that sometimes physical battle comes to one’s doorstep despite your best efforts to quell it.

The issue at Standing Rock is starting to resemble those moments where one has to reach for your staff because peaceful resolutions cannot be easily found. Last weekend, during a three-day holiday stretch, the corporation building the Dakota Access Pipe Line decided to bulldoze a large swath of burial ground that is part of the area that is to be built up. The protesters there immediately started to attempt to stop what was happening, only to be met by a “security” detail with poorly trained (if at all) dogs. The protesters were attacked by dogs that were encouraged to attack by their handlers. Protesters, including children were bitten. Many other protesters were maced by these same “security” folks. All the protesters had to defend themselves with were a makeshift flag on a stick, and their bare hands. What they really should have had in their possession were mace canisters. Not to attack with, but to spray at both the “security” detail and the dogs once the attacks against them (the protesters) had started.

I have always lived by the perspective that being non-violent and peaceful in protesting is the key to getting one’s message across. But just because you are being peaceful and non-violent does not mean that you are not prepared to defend yourself with forceful means. Trying to resolve issues with words and negotiation is the appropriate measure to take, but always be prepared to defend yourself against violent action. Defend, not retaliation. Retaliation belongs in the realm of vengeance, and that is a business that is far more serious, and should be far more thought out and appropriately measured.

From my perspective, and my interaction with Gods and Spirits….there’s a palpable anger on the wind. And return is coming…like I said, vengeance is for deeper thought, and far more measured response. I leave that to the Gods. Should They decide to utilize me as part of that response, I’ll know when They tell me. Until (of even, IF) that time, peaceful, non-violent, legal protesting is the call for the moment. Standing Rock is the battle line.

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