Author Archives: Tommy Elf

About Tommy Elf

Voice of the Pagan podcast "Upon a Pagan Path", blogger at "Life With Trickster Gods, Priest of Crow, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (currently in my Ovate Grade studies).

Relationships with the Gods are Unique…and Complicated

I attended Many Gods West 2017 a very short while back. Most of that came from pushing by Crow, as well as my own desire to try a Pagan-oriented conference that was geared around a specific area of topical interest, rather than the massive general interest that a much larger conference such as Pantheacon generates. I came away from MGW with nearly two dozen writing prompts, much of which came as questions that came to mind during various presentations.

For me, each one of the prompts that I gathered are direct confrontations to how I am practicing my own polytheism with my triad of Deities:  Coyote, Crow and Flidais. Each of these Three present differing approaches to daily Life for me, and at the same time – together They are a part of my connection to all that is around me. My relationship with each of Them is unique, and singular. I say prayers to Them, as well as other Gods and Goddesses that I have no specific ties to, seeking guidance in what is becoming a more troubled and difficult world.

In what turned out to be a more physical presentation than I thought, “Embodied Practice and Devotion” had all of us in guided focus over feeling aspects of our own physical bodies. Controlled breathing, singular awareness of parts of the body, general awareness concerning various specified inputs and perspectives – none of which was terribly new to me. However, toward the end of the presentation, discussion was opened to the participants and part of that turned towards the idea of devotional surrender, a concept I have never really entertained prior to that moment.

From my notebook:

  • Devotional surrender versus Personal Sovereignty

    • Should we surrender completely to our Gods?

    • Should we bargain limitations with our Gods?

      • Does this limit who They are in our lives?

      • By not pushing our boundaries, are we limiting who we are as individuals?

A lot of this was difficult to work directly with at that particular moment. However, now back at home – in territory that is far more familiar to me, where I can let down my emotional shields that I carry publicly as an introvert – I am now starting with this particular writing point to start looking at my direct relationship with my little Triad.

So, probably the best place to start is to try and define these concepts, starting with devotional surrender and personal sovereignty. To be particular honest, I am not at all interested in the common definitions of the two terms, but rather in how these definitions work out for me. This means that you – the person who has decided to click on this blog post and read it – may define these terms radically different than I do. Frankly, that’s great. What it means is that you will probably come to far different conclusions than I do. And that’s great too. I am not looking for a fight or argument over the difference in our definitions or in our approaches. I don’t mind a discussion over all of that, because it helps me to see some of the cloudier areas in all of this. But I am not interested in a “my way or the highway” approach to discussing differences either. And with that out of the way, let’s dive into how I approach these two points.

The easier of the two, for me, is personal sovereignty. What this boils down to is that I am in control of things where I am concerned. My approaches to the Gods are mine. What Crow, Coyote or Flidais may ask of me, I have the ability to say “no” or “that’s a line too far for me.” The same goes for anything that is asked of me or told to me by any individual. I am in control of me – to the best of my ability. Yeah, its a simplistic definition, but it works for me in terms of this blog post.

Devotional surrender, on the other hand, is a bit more problematic for me. Mostly because I have never entertained this concept before. As I understood the concept from the panel, this can go from terms of following the commands and wishes of one’s Gods without question and follow all the way through something akin to being possessed physically by one’s Gods. For me, that’s an exceptionally wide area, but all of that does seem to fit into the entire concept. Plus, as I ponder over this, I feel that I may already work within some aspects of this already.

During a different panel, I related my bond to Crow. I am a Priest of Crow. Crow has already provided various tasks for me. But as I noted during the panel, I am free to question, and I am free to say “no”. If I am drawing the limitations on what is asked of me by Crow, am I limiting my relationship with Him? I do believe John Beckett once noted in a blog post of his own, that while we can say “no” to the Gods – that may be a moment where They choose to take far less interest in us as individuals. Certainly a risk that comes with that.

Prior to Crow, I worked exclusively with Coyote. Coyote was fond of giving my tasks to complete where I wound up looking like a fool when I finished each one. I knew I was working with a Trickster, so I tried to be patient through it all. After about nineteen or twenty of these tasks designed to make me look foolish, I went into a meditation looking for a confrontation. Frankly, I was pissed off at being made a fool. During my interaction, I asked why I was being made a fool. “You make yourself the fool,” was the response. If I am being made the fool, then why in the Nine Hells would you want to work with me? After the laughter subsided, Coyote noted that I was the fool for not asking questions. “I actually wanted to see if you possessed a spine” was the final response.

With Crow, I utilized some of this in my interactions with Him. Like Coyote, questioning was implied, but on a far shorter leash. I have had a few interactions where I have made the statement that I will have to think about whether I would do as asked. “Let me think about that” usually receives a terse reply of “do not take too long.” So, I do bargain with Crow. And sometimes I do try to bargain a limitation. But I have never entertained the idea that I might be limiting my relationship with Crow by doing so. Perhaps, by setting my own boundaries of what I can or am willing to do, I am changing the relationship that I have with Crow. But perhaps not too much.

I do see the Gods as beings that are far beyond my own personal comprehension. But I also see my relationship with the Gods to be somewhat similar to relationships that I have with other human beings. There are people that I would literally do anything for. Some of them know this, some of them don’t. There are others where I am willing to things for, but only up to a certain point. My relationship with them is not nearly as strong. My relationship with Crow is stronger than the one I have with Coyote. There are far more things I would do in service to Crow than I would in service to Coyote. That’s because the relationships are different. And my relationship with Flidais is far weaker than with the other Two. Our relationship is just barely over two years in age. In many ways, we are start in the flirtation stage.

I do not think that I have really changed too much of my opinion on whether boundaries, limitations or bargaining lessen a relationship with my Gods. Perhaps, if I had a more demanding God or Goddess, it would be a bit of a hinderance or even a point where my relationship with one of Them may cease. As for devotional surrender, I believe it really depends on which end of that spectrum may be in play, as to whether I would agree that it was a good idea or not. Allowing personal possession has an uncomfortable feeling to it, and crosses a lot of line with me in my own concept of personal sovereignty. Regardless, I still believe that my relationship with the Gods and Goddesses, particularly my Three, is a unique to me – and there may come a time when I will have to explore this aspect of devotional surrender to an ultimate extreme at some other time. Because relationships are unique…and complicated.

Some Thoughts on Many Gods West 2017

So, this has been the second day of Many Gods West 2017 – the third day I have been here. The Red Lion hotel here in Olympia is rather nice and comfortable. Anyone thinking of coming to a future one – its quite a beautiful location. And if you are worried about available food outside of the hotel – everything is close by with a short 5-8 minute drive away. But all of that is just the incidentals, eh??

I am not sure what I expected when I got here. I had heard things could be a little politically charged. From all of that, I had gleaned that perhaps there could be confrontational moments. But I also know that real experience is a far better judge of what happens than just hearsay. Were there politics?  Sure. Some. Nothing significant though. Sort of the same political discussions that happen at work. But no one seemed to get their feelings hurt when a different opinion was expressed. Many of the folks listened carefully to what was said, and then added on to the point being made with a logical perspective. There was no disrespecting of anyone’s perspective. I would say that everyone was respectful of differences, and for me – the conversations were absolutely delightful! I wish I could have informative, respectful conversations like this all day, every day.

Each of the panels I made were very well done. Lots of good points made, and a lot of give and take with the audience as well. These are the kinds of panels I adore. I have several pages of notes – and lots of blog topics to write on going into the future. And yes, most of those will be on personal, devotional, polytheistic practice. Some of the topics opened my eyes to some of the work I have been doing with Crow, and one panel opened my eyes to how the relationship I have developed with Crow will change over time. As our mutual trust of one another develops and matures, so will the nature of our relationship with one another and our understand of one another. That particular panel provided me with well over a dozen perspectives and concepts to blog on, including that one. So I am super excited to start exploring how to advance my relationship with Crow – both from an intellectual perspective, as well as a physical devotional one.

So, if you have been looking to this small Pagan conference in the Pacific North West and have not decided on it yet – my personal opinion is that you should come here. You should go to the panels. You should sit in the hallways and talk to others about….well, anything. Now let’s remember – I’m an introvert trying to come out of my shell. I ran back to my room several times over the last two days…just to restock who I am. I did this numerous times at Pantheacon this year and last year.

Tomorrow morning, I will make one panel in the morning and begin my trek back to SeaTac International airport – a 90-minute drive (depending on the traffic). But as I drive north, I will be remembering this convention fondly. Crow pushed me towards this with the notion that I needed to go. And from what I have heard from the panel presenters and from the conversations I have had with others….I understand why I needed to be here. But regardless of that, I’m sincerely glad I was able to go, because I see a way forward that I never realized was there before.

I can’t say that you will find a revelation within any of the panels at Many Gods West, but if you are a polytheist – you will certainly find a lot of people to talk with who have shared similar experiences to your own. And for me, that was just half the fun!!

 

So You Want to Try and Connect with Gods??

Nearly every polytheist I have talked with has heard this question or something quite similar to it:

How did you go about finding the Gods and Goddesses you work with?

To be completely truthful, I would say that its different for everyone. There are similarities and parallels that can be found in each person’s particular “moment” but each individual makes a unique connection with the Gods and Goddesses that they work with. No one connection will be the same. And while some approaches taken to the Gods and Goddesses may be similar, I would still claim each to be unique because of the complexities that exist within any relationship.

So, you want to try and make a connection with the Gods? Its quite an exciting moment when you decide to reach across and work with the Gods in some way or another. And I’m not talking about the $Deity-As-Vending-Machine concept. For me, working with the Gods can mean a lot more than that. And when you start to think about it, it can be a scary concept as well. After all, what happens if you get asked to do something that you aren’t really prepared to do? Well, that’s somewhat easy – you can just say “no”. We have the ability to choose what we will and will not do. We can (and do) create our own lines that are into territory too far. Many people call that personal sovereignty, where you are the ultimate decider of what is a request-to-far.

I have discussed how I met Crow through Coyote. Both remain in my life to this day – Crow more so than Coyote. I pledged myself to Crow as a Priest a couple of years back. But even as Priest, I do have the ability to say “no” – I just don’t normally do so. On tougher requests of action, I ask for time to think things through. One of those things was attending Many Gods West this year (where I am typing this from right now). Crow asked (rather strongly) that I go; that I talk with people; that I get to know them better; that I set my feet back onto the direction of getting out of the shadows and into the observable light. That was shortly before Pantheacon, sometime late last calendar year. I asked for time to think about it. I checked available time. I checked available funds. When I realized it was workable for me, I agreed. I could have just as easily have said no.

Coyote approached me through my dreams. It took a short while before I figured out who He was. That was my first encounter with Coyote. As I said, Coyote passed me over to Crow to learn more. Flidias, on the other hand, has been something completely different. I encountered Her through Dreams and meditations, where She has been hiding behind trees – among other items – beckoning me to follow Her. Most of my time spent with Her has been playing this game. She whispered Her name to me when I managed to catch up with Her – and I had to look that up to figure out who She is. Even then, it was a pain, because I had no idea how to spell the name.

There are many other ways that one might be able to approach the Gods and Goddesses. Study who They are. Find devotional rites and figure out how to do these on your own. Go to places that are sacred to Them, and meditate on who They are. Or just stumble across Them in your everyday practice. Or talk to others who have worked with a deity that you are interested in approaching. Find out how they had managed to come in contact with Them. And then try what they express worked for them. And be patient. Remember, you are trying to court favor with a being that sees the world very differently from you. And realize, They may not be interested. That can suck, but it can be a reality. They have just as much right to say “no” as you do.

I will toss this out there as well…working with the Gods is not the same as rolling dice and looking up Their stats and such in Deities and Demi-Gods. My initial workings with Coyote were about changing the way I see myself; trying to not be so serious about who I am, and having fun with the daily drudgery of Life in general. My work with Crow has been far more specific, far more intense, and a lot more difficult in what I needed to do. In some cases, I have sacrificed what I wanted to do, for what Crow wanted me to do. But there is reward with the hard-work as well. I have learned lessons about myself that I would never thought I would entertain in my best dreams. That’s the exciting stuff. There are daily offerings and rites that I do as well. What I tend to call the “same old drudgery” – but its part of being who and what I am – A Priest of Crow.

I can always say “no” to any of this, so Crow is not my Master. We work in partnership, though I would consider Crow to be far more other-worldly than I am. In this physical realm, for the tasks He gives to me, I am His presence. I am quite sure I am one of my followers…my role is not the same as theirs nor is it bigger or better. It is my role. Our relationship is unique between us, it took hard work, and a lot of trust on both sides of the equation to get here. And I cherish what that relationship is. I celebrate it every moment of my Life.

Do you want a similar relationship with a Deity? My suggestion would be to learn about who They are. Learn what They like, what They dislike. Put daily moments aside for Them and attempt to approach Them in whatever fashion you deem is right. And again, be patient, be respectful, and be prepared to do the hard work. Not every moment with the Gods can be like the movies. Nor should it. The movies are the movies. You are living in real life. And real life….it most assuredly is hard work.

 

The Days Between – Jerry Garcia

I am undeniable a Dead-head. I own several gbs of their music. I have several solo works of other members. I have all the concerts from the last two years of Dead & Company in my music collection. Yet, I have never seen the Grateful Dead play live. I’ve not seen any of the solo efforts in a live setting. I’ve yet to make a single Dead & Company show. To be frankly honest, the Grateful Dead and associated acts were never part of my musical calculus until somewhere in late 1994 or early 1995.

See, I grew up in the mid-1980s. Teenagers at that time were listening to New Wave or Heavy Metal. Me? I was a Metal-head. My youth was spent listening to bands like Iron Maiden, Tygers of Pan Tang, Twisted Sister, Motorhead, Cirith Ungol, Metallica, Megadeth, Saxon, Fastway, Dio, Rainbow, Doro, Lita Ford, Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Mercyful Fate, Ratt, Motley Crue, and many others. The Grateful Dead just weren’t anywhere in that neighborhood. But three years spent overseas in Germany changed a lot of this for me.

While stationed in Germany, I was exposed to a wider assortment of music – and learned to appreciate musicianship in its many forms. One of my earliest encounters was through jazz guitarists such as Allan Holdsworth, Al Di Meola, AND Kazumi Watanabe. From these, I came upon acts such as the Indigo Girls, and Gary Moore. And eventually, I wandered into the Grateful Dead.

It was the lyrics that got me there, along with listening to more of the “In the Dark” album than just “Touch of Grey”. I found a lot of synchronicity with various songs, such as “Black Muddy River.” This led me to digging into the band’s past and finding more songs with awesome lyrics. Eventually, I came across the song “Days Between” – where I found lyrics that were incredible, with such delicious imagery attached to it (see the lyrics for the song below). This was the type of poet that I wanted to be!

Sadly though – it wasn’t Jerry’s voice that drew me in. That was – and still is – Bob Weir. I enjoy his vocal renditions of songs in Dead & Company that were traditionally Jerry’s to sing. That’s not to say that Jerry was a terrible vocalist, merely that my ear is drawn more to Weir’s style.

I do remember where I was on August 9th, when the news came out that Jerry Garcia had passed away in 1995. I was working a day shift as a Tape Librarian at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. When my shift was over, I heard on the radio about other fans of the Grateful Dead who were meeting in a local park to celebrate Jerry’s life. It didn’t take me long to decide to go there. When the sun set, candles were passed around and lit – and the crowd sang songs that were traditionally Jerry’s. I didn’t get to stay the entire night, as I did have a shift to work the next morning – but according to the news people stayed until well after midnight.

I can’t honestly say that the Grateful Dead and their music has really touched my life, or even that it has ignited a fire within me. What it has become though, is a constant companion wherever I go. My iPhone typically has over 2gb of Grateful Dead music on it at any given time. When I am writing (as I am now), the music playing in the background is of the Grateful Dead or some derivative. The sound calms me, relaxes me, and really puts me in a frame of mind to think. So, while I’ve never seen any aspect of the Grateful Dead in a live setting, the music of this band, and the associated acts that have sprung from it have become that constant companion that I really enjoy. We might not be old friends from way back in the day, but we’ve made up for that over the last twenty-plus years.

Jerry was born on August 1st, and died in 1995 eight days after his birthday. Yesterday. many Dead-heads celebrated what would have been Jerry’s 75th birthday. On August 9th, Dead-heads will remember the loss of Jerry twenty-two years ago. From August 2nd to August 8th, this period of time has been lovingly referred to as “The Days Between”…in loving tribute to Jerry, I present to you the lyrics to “The Days Between” in closing.

There were days
And there were days
And there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
The world grows dark and mean
Comes the shimmer of the moon
On black infested trees
The singing man is at his song
The holy on their knees
The reckless are out wrecking
The timid plead their pleas
No one knows much more of this
Than anyone can see anyone can see

There were days
And there were days
And there were days besides
When phantom ships with phantom sails
Set to sea on phantom tides
Comes the lightning of the sun
On bright unfocused eyes
The blue of yet another day
A springtime wet with sighs
A hopeful candle lingers
In the land of lullabies
Where headless horsemen vanish
With wild and lonely cries, lonely cries

There were days
And there were days
And there were days I know
When all we ever wanted
Was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
We told them where to go
Walked halfway around the world
On promise of the glow
Walked upon a mountain top
Walked barefoot in the snow
Gave the best we had to give
How much we’ll never know we’ll never know

There were days
And there were days
And there were days between
Polished like a golden bowl
The finest ever seen
Hearts of Summer held in trust
Still tender, young and green
Left on shelves collecting dust
Not knowing what they mean
Valentines of flesh and blood
As soft as velveteen
Hoping love would not forsake
The days that lie between lie between

There were days
And there were days
And there were days between
Polished like a golden bowl
The finest ever seen
Hearts of Summer held in trust
Still tender, young and green
Left on shelves collecting dust
Not knowing what they mean
Valentines of flesh and blood
Still tender, young and green
Hoping love would not forsake
The days that lie between lie between

Written by Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter

Being Shoved and Dragged to the Spotlight

So, the coming weekend will bring the arrival of more travel for me. This time, I’ll be headed to Many Gods West in Washington state. I’ve never been there before, so I’m sure I will get lost plenty between the airport and the hotel. But that’s ok, I am arriving the day before, so I can try and navigate the best that I can. But I am actually looking forward to this trip. There’s a handful of reasons, but the most important one for me is to provide representation for Crow. I’m not presenting anything…not on a panel…just there as a person coming to the convention. Besides….

Speaking in front of crowds makes me uneasy. Even teaching in the classroom – from which I am now three years removed – made me feel uncomfortable. There’s honestly not a whole lot that I think I could provide to a conference that would be of interest. I’m just a simple, solo, polytheist Pagan Druid making his way through Life with my daily rites and devotions. I’m really just like anyone else. And yet….

I have a trickster God (thanks Crow) that keeps pushing me towards storytelling. And I practice. I record each attempt, and play it back and listen. I learn from what I hear. The inflection in the voice – the points of stumbling on words from languages that I don’t know, such as Irish. To try and resolve that, I decided to try and learn Irish. I’m not bad at it, but its painfully obvious that I am novice. My German is rusty, though there are stories I would like to tell from that. And then there’s the American folklore and the First Nations stories as well. And I keep getting reminded – one story at a time…and when you’re ready, start releasing what you record.

…and I got a Soundcloud account just for that. I stuck up my attempt at the “Screen Door Boar”. And I’ve not gone back to check any stats. So…I guess now is better than anytime.  And its only gotten two plays in the last three months, which is ok with me. Its only a partial recording of the story I told around the fire at Gulf Coast Gathering. I warned zero people that I was going to tell it, so no one seemed really ready on recording it. But everyone who heard it thought it was a lot of fun. For me, it was one of the scariest moments of my life.

And yet here I stand. At the threshold to going the route of the storyteller. Bringing a voice to the mounds of poetry I have written. Learning a language so I can pronounce words better. Learning to play guitar – even just a little bit – so I can add some extra push to what I write. And I have stagefright. Me. The guy who podcasts (sometimes). The guy who was a teacher (and nearly shat his pants every time I stood in front of the class). And I get the shakes every single time I try to stand in front of a group of people.

….then there’s the podcast, which I set off to the side for the moment. I will be bringing my recorder to the convention. And I will be looking for folks that want to talk. I won’t be recording any of the panels – because that would just be rude for me to show up and do so. I’m unsure of what the recording policy might be – and honestly, I’ve not asked. So for me, that places the recording of panels on the “no” list for me. But I will be looking for folks that just want to talk…away from the convention. Quietly.  One-on-one, or with a few folks talking about a particular subject. What that intention will bring? I have no clue whatsoever. However its where I am being led. And honestly, I’ll follow that lead….because I trust where its coming from.

So, somewhere in all of this – I need to conquer the fear of being up front where people can see me and hear. I’ll be at CalderaFest this year as well….and I volunteered to announce some of the folks playing on the stage. If there was ever a moment where I will need to completely conquer that fear…it will be there. And yes, I will have the recorder in hand to talk with folks. Because…well, that’s what the podcast is about. Talking to folks about how they came to the Path they are on…or whatever else they might wish to discuss.

I do understand why I am being pushed to the forefront – with a talon shoving my heel and a beak catching me firmly in the small of the back – stories are important. Stories are the oral history. Stories are the lessons. Stories are the fun. And people laughing and enjoying themselves pushes me forward. Knowing that I can entertain, as well as teach, pushes me to the forefront. And the only way I will get better – is to do it. And then there’s the stories of other people. How they came to be where they are, why they are on this Path – because others need to hear the stories of people to realize that (a) they are not alone, and (b) their own story is not that different from other people.

As for the stagefright…..Crow says that I can clean myself afterwards….

 

The Care and Feeding of This Solo Polytheist Pagan

Today’s world is a crazy, zany, and confusing place. The political parts of the world bleed into nearly every part of life. Yes, even into my daily Spiritual life. Honestly, it can suck the happy right out of one’s world – if you let it. So how do I get around it? Well there are a variety of things that fit into that question. Originally, I titled this post as “The Care and Feeding of A Solo Polytheist Pagan” but I realized I cannot really speak for anyone else. So I changed it from “A” to “This” to more reflect that this is what works for me.

In a manner of speaking, this is really about how I manage to keep my sanity in what sometimes feels like a world spinning out of control, headed right towards the Sun for a moment of final destruction. Of course, there’s always the question of whether I do keep any sanity, but that’s a discussion for another time and place. 😉

Dealing with Politics, News, Infighting, and Intolerance

Perhaps the most difficult thing for me these days has been parsing politics and news. Never having been a fan of the current President, his juvenile antics and head-scratching political statements can sometimes send me on a real bender. Couple that with news on climate control events, issues relating to the varied treatment of non-whites throughout the country, the abridgment of rights and lands of First Nations peoples and tribes, and trying to decide who can and cannot use this or that restroom….my state of mind can move from being fairly well balanced to sheer anger to complete despair. And sometimes all of that can take place within the span of five minutes. And no matter how well I have managed to ground and center myself for the day, just a few moments with the news of the day has the potential to smack me off-center for hours on end. And none of that addresses the infighting that takes place within the widely varied perspectives within the Pagan community that occasionally make it to my ears. I am not a particularly empathic individual. I can relate to feelings and emotion of others to an average degree, but that rarely overwhelms me. But intolerance really sets me off quite easily. So what to do?

My primary means of wider communication comes from Facebook. Lately, I have taken to turning off Facebook in the evening hours. Sort of like a Southwest Airlines method – you know the commercial slogan, “Want to Get Away?” But that’s only part of the equation. I have also stopped watching the news in the evenings and even ditched my bad habit of listening to talk radio whenever I was home and coding in my baseball database. Now, I am more likely to put on some Loreena McKennitt or Mary Black, depending on my state of mind at the moment, and just writing. Or if I am not in the state of mind to write, I’ll grab a book and read. Anything to allow my mind and nerves to get away from hearing about this or that from the news.

Daily Rituals

Another way to bring my focus back to the things I need to be focused on – such as my Ovate Gwers studies – is that I have some set rituals I perform throughout the day. Well, these are more “set” in the fact that I try to do them daily, rather than a rote set of instructions. Every morning, regardless of whether I make the sunrise or not, I greet the sun. Mostly, its a matter of stepping outside and spending a few moments grounding and centering, and then saying hello to the sun. Sometimes I manage this at sunrise, sometimes I don’t. And when the weather is bad, I do this from under the backyard patio overhang – or if its way too cold to be outside in my PJ’s, I do so from within my office where my window looks out on my backyard stone circle.

There are other daily rituals that I manage throughout the day: walking around the college campus where I work to clear my mind. For some reason, walking allows me to do just that – clear my mind of thoughts and regain my center and focus. If I were to try this sitting in one place and just grounding and centering, I achieve nothing, and find my mind to be a somewhat scrambled mess.

And the place where I manage these doesn’t matter either. I have walked the aisles of an aircraft in flight to just clear my mind. Granted, the distance wasn’t all that long – but the momentary stretching of the legs can bring me back to focus. When I travelled overseas to the UK these past two winters, I lifted the shade on the window seat to greet the sun on the trip over. Little set patterns like this are critical for me to handle the rest of my day – whether on vacation, at work or at home.

Remembering My Place

There are times where I will find myself overly engrossed with something – typically its the news coverage. When this happens, I will spend some time remembering who I truly am. I’m not a purveyor of the news. The news is nice stuff to stay in touch with the wider world around me, but my personal focus is different. I’m a Priest of Crow. I’m a Druid, in my Ovate grade training, I have a daily job that pays the bills and requires my attention 8+ hours of the day. But being outdoors is where I should be, not indoors looking at a computer screen (though that is what I am doing at this very moment). I write, I read, I am working towards being a Storyteller because this is where I see the future (and the past and the present) of the world:  telling the stories that connect us, our environment, the animals, the Gods – all of us – together. My place is not to worry about what the fake-Donald-Trump does. Certainly, it is best to keep an eye on him, as well as the rest of my representative government officials. My place is elsewhere. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that.

Don’t Beat Myself Up When Things Fail

This last part is one of the hardest things for me in the care and feeding of myself – not being too hard on myself when I misstep, stumble, or fall. And it happens. I’m fallible. I make mistakes. I misjudge things. I am also my own worst critic. And sometimes I have to remind myself of all of that. Its not a competition between myself and other Pagans as to who does what better, or how often, or more mistake-free. My Path is mine to walk. If I trip on the roots or rocks in the Path, I need to bandage up my wounded pride, check myself for injuries and tend to those. When all that is done, its time to stand up and continue walking along the Path, reminding myself to be a little more careful of steps. When I need to stop and rest along my walk, I need to do so. I don’t need to beat myself up over the fact that I needed to rest so much sooner than this other Pagan or that person over there. They know their own limits; I know mine. We are different people, and therefore different in our limits in walking the Path. This is not a race or competition over who completes what training faster than others or who is more pious (who the fuck measures this?) than another. Rather, I managed to get this far on my Path before someone else – I can reach back and help them along as well. I can point out where the roots and rocks caused me to stumble, hoping that these are the only points of difficulty that they might have. I can point out the marvelous vistas that I saw along the way, hoping that they find that view just as enchanting as I did.

Each one of us walks our Paths in life on our own. I know what works for me. I can provide advice on these points, but in the end – its what works for you that really matters. And to that end, what works for me might not be useful for you. Pay attention to your care and feeding. I haven’t even discussed how reading, podcasts, and just making it to some Pagan gatherings can provide nourishment, inspiration, and energy to my daily walk. Because, honestly, my own care and feeding manual is long, varied, and constantly changing and evolving. I am sure, you will find that yours does to – though maybe not nearly as much as mine does. Happy walking!!

Where Did Acceptance Run Off to Hide??

A few days ago, I finished listening to Episode 70 – “Asfidity and Mad-Stones with Byron Ballard” from the podcast Down at the Crossroads. Its a delightfully charming episode with discussion covering a wide and varied range of topics. At one point in the episode, the discussion turns towards aspects of the Pagan community, and Byron Ballard commented that things seemed to be much more accepting of differences back in the 1980s (I’m paraphrasing heavily here). She offered an example of two people approaching the same God or Goddess in different ways and achieving different results.

All of this, of course, set my mind into overdrive, remembering what Paganism was like when I first started on my Path back in late 1986 / early 1987. And I do recall that there was a lot more patience for an over-questioning newbie, such as myself. I would go down to a local (well, it was over 50 miles from the Air Force base I was stationed at, but it was as local as things can get in the sprawling DFW MetroMess) Pagan bookstore called “Flight of the Phoenix” in Grand Prairie. Here, the Grandmother Priestess to the coven I was in ran the shop and was always available for conversations. Pattalee Glass-Koentop was extremely patient with my twice monthly visits. I would show up around 9am, and stay until somewhere near 2pm. We would talk about dreams that I had, or questions that I encountered in reading various books or she would recommend another book to read when I had finished one. All the while, she knew I would be back in another two weeks to talk more. There were a few times she referred to me as a “silly boy” when I tried to relate how a particular passage in a book was conveyed to me as a reader, but never once did she shove me aside and treat me any differently from any other Pagan because I was a newbie.

I left the DFW area in late 1990, and eventually found myself in the Kaiserslautern area in Germany. It was there that I saw some of what newbies can experience. The disdain for those who “don’t know enough” or have experiences with Gods or Goddesses that someone holds dear to their own personal practice. I wrote a lot of that off to the fact that nearly every single one of us had to be slightly underground with our practices. The US military has been, and continues to be, dominated by Southern Baptist members. I experienced a lot of issues when I decided to be public about what I was, and helped spearhead an effort to eventually gain Chapel rights for Pagans throughout the US military. When I returned to the DFW area, as a I left the US military and transitioned back to civilian life, I found a very different Pagan community landscape.

Newbies were held at arm’s’ length and not generally welcomed. Members of other Pagan groups were treated with suspicion. The “White-Light-and-Love” group of folks were treated as pariahs, and openly ridiculed by some. This was a time frame where I decided to withdraw from the Pagan community and ply my Spiritual Path alone.

Much of what I saw then, continues to play out into today’s Pagan community. Byron is correct in her statement – the Pagan community was a bit more accepting than it is today. There is a lot of what Tara related in the episode as “The One True Way” ™. For me, there’s a lot more need to be empirical in what we state, and less accepting of the idea that each individual will forge their own unique relationship with each of the Gods.

For example, John Beckett – someone that I consider to be a friend – has a strong relationship with Cernunnos and with Morrigan, a God and Goddess that I have absolutely zero connection with. But if I did, my relationship with either or both would be different than his. Just as the relationship that John and I have is different than the relationships we have with our mutual friends. We are all unique individuals. The Gods are unique and distinct Beings. How we interact, approach, and even worship Them will be unique to who we are combined with who They are. Would it not stand to reason that each relationship would be unique as well? I would posit that it does. And since those relationships are unique, who am I to be a sentry watching for the slightest bit of wrong in those unique relationships when compared to my own??

I know that there is no going backwards. What’s happened has happened. What’s changed is changed. No one will ever be able to change the shape of the community back to what it was. The community is always changing, always morphing into something new. With each passing day, new people come to Paganism and Polytheism on their own individual Paths. Many come through the same, worn steps of before. Some come from completely different directions. But they all continue to come. And others also leave Paganism as well. Just as your body regenerates new cells, it also sheds old ones too. Our Pagan community is no different. We cannot go backwards, but perhaps, we can infuse a little more acceptance of the newer folks coming on to their Pagan and Polytheistic Paths. For they will be the future. They are the new cells regenerating and growing our Community. And if we teach them acceptance by being accepting of them and their experiences – then perhaps, just perhaps…we can realize a true dream. Where Paganism and Polytheism are accepted “normal” Paths of Spirituality within our worldwide community. Where the Gods and Goddesses can be worshipped openly and without fear. And what an awesome dream that can be…