Walking the Same Stretch of Pathway

Normally, I don’t write in the evenings. My brain goes into an unwinding mode during this time, and my thoughts typically do not flow as naturally as during the mornings after the first cup of coffee. Yet, here I am, hacking away at the keyboard, drinking water, and listening to the thunder and rain outside my window.

I still get a little flabbergasted when people recognize me. “Hey, you’re TommyElf the podcaster!” is something that I hear from time to time. Not as often as people think it might, because podcasting is not a huge medium whatsoever – but it does happen far more often than I ever thought it might. On a trip to East Coast Gathering a while back, it happened on a crowded flight from Denver to Philadelphia. Its happened a few more times at Pagan Pride Day events as well. And for an individual like me, who shuns the spotlight, it can be a very jarring moment.

The podcast episodes of “From the Edge of the Circle”, and “Upon a Pagan Path” were never meant to thrust me into the spotlight. I have never had a desire to be a well known individual or “Big Name Pagan” as it gets tossed around in some circles (and was applied to me and another person quite recently). I do not write these blog posts to get my name out there either. All of that is done to give back to the wider arching Pagan community or as John Beckett would say, the Big Tent of Paganism.

The reality of who I am, is that I am quite shy with people. Its very difficult for me to approach people and just talk with them. As the first podcast hinted at, I prefer to be at the periphery of things. And as the beak that smacks the back of my head, the paw that smacks my behind, and the soft fingernails scraping against my neck remind me – Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas prefer it otherwise. There is no desire for me to become infamous and well-known; rather that I communicate with others better. I have mentioned before about how far into the background I melted during Pantheacon. That’s instance of where I have been taken to task over.

See, people wonder what it can be to present yourself as a follower of a God or Goddess. This is only part of it. Fliodhas continues to drag me out of my self-created shell by placing me into situations and locations where I must interact with others. Coyote continually reminds me not to take myself too seriously whenever I feel an astonishing sense of accomplishment or importance. And Crow. Crow is about communicating better. More often. With better frequency and consistency. And believe me, each of these three can be stern taskmasters when there is failure on my part.

So why serve Gods and Goddesses that are stern about you accomplishing the tasks that They want? Well. Because I want to. I know that sounds somewhat smart-ass in nature, but it is true. Crow, Coyote and Fliodhas ask things of me; I can always say “no” to what They want. But I say “yes” because I want to. I have the Free Will to accept or reject, just as anyone else does when they hear the call of their own God/s. I am not a slave to Their needs; I am there to help and assist where and how I can.

And service to a God or Goddess is not for everyone. Nor should it be. Every Pagan has their own unique Path to walk. Every so often, we share footfalls on parts of our Paths, but the overall journey is unique to each individual. For some, the Gods make Their choices and ask. For others, the Gods may not speak directly to. Having a God speak directly with you or not speak directly to you at all – does not make you unique or “not good enough”. It makes you that person – the Pagan that you are. And in the end, that is what matters most. Your own journey. With Gods and Goddesses speaking with you or not – your journey is important. That journey is how you grow. That is how your Spirituality connects with the world around you. It is unique to you, and you alone. Some aspects of it you will share with others, some of it you might not. But the sum of it all is uniquely yours.

Yes, I have areas where I need to grow. I have some things that are being asked of me that I have done poorly. Thankfully, my three Gods are being patient with me to this point in getting better. And all of that, frankly, is between me and Them. Just as your journey on your Path is for you, and you alone. Let’s walk together for a while, and talk together. Perhaps, if you are reading this and you will be at Pantheacon or Many Gods West? If so, I am looking forward to getting the chance to spend time with you. If not, invite me out. We can talk over drinks or coffee or even a meal. Or even a short walk in the park. At least we can make our Paths similar in that moment – walking the same stretch of Pathway.

Too Little, Too Late? I Can Only Hope Not….

Well, hello. It is a cloudy, cold day here in Texas. Wait five minutes…that might change. However, it is a new calendar year. And eventually, the long cold of Winter will take hold. I hope. When I was in Ireland at the end of this past year, and the beginning of this one – it was warm there (in the 40f to 50f range) compared to the 20f range back here in Texas. Arriving back in Texas, it got into the 70f range here. ::sigh:: Winters have always been weird here in Texas.

So, with my return back to Texas, it is time to get the blog rolling again. And there is a lot to talk about. With a new President-elect stumbling into office like a drunken thug…times look to get contentious and “interesting” here in the States. But as I have posted before, we will make it through – together. Then there are the recurring dreams….well, let’s start there – shall we?


 

Dreaming is one of the strongest connections I have with my two Gods and my singular Goddess. I have many, many entries in my Dream Journal about moments with Them. I also have many other entries about odd dreams, and recurring ones. The latest recurring dream deals with something I have already posted about during my time in Ireland. The wall. Not Donnie’s idiotic dream of separating the United States from our Mexican neighbors. No, this wall separates parts of cities and towns. Where “good” citizens are protected from those not like them.

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What I am referring to is something similar to the so-called “Peace Wall” in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When I first saw the wall, I heard a very distinctive voice in my mind – Fliodhas – telling me that this a glimpse at a future that could be. Once the bus stopped along a stretch of the wall, I was able to stand across the street from it and realize the starkness in its existence. Painted up with graffiti like a prototypical streetwalker, it seemed to be a semi-sweet reminder of days gone by. After all, attacks between Catholics and Protestants have been on the decline for quite some time. Both sides seemed to be making friendly. Belfast is quiet.

But that makeup is a farce. If there were peace between the two sides, the electronic gates that close up streets that run through this saccharine emblem would no longer close at night. People would be free to travel both sides of this division at any time of the day or night. Peace? Calm? No. You can feel the Storm’s rise in the city. The issues that divide these two sides still fester. The energy from that fouls the entire atmosphere of this city. Politically, there’s a left/right divide that mirrors that of the United States. The difference between the States and Northern Ireland, is that Northern Ireland is more well schooled in the physically violent aspect.

During Donnie’s run towards the Presidency, the political rallies that he held were tinged with protesters trying to make a point of how dangerous his regime may be. And those rallies were also tainted with the often violent responses to these protesters by his followers that were in nearby seats. And all that was done with Donnie’s encouragement from the podium. Now, with Donnie getting ready to set his bum on the highest seat in the American political landscape – images of divided communities staring at walled off areas where non-conformists are kept is not difficult to discern. Those images are easily found in my dreams.

There is no cute and colorful graffiti found on those walls. No statements written by visitors who are presented this stark reminder of what divided society can look like. There is nothing but the cold, stark, gun-metal grey of walls made of steel and metal. The top is graced with razor wire, and watchtowers on the “good” side blot the linear skyline that the wall provides. This wall does not separate two populaces from one another to avoid fighting. This wall is designed to separate “wanted” populations from those that would pollute the “good” society.

We, humankind, have built walls like this before. Remnants of this can be found throughout Europe, where the Nazis walled off parts of the cities to create the Jewish ghettos. As Roger Daltrey belts out in a Who song called “Eminence Front”….

The news slows
People forget
Their shares crash, hopes are dashed
People forget

Yes, we forget. We forget what we have done to one another – in the name of ideology, in the name of religion, in the name of Big Oil, in the name of skin color….in the name of so many things. And one day, we will wake up, look around us and see what’s been done in the name of….whatever. And we will remember that was done before. And we will vow to never do it again. Until the next time.

When I heard the Gods telling me that the Storm was coming, I could not see a reason to grab my staff and utilize it for more than assisting my old ass in walking. The Storm arrived, and I was ready to fight, but still did not understand what I was fighting. I arrived in Ireland in late December, still unaware of what there was to fight. Then in Belfast, Northern Ireland…standing at the Peace Wall and seeing what a divided society looks like, I understood. I can only hope that my effort to help is not a measure of too little, too late.

Planting Flowers

Well hello from Northern Ireland – Belfast to be exact. This trip to the northern section of Ireland has been quite interesting. Our trip into the divided sector of Belfast was designed to show us – a group of American tourists – a currently dormant struggle that is embroiled and entwined across political, religious, and class borders. Our guide, self-acknowledged to be biased to a greater degree to the Republican sphere of influence here, did a wonderful job of showcasing both aspects of the struggle or rebellion (depending on your perspective). Shortly before lunch, during on of his longer monologues, I began to look beyond the down-trodden, urban jungle that lay before me. I reached out for Spirits of Place, and found very, very few. I reached out for Spirits of Ancestor, which were more difficult fo me – an American of Germanic heritage – to locate. I reached out for the Gods and Goddesses. What I found was similar to a cold, barren wasteland.

For me, I found so few of the traces of the old Gods. The feeling was of something balanced on the edge of a knife. All that was needed was a slight push to one side or another, and rage would re-bubble to the surface. The wounds so recently closed and sutured would eagerly split and chaos would easily resume with a new vigor, fueled by young souls thirsty for the combat that they idolized of their elders. This isn’t the desire to serve the old Gods or the newer Christian Trinity. Rather, it is a desire for might through violent power. The rule of the Strong over the Weak.

img_0236All of that is easily seen in the “Peace Wall” a barrier that physically separates those advocating for British rule on one side, and those advocating for revolt against the Crown on the other. And even more emblematic than that is a set of gates which close at 6pm automatically – keeping cars and foot-traffic from crossing into one sector or the other. Separating two warring factions from one another during the night. It was while viewing this gate – as my tour bus passed through this demarcation point, I felt that hand on my shoulder, and felt soft lips lightly caress my ear with a faint whisper.

This is a very possible future. Heed it. Study it. Understand it. Be there to help stop it.

It took a short lunch nearby, for me to figure it all out. The whisper is all too familiar to me these days. Fliodhas. She has been whispering to me constantly throughout Ireland. This is Her land. Her forests. The animals are Hers. She has been a constant part of my life these days. Soft whispers about this or that. Some of it, I have understood. Some of it I haven’t. Not until recently. With a backdrop of Ireland, a lot of it has started to make sense. Like this…Fliodhas’ message isn’t about me trying to change the tide here or even about me joining the struggle here. Her words are whispers of watching for what happens at home.

img_0238Unless you have not been paying attention, the United States is going through its own division. Its a deep, scarred division over individual rights, expressed in the form of gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, racial, class, and a lot of other aspects rolled into the guise of political subterfuge. Just as the fight for rights and freedom have manifested themselves here in Belfast, Ireland in the form of the so-called “Peace Wall” – the same could happen just as easily within the United States. The culmination of which could devolve into the back and forth bombings that occured between the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster  Defense Association from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. And the true loser in all of that will be the rich Spiritual Lives we all lead in the United States. For instead of focusing on our Spiritual Lives, many would focus on how to retaliate to last weekend’s bombing of a grocery store or a Spiritual gathering.

The election of Donald Trump has certainly given rise to many people who have hidden in the deep, dark underbelly of the United States (as well as elsewhere). Those who teach of exclusion based on gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, skin pigemtnation and many other aspects of everyday life…feel that they have been given a mandate to separate all of us from another. They feel they have been given a mandate to build walls….Peace Walls….between us all. All because an individual who barely comprehends what freedom is beyond the spending limits of his credit cards, has been elected as President of this country.

I am a Pagan. I will not be pushed into a place to live because it is a “Pagan” zone and over there is a “Christian” zone. My neighbors are Christians of one sort or another. And they are fine people. I know several people in the Pagan community. And they are just as fine a set of people as the Christians. Their skin pigmentation….their sexual orientation…who they are fucking or how many at a time…none of that matters. They act ethically towards one another. In other words, they treat one another the same – as human beings. They do not need exclusion zones to separate them from one another. And honestly, neither do the folks here in Belfast. And in all cases, this is possible when we stop letting politicians, clergy, or anyone else dictate who we should treat other people based on some idiotic descriptor that was decided by some narrow-minded fool.

No matter what Donnie does as President, it is not going to change how I approach this new calendar year. I read a cartoon on Facebook that had two individuals taking about 2017. The first asks the other why 2017 is going to be great. “Because there will be flowers,” he replies. “How do you know there will be flowers?” the first asks. “Because I am planting them,” said the second with a smile.

2017 can be a really shitty year for you. If you let it. 2017 can be a really great year for you as well. I already have my goals strapped into the year. I have gatherings that I have planned for throughout the year. I plan on talking with people at these gatherings about how their years is going. About how we can band together, despite the distances we have. Finding ways to make our community webbing stronger. Even if that webbing is only strengthened by one person here and one person there. In short, I am working towards planting flowers….

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There Are No Piggy-back Rides….

As I sit here and type this, its Christmas Day here in the States. Roughly about 0945 in the morning, and the outside temperature reads as 68F. Hardly the stuff of winter. At this moment, I am two days away from boarding a plane for Toronto, and then eventually a flight to Dublin, Ireland. Thus, my desk is currently an aftermath of an electronics tornado, as I get devices packed and together for the coming trip. I hate flying, so I am obliged to bring devices of distraction. I have my iPhone packed to the gills with audio lectures and music. My iPad has a massive number of electronic books available for my perusal, including copies of the fantastic magazine Pagan Dawn, which I have an electronic subscription for. And yet, I am still bringing three physical books with me. Why? Because the titles and information draw me towards them at this time.

Making the trip with me will be “The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology” by Jordan Paper. A book that has the look and feel of academia, which I do not mind reading from time to time. Another book that is making the trip will be “Soul Hunters: Hunting, Animism, and Personhood Among the Siberian Yukaghirs”. I picked this book up on a whim, because it handles the concepts of shamanism, and animism from the perspective of a native tribe of Siberia. Not being familiar with the tribe, nor the aspects of shamanism or animism from a Siberian perspective just lends to the potential mystery of what I am about to read. Yes, another academic work. And while these two works are certainly interesting and exciting food for thought; the current book I am reading is already finding interesting moments and quotes for me to ponder.

“Spirits of the Sacred Grove: The World of a Druid Priestess” by Emma Restall Orr is a Moon Books Classics printing that I picked up, in no small part, because of what I have read from Orr previously. I am not even out of the forewords and preface, and already I am finding things that showcase doors where I never thought them to be.

From her “Foreword to the New Edition”….

For if it can be defined at all, Druidry is surely about immediacy: the ability to adapt and honourably respond to each changing moment within nature as it rises before us on the paths of our lives. That is what nature teaches us, and being awake and willing to be taught by nature is the essential practice of this British tradition.

And from the “Note” section immediately after….

Before we know anything at all, we are free. When we have begun to discover, we each carry way with us for some time the burden of thinking we know everything. True magic is about empowerment. Empowerment is about personal creativity, not control. Competition is the game of the ego. A good teacher will never appear superior. It isn’t a race for enlightenment; it is a journey towards balance and perfect peace. There is no Holy Grail which holds all the answers. There is only our own freedom of spirit.

For me, it has only taken the space of five pages for me to find small sections that already speak to who I am as a Druid. Nearly every work I have read from Orr has served as a basis of where I can step outwards, creating my own walk through the forest that may or may not utilize the already worn trail that many others have walked.

It is interesting that this shows up at this particular point in where I am in Life. I am reminded, yet again, that this Path was set before me feet for a reason. My previous six years of stumbling around have come from not shedding the concepts of rigid dogma that are encrusted upon me through my early years of life. I kept the ship clean above decks and down below, but I never bothered to check the hull for barnacles. Once I made that check, and removed my crustacean passengers, much of what did not make sense – clicked into place. In short, while I had found re-birth on this Path, unconsciously I had been clinging to pieces of a past life that was no longer relevant. Grow, change. Unlearn, learn. Take the steps that you need; not the steps that someone else made long ago.

Am I the same Bardic initiate I was six years ago when I started down this path with OBOD? Certainly not. I’m not even the same Bardic initiate I was two years ago, when I re-affirmed those steps at the first Gulf Coast Gathering. Growth, learning, walking the steps as I feel the need to do so. Observing. Watching. Still learning. Always learning. The titles accumulated along the way, the certificates stating that a level of training has been completed – all nice accolades. But only a small aspect of the memory of the learning that took place throughout the journey. Much like a photo captures a moment in time, a focal aspect of beauty — it never replaces the entirety of the experience. Only that singular moment.

I am excited to read through this book, and wide-eyed in wonder what I will discover within its pages. I am both ecstatic and absolutely frightened on what doors will be revealed to me; what connections I will discover that have been dormant and/or hidden from me. For me, there is one final point that has been made over the last six-plus years of study:  there is no such thing as 101, 201, beginner, or expert studies. There is just studies. Everyone starts off on the same blocks at one point or another. How we each walk the maze is up to us individually. Whether alone or in a group – it still requires each individual to walk their Path. There are no piggy-back rides…..


 

I will likely not be posting blog posts while I am gone. I have no material queued up for anything like that. Most of my writing is extemporaneous here on the blog. In two days, I climb aboard a plane to fly into Toronto International Airport for a layover until the flight to Dublin, Ireland. It will be a whirlwind ten days while I am there. There will be a lot of things I do not get the chance to see, as I am with a group and our itinerary is set by the tour company. But I will be trying to use free-time to see some thing I have wanted to….such as Phil Lynott’s statue, and some the 1916 Easter Rebellion sites. One part of the trip will be to the Giant’s Causeway, which I have heard marvelous things about. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season….see you next calendar year!

Using Connectivity to Reduce My Stress or How Relationships With Others Help Me to Cope

There are a handful of things that stress me out to the maximum. Most people who have known me for a good bit know exactly what these things are:  over-demanding people, flying, and the so-called “Christmas season”. But knowing what things trigger your sense of being “overwhelmed” or a strong paralysis of fear (real or not) is one thing. Over the years, I have learned a handful of coping skills…mostly meant to distract my mind from such things.

The first is reading. And not just any kind of reading. Reading academic works generally has me staring off into the distance, trying to bring my mind to focus on a section of what I just read. Good ol’ fashioned story telling is where it is at for this. And I have certain writers that I have found to be quite excellent at this. They write stories that just engulf me when I read them. Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, and Neil Gaiman immediately jump to mind. As do Anne McCaffrey, J.K. Rowling, and George R.R. Martin. Though Martin drives me insane with his infinitely long writing times for the Game of Thrones books. I mean come on already man…  ::grin::  But those folks do more than just write stories; they generate a style of mythology that I enjoy. Characters that not only have life breathed into them through the combination of their words, and my own imagination of what I perceive, but these characters face issues that I would normally find in my own life. And what is even better is that these writers sometimes let us readers into the minds of these characters, as they (the characters) parse out what to do.

But this doesn’t really work in say, a crowded mall. Where you have to have some focal attention on what is going on. Well, the second is music. And I have a major ton of it in my iTunes and on my iPhone. Most of my walking is done throughout my small town here in north-central Texas. And I am not really interested in the electronic chiming of the nearby Catholic Church, or the sounds of kids playing or dogs barking at me. Nor am I particularly keen to listen to the sound of the occasional car or truck pass me by. That’s where my ear buds come in handy. I slap these in, and while it doesn’t completely drown out the sounds – and I really wouldn’t want that to happen because I still need some sense of perception of what is going on around me to remain safe – it does provide a handy soundtrack to the walk. Currently, I am typing this while listen to Al Di Meola. His guitar playing always stimulates my mind with the way he utilizes his instrument to convey feeling, and occasionally tell a story. Very few musicians have that quality.

The last one is to find a place far away from people, and just sit. I don’t need a book. I don’t need music. The sounds of the wind blowing through the bare tree limbs, and the nearby birds singing their serenade to the colder moments of Texas life are enough. Sometimes, I do this standing in my kitchen, holding a cup of coffee while I look out the window and watch the doves, sparrows and other birds devour the bird seed I scattered out by the pool. When I feel relaxed enough, I ground and center, and do some light meditation. I go back to my Inner Grove, back to a wonderful little cottage that I was shown not so long ago by a wonderful Priest and teacher. Her guided meditations helped me create this place in myself.

I can always come here and have a cup of hot tea or cocoa, and relax. My Dream Crows are always here, waiting. I tell them parts of the stories I have read, or I just talk. They don’t always listen. Sometimes they are loud, boisterous, and demanding. But they are always here, and always pleasant company. Sometimes, I get visited by Crow, Coyote or even Fliodhas. And it makes for a quiet conversation.

Certainly, being stressed out is one of the most difficult things for me to deal with. And there is far more than these three techniques. But these are my go-to ways, the first that I try. And if you noticed, all of them deal with creativity to one degree or another. To say that I am  patron of the arts and artists is an understatement. The mount of music, and recorded talks I have from various folks is vast. I have three huge bookshelves stocked with reading material from people I admire, and people that I know. On my walls, I have paintings and other creations from people I have met and gotten to know over the years. Each and every one is a fixed memory of this person or that one. Some still living, some who have passed beyond the veil, but all of whom have touched my life in one way or another.

See, the true nature of my coping skills towards stressors in my life comes from examining the connections that I have to the world. And that means marvelling at the wonderful connections that I have with other people. Sure, there are shitty people in the world. Sure, some of them I find in the aisles of Wal-Mart or in the malls around the United States. But there are beautiful, wonderful people in the world as well. Some of them are wonderful educators, others wonderful story-tellers, talented artists, writers, etc. They all have something in common: in one way or another, there is a connection that I have with them, and that connection is a wonderful, beautiful thing to behold. But its also an amazing way for me to remember that they are still there. We may not talk as much as I wish we could, or in some cases, we have never met. However, there is still that joyful connection, always there to drive back my stress levels – reminding me that each day is easily filled with them. Listening to their lectures, their music, their poetry, reading their works, experiencing the wonderful mythologies that they created, and in some cases, reading their emails detailing how their daily life is continuing – in both good and bad ways. Its that shared thread that reminds me that life is experienced in every moment. Good, bad, indifferent. And each experience is unique.

So I raise up my coffee cup to you, the individual reading this. Find what helps you get through the moments where you need to stop, ground and center, and bring yourself back to balance. Use that to help you back to focus. So that you are doing what you should be doing; what you are meant to do. Remember those experiences, examine each one to see where the connection is. Cherish that. Nurture it. Grow it. Cultivate more connections. That’s how we get through our individual storms. Together, even when we are not in physical proximity to one another.

Slainte! To your health! Now, I need another cup of coffee. ::grin::

–T /|\

Solo But Not Alone – No Need to Explain to My Tribe

Today is the Winter Solstice. Where am I celebrating it?  In my usual location for most major events on the Wheel – at home. Why home? Well, there’s a handful of reasons, but primary among those is familiarity and the feeling of “safe”.

See, as much as I enjoy getting out and about, I am not a super social animal. Anyone who saw me at Pantheacon earlier this year could easily attest to that. I spent a lot of time smacking away on my portable keyboard bluetooth’d into my iPad. And while I got off quite a few nice blog posts, as well as managed some good personal journaling – I only managed to connect face-to-face with a handful of people….most of whom I knew prior to coming out to Pantheacon. As a further attestment to my non-social skills, anyone who has seen me at a Pagan Pride Day knows how I wander around on my own – or that I sit in some far off location to people watch.

A lot of that works from how I grew up. I had very few friends. Those that I did manage a connection with were people I would be very, very tight with. Today, even with the ability of the Internet to expand some of my social skills, I still have only a few folks that I could count as very close friends. And of that group, there are even fewer that I know face-to-face.

I am what most Pagans refer to as a “Solitary Practitioner”. I actually hate that term. The mental description that hits my mind is playing the card game of Solitaire over and over again with Crow, Coyote and Fliodhas hanging over my shoulder – all making suggestions on what place to move a stack of cards to. I actually prefer the term “Solo Pagan”. Its a precise description of who and what I am…all wrapped up nicely in a ribbon and bow through just two words. Short, concise, to the point. But I am far too long-winded to have anything beyond short directly apply to me. Just ask some of my former college students. ::big grin::

I handle major rituals here at home because I am familiar with the terrain – both physically and on a more psychic aspect. I know the energies of the stones that make up my little stone circle. I know how to approach Crow, Coyote and Fliodhas here, and ask Them to join me for my ritual. Sometimes They show up. Most of the time, not so much. I don’t worry about that, because I am not the center of Their world. I am just a small part of it. They love and respect me for what I do, but I am still a human being. They have other things to do, at times. But it is definitely the familiar aspect that has me working major turns of the wheel at home.

Sometimes, I attend major turns of the Wheel with groups. And here is where the “safe” part of things comes into the equation. With the East Coast and Gulf Coast Gatherings that the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids holds, I have come to know many of the folks there. They are friends to varying degrees. And there are always new people to meet. I remember being the “new” person at these Gatherings, and how intimidating it can be. With those folks, I am friendly, and reassuring – I want them to feel “safe” as well. Attending these two Gatherings i not a problem for me. I know these people. They are my tribe. They are friends. The same goes for the Texas Imbolc Retreat that I have attended. Chris and Amanda are awesome people. I have met so many other awesome people there as well. While they are a different Druid order (ADF), they are still very much my tribe of people. I can be comfortable there.

Other gatherings? Well, when I feel uncomfortable, I split off from the main group and do my own thing. I have done this at professional conventions that I have attended. Much to the chagrin of my fellow coworkers, including my boss. But then, none of these people have really had to understand how difficult it is for someone to assimilate into a group of strangers. Why? Because they socialize easily. They are not making connections when they socialize. They are chatting up with small talk. None of it has any meaning. But I don’t operate that way. And when the talk is meaningless, I find elsewhere to be. That’s how I am built.

So, this morning, I saw the gathering of folks at Stonehenge for the sunrise. I marveled at how easy it was for them to relax and celebrate the rising of the sun on the shortest day amongst what I assume are strangers. For me, I would likely shrink off to the far edges, as far away from the stones as I could get without seeming to be too far out of the crowd. Out to the edges, where I could find calm, and quiet. Out where I could ground, center, and reach out to the Spirits of Place. Even if only to let Them know that not all humans are this loud. No matter strange that may sounds to others…because what others think has never mattered to me. Unless they are my tribe. And if they truly are of my tribe, I don’t need to explain. Not even once.

 

Working with the Gods Does Not Always Have to be Epic in Scale and Scope

The past few days it has been really cold up here on the Oklahoma/Texas border. Cold enough that the pipes to my pool and hot tub froze up and burst. Its nothing major, and provides the opportunity to replace the old heating system that is currently in place. But it was an unexpected moment. And a little reminder of why two Trickster Gods have been such an influence on who I am today.

When I heard people say that they were “working with the Gods”, I always fell into a pattern of thinking that they were doing something similar to Hercules – achieving stuff for the Gods that was just some massive undertaking. But in working with the trio of Gods that work within my life, I have found that this is not always the case. Sometimes, the tasks are a bit more internal – and in reflection, typically even more epic in size and scope within an individual’s life – rather than epic in the measure of our entire Pagan community or scopes even larger than that. And sometimes, the individual scope is enough to effect change elsewhere.

Ten years ago, I would be cursing and angry about what happened with the burst pipes for the pool. I would be proclaiming my bad luck, and how Life is being unfair to me. In short, I would be pitching a Titanic hissy fit. My disposition throughout my earlier life has always been one of being knocked off balance by events that happened along the way. When shit happened, I hit major meltdowns of epic proportions.

But two Trickster Gods intervened in all of this six years ago. My life was turned upside down in every imaginable way. I quit my job after working the worst employer I have ever had. I found myself caught up in one of the biggest downturns in economic history within the United States. I was unemployed for ninety-eight weeks. One week shy of the maximum amount that could be pulled during unemployment. I was hired in as an adjunct professor at the college I am currently working for. A position that I felt uniquely unqualified for at that time. And through all of that, every step of the way, there was a voice in the back of my mind.

Keep calm. It is only a stretch of rocks in the road. You will get past all of this, and find yourself among the trees again. I promise.

That was Coyote, whom I had just started finding in my meditations. I was learning the lesson of seeing the bigger picture. Opening up to the perspective of seeing wider and further than just me, I soon realized that while I was unemployed, and that full-time work, along with the medical benefits that I needed for working with my diabetes, was a difficult stretch of road – it could be far worse. I saw that on the news constantly. People losing their homes because they had lost their jobs. Unable to provide for their families. People leaving the keys on the kitchen counters as they abandoned their homes. Their pets left behind in those same homes because they could no longer afford to feed the furry members of their family. Yes, my road was difficult. But it could definitely have been worse.

I was learning another lesson as well – that of transformation. My time working as a desktop support technician were over. My skillset was similar to that of a high school student entering the workforce. There was no way a forty-something man was going to be able to compete in that industry with workers who would do the same thing at a cheaper price. I had two Masters degrees and a Bachelor degree. My time working in hardware was over, and I needed to realize that. It took a while. Hardware was what I knew. Hardware was how I made a living. But slowly I was nudged into the classroom, where I taught basic hardware concepts. I was able to show students how data on them was utilized by their own government. How data flowed between government entities – and how it did not in other cases.

And through those two lessons – amid the howls and laughter that Coyote had throughout all of it, I learned to control my emotions a lot more, and figure out how humility would work for me. Not only was I transforming my skillsets and moving into other areas of Information Technology, I was growing as an individual in ways that I desperately needed.And I was growing towards being what I needed to be: a Priest.

I have resisted that title for so long, that I still feel odd in accepting that aspect of my Path. Its only been fairly recent that I have turned towards that and decided that I would define what the term “Priest” meant to me – rather than accepting some definition that mainstream society attached to it. I am not going to hear confession. I am not going to transform anything into the body of anything else – no matter what the ritual. And honestly, I am not likely to lead any ritual anywhere except in my own backyard. And even then, only when I am the only one there. For me, Priest is something a little different, which I have talked about before.

For me, one of the tasks given to me by my trio of Gods was to grow. Coyote required me to grow up, and learn to be more in control of myself. Crow showed me how to find the silver lining in situations. Yes, the pipes froze and burst. That’s a bad thing. But it certainly provides the opportunity to replace the aging heater as well as repair the pipes. Fliodhas is showing me to find beauty in all aspects of Life. To look at the beauty of things beyond the external appearances. To look deeper at the relationships, how things interconnect, and where the intersection of all of that has a deeper meaning than can initially be realized.

Certainly, there is a lot going in the world all around us. A contentious Presidential election. Seemingly endless terror attacks on our over-arching society. Many, many people using political tides as excuses for behavior that is completely unacceptable. I am reminded that each time these moments occur, we – as a collective society – need to stand up against that. But in doing so, we need to make sure that we don’t let our emotions go overboard and boil over – that we don’t become something we never meant to be in the first place. Certainly, such issues need to be responded to, but we also need to remember having restraint in those moments as well. That’s what makes us different than those people. For me, Coyote, Crow, and Fliodhas have provided enough insight for me to recognize this need within myself.