Dealing With My Own Issues of Self-Care

I have four other blog posts in various stages of completion that I have been working on for the coming weeks. However, this particular post is being written this morning, April 21st, because – well – this has been on my mind now for less than twenty-four hours. A small warning, a lot of this deals with my health issues, and while all of that touches aspects of my personal Spiritual approach, some of it is not easily relatable. This is not, by the way, a “woe is me” post. Rather, this is me being open and honest about who I am, and how the real (mundane) world touches my approaches to my Spirituality.

I have Type-II diabetes. Most likely, this came from my 12-pack a day Dr. Pepper habit that I had when I was in the Air Force. I worked the night shift, and caffeine and sugar were the easiest things to keep me moving. But regardless of all of that, I have diabetes. This means that I have to do some extra things to take better care of myself. I strive to eat better, and while I have not cut sugar completely out of my life, I have tried my best to curb my sweet tooth. And openly, I have not always been successful at it.

I have been with the same Primary Care Physician for nearly sixteen years. However, when I moved up here near the Texas/Oklahoma border, the sixty-mile, one-way trip for doctor’s visits became a near impossibility for me. Literally, I would have to take a half day off from work, just for a simple checkup that took fifteen minutes in the office. So, at the beginning of this year, I switched to a new Primary Care Physician much closer to me in the extreme northern part of Denton, Texas. New doc means starting over from scratch. During our “interview” process (my first visit), she asked about my paternal family health, particularly the males.

Well, there is a definite pattern in all of that. My father had diabetes. I know most, if not all, of his brothers were also diabetics. My father passed away from a sudden heart attack, and I do believe that heart attacks were the causes for the passing of my uncles as well. This led me being sent to a Cardiologist for testing. Unfortunately, all of that was dictated during my long period of travel for Imbolc Retreat, my professional conference, and Pantheacon. So I put things off. And finally, got back to going to the cardiologist two weeks ago. We talked about the family history, my diabetes, my blood pressure which does not seem to go down with medication, and tests were scheduled.

The first test came back as “normal” which disappointed me. I wanted “weird” because I do not consider myself to be anything close to “normal” of any capacity. Okay, that was a bad joke. But the result was somewhat puzzling. Still, my heart got a passing grade. The second and third tests were yesterday. The stress test, where they hook me up to a bunch of wires, set me on a treadmill and have me walk, also turned up normal results. There was an effort to get me to run, to which I told them they would have to set some kind of danger behind me, and an individual I needed to run just a touch faster than. I do not run. I gave that stuff up for Lent five years back…and in my mind, Lent still continues to this day. But the results were good. Another passing grade. The next test was the Electrocardiogram, where they essentially do an ultrasound of the heart.

I was lubed up in that disgusting gel, and the monitor was moved all over the place. Sound recordings of my heart from various positions were also made. And the initial prognosis was considered to be “good”. A short consultation with the doc and he decided to place me on Lipitor to see if we can get the blood pressure down that way. Satisfied, off I went home. I have two Transact-SQL presentations to prepare for the Tulsa conference this coming week, so I had plenty to pre-occupy my mind.

Around 7pm, the doc called me and left a voicemail. On that voicemail, he noted that mitral valve (WTF is THAT?) in my heart was leaking. At that point, I zoned out of the rest of his voicemail. My heart is leaking. Well, blood is the only thing that is in there, so I started wondering what was going on? Did my heart find the iceberg? Are Kate and Leo running around my body trying to find that final refuge where they can hold on to their love before the entire body slips beneath the waves?

A short bit of research on the internet (I love diagnosing myself with Doctor IP’s help at the various websites that exist to scare the shit out of you), and I find that this diagnosis is a normal part of aging. It is definitely not something to just blow off. This will need to be continually watched. And on listening to the doc’s voicemail a second time, the notation was that there was “slight leakage” include some “tightening of the heart’s walls”. All normal indicators of age. But there were a lot of notations on the websites about needing to be active again.

Feeling like I needed a moment, I poured a small shot of whiskey and sat it next to my mouse on my desk. Where it sat. The smell was the incredible aroma that I know and love of Bushmill’s. But did I really need a drink?

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“Not really, but you cannot put that back in the bottle.”

“Then what do I do with it?”

“Bring it outside to the circle. Give some of it to me. Give the rest of it to the Others.”

And I did just that. Crow, for me, is always ever-present. Nearby. Watching. Commenting. I have no idea how much Crow may have known about all of this, but there have been moments where I have been told about getting out of the house more often. Walking. Bike riding. Moving about. Being more active. And I understand a bit more now.

I do not have a Grove that I am a part of. Nor do I have a group of folks that I administer to. While I am a Priest of Crow, I have no need for the formality of that title or role. I am here to do. Not to just be. And in a roundabout way, I am being reminded that my time in this incarnation is finite. And there are things to still be accomplished. And for that to happen, I need to take care of myself.

As I sit and think about this, I am starting to realize something that seems to be a difficult thing for so many of the people I know and cherish within the Pagan community that have established themselves in various roles. We all do a wonderful job of being supportive and helping care for others. Many advocate and support those who have a need in the ending times of their lives. And these folks are all highly empathic and deal with so many things that place others on the floor in bundled masses, unable to do for themselves. But Self-Care by many of these folks is a terrible thing. We look out for so many others, we rarely see where we fail ourselves in our own Self-Care. Perhaps, it follows the colloquialism that we are too close to the forest and cannot see the trees. We see the needs of others, and yet have difficulty recognizing the same issues and frailty within ourselves. Or we ignore it, knowing that others do not receive care and support if we stumble and fall. Whatever the case may be, many folks in leadership roles, supporting functions, etc need to start becoming aware of the need for Self-Care and how to handle that. Because if we do not take care of ourselves, how can we help take care of others?

I have said it before. I am not a leader. I am nobody’s Priest, but my own. But I do talk with others, listen to their perspectives, and offer advice on how they might move forward. A few folks have told me that I am an inspiration to their own efforts to be more into their own Spirituality. All of that makes me a touch antsy because I do not see myself as anything special. I am just me. I am no confessor. But I am a human being. I can listen. I can be there when there is a need. I am not a solution. But we are all “tribe” together. And to that, I have an obligation to be a part of. My personal practice may be one of a solitary nature, but I am still your Brother. And I have an obligation to take care of myself.

As a final thought, I remember the struggle I had with trying to determine whether the Morrigan was calling to me in various dreams that I had. In the end, it turned out to be a series of Valkyrie that had come to admonish me over my lack of exercise and taking care of myself. Why the message delivery from the Valkyrie; to this day I do not understand. But I wonder how much all of this is tied to that? That will definitely be something to really contemplate going forward. The Nordic Path does not call to me whatsoever. But I believe that if I want to unravel that little “mystery”, I will need to get outside, get moving, and put myself into better shape.

–T /|\

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My Druidry Order Bowls Better Than Yours

Last week, I got a barrage of Emails from a few folks who started asking if I was a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin, or as it is more commonly referred to as ADF. Instantly, I knew what had happened. Someone that I am friends with had posted something on their blog about the ADF. There are a handful of folks out there that think that I follow directly in the wake of my friends – particularly those who are far more well known in the online Pagan community. The assumption is made that if that individual or these individuals are into this, that I will be following in those footsteps as well.

Now, as someone who walks a Path of Druidry on my own, I find that a bit insulting. I might walk my Path, at times, with other folks. But at the end, where my footsteps fall is determined by me. And considering how many other folks have walked these Paths in the woods before me, it is inevitable that I will cross over the places and locations that others have already been. But let’s set that to the side because it is not really the thing that flared everything up for me in the end. One Email exchange continued in the questioning about why I am not a member of ADF.

It is, after all, AMERICAN DRUIDRY. Should you not prefer Druidry that appeals to you as an American? Besides, the way they approach Druidry is far better, far more nuanced, and better understood.

This one scorches a lot of buttons with me, admittedly. I did a lot of research into the wide variety of Druidry Orders and groups out there before I finally settled on the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). I was not looking for what was “better” but rather what fits closest to what I believe. OBOD’s approach was more in line with how I approach my own Paganism, and therefore was where I wound up. Not to say that none of the other approaches had a similar appeal to me. The differences….truly are not that important. Plus, anyone looking to determine whether one Druidry Order or Group has the better appeal for you – I would suggest doing your OWN research. Taking my word that OBOD is best for me, does not mean it would be best for you. Each individual has their own way of approaching their Spirituality.

img_9678I will discuss, for a few moments, the appeal that OBOD has for me. There is an emphasis on working within yourself to be able to work with others outside of yourself. Following the lessons contained within the three grades is – for me – about strengthening your connectivity with yourself, and the community directly around you. There is no emphasis placed on a particular set of deities or a particular pantheon. I am able to use the framework of OBOD to set my own perspective of the Gods, the Ancestors, and Spirits of Place onto it. And through that, I can find a better connectivity to the landscape and community directly around me. That is not to say that such an approach is not available in any of the other Druidry Orders and Groups- I am quite certain it is there. But OBOD’s approach is what is more similar to my own approach.

Now, the concept that “American Druidry” should only appeal to “Americans” smacks so hard of Nationalism, that I have a difficulty trying to place that within what I find Druidry to be. That is not to say that I have the be-all, end-all understanding of what Druidry is – merely that I just cannot fathom the concept of Nationalism being used within the construct of Druidry as I understand it to be. To me, this smacks of a competitive thing which I just cannot fathom within this same construct as well.

I posted on this on Facebook where several of my friends (most of whom are Druids of one type or another) had plenty of commentary on. Some of the points made were on the differences between OBOD and ADF, as well as notations that I should just join ADF so that I could answer “yes” to those that asked if I was a member of ADF. That, honestly, would be fraudulent on my behalf were I to do it. I enjoy attending ADF events. I enjoy being in ADF rituals and even participating, to the small degree that I do. But I do not feel a draw to ADF. Joining just for the sake of joining and being able to tell people I am a member of both orders would be the wrong reason to become a member. In my mind, attending their events and spending time in fellowship with their members is more appropriate. Quite a few of the ADF members that I know here in Texas are extremely close friends to me, as well as others that I have met from the northwest United States. These folks are family to me, but being family does not earn me a pass at being an ADF Druid.

One other aspect of the Email exchange I had with this particular individual was about how ADF was better at this that and other than OBOD. The earmarks, in my perspective, of competitiveness. “My Druid Order bowls better than your Druid Order.” Oh fucking puh-leeze (yes I use Anglo-Saxon descriptives – I even answer to a few). What makes one order better for your own Spirituality is something that occurs WITHIN you. But what happens within you should never be the benchmark of what would make a Druid Order right for someone else wanting to traverse a Path of Druidry. Ever. Perhaps ADF bowls better than OBOD. Who knows? Maybe we can get a worldwide bowling tournament setup between all the Druid Orders and Groups that are out there. Then we can settle that point. Maybe come back to it in another four years, right? Like the World Cup? ::sigh:: Some of this also boils back to painting someone else’s approach to Druidry on to me. I have talked long and wide about how labels are not a useful manner to trying to understand the world around us. There is always an exception to the rules.

So, in trying to bring this to a close, I would like to find a more positive point to finish with. Every Druidry Order and Group provides a different approach and perspective to its adherents. And every adherent will bring their own unique understanding to that. In the Facebook discussions, Jean (Drum) Pagano, the current Arch-Druid of ADF and a Senior Priest in ADF provided a perspective that really opens the perspective in a manner that echoes my own:

…I like to describe the family of Druidry, where we celebrate our similarities and work to understand our differences all under the banner of “Druidry”. I am a Druid.

To this, I completely agree. Druidry is not about competition. Druidry is about our approach to our Spirituality. Our connection to the world around us. Our respect and devotion to our own perspectives of the Divine, in whatever aspect or understand we find in ourselves and outside of us within the world. Like Drum…I am Druid. My approach through the OBOD framework is merely the context that provides an understanding of where my approach comes from.

But I still believe my Druidry Order can bowl better than yours. Or even play darts better than yours. And none of that matters one whit.

 

Each Path for That Individual at That Time

Q:  How does one become a Pagan??

A:  Well, in my experience, as well as what I have managed to glean from others, it’s not so much “becoming” a Pagan, as much as it is finding that this wide myriad of Paths holds one that simply just “clicks” with you.

9112248859_703762b7e2_k…another of those questions that I get a lot from non-Pagans. Perhaps, I am a little different in my own personal theory on this, but I do not believe that people become Pagans, so much as they find one of the many Pagan paths that are out there that align better with what they believe within themselves. Not everyone is going to be a hard polytheist. Not everyone is going to find what they need within Wicca (I didn’t). But there is nothing wrong with either of those or with any other approach for that matter. Yes, I will even defend those that decide to place a pinch of racism into their own beliefs. So long as you are not harming anyone else because they do not follow your beliefs…or trying to push them off a Path that is similar to your own, simply because they will not align exactly with your own or (Gods forbid) using your beliefs or your position within those beliefs to harm another…I have zero issues with someone exploring their own idea of what the “divine” is.

For me, people eventually come to their own beliefs through their own experiences. For me, I always felt that the Gods and Goddesses were alive and individual beings when I was a young lad, hunting through encyclopedias in the Base Library. I could feel Their presence in the woods throughout Germany when I went walking with my parents (and several hundred other folks) during volksmarches. For others on their own spiritual paths (even on a path of Druidry very similar to my own), they may hold that there are an archetypal God and Goddess, or a universal Spiritual Divine, or even the Christian Trinity. It is not how I connect to the world around me, but I am not willing to push them off their Paths simply because the manner in which they experience their connectedness is different from my own.

We are nearing the beginning of Spring here in North Texas. Every day that I drive the eleven miles to and from work, I see the new-born calves in the pastures, sometimes huddled close to their mother cows, and other times running with my truck as I drive past them. Even despite the last pushes at a bitter cold have come down from the northern tier of the United States, these newborns are a reminder that Spring is on its way – as promised every year in the turning cycle. Through those moments, I see the hands of the Gods and Goddesses everywhere. Just as I am sure that a soft polytheist sees the nurturing aspects of the archetype Mother, and the Christian sees the nurturing hand of God.

Though it sounds like I am making a hard comparative point, I am actually not. Each of these is a manner in which some of my friends see the world around them, and find their own connections. Each sounds similar, but the reality is that they are not. Every individual finds their own unique connection to their environment utilizing the framework that works best for them. Other folks, do not even attempt to seek that connected strand out in their lives, while some will find the strand regardless, with no spiritual pull to it all.  And the hard reality is that each approach is correct – for the individual that utilizes it. And if it is not, that individual will seek a new connected experience, in their own time, at their own pace.

I know how I feel the connection to the Gods and Goddesses – to the Ancestors – to the Spirits of Place. That approach works for me. It is definitely not for me to tell a single person that their approach is wrong or incorrect. When someone comes to seek my advice (and admittedly, it is not often), I try my best to describe my approach and point out that it is my own. They might be able to glean something that works for them or perhaps, just hearing about my approach might spark an idea in a completely different direction for them. And that is really all I can do. Try to show other avenues that might be available and useful for them. It is why I write this blog. It is why I am going to continue the podcast. So that other folks can see that not every avenue is appropriate, but that searching out for different approaches might be enough to open the door.

This morning, I was watching the movie “Troy”. This is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the dynamic between Achilles and the Priestess Briseis. There is a moment, which disagrees with how I perceive the Gods that takes place between these two characters:

Achilles: I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

While I agree with the sentiment of the beauty and fleeting treasure that a mortal life is, as Achilles describes it – I disagree that the Gods envy us. I believe, like us, the Gods have their own aspects of connectivity. Certainly, there is something to be said about how much richer the beauty of a fleeting moment may have. It certainly is a reminder of what we are as mortal beings. To find beauty, we only need to be silent in a forest at morning. Or in a field. Or even just outside of our front or back doors to our homes. To hear the wind whisper through the branches of the trees, through the tall grasses of the farmer’s field or through the leaves of the bushes near our homes. The warmth of the sun on our faces, or the cooled drops of rain. The feel of the dirt in our hands as we plant our crops or weed our flower beds. And those moments, those fleeting moments that will not be the same – even if we come back in an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year or ever…those are the moments that live in our memories. Moments we will never experience exactly the same, again.

How we connect to everything around us, everyone around us, the Gods and Goddesses, our Ancestors, and the Spirits of Place – how we celebrate those moments in our own memories is what is important. Which Gods and Goddesses we seek the Divine in our lives is important – to each of us individually. When we gather together at certain points in the Wheel of the Year, we honor all the Gods and Goddesses collectively – aloud or silently. We also honor ourselves and each other. For we are unique individuals, and we will not be the same ever again then at that moment. For like our environment, just like the Gods and Goddesses, we are changing. Some changes are small, others (such as death) are massively consequential, for us, and others.

This all might seem a bit “rambly” (the spell-checking dictionary claims it to be a word) in nature, but I assure this is not. For me, it is quite a cohesive thought. I never “became” a Pagan. I never “became” a polytheist. I am both. I have always been both – even when I had no words or concepts to express it as such. I firmly believe that we do not “become” what we are. We grow into it. From whatever faith. From whatever perspective. Some get to that point of understanding faster than others. There is no judgment in that whatsoever. Some people walk a darkened forest path very quickly, instinctively knowing that illumination in some form will happen eventually. Others move along it slowly, careful not to trip over a hidden rock in the path, and listen carefully to the still air. The correctness of either of those choices or some other option is clearly up to the individual. It took me a while to find my Path, and to be at this point of it. There is a lot more for me to walk, experience and learn from. And even when I reach that destination tht I am seeking; there will be more Path to explore beyond that.

Four Tablespoons of Pagan, Please

As I sit and watch another round of an “are you Pagan enough?” diatribe taking place on the interwebs, I am reminded of what makes me a Pagan, and why a yard-stick measurement argument rings so hollow to me. A lot of this back-and-forth arguing sounds so much like church services to me. A competition based on how holy you were, presented through the lens of clothing, singing, standing, and tithing.

Back when I was exploring the Christian side of things, I recall how the Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at the Southern Baptist church I was attending was like. The older folks would arrive on Wednesday evenings in their business casual attire, straight from work. Sundays would be reserved for the coat and tie or the proper, conservative blouse and dress. Those of us fresh out of high school, or still in high school, would show up in torn-up jeans and t-shirts or if our families were attending church, in nice slacks and polo shirts on Sundays. Most of us were frowned upon because we did not dress the part of the penitent Christian, desiring to be all-dressed-up for Christ.

During the church services, there was another silent contest going as well – who could sing the hymns the loudest, with the prettiest voices, and without looking in the hymnal. And who could rise and sit at the appropriate moments during the service as well. Rarely did I stand. I always figured that if the Christ was going to look into my heart and decide if I was an appropriate member of his “flock”, he would be able to do whether I stood, sat, or laid down in the middle of the aisle and took a nap. And singing? Shit…if you have heard me sing, you know why I don’t do so in public. I could easily be considered a deadly weapon.

All of that aside, none of that was about following the edicts of what Christian was about. It was a pissing contest to see who could pee the furthest up the hill. Noe of that determines whether you are a good Christian or not. But all of that, and a fiver in the offering plate will definitely have the pastor openly stating that you are punching your ticket to heaven. Yeah. Pure bullshit. if you really want to find the individual following the teachings of the Christ, look for the person who volunteers in the soup kitchens to feed the poorest of those among us. Look for the individual who stops what they are doing in their own lives to provide their energy, ability, and thoughtfulness to those who are alone. There you have someone following the teachings of the Christ.

Ok, three paragraphs of examples of issues relating to Christianity…all as a manner to drive a point home about Pagans. Silly, isn’t it? Here I am painting a picture of Christianity done wrong and right so I can showcase an issue about why its silly to try and determine if someone is “Pagan enough or not”. And all of that really showcases another issue we have – and I didn’t even intend to do this – how we constantly find ways to set unintentional (or even intentional) measuring sticks of Paganism against Christianity. I should delete all of that and rewrite this so it is not there, but I am going to leave it – because it really does help drive a secondary point home. Doing what I just did above to provide a parallel perspective of Paganism and Christianity really isn’t necessary.

What does being “Pagan enough” really mean? Should I set a yardstick of myself against Chris, John or Lauren when it comes to working in ritual? These three are the most brilliant ritualists I know. My skills at doing ritual pale deeply in comparison to any of these three. Does that make me any less of a ritualist than they are? Does it make me less of a Pagan because I do not have their skills at doing rites to praise the Gods and Goddesses? Do the Gods and Goddesses care that deeply about my deficient skillset?? And if They do, would They not convey that to me? Does it make me any less of a Priest than any of these three? Or is the true measure of who we are as individual Pagans what we have in our hearts, what burns deep within our souls, and the callings that we feel? Can we distill that down to a liquid, vapor or a powder that we can then measure against someone else?

Does that not sound absolutely silly to you? It does to me, nearly as silly as my three paragraphs above trying to make a pound for pound comparison between some similar comparative, competitive nonsense that I experienced within Christianity as this within Paganism. I really have no real desire to hold your head in my hands, look into your eyes, and try to measure the “Paganism within you.” I would say, that if you feel deficient in what you are doing in your daily Pagan practice, take a few minutes to examine what you are doing – and determine how you can put more of who you are into what you are doing. If that means holding your own personal rite in your backyard at each full moon, go for it. if it means waking up earlier in the morning and greeting the Sun as part of your daily practice, go for it (its what I started doing a few years back). If it means taking up Yoga for thirty minutes each day and spending that time in thoughtful meditation through each of the poses, go for it. Whatever it is, make sure it has meaning FOR YOU and TO YOU. And only you can be the true measure of what that really is, and how it gets measured. Just sayin’….   –T /|\

 

The Forecast is for Change – not the End

The Storm is here. A lot of folks have talked about this, including me. And occasionally, I get someone that Emails me asking just what exactly is the Storm. Sometimes these Emails are tinged with worry, like the world is about to end or that Pagans are about to be lined up and sent to detention camps (aka WW2 Nazi Germany). Other times, the individual is trying to make sense out of what is meant by this – the world looks “normal” to them, so what is the big deal?

Well, for me, the Storm is not an end-of-the-world or impending Armeggedon thing. I have heard many folks mention that the Storm is an intense “Tower times” moment – more now than in previous individual memory. By “Tower times”, this is usually a reference to the tarot card “The Tower” which is typically associated with danger, crisis, destruction, liberation, or change. Now, I am not a huge Tarot individual. In fact, before this year, I owned zero Tarot decks. As a divinatory form, it is just not something that draws me to it. In fact, most divinatory forms have little call or interest to me. But that is a different deer trod for another adventure in the woods.

I realize its easy to interpret the tidal changes that we see in our real world around us with a cataclysmic ending of the world. And who knows? Perhaps, we will see such an ending to human society going far forward into our future. Certainly, we have done a smashing job of finding ways to alter our environment’s capacity to sustain our existence going into the future, perhaps even irreparably at this point. Certainly, there should be no standing by during this particular phase where the environment is concerned. From my perspective, violence and anger won’t solve the problem, but I also realize I am a single voice being drowned out by the overly vocal others from every side. It is certainly noticeable that our prevailing media continues to showcase sensational endings to our world via asteroids, comets, super-villains, nuclear exchange, pollution, genocide, zombies, pestilence, and even via the hand of the Christian God in terms of the Book of Revelations.

The news does not hold any better signs of the world around us. The 365x24x7 news cycle continues to be dominated by school shootings, undeclared (and even declared) war footage, threats of nuclear annihilation, and the legal machinations of splitting society by race and gender by our respective legislatures. Everywhere you turn, the entire world seems to be screaming that this is the precursor of the end of human kind’s existence.

Yeah. I grok that. All of that creates a narrative that is easily understood. A lot of it evokes our combined worst fears – racial violence, the systematic genocide of the “have-nots”, the thrusting of the entire world society backward through a nuclear holocaust, or a world engulfed in constant warfare and violence. There is not a single question in my mind, I shudder at the thought of any of this becoming reality. And I can certainly see where others might find it to be time to call for the falling of the sky.

But this Tower time, as many others point out to me. A time of unexpected change, according to what I have read about the ultimate meaning of this Tarot card’s meaning. And unexpected change, from my perspective, yields unexpected results. Certainly, the outcomes I mentioned previously are on the table. But so are other outcomes that are not talked about often enough. A world that does not see racial differences as a context to divide us as a human race, but rather describe the differences between us. Differences that can be embraced, learned from and upheld in the beauty that each has. Perhaps, a threat of nuclear annihilation will be the watershed moment in which these horrible, indiscriminate weapons are eradicated from the stockpiles of the world’s military forces?

Sure, I hear you. A lot of that is blowing sunshine up people’s asses. The world does not operate that way. We have indoctrinated the idea to fear and hate those that are different from us. Subjugate them before they subjugate or destroy us. I can understand that skeptical and cynical approach to being in the world. And to be frankly honest, it is a far easier shift to getting to the terrible side of these scenarios than it is to the side I would really prefer things to be. Because hate is a far easier emotion to embrace.

As a young boy, I was taught by my parents to hide my affectionate side. It was considered to be a showing of weakness because you openly showed tenderness and caring for others. I played sports – soccer, baseball, and even some American football. I was taught to “hate” the other side. To “destroy” them on the field of play. That aggressive perspective was not be shunned, but to embraced – to be held on to tightly – to be utilized in a “win at all costs” mentality. Fair play? What was that? There are only winners and losers. And then the momentum shifted in the other direction. Everyone got a trophy for participating. An emphasis on “fair” play was made. Everyone was provided the perspective of being equal, regardless of whether they won or not. And some of that has been brought forward by this up and coming generation.

For me, that is where my hope is placed. I do not understand this younger generation, but I am warmed by their embrace of all as equals. Their protest methodologies make me cringe at times, but their goals are admirable in my opinion. And as they try, they sometimes fail. And from those failures, they learn, they adapt, and they grow. And perhaps, it is their efforts that have brought about Tower time. They are pushing at the base of the Tower and have started to make it sway. They are aiming to make changes. They WANT to make changes. Perhaps, it is their efforts to shake the foundations that have brought out the racists in our society into the open. After all, the shape of our current, modern society does have racist aspects to certain legal points. Definitely food for thought, don’t you think?

The Storm is here, that is for certain. Is it a hurricane gale slamming the coastline of our society? Not likely, from where I sit. But it certainly is a bad thunderstorm, where flooding will be prevalent. Our neighbors will need our help getting through all of this. We will need to help pull them from the swollen creeks, and help shelter them during their time of need. End of the world? Not really. Our world will be changing from all the turmoil we are seeing. However, unexpected change can bring unexpected results, so the shape of things yet to come remains hidden behind the curtains of heavy rain. And while I am hopeful of what the outcome may be – I still carry my staff and my sword – hoping I never need to unsheath the one, and only need to use the other to reach further into the rushing waters to help others.   –T /|\

The OBOD Camp Experience – Gulf Coast 2018 Version – There…and Back Again

So, yesterday was the long journey home. Sleeping in a little late wound up getting the trip home started around 10am. Prior to leaving, a quick side trip was mounted to a nearby “Donut King” which has the most amazing donuts. However, the sign stated “no Credit Cards accepted. Cash and Checks only” which squashed that attempt, and found the truck back on the interstate and headed west.

There certainly has been a lot to think about, and a lot to process in my mind. The aftermath of every camp always alters some of the short/long-range plans with other ideas and slight alterations. This year’s camp was no different. I have a renewed energy to tackle my Ovate lessons and continue making progress. There is a distinct possibility that I may not be finished at the desired point of prior to next year, but if I fall short – so long as I make distinct progress, I’ll not be beating myself up.

img_9678The other alteration to short/long-range plans occurs with the podcast. I have a new episode that should (crossing fingers) be finished by this weekend. I have stated before that this will be the end of Upon a Pagan Path. Well, let me amend that statement slightly. This will be the end of regularly scheduled episodes for the podcast. I will continue bringing out episodes, just without a regular schedule. My work schedule is topsy-turvy, and there are other heavy issues in my life – so a regular schedule is not possible to maintain. I stated that “there are other podcasts that do what I do and do it better.” Its true, they do it better, but my focus is on the everyday individual on a Pagan Path – not the names that everyone else knows and hears on other podcasts. So, in that regard – not everyone else does what I do. They have similar formats. And that is where the “sameness” stops. But again, a regular schedule is just not going to be possible given everything else going on in life. I will aim at getting six to eight episodes out each calendar year. So the podcast will continue to have lie, sort of. For those of you that are happy about that…there was a certain discussion that took place behind a rented green cube at 11pm on Friday night that you can thank for that. All I will say is that you’re the tops, and what you stated made complete sense to me once I had nine hours of driving to mull over all of that.

Behind a hideous boxy vehicle of green
A lengthy conversation was whispered at, unseen
Shenanigators we have become
With bawdy tales yet to be sung
There is no denying that we make one “wicked” team

One thing is for certain, my hat is off to the folks of Highland Oak Nemeton who sponsor and organize this gathering every year. Each year, this whole gathering operates smoothly with very few noticeable glitches or issues. As each year comes around, I get very excited about seeing the folks that are a part of this group. They are wonderful individuals with wonderful families that I have had the privilege of getting to know. Honestly, I cannot think of them in any other way than family. They are all so welcoming, so helpful, and so loving to everyone who comes to this yearly gathering. They truly are the epitome of Druid hospitality.

I have mentioned it before – everyone’s experience of an OBOD camp is certain to be different. In my own experience, you get out of camp what you put into it. Again, if you are interested in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, please trot over to the website at http://www.Druidry.org/ and take a peek for yourself. I have found it to be a nearly perfect fit for who I am as a Pagan, and have benefitted greatly on a personal level from the Bardic and Ovate coursework.

Thanks for reading! I hope you have enjoyed this little series of posts.  –T /|\

 

The OBOD Camp Experience – Gulf Coast 2018 Version – Day Three

IMG_0243…and thus ends the third day in OBOD Camp for Gulf Coast Gathering. And this day was jam packed with things to do, and events – and contains the most bitter-sweet moment for me in camp:  goodbyes.

On this day of camp – grade breakouts start the flow of the process. In the grade breakouts, the members of each grade work together to provide a gift for the main ritual – in this case, Alban Eilir. And these gifts provide some of the best fun of camp, with lots of creative work put into the creation of these gifts. For the Ovates, one of the members brought an oil made from the resin of a tree from the University of Nebraska. This was made into a solution that was placed into four decorated bowls which were dolled up to look like nests. The Druids provided a gift of a gift (a re-gift if you will) of a dream-catcher that had been made by the Oklahoma group Circle of the Six-Fold Path and presented to him by two of their members who were in attendance. But the most entertaining gift came from the Bards, which was a story of Spring – narrated line by line from each Bard. At one point, they mentioned the saga of the Screen Door Boar which seems to now be on its way to being some type of legend in camp. It took a touch of restraint on my part not to laugh too loudly. But I heard a lot of comments after the ritual from others about how creative and fun the Bardic gift had been. It truly was.

Shortly after the ritual, several folks went on the nearby Nature Walk. I had less than four hours of sleep last night, and stayed back in camp, where plenty of conversations were to be had. Some deeply intellectual, some deeply personal, and some just downright silly. As I have noted on several occasions, conversations – for me – are some of the most amazing highlights of the entire Gulf Coast Gathering. Many of these are typically had in the down-time regions of the camp schedule.

Eventually, most of the camp feel into the rhythm of an Eisteddfod out by the fire, while a group of us prepared for the initiation of individuals into the Ovate grade. Again, I will not share details of any of the initiations that happen within camp. If you are interested in experiencing an initiation within OBOD, please come on in and join up. We don’t bite. Well, some of us won’t bite you…unless you ask.

After the Ovate grade initiations, everyone gathered up around the same Eisteddfod fire for a talk on divination with Philip Carr-Gomm. Philip is quite the personable individual, and a real joy to listen to when he is talking. Conversations with Philip are some really incredible moments as well. More than one person commented on how down-to-earth he is to talk with. I find Philip to be a true treasure for the Order. His style of communicating with people is so much like talking with your best friend. I know that I will treasure the time I have had in camp listening to him.

Shortly after Philip’s talk wound down, the time of saying goodbyes had arrived. I don’t normally stay the last day, which holds the closing ceremony. This year is no exception. With a nine-hour drive tomorrow, it was definitely time to head back to the hotel, write this blog, and go to bed. I walked around camp, hugging folks and saying my goodbyes. but these are not truly goodbyes – for we still have the internet to connect us together. And having made some new friends with new folks in camp – I look forward to “talking” with folks a bit more via this wonderful communications medium that we have.

Prior to getting out of camp, I managed to talk a bit with folks about Kristoffer Hughes’ concept of the Pagan Square Mile, as well as his point on the Druid Transmitted Infection (DTI) concerning the usage of our own personal Awen to inspire not only others, but ourselves. I will use bits and pieces of those conversations for a not-so-far in the future blog post because I believe its a topic worth revisiting, especially in the times we find ourselves in today.

I will be up and packing the truck shortly after this post is scheduled to be published. But for all of us in camp, I ask that the Gods and Goddesses look out for all of us on our travels back to our respective homes. And that the feeling of belonging, togetherness, family and friendship that we embraced within camp for these few precious days, follows us home as well. So that we can find our joy, and infect the rest of the world with our Awen – our own DTI. I am humbled to have spent time with each and every one of you, and while I may not have had the chance to speak with all of you during camp this year – I hope we find the time to do so at Gulf Coast Gathering 2019.

And one final thought – OBOD Camp as an experience is what you make of it. Everything I have posted thus far, has been about what I have experienced. So your mileage may vary, but you will never truly know what an experience OBOD camp really is unless you decide to come to one. Just sayin’….

–T /|\