Life Does Change — An Explanation Owed

 

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Me, at Imbolc Retreat 2018, being silly on the main porch. Original photo was taken by John Beckett

Its been a short while – and currently, I am in the middle of an insane whirlwind of three events happening back-to-back-to-back. Yesterday evening, I completed a 1,050+ mile trip to attend the ADF Imbolc Retreat near Mountain Home, Texas (put on by ADF Hearthstone Grove), and then a professional conference in Corpus Christi. That equated to somewhere around 17 hours of driving, excluding various stops. Today, I get the opportunity to rest for a bit, while packing (lightly) for a plane flight to, and four days at, Pantheacon.

 

A few weeks back, during a meditation, Crow noted that the coming calendar year was going to be bumpy, exhausting, exhilarating and stressful. “Grab a handle and hang on” was the warning. My professional life is about to move in a direction I only dreamed my department would go. My skillsets promise to be the lynchpin that everything will revolve upon. My new team is comprised of folks that I truly enjoy working with, and that I have the deepest respect for. My desire to help out with the professional conference I attend each year has bee noted, and I am already being asked to be prepared to be involved. There is going to be a lot expected of me, and I am already finding my armor to be in those battles – so to speak. Plus, I am needing to update skills to a program – R – that I have only a passing familiarity with. I am already working towards learning its usage, including professional development, self-paced training that I paid for out of my own pocket.

My Ovate grade work is proving to be difficult, and very rewarding. And while I am moving slowly, I am making steady progress that I am thrilled with. Every single day, I am finding new little threads to explore, and am starting to need the time to do that exploration. In my spiritual life, my daily devotions to Crow are providing a pathway to a much deeper relationship. I am learning that Priesthood, even devotional Priesthood, requires more than just words.

I continue to write blog posts here, and on the Moon Books platform, and have started to develop an enjoyment of putting my own thoughts into a written format. Whether my writing skills have gotten better for it…I’m not quite sure, but I sure do get a lot out of that.

Which brings me to the why of this post. Each part of what I have written above takes time. My daily schedule looks a mess – and what is above does not even take into account the physical workouts that I am trying to do to keep “round” from being my default shape. After a lot of thought, some meditation, some prayer, and some thoughtful discourse with folks whose opinions I trust – the decision to shutter the podcast “Upon a Pagan Path” was made, and I announced such a short while back. To be frankly honest, it is been far too long since I put an episode out – and the format that I am using is done far better by other shows, such as “Down at the Crossroads” and “Druidcast“. I will – from time to time – release short recorded discussions over on my Soundcloud page, but without all the frills and extra stuff that was added to the podcast format. I will also do spoken word bits, where I tell a tale over an open microphone or read one of my poems. But not as a podcast – and not with any release schedule attached to it.

It has been a pleasure to be part of the podcasting community for such a long time. I was extremely devastated when I decided to close down “From the Edge of the Circle” but it was truly time to do so. A recent conversation with someone I admire greatly, revealed to me that “Edge” was a charming format that was similar to sitting down and having a discussion – even if it was just one way. I only hope “Pagan Path” had a similar charm and appeal. But it certainly was a lot of fun to do.

Will I wind up on another podcast as a guest? Who knows…anything is technically possible. Maybe so, maybe not. I only know what the future holds for me going forward from today. The two blogging platforms are where I will spend the majority of my time pontificating my personal perspective on Polytheism, Paganism, and Druidry. Sort of like “From the Edge of the Circle” except that I will wear out my fingers instead of my voice. 🙂

There is one more podcast episode left, though. The final show. Yeah, I was not going to let things go without taking the opportunity to have a final moment. I had originally planned on having just two interviews and leaving it at that. However, I have another musical feature that I am working towards getting materials for. As for my two interview victims, those would be the absolutely phenomenal ADF almost-priest (fingers crossed) of Nine Waves, Lauren M. I have known Lauren for a few years now…and am absolutely thrilled to get her on the podcast. And to provide the ultimate aspect of symmetry – I bring back my friend John Beckett, who was on the first episode of Upon a Pagan Path. Both interviews were conducted at the ADF Imbolc Retreat, and are some really fun conversations – complete with background noises from all over camp.

This final podcast will be out sometime in the first seven days of March. And after that, I will keep Upon a Pagan Path alive and available for download on Liberated Syndication up through the end of March next year (2019). At that point, I will cease payments for the podcast, and delete the account from Liberated Syndication – the same manner in which I closed From the Edge of the Circle.

Honestly, life constantly changes. For me, things are getting busier in my life. What essentially starts part of one’s current cycle in life, may come to a close. But other opportunities are always available. Sometimes, those are easier to see. Sometimes, these are not readily evident unless you look harder. But life does change.

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Three Drops of Awen – From Kristoffer Hughes

 

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Morning at the ADF Imbolc Retreat fire…

I am currently trying to get myself prepped for three events happening in my life over the next eleven days. I am packing for the ADF Imbolc Retreat in the Texas hill country, a professional conference in Corpus Christi that starts immediately on the heels of the retreat, and Pantheacon just a single day after I return from Corpus Christi. So, essentially, I am packing three different bags for three very different events. Yeah, I have lost my mind.

 

 

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My book of quotes

A while back, I had lost my “quotes” book, which is a small leather wrapped notebook that I carry with me nearly everywhere. In my determined unpacking from an event last year, I had placed this on a shelf in my office, and then set my two bottles of Bushmills’ whiskey in front of it. Given that I am carrying whiskey with me to Imbolc, I pulled the bottles out to pack and re-discovered the notebook. Naturally, I started thumbing through it and came across several quotes I had written down from last year’s Gulf Coast Gathering, which Kristoffer Hughes had attended. I thought it might prove interesting to explore some of what was said…

 

The Druids of the future will look to the Druids of today for reference when it comes to ritual.

Given all the navel-gazing I have been doing over the last few months concerning legacy, and how the Druids of the future will stand on the shoulders of the Druids of today who are standing on the shoulders of the Druids of the past – this quote was quite interesting to find as the first in my little book. My notes next to this state that documentation is key for the future understanding of the past. And that rituals can help restore order to that which is in chaos.

I admit, there are times when I look at the state of what I perceive to be our current Pagan community, and I have moments of despair over the constant arguing and fighting. And it is difficult for me to see a way forward where there may be cohesion and agreement. I want to have the grand vision of a larger, vibrant world-view, where Paganism is readily accepted on equal terms to Christianity, and other world faiths. With the constant turmoil, arguing over definitions, terminology, and trying to develop standards of who is “Pagan enough” just do not seem like strong forward reaching efforts to me.

And then I get the feathered wing to the back of the head, as I am reminded again and again that a myopic view of the world is the narrow focus that needs to be avoided when looking long-term. There is plenty of documentation taking place through books, blogs, conferences, podcasts, videos, and retreats such as the one I am about to attend. When I start focusing on all the squabbles, I miss all the wonderful things that do move things forward. The multi-faith efforts that happen throughout the world, the growth of the wider community in areas of ritual and daily devotion, as more and more Pagans reach out to find a deeper connection in their spiritual lives, as well as a stronger commitment to their Gods.

Druids are not defined by who they are. They are defined by what they do.

Part of what I am learning about myself is that service to others is paramount to who I am. Whether that be through this blog or stepping back into my local Pagan community or being a mentor to others seeking to find deeper connections in their own lives – living my life is about reaching out to help others. And through that point of individual service, no matter how great or small, I learn a bit more about who I am and what I am capable of. As well as a good dose of humility, which I have been sorely in deep need of.

We all strive for meaning in our daily lives, as well as meaning to our overall existence. For many, that is a concept that is difficult to deal with – the struggle is definitely real. And I can definitely add – it is a lifelong battle. Sometimes, you can feel that you have a complete handle on things, and then a single event can collapse all that confidence like a house of cards in a hurricane. In the end, it is the actions that provide the glimpse at the depth of meaning behind who we are. The individual intention, beyond anything else, gives motion to our actions. When we live an intentional life, we give focus to what we do, how we do, and why we do it. Which oddly enough, dovetails with the last quote I have from Kristoffer…

Your job is not just to know ritual but to understand the “why” of ritual.

Honestly, I can read book after book, article after article, and listen to talk after talk about ritual; practice performing the entire script of what needs to be accomplished; work on the flourish of my hands; perfect the intonation of the words that are spoken – none of that means anything if I do not have a clear understanding of the ritual’s overall meaning. All the book knowledge in the world will not breathe heart and soul into what I am attempting to accomplish with the ritual. All the acting skills in this world, the Nine Hells, and beyond the veil will not mask a lack of heart and passion geared behind the “why” of the ritual. A poorly followed set of words, motions, and movements will pale when that individual is doing so with the passion and fire synced to their desire to do all of this for the appropriate reasoning and intent. And this is one of the reasons that I have always felt so in tune with my impromptu, unscripted, off-the-cuff rituals that just whisk me away into the moment. It might seem “wrong” to someone else, but it is a moment of pure perfection for me.

In a little over a week, I will make my way to Pantheacon, where I will have the pleasure of seeing Kristoffer’s smiling face, and hopefully, experience a massive bear hug. I am looking forward to attending a handful of presentations as well, where I will hopefully get to add to my quote book. And I am thoroughly over the moon at finding my little friend once again…

From a Podcast to a “Selection of Audio Offerings” – Transformation Can be Considered a Constant in Life

Twelve years ago, I started my first podcast – “From the Edge of the Circle”. I spent time talking about whatever topic came to mind – essentially using the podcast in much the same vein that I use the blog here at “Life With Trickster Gods” – a sounding board for the most part. After a period of time, the podcast got a bit difficult to keep working with, and I was moved towards the idea of shutting things down. And I did. Then I started “Upon a Pagan Path” where I have tried to focus on talking with other Pagans about how they came to be on the Paths they are on. And essentially, that has managed to fizzle out. Its been nearly a year since I put out a podcast episode. And honestly, while the podcasting side was fun – putting a podcast together is really tough stuff. There’s a lot of post production work that goes into getting a show together, not to mention trying to find ways to mesh times with folks for interviews. Many other podcasters out there are aware of how difficult all of that can be to manage. And in truth, many of them do a far better job at it then I have ever managed to do. And that means that it is nearly time to bring the second podcast incarnation to a close.

Yes, you read that correctly, it is time to bring “Upon a Pagan Path” to an end. Sort of. As a podcast, it will definitely come to a close. I have one more episode to do…and I have an idea who I want to push a recording device in front of…and will somehow manage to do just that. After that, the doors for the podcast will close. The last version of the podcast will be a very stripped down version of the show. No musical artist features. No extra stuff. Just me and the individual(s) that I hope to get on the recording device.

But there’s life beyond the podcast. I have an idea to continue recording stories, poems, and even interviews from time to time. I will place those on a Soundcloud page instead of a LibSyn account. No extra stuff. No show intros and outros. Just the stuff that is meant to be heard. Why? Because there is still a need for the stories to be heard. There’s still a desire to read my poetry aloud. And there are still stories to hear from other people. But the podcast has run its course at this point. When will it happen? Well, fairly soon. And when I mean soon…somewhere in the neighborhood of the next ninety days or so.

I am not disappearing from sight, though. I have two blogs I am writing. And while my writing is not stellar stuff, it is far better than what I managed to put together for the podcast. And my thoughts are far more coherent here in the written form than anytime I am in front of a microphone. So, it is not like I am disappearing completely from the online world. Just transforming to a different presentation format.

Plus, writing comes easier to me – and I have far more time to do that. My mundane job gets busier each day, and my working hours sometimes have a tendency to be long and unpredictable. That makes scheduling stuff for the podcast a little more difficult, particularly in a world where meshing hectic schedules can be a serious chore.

And by the way, the name “Upon a Pagan Path” won’t be disappearing either. It will be the name of the Soundcloud page. So, in a manner of speaking, the podcast will be making its own transformation through this as well. From a podcast to…well, I am not sure how to classify what the Soundcloud page will be. A selection of audio offerings?? Maybe. Just not totally sure that is a “proper” descriptive. Then again, when have I ever done anything in a “proper” manner?  🙂

 

If You Want to Predict the Future, Live it With Your Eyes Wide Open

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Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

I read a lot. Probably more than I should. And rarely is it just stuff on Paganism or Druidry. usually, it is about History, particularly the history of computing. One of my favorite books is What the Dormouse Said” by John Markof which goes into lengthy detail about how the world of experimental drug use helped some of the visionaries of the computer dream up some of the stuff that we take for granted. One of the people chronicled in the book is Alan Kay, to whom the quote that stirred this post is attributed to. There is some debate as to whether he really stated such, but it eventually became the working maxim of Xerox PARC, where much of the computing world’s innovations grew from.

If you want to predict the future, invent it.

Which is quite literally, what they did at Xerox PARC. So, what does this have to do with a blog on Paganism and Druidry? Well, if you have read this for any length of time, you know that I take long looks into my own personal past. I have never claimed to be a Saint or any type of visionary. I have helped out in a handful of causes within the United States military to help further religious equality. When I left the US military, others stepped up and took my place and continued pushing forward. My contributions, however small those may be, are a part of the legacy I leave behind.

Standing still and looking back is nice, but coming back to Kay’s point – what about tomorrow? I turn fifty-three later this year (much later this year), and I have no desire to shuffle off this mortal coil any time in the future. As a wider-arching community, we stand in a whirling dervish of confusion, anger, miscommunication, and pain. When I try to see forward, that miasma clouds what may happen, what might be, what can be – and that makes the footing uncertain. what can I do to help leave my Pagan community a better one than when I arrived in the middle of the Witch Wars of the late 1980s?

To be extremely explicit here, I am no savior. I won’t be the individual that solves all the problems of the world. In fact, I see myself as nothing more than an extremely minor character in the world around me. I blog. I write my thoughts out here for others to read. My readership is fairly small. What impact can I have? I have no desire to be a “famous-Amos” in the Pagan community. I truly just want to be me – a simple Priest of Crow, a Druid on a Path to honor the Gods, just me. I am not a shining beacon of hope. I am no paragon of virtue, no hero of true deeds. Every day, I ask what it is that I can do to help make my Pagan community better. And every day, I hear the same things in the back of my mind:

Get involved. Just be you. Your contribution is to be yourself. Your future is to walk your Path and to stumble and fall. And then to get back up, dust off your cloak, and continue your Path.

Is it really just that simple? Just get up in the mornings and greet the Sun? Get out in the backyard and pour my offerings to the Gods? To say the words, make the gestures, and pour my soul into what I believe? Surely, there is a quest that I can undertake? There is a fight that I can be a part of?

And then the response comes:

What about getting involved? Get off your ass and get back into your community. You are a solo Pagan. Being solo means you walk your Spiritual Path by yourself. That is who you are, but you do not walk your daily Path in life by yourself. You cannot and will not survive like that. There are no heroic quests to undergo. There is no ring to carry. No tremendous burden that needs to be placed on your shoulders. You want a quest? SHOW people what it means to be a Pagan. BE who you are, but no one can see that just through your words.

Yeah. Getting dressed down by your God is never an awesome thing. Nor is it a great thing to realize that you have been eating too much of the fantastic world of Fantasy novels, where the common character becomes an uncommon hero by having some heavy burden or quest placed upon them. Life is not a quest to throw the One Ring into the volcano. And real Life is not a constant struggle against the Orcs or the difficulties of traversing the mines of Moria.

So what does the future hold for me? I really cannot say for sure. As I noted, the way forward is cloudy. But then, the future is always an uncertain thing to predict. Sure, I can follow Key’s maxim and try to ‘invent’ my way through it. But then, isn’t the future always going to be a product of invention? We are never sure of the way forward and have to take the steps to see if the footing is firm and sure. Inventing is – for me – a rather poor word choice for this. Perhaps, a little editing and mending might be more appropriate.

If you want to predict the future, live it.

After all, finding out what the future holds means walking through the mists and discovering what lies beyond. And for me, that means shedding some of the illusions of being some form of hero in all of this. As has been noted before, the Storm is here. The dervish has pulled all of us into it to one degree or another. We have all experienced some of the chaotic winds that it provides. And for me, I have stumbled and fallen from my Path. Time to right myself, dust off my cloak, pick up my staff and continue doing what it is that I should be doing. There are some unpredictable aspects to all of this, including how to get back into my wider Pagan community, which means trying to see how and where I fit in. And being an individual that is not very good at public, social situations – that means pushing myself into areas where I am uncomfortable. I have no desire to predict the future, but to find out what the future holds – I have to live it. And I have to live it with my eyes wide open.

–T /|\

Slowing the Pace, Reading the Stories, Doing the Rituals – Looking For Quality Over Quantity

One of our problems today is that we are not well acquainted with the literature of the spirit. We’re interested in the news of the day and the problems of the hour. It used to be that the university campus was a kind of hermetically sealed-off area where the news of the day did not impinge upon your attention to the inner life and to the magnificent human heritage we have in our great tradition – Plato, Confucius, the Buddha, Goethe, and others who speak of the eternal values that have to do with the centering of our lives. When you get to be older, and the concerns of the day have all been attended to, and your turn to the inner life – well, if you don’t know where it is or what it is, you’ll be sorry.

Greek and Latin and biblical literature used to be part of everyone’s education. Now, when these were dropped, a whole tradition of Occidental mythological information was lost. It used to be that these stories were in the minds of people. When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you. With the loss of that, we’ve really lost something because we don’t have a comparable literature to take its place. These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don’t know what guide-signs are along the way, you have to work it out for yourself. (The Power of Myth, p1-2)

This lengthy quote from “The Power of Myth” really got my mind to wondering about a variety of things, such as how different our individual approaches to the aspects of Spirituality that appeals to us may have been if today were just ten or twenty years prior. “The Power of Myth” came out in the late 1980s, a time frame where I had just started on my own Pagan Path. Therefore, some of what Campbell references here is very clear in my somewhat fuzzy memory. The news cycle had started to shorten with the arrival of cable news networks. Compared to today’s endless 24x7x365 news blitz, the starting point from much of this was much shorter. Even in this changing moment for news reporting, the traditional news cycle that was handled as a combination of daily newspapers, national news broadcasts at 5pm local time, and local news broadcasts in the morning, noon, evening, and late-night (10pm local) still ruled the roost. Today’s constant, non-stop news cycle is a hallmark of the fast-paced, constantly on-the-go lifestyles we have adapted to. And in some cases, this go-go-go lifestyle is all that one may ever have known throughout their life. And that fast-paced, constantly “on” pace provides little time or need for classic learning behaviors. Through this, certain aspects of our lives are swept aside as “unnecessary”, ‘unneeded”, or “unwanted” because there is not a quick, neat correlation to this new, quicker paced lifestyle.

John Beckett recently did a second installment of his Q&A posts, what I gather to be a monthly installment for his blog. I read the first version with curiosity, and was very intrigued by the questions asked of him, as well as his answers. For his second installment, I decided to play along. I decided to utilize a topic I knew would resonate deeply with John – ritual. I have witnessed a few of the rites that John has had a hand in creating – and these are wonderful moments to catch. The way he layers meaning, symbolism, and intention into rituals is truly a wonderful thing to behold, in my not so humble opinion. So, for his post, I did a rapid fire of quite a few questions, thinking he would pick one or two to answer. I did not expect him to answer ALL of the questions, but he did and with his usual insightful perspective.

[From John’s Post]: I’d like to see more ritual acts of devotion, especially simple things like saluting the sun in the morning and/or evening, and the moon when it’s visible at night – little things that done consistently remind us of our connections to Nature, the Gods, and our ancestors.

[My Response]: Yes, all of that makes for a daily practice that becomes more intense, more personal, more connected. And I cannot state how much of a difference it can make in one’s life. The focus it provides is quite intense and intentional. I have always wondered if a lack of personal rituals around moments in our lives is a catalyst towards the de-emphasis of how connected we are to the world around us. I would tend towards “yes” but I don’t really have any empirical evidence to prove my supposition.

The above is from my comment on the blog. And coupled with Campbell’s previous quote, I can see where aspects of all of this have started changing the perceptions of how people relate to Paganism, Druidry and personal Spirituality in our new, faster-paced, “modern” world. Daily routines and rituals, such as my morning ritual of greeting the Sun at dawn (something I try to do every day), have been pushed aside that there is more time to cram in to the information overload that we gorge on daily. We’ve pushed classical education to the side, so that we can focus on educating students on subjects that “matter” in the workplace…mathematics, writing/grammar, and technical topics – each essential to a student’s education, but a major de-emphasis on history and philosophy, where students are provided the opportunity to stretch their theoretical legs around concepts revolving around ethics, moral principles contained within stories and tales. In essence, we have pushed our mythologies, our rituals, our daily rites off to the side in the name of convenience. We aim for speed, efficiency, maximum profit for minimum effort…rather than finding the quality in what we have. Quantity over quality to utilize a phrase that was dictated as a “standard” in modern business practices in my MBA degree program.

img_9678Recently, I posted about taking a drastic change in my approach to my Ovate studies within OBOD. I termed this as “diving deep” into my studies, moving at a pace that allows me to bring a certain degree of quality to my understanding of the material. The approach will lengthen the time that I work at these studies, but thus far, it has enhanced the depth of what I am learning by allowing me to take some of the side-trails in what I find in my studies. In this manner, I am allowing myself to branch further out in these studies than I had originally planned on doing. Rather than approach the studies on a plan of do(x) then(y), I do(x) until I find a natural end to the studies of (x). Only then do I move to (y). The previous methodology was focused on accomplishing this set of studies on this particular day. Then moving forward into the next set of studies which were to be done on another certain date. Quantity over quality. After just a handful of Gwers, I started to realize that I was not learning anything in this methodology.

I do not pretend to have any answers to how to live life. Not even for myself. I muddle through life like everyone else does. However, I am increasingly left to wonder if we tried approaching life with a bit more intention, we might be able to improve some of the quality that we seem to be missing. If we brought back rites of passage – such as proper celebrations of birthdays (as a singular, very secular instance), we might find more joy in life? Perhaps, we could tone down the pace in which we devour our news cycle, and choose to consume aspects of daily life at a much slower pace – we might find that quality we all seek? I know when I approach my life with a bit more deliberate intention, I slow down quite a bit. And to be really honest, that change of pace has made all the difference to my attitude in life. Truly, I cannot say that any of this will work for everyone else, but bringing back our stories, bringing back some intention in our daily routines, setting time aside to honor our Gods, our Ancestors, the Spirits of Place – surely, if all of that provides a better connection to the world around you, helps you find a small niche in this world where you truly feel you belong…wouldn’t that be worth it? For me, it has been….

I Learn Therefore I Am….Connected

Druidry is a lot of things to me. It is a framework upon which my daily devotional practice works from. And a lot of people can grok the concept of the Spiritual practices held within one’s Druidry; however, there is more to Druidry than just this for me. There is a continually desire to educate myself – on topics I already know something about, as well as those I know next to nothing, aside from a name. The act of studying, assimilating knowledge, looking for new techniques to try – all of that is a part of my Druidry as well. There is also the ceremonial side of life as well, and I do not mean just rituals. There are certain routines I follow in my day – rituals in their own right, but not necessarily spiritual. All three are important to me, but study and the growth of knowledge are probably the most important to me.

The Druid Prayer has a statement that resonates deeply with me:

Grant, O Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,
 the love of Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones/the Earth our mother, and all goodness.

Knowledge for me is a form of freedom. I can undertake any aspect of information that I desire, and dive as deeply as I wish into it. This only is the reason that my bookshelves are filled with works on World History and lexiconic tomes on a wide variety of programming languages. I am completely intrigued by how history has unfolded, and some of the variables surrounding various events that have shaped our wider society. As for the programming languages, I am lucky to be employed in a position that allows me to utilize my passion for logic puzzles with fashioning programming code to provide information that is utilized in critical decision-making within the college I work for. My desire to assist others plays a key factor in the support function that I am in.

In this manner, my everyday practice of key parts of my Druidry cross into my mundane life in ways I never thought it would. In fact, I used to compartmentalize my life — I had one side of me that was work-related. The other side of me was focused on my Spirituality. For the first three years that I worked on my Bardic Grade material, I lived this peculiar life, and I struggled mightily through all of it. I never realized that in order to get things to “gel” for me in my lessons, I needed to allow both sides of my life to intermingle and essentially “inform” one another.

The catalyst in getting to this point came at the first Gulf Coast Gathering, where the OBOD Tutor Coordinator attended. I lamented that I was four-plus years into my studies and struggling throughout it. She noted that you could set your studies into a small, mental box where the environment was essentially sterile and confined. However, it would be more helpful to embrace the studies and find ways to correlate what one was learning into your own life in other ways. In that way, the material had a better hope of coming to life. While I wrote this down, I never really considered it until nearly a year later when I happened across my notes in a spare notebook I was transcribing to parts of other journals and notebooks. I decided to give this a try since I had still been struggling with my studies.

The change did not happen over-night. It took a particularly difficult data study at work for me to realize how my Bardic studies could be helpful in looking for a creative way to work through the issue at hand. Once I opened that doorway, learning has become a different experience for me, and my work processes have become more “fun” like solving logic puzzles than trying to just get a data-set that might look “normal” to the requester.

So all of this really begs a larger question – what is like to be a Druid? And while I could answer the similar question of “What is it like to be  Pagan?“, at this time I don’t really have the adequate words to describe what it is like to be a Druid. I feel like I might be likely to just point and go “ugh” as a response, hoping someone can grok what I am getting at. However, I can say that my Druidry is about interconnectedness and the wider implications of inter-relations. I see similar points of cause and effect within World History. How an assassination of an Arch-Duke started a chain of events (through connected treaties of mutual defense) that eventually led to the event we call World War I. And how the surrender terms of World War I led to a near continuation of the same conflict as a part of World War II – though there are a lot more complicating factors to all of that. But the threads between the two are there; however faint one may perceive those threads to be (or not).

In my mundane job, I utilize SQL queries to connect databases together to pull related information into a singular data-set. That synthesis of information happens because I find a faint connection between the tables, and reinforce that within the code by joining the tables together. That inter-related aspect, for me, is a key part of my Druidry. Finding the threads that bring us all together, connect us with our environment – reminding us that our environment does not survive, exist, thrive or decline independent of us. Nor do we survive, exist, thrive or decline without some aspect of our environment being a part of that process. Sadly, it is difficult to get most modern Christians to understand this – since they see the world and our environment as a resource that was placed here for human kind’s use. And as this world is merely a temporary one according to their translated holy writ, there really is no need to be a good steward or custodian of a place that is just a weigh-station within their existence. After all, the true final place that matters is Heaven. But I digress. Sort of. There is interconnectedness in all of that and the state that our environment is in now.

I learn, therefore I am. Maybe. But I enjoy learning because I have a love for knowledge. I have an innate curiosity of how things are connected to one another. I learn and understand the world around me as I look through this lens. And for me, that is part of what it is like to be a Druid. But there is so much more of Druidry that I just cannot explain adequately in words. Bardic circles around the campfire. The people that you connect with – Druids, Pagans, and all the others I just do not have the time to describe here. Cause and Effect observations. The beauty of the landscapes. The rituals, both spiritual and mundane, that we have. Our innate differences. I do not really have the words to explain all of that because my experience is more in terms of emotions. And if only I could put the emotions behind the hugs I have gotten from all those experiences into words – I would be one very expressive author. For the time being, I will just manage a post like this one. However, I will keep trying to write those emotions into some set of words because there has to be some thread that will get me there. Challenge accepted. 🙂

Going Beyond

Being a teacher can be a tough and somewhat thankless job. For nearly three years, I was an adjunct professor at the community college, where I now work in the administration for. I both dreaded and enjoyed teaching students about information systems and the uses these seemingly perplexing machines have in our society today. I enjoyed explaining how data-driven queries and algorithms actually have a major effect on people’s lives, even when they did not really comprehend that such processes were being placed in how their lives were being lived. However, I also dreaded being in the classroom because I always had a fear that a student might actually be able to showcase their knowledge having gone further than my own. Looking back, I had such a silly notion in that area.

A few weeks ago, the silliness of that notion was on display in the newest Star Wars film. During the dialogue between Yoda and Luke at the Jedi Temple, Luke laments that he cannot be what Rey needs, and Yoda responds:

…we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. –Yoda

My fears were truly unfounded. Should a student find a mastery of the topic that went beyond where I was, it should be a joyful moment. I have poured all of my knowledge and wisdom (a truly debatable term for another time) into my student, in the hopes that they will grow beyond the point that I have managed to reach. The goal is not my vanity and ego as being the font of be-all, end-all knowledge. Because, in all honesty, I continue to grow my own mastery and understanding of the knowledge as I, myself, progress in this existence.

In a manner of speaking, a teacher is considered to also be a leader. The expertise and mastery of an area of knowledge, as well as their wisdom (there’s that word again), places a teacher in a position of potentially leading others. There’s a similar area of responsibility in the hands of the follower, who provides a connection to that leader by allowing that architecture to be placed in the individual (or individuals in the case of larger groups with more than one individual placed in a role of leadership). That dual-feed of the teacher providing information, knowledge, and wisdom, and a student placing their trust and faith in an individual or individuals to lead them correctly can be a very wonderful relationship with the right degree of trust and responsibility coming from both ends of it. To quote from many places, it truly is a manner of perfect love and perfect trust. Too much or too little from either side, and it can be a corrosive and/or abusive relationship (another deer trod to travel down at some other point).

What about flawed individuals? People who have done bad or unsavory things when they were in these positions of teaching or leadership? We need to toss everything they have taught us and start fresh with a better perspective, right? Or we need to abandon that particular Path of knowledge because we placed a leader into a position of being far more than what we should have. Our reasoning for following them is flawed; therefore, everything we learned is flawed, right?

I would say that is not necessarily the case. We do need to stop, look back, and re-evaluate everything. But that is by taking everything one piece at a time, determining what value that bit of knowledge has to us, and then making a decision to keep it, alter it to our needs, or pitch it all together. Plus, I have one another thing to consider: every single one of us is flawed in one manner or another. A significant majority of us has done something wide of the mark in our past to one degree or another. However, before we all start feeling guilty about all the stuff we did when we were teenagers or in our early twenties, let’s consider one other side of Yoda’s statement to Luke in that same scene:

Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. –Yoda

We have all met failure to one degree or another. We all have weaknesses (one of mine just happens to be Bushmills whiskey). And I would daresay that we have all done wrong by someone or many someones at one time or another. The true measure of these incidents in our lives is not what we did, but rather if we have grown beyond those transgressions.

I am a firm believer in second chances. I am also a firm believer that knowledge can grow and become stronger from places where most others would see rot and decay. Time, patience, and so many other elements are important factors to add. Or as I am fond of saying, x and y are important variables, but their strength in the overall argument can dissipate or grow due to the variance of the z-variable (typically referred to as “time”).

As we, Pagans, continue to grow our knowledge and our various traditions, we stand on the shoulders of giants, as Damh the Bard notes in his song “On the Shoulders of Giants”:

So by peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.

We stand on the shoulders of our Elders, our teachers, our leaders – growing our traditions for the coming generations so that our shoulders they will also stand upon – a mighty foundation. Over time, our foundations can wear down, from the equalizer of time, as well as other factors. But even that weathered stone has merit. It may not look as pretty and polished as it did in a time long past, but it is still there. Over time, we may found out that our Elders, teachers, and leaders have done things in their lives that we find to be unsavory or even difficult to comprehend. None of that nullifies the knowledge that was brought to us. Because it is not the individual that provides the legacy, but the knowledge itself. A founding member of a tradition can be found to have done unspeakable, unimaginable things in their lives. None of those actions can nullify the beauty, wisdom, knowledge, compassion, loving attitude, and joyful care that the Priests (men and women – I believe Priest to be a gender-neutral term) in that same tradition have today and what the future Priests will bring as they receive their ordination. I just cannot condemn or color what a tradition is because of the actions of one individual…even a founding member.

As for me, I have my own transgressions in my past that haunt me. No matter how much I want to wipe those away with notations of second chances or excuses, I will live with those for the rest of my life – however long that may be. For those that know what those are, I can only hope that they see the change in who I am today versus that person I was previously. For those that I wronged, and have been able to apologize to, I can only hope that they have forgiven me and accepted those apologies. For those that I cannot make apologies to, for whatever reason, I can only continue to offer my apologies when I pray. And yes, even Pagans pray. And while those transgressions do paint a tone to who I am today; for any future students I have, any followers who may provide me with the reins of some form of leadership — those failures helped me to learn and try to be a better teacher and leader. And through those experiences, as I continue to move further along this nearly thirty-five years on a Pagan Path, I hope that I become the Elder that the Gods have aimed me towards being. After all, I am fallible — like anyone else.