Have a Seat, Take a Break

While I was recently in San Diego, I managed to catch a particularly nasty cold. Feels an awful lot like the pneumonia did with strong, deep coughing and the occasional dizzy moments, but that’s about it. There were a lot more symptoms with the pneumonia. But the cold stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ve managed to miss two days of work, and an entire three-day weekend has gone without much of the household chores getting completed or even started. Days like these really bug me.

When I see days where no progress gets made, I get agitated. I like to make progress, even if its just incremental stuff. Forward progress is forward progress, even when its measured in millimeters. But sometimes I am reminded that moments of no progress are more than what they appear to be.

When I lived in Germany, I would take extremely long walks through the nearby forest, just behind Kapaun Air Station. Now known as the Gelterswoog, a protected nature preserve, the trails through these woods were some of my favorite places to be, particularly in the winter. After a long snowfall, the air in the woods would be very still, and the sounds would be deeply muffled by the fresh snowfall. At that time, I had a German Shepherd puppy in my life, and we would take very, very long walks during those times. I would carry a couple of cups of his dried dog food with us, along with three or four canteens of water, a compartmentalized bowl for him eat and drink from, a steel cup for me, and a compass, just in case we got lost. All of that went into a small ruck pack that I carried on my back.

From time to time, we would stop along the trails, where I would clear the snow from whatever bench we found, and we would take a short break. I would sit and talk to Patrick (the puppy’s name) about what had been going on at work or I would try and stay silent, so we could take in the sounds around us. We were near the warehouse on Kapaun Air Station, about three quarters of a mile, and we could hear the commands being broadcast by the outside speakers to other parts of the warehouse area. But when the speakers weren’t barking out the orders into the air around, we would listen to the sound of snow sliding off the branches and landing on the ground with a deep thump. We weren’t making any forward progress at those moments, but we were able to observe some of the sounds we would not normally hear when we were on the trail, and Patrick was busy running through the deeper snows to discover what was there.

Breaks are always good things. Even when you get those breaks enforced on you with colds, or weather that doesn’t allow you to do the things you need to outside. You find the time to deal with other aspects of life that just haven’t come up because of timing or what have you. Reading, writing, knitting, yes even watching the television or getting the sleep your body is requesting for healing (in terms of the cold you may have or the exhaustion that you feel). Just because you are not making the usual forward progress of yard work, or care repair, or gardening or whatever else you can come up with that makes you feel like a disappointment; that does not mean that you cannot find other less intensive things to accomplish. You might be sitting on the bench or rocks you found in the woods, not making a sound, but listening to everything else that goes on. Listening to all that auditory experience and processing it in your mind, let’s your mind relax a bit more than having long, drawn out conversations where you have to go through the extra motions of processing what has been said, and framing that into some manner in which you can respond and add to the conversation.

Some folks take these enforced breaks because they just cannot cope with the constant hammering of the world on their doors. They pull back from a mental exhaustion. I completely grok that. In some ways, I see my catching the cold as not being vulnerable to airborne viruses, particularly when someone infect knowingly brings such things onto airplane flights. Yes, I am well aware that the guy on the row just across from me on the flight to San Diego is where I caught this from. I could lay the blame directly on him, which I should, but I won’t. Because I also see my body’s weakness having come from the way I work. I am an all-effort or nothing type of person. Most of my work is mental, but I also internalize the failures and complications as well. That exhausts me and allows my body to be a little more vulnerable to illness and contagions. When I see friends post on Facebook about how they just want to hide from the world and not deal with anything, my internal comment is typically: “I grok you.” I will become the most exuberant cheerleader for them. Not because I want to be a rah-rah person for their life, but because I grok what they are going through. And that I know what a struggle it can be to get past that.

Instead of working your ass to the bone, take a break. if you feel the walls closing in on you, go to where you feel safe, and take a break. Tired? Don’t pass that bench and keep on walking, have a seat and take a break. And to be honest, use any help you can find. I tend to take long walks with my staff. I also tend to bring my staff to Pagan events as well. Its not just because I think my staff looks cool (it does), but because I need something to lean on. And there’s no shame in that whatsoever.

Limitations, Faults, Perspective…I Can Lead When Everyone is My Peer

One of the more persistent questions I get is why I am not a leader of a group, or in essence, why I am not a Priest of a group. Its not the first question that I ever get when people talk with me about being a Pagan, but its certainly near the top – typically after the questioning steps into the area of where are the other Pagans…

Part of it, is me knowing my limitations. Another part of it comes from the freedom that I have as a solo Pagan. And yet another part comes from the experience of being a part of a group, quite a few times, in the past.

Groups are wonderful things, particularly when you have leader types that are experience in handling all the small things that come up with a group of folks, all at varied degrees of understanding and experience within a group. Many of those folks have wonderful traits of being nurturing spirits, the kind of person that encourages others. I have some of that quality, but not enough to constantly be there every step of the way, particularly for those that are young on their Path. I have expectations of folks being able to handle the smaller steps of their beliefs, being able to pick themselves up after they fall down, and coming for help when things are a bit more than a skinned knee. The problem there is helping new Pagans understand what the difference is between a broken bone and a skinned knee. I have a degree of patience when it comes to stuff like this, after all I was there at one time in my own walk, but my patience is not infinite. In that respect, I’d be a mediocre leader of folks; definitely not enough to be a sustaining part of leadership or helping the overall growth of the group. Seriously, I know my limitations, and am well aware of where I would fail overall. Now, with others available to help share the load of leadership, those with the ability to handle the roles that I manage so poorly, the narrative changes quite drastically. Its not that I don’t want to share the aspect of leadership, I am not a good leader without some measure of a peer in one or more forms. Me as a singular leader can be a bad thing.

A leader of a group has other responsibilities that can tie down aspects of their freedom, in my opinion. Leadership has to make decisions for others, and sometimes has to sacrifice their own needs, wants and desires for the overall good and growth of the group. In some aspects, I can be quite selfish in that respect. I like to be able to do what I want, when I want, how I want…leadership requires a greater degree of sacrifice than I am totally aimed towards. A lot of this comes from my having been solo for as long as I have. I am not used to compromising and bargaining every step of the way. But a group is not about an individual. A group is about a group of individuals utilizing those bargaining and compromising measures to create something that works to a greater degree for all. When you have been on your own as long as I have, those habits of always getting your own way are difficult to set aside. It would certainly take a far greater degree of self control than I already have for a group to be a 24×7 item for me. Its not impossible, just difficult.

I know all of this looks rather negative on me as a group member. I see it a different way, though. Its a matter of self-honesty about where I currently am in life. Can I work appropriately within a group? Certainly. I know how to handle then concepts of group dynamics and group responsibility. I have watched groups come apart at the seams for the smallest things though. The interpersonal relationships between group members is very strong, particularly when folks really start working deeply with one another. Its not uncommon for romantic feelings to develop in such intimate circumstances. Its also not uncommon for those romantic feelings to unravel, or for jealousy to spring into action, and become the seeds of bad blood between members. Not uncommon because we are just human beings, twisted up with our own feelings of being set to the side for whatever reason. I’ve seen that happen way too often. The same can be said when a single member gets more public recognition from the others. Ego driven issues are another common cause for group strife. I’ve seen that far too many times to just dismiss it as an out-of-the-way occurence.

Personally, I find myself to be a bad example of a leader. Much of that comes from being far too close to the trees to be able to recognize the forest, I suppose. I am my own worst critic, so I suppose that can play a factor as well. But all of that set to the side, one of the biggest reasons (if not the biggest) that I would make a crappy, ineffective leader is my reluctance to be one in the first place. A leader should be strong and decisive in their desire to be at the front of the pack. I might be able to serve as an inspiration for others to want to be the leaders they think I could be…but I’d be really worried if anyone viewed me as a singular leader of any group. I prefer to be one of many, because the decisions would be made together – as equals. But that’s my preference.

Me? A leader? Well, if you say so. But realize, I know my own limitations and faults far better than anyone else does. And that knowledge helps me to pump the brakes on talks like that.

Not Responding in Kind

Not that long ago, I had a rather insulting “question” posed to me via a Direct Message. It really didn’t enter into the realm of a question, but did fire off the accusation that I just wasn’t “woke enough”. Which, to be honest, in retrospect, is not that damning of a thing to say to me. But I’ll get into that in a just a bit.

The statement was meant to be a damning perspective of who I am. Apparently, since I am not standing at the court-house or legislature steps screaming and yelling over the idiot legislation that takes place, I am not “woke enough” in this particular person’s perspective. A perspective that they have every right to make, in my opinion.

Wha? I’m taking a stance to protect someone’s right to be insulting and demeaning towards me? Of course I am. I live in the United States, where the right to free-speech is protected. Even when its “incorrect” or “insulting” or what have you. Everyone has a right to take the perspective that they wish to. But taking that perspective doesn’t mean that one has the right to make everyone else believe the same way. That flies in the face of that protected freedom. People have a right to say what they want, just as others have every right not to pay attention to those voiced opinions.

The idea of free speech is something I completely believe in. Free speech allows me to say the things that I do on this blog. Free speech also allows me to gather the facts and find my own conclusions to various things, such as the 9/11 conspiracy theory that the government demolished the North and South towers, and then pinned the demolition on Al Qaeda. Now, I’ve seen the facts concerning the destruction of the two buildings. I’m not a structural engineer, but the explanation of how two jetliners felled both towers seems plausible to me. To others, not so much. And that’s just one singular example.

I have learned to keep my ears open and my mouth shut over topics like this. I listen to the perspective of other folks, use that to help make up my own mind/opinion, and then move on. Dwelling on the topic, arguing with others over the topic….well, none of that solves anything, in my opinion. Its just easier to listen and then move on. Which brings me back to what was stated about me.

Looking back, none of what was said really matters to me. The insinuation was that I don’t value the lives of others. That as an old white man, I could care less about others. All simply put because I don’t fit into one person’s paradigm of what “woke” really is. Sure, its insulting, but its also a perspective I don’t have a ton of time to really mess with (aside from writing this blog to explain my point). There are so many other moving parts to my life, so many other ways I contribute to the “cause”, and so many other ways to deal with issues related to the down-playing of the perspectives of others. I just don’t have the time or energy to educate every fucking human being on the planet to what I do or how I do it. Besides, I would postulate that the huge majority could give two shits about what I do or don’t do. After all, they have their own lives to live as well.

I’m not really insulted by what was said, because the perceived insult just doesn’t figure into my world-view. What I am is saddened over the entire incident. Because someone felt the need to judge me against their own personal moral character or code without getting to know me better than they had at that point.

I do know who the individual is, as none of my private questions were completely anonymous. However, I don’t feel the need to out them to the rest of the world. The reasoning? It would be counter-productive, since it would paint a bulls-eye on the individual and provide a silent incentive for others to attack this person. None of that is conducive or productive, in my mind. So I choose not to say anything.

My personal belief is that an individual can be judged for their moral character by what they do and how they react to various issues. I can only hope that the manner in which I have approached all of this provides an example of what I would prefer to see in the world around me – people not responding in kind to attacks, slanders and slurs. I am far from perfect, but I can hope that this singular moment in time can be an example of what I would hope is a better response to that type of communications issue.

Confidence Comes From Experience

So I am freshly back from a professional conference in San Diego. I had a lot of fun presenting some information relating to troubleshooting complicated SQL queries, along with a perspective on how to go about creating a library of SQL Views that can be utilized over and over in various aspects of code. However, I got compliment after compliment about my presentation, which – to be honest – is a little more than enough to knock me off balance.

See, I don’t do a great job of taking compliments. Maybe a lot of that comes from elsewhere in my life, but it is a thing in my current point in life. Its not so much the compliment itself that makes me want to shy away from the moment, but more of not knowing what to do after the compliment is offered. Its really a moment of unbalance for me.

Just me…

How to go about dealing with it? I’m not completely sure. But I can’t run from all of it. Some folks call this concept “Imposter Syndrome”. According to some Psychology texts and websites, its a psychological condition where someone feels that the accomplishments that they have made are not true, and that someone will expose them as a fraud. But I sincerely don’t really have the full blown aspects of this concept.

I don’t feel like my accomplishments are untrue. I know that I am good at what I do, despite what I have been told by a few others. Yes, having my work constantly checked over can sometimes feel demeaning, but at the same time, I welcome the scrutiny, as it helps me to see the smaller details that I generally miss, such as headers and footers. Those details mean so little to me, since I don’t worry about stuff like that. The data is more important to me than what it gets titled or labeled as. Nor do I feel like I am going to be exposed as a fraud at any moment. But rarely do I get complimented on what I do, or even what I create. Perhaps its less of an Imposter Syndrome, and more of a degree of mental conditioning that has taken place over an extended period of time.

There was; however, a moment of exultation, where a feeling of triumph arises when one’s peers’ recognize the hard work and effort that was put into a particular creation. I can literally say that this feeling was present throughout the rest of the conference for me. Where I really felt like something that I had created was recognized for the achievement that it was.

These type of feelings are really easy to go through when dealing with the Gods as well. Much of what gets done with the Gods is not normally in physical form. There’s a lot of internal reaction/action that takes place. You can try your best to articulate things to others, but Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG) is easily dismissed by others. being dismissed out of hand, over and over, can take its toll on who you find yourself to be. Until you find that one person (or group of persons) that not only understand where you are coming from, but have similar experiences to share. Its a moment of validation (of sorts), that can really buoy an individual’s moments of personal skepticism.

You’ve heard the political adage that a lie that is told often enough will eventually be believed as the truth, right? The same can be true for being told over and over again that its “all in your head.” The implication is that you just make it up, when the reality is completely different. Some of the experiences you have are things you would never dream up. Some are so fantastical that you just don’t have the words to really convey the imagery of what you experienced. I completely grok that perspective. I have been there more often than I care to admit. Self-doubt can be a strong experience, especially when accompanied by the nay-saying of others.

Imposter Syndrome is discussed at a great deal throughout the internet these days. Understandably so. Throughout our closer-knit world – knitted together via the internet – there is always someone around willing to spit on your parade and attempt to convince you that it is raining. Recently, I decided to stop answering private questions openly on Facebook for that very reason. Apparently, someone felt that they needed to grind an axe with me for whatever reason, and started making extremely rude commentary. I hated to shut down the entire concept, as it was fun (originally) for me. However, there comes a point where I have to walk away and continue life in other directions.

Remember, there’s more to life than being validated by others. Be good at what you do. Be humble enough to admit to mistakes when you make them (and you will). As I have said in nearly every one of my presentations, I am not an expert. I am; however, more than willing to experiment to try and find the answers, if I can.

Pagan Campground

What kind of Paganism do you want? Its a seemingly innocent enough question. However, when you start to consider the entire aspect of the question, it becomes a Gordian knot of epic proportions. I got this particular question via a Twitter Direct Message a few months ago. At first, I wasn’t really sure how to go about answering it. After a while of pondering the overall question, I wasn’t even sure I WANTED to answer it. However, its a fair question to ask – not just of me, but of yourself. What kind of Paganism do you really want?

Well, I am a fairly inclusive kind of person. I think that there is plenty of room under the huge sky called Paganism for everyone and nearly every thought. John Beckett, among others, likes to refer to the Big Tent of Paganism, but I see it slightly different. It still involves tents though. I see Paganism to be more like a huge campground area. You can pull your massive RV in, with all the bells and whistles attached to it. Or if your choice of shelter is a ratty old beat-up, two-person tent, you can pitch that right next to the RV. Or if your preference is a sleeping bag on the ground with the open sky and stars above you at night, there’s room for that too. You can come down to the main fire and sit around drinking your choice of beverage (adult or not) and singing songs with everyone else. Or if you like a little more intimate setting, you can build a fire near your shelter, and invite a few others around for long, deep discussions.

Its a quaint little picture, but it still begs the question, what kind of Paganism do you REALLY want? Does your Paganism utilize an approach to Polytheism or Pantheism? Perhaps, you see the Gods as archetypes of some Jungian perspective. Personally, I don’t see that, as I am a Polytheist and see the Gods as unique individuals, but within my ideal of what Paganism is, there is plenty of room for those whose perspective is radically different than my own.

Yes, I hear the clamors of the purists, saying that if you don’t lay down some rules as to what is or is not Paganism, you wind up watering down the concepts too much. Soon, instead of something that someone can embrace as a solid, definable concept, you wind up with a wet, sticky, goopy mess that won’t make pancakes. A watered-down batter, if you will. But I would contend that there is a difference between respecting and accepting a perspective as valid, and adopting that perspective as your own.

Around the fire at the OBOD East Coast Gathering with Damh the Bard playing songs for everyone

In my mind, Paganism is a much wider perspective than, say, my Druidry. My Druidry provides a closer framework for how I approach the Gods, how I connect with the world around me…but all of that is different than how someone else would approach it from, say, a Wiccan perspective. That Wiccan perspective doesn’t work for me, but I respect that it does for others and I would never demand that those individuals do things the way I do my Druidry. That wider diversity, that wider acceptance of other Paths, even diverse Paths…well, I consider that a strength of Paganism. People are provided the opportunity to explore their experiences and find the perspectives and methodologies that work for them. Yet, we’re all camping under the same gorgeous sky.

So, what kind of Paganism do I want? An open one. Where people are allowed to discover and explore for themselves. No hardcore dogma or rules that apply beyond your campsite. Well, except for two things. The required respect of the Paths and experiences of others. And that your Path does not intentionally harm others. Yes, I get that it hearkens back to the Wiccan Rede with the “harm none, do as ye will” perspective. However, I believe it is important to practice a Path that does not seek the intentional harm or oppression of others or requires an adherence to a singular way. But you did ask what I wanted in my Paganism. That’s essentially it.

Now, how do we get there? Especially with folks that rail against the dogma and one-Path adherence from the Abrahamic faiths (primarily, though there are others). I completely grok the knee-jerk reaction to the perspectives that so many have left behind before they have come to Paganism (in whatever form they have managed to find). We all carry various pieces of baggage from where we have come. We have the fresh scars of the beliefs that our parents may have forced us to practice. Where the chains of adherence have chaffed against our desires to explore and experience. How can we get those folks to understand the need to accept and respect the faiths where they experienced such abuse?

Through patience, time and healing. I grew up the child of Methodist parents who felt that a Catholic education would be best for me. I railed and chaffed against what I was taught in those schools, from the fifth grade through high school. The Catholic sacraments and the dogma of the Catholic faith were force-fed to me daily through “religious education” classes. For years, I marveled at how a belief system with such beautiful rituals could practice a stern adherence to a singular perspective without considering the beauty that prevailed in the world beyond their singular perspective. It took time for me to realize that I was rallying against a programming that had been dictated to me, and that deprogramming that would take patience and healing. I was lucky to have had teachers in my early years in Paganism who practiced that patience with me, while showing me how I could heal my invisible wounds. My concept of Paganism seeks those out in helping others to find that level of respect that they couldn’t find in the first steps.

My concept of Paganism can also be fierce. Seeking healing and compassion is a wonderful thing, but occasionally, there will be a need to fight. In our current world, there are plenty of issues to fight, many singular Path perspectives that seek to harm those that will not conform. Standing by to be slaughtered is not an answer either. You want to survive? Sometimes, you have to fight for that survival.

The essence of what I seek in my Paganism is simple. Compassionate, healing, protective, and respectful. What kind of Paganism do I want? The one that I need. The one that others need. Even where those needs are different. The differences make things wonderful, beautiful, and diverse. More important, and far more overlooked, is where those different perspectives intersect. Those intersections are the strength of what makes the wide, wonderful campground under the gorgeous sky of Paganism. Come pitch your tent, park your RV, unroll your sleeping bag. Have a seat around the fire, and share in the food and discussion. Bring your own food or drink to add to the feast. Kristoffer Hughes has discussed what is in your Pagan Square Mile? Well, mine is a campground.

Talking to the Gods

Yesterday, I wrote about the most common question that I tend to get from non-Pagans – ritual clothing or how a Pagan dresses. Its a fairly easy question to answer, since most Pagans dress like anyone else, though there’s some aspects that are different in relation to what is or isn’t “appropriate” for ritual dress. The second most common question I get usually takes some time to percolate in the minds of folks. Its not a question I get within the first five minutes of meeting someone. Nor is it something that I feel that would be useful or appropriate in the dreaded “elevator speech” that so many folks believe to be of great use.

The usual pattern for this question is that it will come from someone who has bothered to talk with me at great length over what I believe. And that they are trying to equate some understanding of my connection with the Gods, in whatever form they understand that to be. “How does one talk to the Gods?”

I am prone to flippant answers to some questions, this one included. “Simply open your mouth and mind,” is where I commonly start. But that’s not really much of an answer, though it is a correct perspective to take. Many people come from a background where speaking to those on a higher level than yourself is meant to take an air of flowery, nearly ritualistic language. Covered in Thee and Thou, and spoken downwards to the floor, so as not to make eye contact. Because eye contact equates you to being on the same level – an equation of equality.

Think about it. At work, if you are down on the daily operations level, you talk with your peers far differently than you would to a Vice President of the company or to a member of the company’s Board. You might speak on a language level close to mine, very open, somewhat coarse, and on a degree of familiarity with those you work with daily. After all, your peers are on your level. People outside your department would equate to a measure of respect and civility that you wouldn’t afford to your everyday peer. How we communicate with others provides levels of respect, equality, and dare I say it, rank. Would we not treat our Gods like They were greater than Kings, Queens, Nobility, corporate seniority, and the such? They are, after all, Beings that are beyond our comprehension. Or would we communicate with Them on a level of familiarity after a prolonged period of exposure to Them?

To be frank, I am much more open, and forthright with Crow and Coyote than I would be with say, The Morrigan. The difference in how I communicate with Them comes from a degree of familiarity more than a measure of equality. They are equally Gods. Respect is what I would afford Them in any case. But my communication style with Crow and Coyote would be far different than it would be with Her. I have no ties with Her, I have done no workings with Her, and I do not hear Her call. As such, we are unknown quantities to one another, I would certainly provide a much more courteous version of me than I do in conversations with Crow. But when I note that the best way to communicate with the Gods is to open your mouth and open your mind, I might be flippant, but I am being serious as well.

Moments like this, standing in front of the fire and thanking the Gods for the safe travels of all, used to frighten me. (Picture by John Beckett)

To be able to reach a connection with the Gods, in order to communicate, I need to open my mind to the existence of the Gods. Keeping a closed mind does not mean that the Gods won’t find a way to communicate with me, but it does mean that I would likely not understand or comprehend what was being stated to me. I grok the naysayers that point out that all of this would be within my mind. Well, of course it is. But just because its there doesn’t make it any less true or valid. The difference comes in opening one’s mind to the possibilities.

As for conversations, things can get rather contentious, particularly if you are bargaining with your chosen God or Goddess. And a conversation that is viewed from the outside, might seem to be madness. An example of this would be the seemingly one-sided conversation between Jesus and God, as depicted in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the scene entitled “Gethsemane”. Below is the video of Ted Neeley’s final performance as Jesus in New York City in 2006. I consider it to be one of the most moving versions of this scene, and an excellent depiction of communicating with one’s God at a very contentious moment.

Now I am not saying that every conversation with a God or Goddess can be as dramatic as this, but this is quite an excellent example of coming to grips with a task that has been given to you that you don’t want to do. I can definitely say, I have been here before and it is no picnic.

There are those that will note that they have been trying and trying and trying to get the Gods to communicate with them. That they have done everything short of shooting flares into the air and still have not managed to communicate with any of the Gods. Well, first off, be patient. Set yourself up with a daily devotional to the God or Goddess you are trying to attract. Make offerings that you believe will appease Them. Pay attention to the mythologies that They are a part of to find the actions, items, songs, poems, or what not that They like. Make those as offerings. And again, be patient. Keep trying. For how long? I don’t know. Until you think its futile to continue. If that means you stop after three tries or three-thousand, that’s up to you. You know your limits, I know mine.

Is it worthwhile to communicate with The Gods? Is it worthwhile to bond yourself to a God or Goddess? Well, that’s a personal thing. I would say “yes” and “yes” to the questions, but again that’s my own perspective. There are times that working with Crow and Coyote has been difficult, and other times it has been a true treasure in my life. But that’s me. Only you can answer for you.

Dress Me Up….

Clothing. Damn, we all wear the stuff. In various forms of flattery or to hide things (like my enlarging mid-section). I never thought that it would wind up being one of the most constant questions that I get from non-Pagans though.

To some degree, I grok what’s being asked. When people find out I am a Druid, they expect me to dress like the pictures they have seen of Druids at Stonehenge. You know the look. All white robes, some with colorful edging, all dragging the ground from the length. And to be perfectly honest, I know more than one Druid here in America that has some set of ritual accouterments that match that description to a degree. So I can see where non-Druid folks can get the idea that the white robes are some kind of mandatory uniform of sorts for Druids everywhere.

But it has gotten me to wonder what the fascination is with the “dress-up” function associated with all of this. Some of it seems to be steeped in some kind of non-spoken tradition. I don’t mind standing on tradition, particularly on its neck. After all, I have always looked at getting dressed for ritual as a concept of form over function. Dress in what is comfortable, which for me is typically a concert t-shirt (Motorhead, if I have a serviceable one – which I do not at the moment), jeans (usually faded and with holes in them) and tennis shoes or boots. I have been known to show up weddings and funerals in this style of dress as well (seriously). Its what I feel comfortable in. And I cannot describe the number of times I have felt like Jaime Lannister over the looks I have gotten: “There it is. There’s the look. I’ve seen it for seventeen years on face after face.”

I will tell you a little “secret” about me. I hate dress-codes. For my junior and senior years in high school, I had to dress exactly like all the other students at the school. In the warmer months, we wore blue polo shirts with gray slacks. In the colder months, we wore the same gray slacks, along with a button-down shirt (conservative colors only), along with a dark blue blazer and a tie. The tie was our only recourse towards individualization, and, Gods, we all had some HORRIBLE ties. The overall outfit wasn’t bad. The blazer was a touch uncomfortable to wear all the time. But it was mandating that everyone look the same that really got under my skin. I railed against military uniforms for much the same reasoning. I prefer to dress myself, and to use the rule of thumb of what I deem “appropriate” to wear. If folks don’t like it or agree – they don’t have to dress like I do. Simple as that, in my mind.

So, when I hear folks make commentary, such as the one that I received in a private Direct Message on Twitter – ” I believe you Druids need to get a uniform like the Catholic Priests have.” – I bristle against the suggestion that we should all look the same. Furthermore, is the implication that Druidry should follow the example of a group of folks from another system of belief. Essentially, it smacks of saying that people of belief should have some form of holy uniform that they wear. I guess, its so that folks are a bit more distinctive when seen through a sniper’s rifle scope. ::shrug:: Or so that small children can find you, run up and tug at your robes – hoping a quid or two magically falls from your robes. And for the record, I am not against the idea of handing over a few quid so some kid can chase down the ice-cream truck. But aside from that goofy imagery, do we really need a uniform of sorts?

Well, possibly. I would surmise that it all depends on the God you have chosen to follow. I have a pair of Trickster Gods that are primary in my daily life. The idea of not finding some aspect of a uniform look to lampoon is just so foreign. But aside from my own flippant commentary, I do recognize that certain Gods and Goddesses would have requirements of their followers in terms of dress or look. The folks that follow those particular Gods have chosen to take on those requirements. More power to them. When they start saying that I have to do the same, simply because I am a Pagan or that I am a Polytheist or that I am a Druid…. Yeah… But on their own? I think its really awesome that they chosen to have that kind of discipline in their life and in their aspect of worship. Its not for me, but I’m not going to take a shit on it because of that. Only if they decide that I have to do the same.

Now, the t-shirt and jeans look? Its been suggested that this is my “uniform”…and I suppose that could be true. But to keep my rebellious mind in check, I continue to lean to the concept that I dress this way because its comfortable for me, not because I like the look. So please, say that kind of thing about a uniform quietly around me. That way I don’t rebel and start wearing brightly colored spandex. Because, NO ONE wants to see me dressed like that. Trust me….