A Look Back – and Forwards – on Personal Sovereignty (Sort Of)

So I thought I would try and tackle the concept of Personal Sovereignty again. But for a lot of different reasons than before. I have mentioned before that part of personal sovereignty means that you have the ability to say “No” to anyone. The Gods, your fellow magickal practitioners, the guy wanting to buy you a drink at the bar – anyone. At any time. You are in control of you. Wikipedia defines the concept thus:

Self-ownership (also known as sovereignty of the individual, individual sovereignty or individual autonomy) is the concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one’s own body and life. Self-ownership is a central idea in several political philosophies that emphasize individualism, such as liberalism and anarchism.

Ok. So it seemingly is a central concept of political schematics such as liberalism and anarchism. Whoopee. Its the first two sentences that I am most concerned with. Not just in the matter of how one handles dealing with Gods (and in my case, two Trickster Gods that can make soccer hooligans appear to have no sense of humor), but also in relation to a lot of other perspectives – especially in our manners of discourse, online and face-to-face.

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Photo by John Beckett

This whole concept of personal sovereignty seemingly revolves around the concept that you control you. Or in more Libertarian terms, you are the sole individual responsible for your actions and words. Excuses such as “The Gods told me to do it” or “The Devil made me do it” are essentially you giving away the control of you to something else. Or using this concept of momentary “possession” as an “explanation” for your bad behaviors. I do believe in possession of an Otherworldly fashion, and I do believe that it can happen involuntarily. I also believe that such occurrences are few and very far between. In more open terms, I believe it to be an excuse of convenience rather than a norm of behavior. In my mind, allowing an entity to utilize your physical entity as a means of communicating is much more likely – you provide permission for that to happen. Which means you can still say “no”. Hopefully, I’m as clear as mud on all of that. I am not a professional or an expert on any of that – except where it relates to me.

No one knows me better than I do. After all, at this point, I have lived fifty-two and a half years in this body – with this wonky brain. I understand who I am, and I do the best that I can to articulate my position on issues, so that others can have a moment or two to add to their own thoughts on an issue. I am not compelling anyone to respond to my thoughts – people will respond if they want to. Nor am I compelling them to even think about the issue that is on my mind. They will decide whether its an issue worthy of being turned over within their mind. I am; however, responsible for what I write and post here. I am also responsible for what I do and say in my everyday life. I can be just as controversial as the next person. But If I run away from what I say, do or write…I am not owning up to my responsibility for my own sovereignty. Let’s put that in a more palatable way. When I make excuses for my actions or words, I am not living up to the responsibility of taking ownership of myself.

I hate that last sentence. For me, it has connotations of wrapping chains around me, but the statement is truthful. I am responsible for me. Even if I do not like the terminology in use. For me, its more than imagery that comes to mind under the word “ownership.” But that’s my own ax to grind within my own mind.

So, some baseline thoughts here. If I say it or write it…I need to mean it. Especially on difficult, serious topics. I have a pair of Trickster Gods with me – I tend to lean towards the humorous in a lot of discussions. But even Trickster Gods have serious moments. So do I. We currently live in a time where people with power (however that power is denoted, defined and/or provided to them) are purposefully creating barriers and hardships for others whom they do not like. Skin color, eye color, hair color, the amount of nose hairs someone may or may not have…the reasons are out there (sometimes well hidden, sometimes not). There are definitely times to be quite serious, and there are times where levity can be injected into a situation. Those individuals of power have some degree of sovereignty over us, but that sovereignty, that power is provided to them by us. Typically, these people of power get their position of authority from those of us that vote at the ballot box. We hand over a part of our sovereignty to them when we vote to have these people represent us. Sometimes, the vote doesn’t go our way, and we accept the outcome because that is how elections are handled. Its a process that we as a collective group of people agree to abide by. Otherwise, we would have risen up and thrown off that aspect of sovereignty that we provided in this process – and chosen some other measure.

Now, all of that is politics. When we decide to hate others, simply because of who they voted for. Or because their ideas of how to solve a problem doesn’t match ours. We hand a piece of sovereignty over to an emotion – we allow the emotion to control our thoughts and actions towards these people. When we cross the lines of a law, we blame it on the emotion and claim we were’t in control. We say awful things to people we held in esteem and considered to be friends or allies – all because they didn’t fit in completely with the puzzle piece we currently hold in our hand. We create a litmus test for who is the “correct” kind of person, and who is not. Granted, there are monsters among us. There are people that do serve to be shunned for their actions and words. But I would hope – and pray – that we hold that particular cage for people that truly deserve it, not just because their opinions differ from our own.

I am who I am. Good and bad. There is a quote from the Highlander TV series that sticks with me, when I consider things like this:

Life is about change, about learning to accept who you are: good or bad.  –Duncan McLeod to Methos

I am no saint. I am no paragon of virtue. I am a simple man. Trying to live a simple life in a complicated, out-of-control world. I am not responsible for you, and you are not responsible for me. You are responsible for you. I am responsible for me. For my part in all of that – I own who I am. Both the good parts and the bad parts. And within my own personal sovereignty, I get to say “no” to others, including the Gods, including myself. Because what I say and what I do matters. #TwoQuid

 

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Stems and Pieces – Unintentional Thoughts on Beginnings and Endings

One of the odd moments of blogging is where you have all these “mini” topics floating around. John Beckett calls these his “Nine Things I Think” and has turned these into a near regular segment of his blog. Me? I’ve called these various things, but the one that keeps coming about is “Stems and Pieces” – being a fan of mushrooms….  Rarely do I have nine things…but here are a few things playing with the hamsters on the wheels in my head…

BookofQuotesTomorrow morning will be the release of the last podcast episode I plan on doing. This will be the second podcast I have brought to a close. I just do not have the time to really dedicate to putting together a full show. I will continue doing interviews with various folks and placing those interviews on Soundcloud…but no more complex mixing of a podcast for me anymore. When I shut down From the Edge of the Circle, I wasn’t too sure about letting go of something I put nearly nine years of my life into. Now, nearly three years later…I know this is the right choice. My mind is not in a state of melancholy of stepping away from the podcasting world…I have enjoyed my time doing these, but it certainly is time to move into what I have been spending my time doing: my writing. Besides, there will still be interviews…

A short while back, Philip Carr-Gomm brought about the public transition of one chosen Chief – himself – to another – Eimear Burke. Now, a lot of folks know that I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I have been tossed a handful of questions privately asking for my opinion. Well, first off, I am just a member. A solitary one at that. While OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering (GCG) is the closest thing I have to a spiritual family, I am a solo practitioner here on the Texas-Oklahoma border. My first reaction was one of shock – particularly after having just met Philip face-to-face at this years GCG just a few months prior. But after re-reading Philip’s statement on his blog (here), I cannot help but to be overwhelmed by the amount of thought and love that went into deciding this transition, as well as finding an individual with whom he is at ease with to walk through this process. Most leadership changes happen very quickly. This one will take place over time, allowing for a gradual transition from Philip to Eimear. And I am so thankful that such careful thought went into the all the aspects of this, particularly the speed. In my opinion, it will help ease what – at least for me – has been a sudden shock.

Another aspect of transition within Druidry is when one passes beyond the veil. Yesterday morning, I woke up to the shock that Anthony Bourdain’s suicide had occurred. At first, I tried to fathom the idea that someone who seemed to be so full of life and had such a relish for adventure would want to end their life. But that is really a wrong thought. I have no idea of what was the tipping point in Anthony’s life, merely the speculation of what I saw on the camera. And I have to be a little realistic – all my speculation is merely me pasting my own ideas of life on to Bourdain. It is such a natural thing to do – assuming that others feel the exact same way that you do. We do it when we think about politics, the social causes we champion, how we feel about others – we paste our feelings, emotional IQ, and intellectual processes on to others. How can they NOT feel the same way that we do? And if they do not, they must be emotionally bankrupt, incapable of feeling or emotion, or incapable of “properly” processing information in a “proper” manner. I did just that with Bourdain’s death. I have no desire to slip beyond the veil anytime soon. I love life here far too much. There is so much more that I desire to do, so much more that I desire to see, to experience. How could anyone else not feel that way?? Yeah…monovision…hyper-focused inside of me…rather than taking the subtle differences between myself and others. One of those personality faults that I wish were not a part of who I am…but a part of me that allows me inner flame to burn as brightly as it does. A two-edged sword indeed. Bourdain’s CNN program was one that I caught occasionally, and I marveled at the things he would do and try. I sincerely hope that his storytelling style inspires others to reach out into the unknown around themselves – and experience things they never dreamed of. It is definitely something I take away from watching Bourdain’s experiences…to always try something new….

Many folks are understanding and experiencing aspects of the Storm in their lives. A lot of this is, in my opinion, about taking the perspectives of others into account. There certainly is some normalizing of dismissive behaviors that have gone on in the past. A lot of folks have called it “privilege” which is a wording pattern I dislike. Sure, it might be because I am a white, hetero, middle-aged male. Yeah, whatever. I just do not get into the concept of shaming folks. To me, that is just pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other. I’d rather yank the pendulum out of the clock, and not have the damn thing swing from one extreme to the other. Besides, we can use the Sun to tell approximate time…you know, the important stuff, like sunrise and sunset. The rest of the time can be figured out by your stomach. I would rather see people treat one another as equals, but that is an idealistic world. So, how do we change it all? I am not sure, I have no answers. However. I can change my thinking, and my actions, and my words…because I am in control of those things. No one else can change that…only me. Perhaps the true measure of revolution comes from the mind of the individual, rather than the rage of the mob. Perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was on to something…I would like to hope so. When you look at a battlefield, all you see is the carnage. The dead bodies. The destroyed equipment. The ravaged, deep scars of where weapons have created massive craters. Where forests have been destroyed by the combat within or burned down as a result of that combat. All the animals that have died or moved deeper into the forests to escape the destruction and havoc wreaked by man fighting man. We turn away, thinking there is nothing that can be saved or recovered from all of this devastation. A few years later, Nature returns when left to Her own devices. And all these beautiful flowers that have grown throughout that devastated land…that is hope. And that is what I am looking for…after the Storm. First, we have to find ways to manage and survive all of this. Because this will not be the end…

It is interesting to look back and read all of this. There is a lot of discussion of endings, with some notations of beginnings. I honestly did not intend any of that. At the same time, I am glad it organically developed – much like a simple stew that you keep adding ingredients into. Yeah, stems and pieces indeed…

 

Keyboard Druidry Just Doesn’t Work For Me

In my latest post over on the Moon Books platform, I made the statement:  “…Druidry is about being outside – hands in the dirt. While keyboards, laptops and CRT monitors have provided communication and connection, Druidry is not practiced as a keyboard warrior.”

Growing the Seed of CuriosityYeah, keyboard Druidry. As much as I hate to even think it exists, it does. After all, the internet is a vast area where connection is made, and opinion – informed and otherwise – is bandied about as expertise. Where folks with no knowledge of you practice your own everyday, personal Spiritual can easily condemn you for “doing it wrong” and provide no relational perspective to showcase the “why” of that statement, aside from their own personal opinion.

Yeah, the internet brings out all kinds of folks who like to assume a mantle of authority in what they set forth. An experience of a UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) type suddenly becomes the crux of what is wrong and right with everything from how to connect with a God or a Goddess, to what style of ritual framework is correct for doing this specific type of work, to so many other aspects of Paganism. And it is typically the internet where stuff like this tends to take place, where a “Pagan police” of sorts suddenly arises into existence. I still remember the inane “Are You Pagan Enough” cries that came about a few years back.

Here’s an interesting thought, before the Pagan Enough vigilante squad come looking for me:  I am the Pagan that I am. I’m not on my Spiritual Path to appease anyone else. My Spiritual Path doesn’t require me to be seen by others. Nor do I need to be seen doing a certain this or that in a public ritual. What I do within a public ritual is what I am called to say or do. None of that is meant to impress anyone. Crow and Coyote are the Gods that I primarily work with. Trust me, working with Trickster Gods is no picnic at times. But we have managed to develop a relationship between us that works. I’m not trying to insinuate myself into Native American rituals, and my work with both of Them approaches nothing within the Native American systems. The Gods call who They call. I wound up with these two. And while I am constantly puzzled by it, I am also reassured by the work I have done with Them. I do not work Them to impress anyone. My work with magick is minuscule, at best. My approach to magick and spell work is to use it only when necessary and all other “routine” measures have been tried.

Now, I will absolute assure you – someone out there read all of this and thought to themselves: “Tommy is just not ‘Pagan enough’ for me” for whatever reason. Welcome to keyboard Druidry. Despite everything that I write about here, someone will continue to take issue with how I work within my own Druidry. And you know what? I’m really ok with all of that. As I noted above, I’m not in this to impress anyone or even to conform to their standards of what is good or not. I’m also not here to argue back and forth about the differences between works for them and what works for me. Because I am not trying to create some kind of standard to Druidry…for anyone else. I know what has worked for me. I know some of the stuff that doesn’t work as well. I am always willing to try something new and different to see how it might or might not work for me. Beyond that, I am not here to compare penis length or who can piss the furthest distance. Because I just don’t care. My concept of Druidry is not a competition.

But I am here to encourage anyone who decides to try whatever Spiritual Path they desire. Yes, that includes fundamentalist Christianity – something that I just cannot find any fertile ground within, at least for me. But if someone else had a desire to learn more about it, I would encourage them to do just that. Which brings me to one of those moral rocks that I cannot change – as long as they practice their beliefs in a manner that does not interfere or harm others that believe differently. Now, I am not going to debate the merits of this within the precepts of fundamentalist Christianity, because I see a lot of the same mentality in fundamentalist Pagans as well. But I will stand between either of those groups if they decided to interfere with another person’s desires to learn a belief system that they would want to explore.

And to be completely honest, it likely goes for these keyboard Druids as well. If their idea of practicing their Druidry is to spend it hacking away at a keyboard and trying to create their own fundamentalist perspective in that manner – then go right ahead. All I can really do is place them in the same place as other internet trolls – people seeking to fight, bicker and argue over anything – I ignore them and move along. Because I would rather be outside, away from the keyboard I am currently typing on. I spend my entire work week in front of a keyboard. I’d rather spend the rest of my time barefoot in my backyard, or strapping on my hiking boots and seeking that next vantage point that lets me see the beauty of the world around me. Because that’s where I am at home…

 

Finding Roles, Setting Agendas and Goals for the Storm

Is Rome worth one good man’s life? We believed it once. Make us believe it again. –Lucilla, ‘Gladiator’

I have had a few folks comment that I am an unlikely individual – as the Pagan, Polytheist, and Priest that I am – to be involved in military service. My enlistment oath binds me to the protection of the Constitution of the United States. Even now, nearly twenty years since I left military service in 1994. But protection of the US Constitution is only one part of what my eight years in the United States Air Force were about. It was also about being in service to others. Protecting their freedoms, not just here in the United States, but throughout the world. I am in no position – or shape – to be a member of the fighting forces of any nation or group. But there are plenty of other ways to continue serving.

img_9678Lucilla’s statement, shortly after Maximus’ death is meant to be a reminder to the people of Rome that were witnessing the “event” that there is a cost to be paid for every action. As a military member who swore the oath of enlistment, which binds me to the protection of the Constitution, I am aware of the payment that ultimately may be asked for. During Desert Shield/Storm, I knew the fear and the knife edge that one’s senses are constantly in. The world of military combat is not a playground, as the movies seem to make light of. Even those that try to give a realistic depiction, such as “Black Hawk Down”, do not provide a complete understanding of the experience.

The United States military taught me how to fight. Not to win some encounter. Nor did they allow me to hit “reset” when the battle was going wrong for me. I was taught to fight to survive. To use whatever means were necessary to live. That includes using anything as a weapon. It is one reason that I am extremely careful about what physical encounter I will wind up in, those techniques and concepts are hard-wired into me – thanks to the military’s training techniques. It’s not something you just turn off like a water faucet.
Because of all of that, I avoid protests and marches. Not that I am unwilling to defend myself or someone else. But that I am always worried about the potential of crossing the line of being in control of my sense and awareness, and lashing out in techniques and concepts that I might not be completely aware of. As has been said before, it’s a matter of learning to pick your battles, as well as knowing your limits.

For a short while, I thought the Morrighan was looking to add me to Her team. I was worried about this for a lot of reasons – the biggest one being that I was unsure of what would be asked of me and didn’t want to find myself in a place where instinct overcomes rational thinking. Aside from that, the Morrighan scares the shit out of me…so I was relieved when I figured out that it was merely a group of Valkyrie that had come to deliver a message to me: get into better shape. But the point was crystal clear, I need to be in a better position (read: physical shape) to continue in my role as a Protector. So off to the doctor I go for checkups. And I find out about an issue with my heart. It’s not a big thing, but it certainly needs to be watched. Plus, the doctor noted that if I had to go into open-heart surgery to replace my bad valve – it would be touch-and-go as to whether I would survive. Second wake-up call.

I am a Protector. That is a role that I understand quite well. I am not an activist. Direct confrontation with the expectation of potential violent repercussions is not where I want to find myself, as I have noted. Yes, activism is definitely a role that is required of some, which I will not deny. Everyone has their own roles to play during these periods of heightened confrontation, and potential rights removal. Some call it #TheStorm, others call it “Tower time” – whatever you call it, and it’s here. There’s debate as to the intensity of everything that has been underway. But I am reminded that what one person might call a “hurricane” could be construed as a “steady downpour” by another. But that’s for other folks to determine for themselves. A long, steady downpour has dangers, just as a hurricane does. The interpretation is up to the individual, and their own perception.

The question that Lucilla asks is still just as valid: “Is our world worth the life of one good person?” What is our individual honor worth in all of this? What do we want to achieve at the end of all of this? Can we stop arguing with one another long enough to actually achieve something? We’ve made massive strides towards equality across the board over the decades. We are more aware of how issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and age (among others) affect the daily lives of people all around us. If the desire is to find true equality, let me tell you that we may not see that happen for many more generations. That is long, arduous battle that will continue long after we have passed beyond the veil.

So does the length of the battle mean we need to slow down, and take it easy? Hardly. We need to continue to find ways to achieve the many small victories that will come about. Those small victories will provide the pathway to what we are seeking to achieve. If we move the ball no further down the field than we already have, is it the end of everything? Again, hardly. But we do need to acknowledge that everything has gotten better. If we only see the obstacles and the failures, we fail to see the achievements that show how much has been possible to this point.

We also need to realize our roles in all of this, and acknowledge where we are, individually. Some folks are made to be activists and on the front lines fighting every step of the way. That’s not my role. My methodology for “winning” battles would provide a negative perspective that could be used against what is trying to be accomplished. My role is in defense. Defense of those who cannot defend themselves adequately. And for that, my methodology may seem crude and unreasonable…but for those being defended, it may be the difference between their survival and something worse. Everyone has their own role.

Finally, I am not trying to be overly dramatic here. Just trying to push a particular point forward – if we are struggling for equality of all, we need to (a) realize our roles, and (b) come together to reach those goals. That means setting aside petty differences over word usage, individual roles, and whatever other nonsense we can dream up. Believe it or not, there are people whose lives literally hang in the balance. Imagine if Matthew Shepard had someone there to stand in his corner during his ordeal. Imagine if someone in the apartment complex where Trayvon Martin was killed had stepped outside and intervened? Imagine if more protectors took up their roles in the world around us, and refused to sit back and wait until one of their “own” were attacked or persecuted? It’s not quite a war zone out there…I know the difference. I’ve been there. But it certainly has the feeling that a lot more folks need to be dedicated enough to step in wherever they see injustice, persecution, and bullying happening around them.

Is Rome worth one good man’s life? Is standing up for those that need defending worth one person’s life? My answer is simple. If it comes to that, the answer is yes.

 

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.

 

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 /|\

Cutting the Tightrope or How I Learned to Be One Person

How do you balance your personal life with your spiritual life?

It is an interesting question, and typically not one I receive from Pagan-type folk. Mostly, I hear this a lot from people who have recently found out that I am a Pagan,  Polytheist, a Druid, or even a Priest of Crow. My short, flippant answer is that I try my very best to not compartmentalize my life. The truth of the matter is that I do not always succeed at that process, but I do try my best. Perhaps, and I am just guessing here, a lot of this comes from a disconnect between the way that I live my life and the manner in which I suppose the average Christian lives theirs. So I figured this would be an interesting moment of exploration, so let us see where this deer trod may lead us.

Before I get started too far down this line, let me caution you a bit. I am about to make some generalizations about some aspects of what I believe is the typical Christian adherent. This is not to say that every single Christian is this way, merely what I have observed as both a former practitioner of the Catholic and Southern Baptist sects, as well as that of a sometimes interested outside observer. My intention is not to find any manner to insult people of this faith, but to draw some contrasts between how I approach my own personal Spirituality and how I have perceived the Christian faith being approached. Now with that bit of business out of the way…

There are three areas that I have managed to denote some differences – utilizing compartmentalization, approaching the God(s), and finding interconnectivity. I am sure, if I tried really hard, I could find a metric ton of other aspects to compare and contrast. But I am not trying to write a book here. Merely trying to bring up some discussion points or food for thought.

Compartmentalizing

So, I will start with my original statement. I try my very best to not compartmentalize my life. What this means, is that I try my very best to not separate aspects of my life from each aspect. My Druidry, my belief in the Gods as individual distinct Beings, my professional life, my personal life, my strong belief in Animism – all of that combines together to form who I am today. An easy form of defense is to ensure that none of these flows too deeply into another by separating each element into its own aspect. I see a lot of this in both Pagan and Christian practices. In fact, I used to practice this quite deeply. I would not talk about my professional life with Pagans, and not talk about Spiritual beliefs with those I worked with. What I wound up with was two very different versions of me, which I had trouble reconciling in my own mind. In Christian practice, I see a lot of this put into practice. People would live their own lives in their own way, and suddenly slip on the Spiritual personae when they came to church on Sundays and Wednesday nights. They would save their very best clothes for when they came to church and practice manners and compassion solely on those days. As if their beliefs were something that can be turned on and off by a switch on the wall. And in a manner of speaking, this was how I was living my life. Once I removed this and started to live my Spiritual life “out loud”, I started to find how other things started to fall into place. I will get to this in a bit more detail in the section on interconnectivity.

Approaching the God(s)

Most of my work with my Gods comes through meditation and dream-work. I spend time out in my backyard stone circle praying nearly every day. Many times, I have had Christian folks shocked by that admission. Prayer belongs to the Christian faith, right? Wrong. I use prayer to ask for guidance from Crow, Coyote, and several others when it comes to my daily life. The final choices of how I proceed are still mine. My Gods do not force me down a Path because of some destined fate, but regardless I do seek Their counsel from time to time. In a manner of speaking, this differs from what I have managed to observe of some of the Christian adherents. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all apparently a set of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where a personal need is prayed for. I need this. I want this. I have been faithful to you, please provide me with this. but to be fair, I have also observed some of the Christian faith utilizing prayer to seek guidance from their God or His chosen Savior. No need for a set of shiny prizes to drop from the slot because a faith-coin was deposited in the slot and the handle cranked. Just simple desire to have some form of guidance for their lives. Granted, there is still a measure of one’s personal destiny to be followed, slavishly in some instances like the “Hero’s Journey” in the writings of Joseph Campbell. First, this happens, followed by this, and resulting in this. Step by step instructions, if you will. I am sure that there are some things that my Gods guide me towards, as my hands are the tools necessary to accomplish something on this plane of existence. But the only destiny I have, the only journey I walk, follows the choices I make as to which Path I see as correct in my life at that moment. Sometimes, those are bad choices….and I learn from that. Which, for me, is the essence of life – to keep learning and experiencing.

Interconnectivity

I make no secret about what I do for a living. I work as an Institutional Researcher for a small two-year college. In short, I handle the statistics generated by the students’ activities within the college. I report this information to the US federal government and the state of Texas’ Departments of Education. This usually gets most people to cross their eyes trying to understand the concept, so I tend to fall back to a more generic explanation – I am a Data Science Researcher. My job requires an ability to converse with database systems, as well as utilize statistical programs that parse data into information. When I finally stopped setting my life in small containers (compartmentalizing) and really allowed the conceptual aspects of my Druidry to help inform my daily life, my analysis of that information started to be altered. See, Druidry is about connections for me.

A few years back, I took a year-long study course with Cat Treadwell, and the lessons contained within that program really showcased the ideas of connection for me. Where does my food come from? How can I see the changes in the season by the world around me? Well, every day I drive a small county rod to work, which brings me between two pastures. On either side of the road, I got to see new calves shortly after their birth as well as their growth over the course of the year. I watched the fields change as the cycle of the year wore on. And my eyes were opened to some smaller measures of connectivity I had not noticed before.

In my work, over the last two years, I have watched a similar cycle of growth, change, and connectivity. New students come to the college and start their education. Through my statistics, I can mark groups of students for further study, and see the cycle of their lives. Some students blaze through their programs, some have the number of classes wax and wane through the semesters – obviously trying to balance their personal life with the desire to advance their education. Some struggle with mathematics classes. And eventually, they transfer to a four-year institution, graduate with a degree or certificate, or stop their educational advancement altogether. As I have watched and studied group after group after group, I have seen trends which I want to analyze a bit deeper, as I see potential areas of connectivity. I attribute this to my Druidry, which helps me visualize so many of the strands taking place in the data before me. My Druidry also informs me that every single number is a student – a person – whose story is unfolding before my very eyes.

Certainly, I am not trying to tell anyone how to live their life nor how to approach their own concepts and understanding of Spirituality. What I write here is the result of nearly thirty-two years of being a Pagan. There were plenty of missteps, lots of wrong turns, and a countless number of holes in the Path that turned my ankle. if your desire is to find a belief system that provides step-by-step instructions on how to become grounded within your own faith….good luck with that. One thing I have learned in traveling from the Catholic faith to the Southern Baptist faith into Paganism (in its many different aspects that I have tried) is that there is no set of written instructions. Much like taking a walk through woods to enjoy the outdoors, there is no set way to find your own Spiritual Path. If your focus is on the sounds of the birds in the trees, or wanting to listen to the sound of the breeze pushing through the branches of the trees, or wanting to revel in the warmth of the Sun on your skin, or marvel at the wondrous landscapes in front of you-you will find what you are wanting if you have some patience. The same holds true for one’s Spiritually, at least in my experience.

And the Gods? Or God? Or Holy Trinity? Or what have you? Not that long ago, I thought that the Morrigan was calling me to Her battle line. It was not Her. And it was for a far different reason. But when I questioned what She would want with me – a good friend told me: “The Gods call who They call.” Just try your very best not to turn Them into some kind of ATM that spits out presents and gifts based on the greed of your capitalist heart. Not only do the Gods deserve more respect than that, so do you.

And balancing your life between your Druidry (or what have you) and your mundane life? Let the two intersect as deeply as you are able to. You will find yourself having a far richer life when you are not trying to serve two different versions of yourself. But that’s just my opinion. Your mileage will likely vary to one degree or another.

–T /|\