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.

 

Advertisements

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 /|\

Finding My Footing – A Ronin in a World of Social Justice Warriors

img_9678Continuing in the vein of being a bit more open and transparent about where the current tide is taking me, I would like to discuss a bit more of what I am, and what I am not. I am a Pagan. I am a Polytheist. I am a Druid. I work with two Trickster Gods: Coyote, and Crow. Currently, there is a Goddess starting to manifest within all of that as well. I am unsure of exactly who She might be, merely that She has been referred to as a “Warrior Queen.” At this particular moment, Her identity is not nearly as important to me as what has been conveyed to me. My role in the world around me continues to evolve (surprised? I’m not).

We are all aware of the surging battle that rages all around us. This has been labeled as a “culture war” by many on the ideological Right, and even some on the Left. However, I would submit that it is not that. Certainly, the subtle colors of our collective culture are one of the outcomes of what will happen, but this is not a battle solely for that. This is a battle for inclusion and equality. For the chance for everyone to have their voices heard and given equal consideration and weight in the overall discussion of how our society is shaped. There are many folks fighting these battles that use the nom-de-guerre of “social justice warriors” for themselves. Let me be clear. This is not me. Nor is this role what I am to assume as has been conveyed to me. I am not here to battle. I am here to protect, assist, and care for those as best I can.

Perhaps, a better term for me would be from the Samurai culture – that of Ronin. Ronin were Samurai who had lost their master. According to Bushido code, Samurai that lost their master were to commit suicide rather than live a life of a master-less wanderer. So, in some sense, Ronin was not always considered to be a flattering concept. However, a Ronin Samurai always tried to live by the rest of the code of honor, despite not following this one precept. According to some legends, as well as some fictional films and books, Ronin wandered the countryside, seeking only to right wrongs. A rather ambiguous, yet romantic vision, of a do-gooder wandering through society, fighting for the good of those who cannot fight. Let me stress here, this is mostly fiction, but the overall concept has a certain appeal to me – both on a personal level, as well as from what I have managed to gather in meditations.

I am not an individual that seeks a fight. Not even a debate or an argument. I have opinions and have no problem setting my perspective into the public square on nearly any topic. I am not available to debate the point or even to argue its merits (or lack thereof), merely just setting a different point of view out to be seen and taken (or not) into consideration. The same holds true for physical confrontation. I will step between two people involved in an argument that seems to be escalating. I am not there to fight, but rather there to allow cooler heads to prevail. I will defend myself if the need comes to that. However, if I am backed into a corner, and provided no alternative route to walk away, I will fight. I learned to fight from basic self-defense in the United States military. The techniques I learned are not methods that make me proud of who I am, nor do I consider many of these to be honorable. I will not fight fairly. I do not fight to win or lose. I fight to survive. And because of this methodology, I choose not to fight until there is no other alternative, including walking away.

As I noted, I am not a Social Justice Warrior. I will not pretend to be such. I have friends throughout the spectrum of politics, spiritual beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, educational backgrounds, and social strata. I understand why people are fighting for the causes that they believe in. And I am quite proud of what they are doing. They are stepping into their convictions and doing what they feel is relevant and necessary. I am also saddened when I see aspects of this hijacked and taken to obvious extremes. I also realize that there may come times when my position of being a protector will put me at opposite ends of the spectrum from them. At this time, I have not been placed in that position…yet. With the wildness of this current Storm, I am cognizant that anything can happen.

I carry my staff nearly everywhere I go. Walks in my neighborhood. When I go places (it stays in the cab of my truck). Hikes in the nearby wild areas in north Texas near the Red River. Even to work (again, it stays in the cab of my truck). My staff is for far more than walking and holding up my fat ass when I stand. I am aware of its usages outside of its easily recognizable uses. I continually hope and pray (yes, Pagans and Polytheists DO pray) that I never have to utilize it outside of my mundane uses. Thus far, I have only threatened its usage as a weapon once. I hope to never have to do it again during my existence in this incarnation. Yet, I am always prepared to do so.

As for my Lady Goddess. She was referred to as “the Warrior Queen”, which I have assumed to be The Morrigan. Her hair has been different colors in my meditations and dreams. At one time, it was red, another time it was jet black, and another it was blonde. As far as I know, this does not indicate that She is likely to not be The Morrigan. Some suggestions from those I have confided in have been that She may be Brigid, or even The Morrigan’s sister, Badb Catha. Being that Her name translates to “Battle Crow” I think this might be a little more likely. But admittedly, my research has been minor on this at this time. Whoever She may be, the point is being made clear to me. Much like the romanticised figure of the Ronin in the Samurai culture of Japan, it is time for me to find myself in the role of Protector again. I am not here to fight for a cause of any sort. Rather, I am there to ensure that balance is maintained so civil discourse can be had. Where and how that happens…I am unsure, but I will keep my senses open to find where that is necessary. And that does not necessarily translate to physical means, of course.

A Measure of Public Self-Accountability

So I am back from that whirlwind retreat-convention-convention trip that has been the last eleven days. The beginning was Imbolc retreat, in the middle was a professional conference, and the end was Pantheacon. At each one, I managed to find a few more elements to add to who I was, as well as develop even more questions about who I am, where I am going, and – as Kristoffer Hughes states – inspire myself. To finish that particular quote – “…because how the fuck can you expect to inspire others if you cannot inspire yourself?”

Indeed. Getting the opportunity to be around so many creative and talented people at each point, there was a lot to be inspired by. And best for me, this has developed into several exciting short-term goals, as well as a few super-long-term goals – in my mundane life, my professional, and even in my magickal life. I am not fond of compartmentalizing aspects of my life, and while I can combine some aspects of each one into various projects and moments, such as using magickal techniques to help visualize data models – to keep things separate is sometimes a necessary component of keeping my sanity. I mean, think about how bad things could get if I started scrawling Cabalistic symbology around the edges of my whiteboard while diagramming an extensive data model? Right?? Or if I started using hardcore statistical inference when trying to get ready for some magickal rite. I could take an informal survey of the various Spirits that I encounter during the ritual, and utilize non-parametric techniques to determine the statistical relevance of the responses, Naw, it is far better to keep those things apart from one another. For my sanity, and for the sake of not opening a portal to another dimension.

Goals; however, are good things to have. A few years back, on the advice of John Beckett and a few others, I started writing a daily journal. That journal now spans seven full Composition notebooks, with an eighth currently in progress. In those journals are everything I encounter, everything I perceive, and everything I dream of over the course of each day. Some entries are several pages in length. A few of the entries are three to five sentences. But these document my goals, the things I want to accomplish in my life, and how well I do (and sometimes do not) manage to reach that goal. Every once in a while, I pick up one of these journals and read where I have been, and create an entry comparing that day with today. For me, that is extremely important because I can chronicle the changes that I see utilizing how I felt in the past as a contrast.

For a long while, I lived a not-so regimented life. I floated wherever I wanted to; I did whatever came to mind, and to be honest, I wasn’t precisely the most reliable friend to have in the bunch. A lot of that was me being completely rebellious to the uber-structured life I lived for eight years in the United States Air Force. Everything was scheduled, had a step-by-step process, and if there was not a manual for it – they would make one. There was even a manual for how to take a shit. No, I’m kidding. But it sure felt like there was one. But that rebellion made me a very chaotic person, and I am still living down aspects of all of that. Plus, I also still find pieces of that in my current life, even though I try to be a bit more structured, and a touch more regimented in how I approach my daily Life. This includes my magickal and Spiritual Life.

See, for me, everything gets tied to ritual, which can be a fairly structured process. I like off-the-cuff ritual formats, but when you work with others – that stuff just does not work well. Well, usually. If you have a group of folks that you just “fit” with – off-the-cuff stuff can become some really special magick. But you just don’t walk down the street and bump into these folks at the subway stairs. Ritual with structure is important. Important for the how, important for the when, important for the why. And if you discard all of that stuff, and try to handle ritual as an off-the-cuff, impromptu New Orleans funeral, what many might refer to as a “Jazz funeral“. That stuff might coalesce with your chosen Gods, but I find that a structured basic format is more comfortable for working magick, as well as putting other practitioners in the ritual at ease. For my personal, solo stuff…jazz hands it is! But there is an appropriate time and place for that. A structure is definitely necessary for public ritual or ritual within a group, from my experience.

The same goes true for the professional life. We use a ticketing system to keep track of data requests and work completed by the Data Analysts in my group. Without that ticketing system, a data request can fall through the cracks, and wind up not being delivered to an internal or external customer that has need of the information. With just a touch of structure, we can ensure that things do not get missed. Provided that people use the system properly.

My journals serve a very similar purpose. Not only is this an issue of finding reliability with continued, measurable action, at the end of the day, I use my time with pen and paper or keyboard and fingers to provide a moment of self-accountability. I can write whatever I want. Shit, I can even lie to myself if I wanted to. But rather than play personal mind games with the journal – I choose to be frank, brutal and honest in what I write. I do beat myself up quite a bit because of one error or misstep here or there. But I also spend time writing about the things I did right, or even the things I learned. After all, this is why I write in my journal in the first place. It serves the purpose of essentially being the little reminder to my brain of what went right, what wrong, and why I think things wound up in the manner that they did.

Over the next few blog posts, I am going to explore a few things – who I see myself as, my relationship with the Gods, and why I find myself staring down a particular Path that I am totally unsure of. As I noted in a previous blog – Life continually changes. It is not how it changes that provides the measure of context and quality for me, but rather how I approach, handle and incorporate each change. And in some ways, some of these changes are about to place my feet on an old, and familiar Path….with different shoes on my feet, so to speak. And for this, I would like to document it openly…for whoever would like to read. Call it a measure of public self-accountability, if you like.

 

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.

I am “Woke” – Just Not in the Way You Might Assume

Early in 2017, I started hearing a concept that I had not heard since the first release of the movie “The Matrix” — being ‘woke’. Back in 1999, it referred to the status of human beings like the main character Neo, who had been removed from their connection to the Matrix environment created by the machines, and were now aware of the true reality of the Earth and human beings. However, the term was not being used in that context, and seemingly meant something different. Being curious about it, I decided to try and find a definition of what this new terminology might mean. Eventually, I found that it applied to some of the aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement, but had been branching into other areas from there. A quick check of Urban Dictionary found a handful of descriptives:

  • A state of perceived intellectual superiority one gains by reading The Huffington Post.
  • Although an incorrect tense of awake, a reference to how people should be aware of current affairs.
  • Knowing what is going on in the community.
  • Being completely deranged, hysterical and seeing racism/oppression in virtually everything.
  • Being aware of the social. and political environments regarding all demographics and socio-economic standings.

…and the list goes on and on. Utilizing Urban Dictionary’s perspectives, being “woke” aims towards political and socio-economic statuses, being aware of how various aspects of society press against a perceived state of equality for all.

Now, most folks know, I have my own political stance in life. It bleeds through in everything I do – blogging, talking, working, reading – because it is part of who I am and what I believe. I hold no allegiance to either of the major parties within the United States. Rather, I see validity on both sides of that equation, as well as what I consider to be idiocy from both sides as well. Thus, I hold no party affiliation, as neither of the two major parties – or even the smaller third-parties for that matter – really speak to how I perceive the world around me. I have been told that my non-affiliated stance only means that I am not seeing the world as it should be – by both staunch Republicans and Democrats that I know. To be honest, I am not arrogant enough to believe that what I perceive and what I believe is correct for anyone else, other than myself. And here in the United States, I am merely one of many, all with different and sometimes diametrical opposed ideas of how to proceed and/or process concepts and information.

Perhaps I am not “woke” in the area of politics and socio-economic standards as provided by other “woke” individuals. However, I am very cognizant of the social under-currents within society. I am also aware of how the laws, as applied by some corrupt and morally bankrupt members of law enforcement, can be utilized as a hammer against certain aspects of human society. I am also aware of how our current political system is being utilized by a few to construct a potential society of upper-class individuals that meet a certain requirement of enrollment that subjugates others to work for their benefit alone. Yelling and ranting about it on Facebook, and on Twitter, from my perspective, does very little about the issue – thus I tend to hide political sites, and individuals that tend to post nothing but politics and social memes railing in this manner. Perhaps, that means that I am not “woke” by someone else’s standards. So be it. But then again, I do not live my life for the approval of others.

Sounds rather heartless, right? I can grok that perspective. But if all you know about me is this screed that I am posting here, and you make a final judgment on who I am and what I believe – you are not digging deep enough. If you go back far enough in this blog, you will find posts where I disdain the concept of labeling people. That applies here as well. Essentially, society tends to fall to a grouping of people into two categories: “Us” and “Them”.  The “Us” crowd, we are comfortable with, we grok their perspective, and their ideals line up and fit quite nicely with our own. The “Them” crowd is to be resisted, attacked, and belittled as much as we can. In wars, human beings do this all the time. The Japanese were considered inferior because they could only copy what had been created, not create on their own. The Germans were vilified as blood-thirsty fighters who mindlessly followed their leader towards world domination. All Germans hated the Jews and were thrilled to have the concentration camps around to rid them of these sub-humans. And lists like this can be compiled from the annals of History. The reality is that there were many people in Japanese society who were/are creative and can create new materials. Most of the German citizenry had no idea what was happening within the concentration camps and were horrified to find out the truth when the war unraveled for them. Plus, there were those Germans who tried to find a way to save as many people as they could from being arrested by the Gestapo – risking their own lives to do so. Painting with a broad-brush of generalizations is a lazy way to deal with people who have differences from your own.

So, I will divulge one secret about me. And it is not really a secret, I just do not talk about it that much on social media. I loathe the concepts of ethnic labeling that occurs within our society. The Grants system within the collegiate environments in America is rife with this concept. Entire aspects of funding collegiate education are built around characteristics of race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, and even age. The idea is to “level” the playing field between the “haves” and have-nots”. I get that. I would rather that we fund people’s collegiate education based on the needs of our work-force rather than these factors. I do realize that there are Grants and funding centered around just these things, but I would rather categorize people by their desired field of endeavor than by things such as their gender and skin color. I would prefer to classify people as “human beings” rather than “Black, White, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, International, and Multi-race.” But again, I am just one person. And these classifications are mandated by the Federal government.

Being “woke” tends to be focused on how one perceives and/or agrees with whatever perspective of the individual judging the perspective “woke” person. Again, I do not live my life for the accolades applied by others. I am a Pagan, a Polytheist, and a Druid. I am a Priest of Crow. How I live my life is determined by me. Under the ‘woke” definition from Urban Dictionary is the notations of “how people should be aware of current affairs”, “knowing what is going on in the community”, and “being aware of the social. and political environments regarding all demographics and socio-economic standings.” From my own perspective, I feel that I absolutely do fulfill these aspects of the various definitions. Perhaps, the problem with being labeled as “woke” does not come from any particular meaning of the term, but rather whether your understanding of the issues relating to community, political, and socio-economic standards is in conjunction with the individual labeling you as such. To that, I can only smile to the individual that claims that I am not “woke” and move along. If I am perceived as not being “in-tune” with how politics effects me or how it affects others…that’s all right. If you have ever heard me sing, I’m definitely off-key.

#TwoQuid

–T /|\