Being a Pagan 24x7x365

So, in a very recent question, I was asked how I go about being a Pagan 24x7x365…in other words, how can I do all the things that being a Pagan entails throughout the course of everyday living? The following was my response….

…this is going to sound kinda trite, but I just breathe. Seriously. Being Pagan isn’t something I do, its something I am. I’m not a Priest, and not about to become one – so I don’t have any religious duties associated with my being a Pagan. I make offerings to my Gods (and to Others as well). That takes about five minutes or so out of my day (sometimes longer depending on what the offering is in reference to). The rest of my time is spent how I feel needs to be done or how I am directed to do so by my Gods (very rarely). I’m not covered by some mystical cloud, and I’m not on some Gods-given quest every moment of the day. Being a Pagan means being you…

Now, this can seem like a rather weird question to some, but its actually quite a fair point to bring up. There are Pagans out there that live their lives like monks or even like a Catholic Priest. Those folks tend to have religious duties associated with what they do in their devotions to their Gods. They have decided to take on the role of being a Priest, and all that comes with that. They have sworn to perform rituals, weddings/handfastings, and take on the wide ranging roles and duties that being a Priest demands. Most of these folks are very public figures, and may be the first contact that some folks have with Paganism. Its hardly a stretch that some folks can see this as what every Pagan does.

Now, as I noted, being a Pagan is what I am. There are some aspects of being a Pagan that are things that I do, none of which are hard, set-in-stone rules to being a Pagan. I do a daily devotional to Crow. Its nothing fancy, and super simple. I can even do it while I am walking from my car to the building that I work in, without anyone being aware of what I am doing. They see me pouring out part of a water bottle. What I am doing is pouring water as an offering to the land, along with my morning prayers for the day. I don’t even have to say anything out loud. Sure, its not something absolutely sacred in the eyes of quite a few. But it works for me. I don’t need a fancy robe, I don’t need candles and incense. Honestly, I don’t even need the water – though its something that has emotional feeling for me, since “Water is Life” – I just need to set my intention in my prayers. I don’t have to vocalize anything. I need the intention, and a momentary focus. That’s it. Nothing over-the-top. Simple, easy, and carried within a motion that looks like an everyday, routine moment for my day.

My guess is that many people think that personal ritual has to contain the dramatic. We certainly see enough of that in the Southern Baptist and Evangelical settings, with members of the congregation getting caught up in the Holy Spirit. The shouting, the arm-waving, the spontaneous “hallelujahs” and the much-too-often “occasional” speaking in tongues. Add to all of that, the folks who come forward for healing, convulsing like their sins were leaking directly from their bodies…there’s a lot of dramatics going on there. Now, I am not saying that none of that is valid, merely that it is dramatic in nature. And that dramatic addition emphasizes the “holiness” and “spiritual” nature of what is taking place. And that type of symbology becomes deeply embedded and ingrained into the thought processes of people. They associate those gestures with “spirituality” and expect to see it in every faith. And they bring that expectation to Paganism, if they happen to seek this direction. And are disappointed when they don’t see as much of it…

Don’t get me wrong here. I have seen and participated in some VERY dramatic rituals within Paganism. The dramatic effects emphasized perspectives, and in some cases even brought forward a stronger feeling of the Gods that were being invoked. There is a time, place and reason for those dramatic moments in ritual. Over-done, and those moments lose the strong punch of emphasis, as participants expect those moments to always take place – particularly when the dramatic effect is not used for specific moments in ritual.

Pulling this back on-track, much of that can also be placed into personal, spiritual practice – in my opinion. I do my devotions and rituals alone, I desire a much quieter approach, where the emphasis is on my focus. But let me point back to the daily aspect of just being a Pagan. The Gods are not with me every single day, every single hour, every single minute. They have Their own existence to handle. I don’t do my devotionals to draw Their attention to me. I do my devotionals because I want to honor Them, thank Them for Their presence, and appreciate the times that They are directly in my life. Whether They hear me or see me or not…that doesn’t matter. The point is to provide a moment of my day to honor what we have together. To me, that moment, even done in the manner of just pouring water from a water bottle into the grass on the campus where I work, as I walk towards the building I work in – and silently state my thanks and appreciation for Their presence….that is sacred. Not because of where it happens or how it looks when it happens. Its sacred because it is THAT moment.

I believe in the sacred aspect of Nature. I see the sacred in what has been built, how the grounds on the campus have been manicured to look sculpted. How the birds find their food in the clippings of the grass. The little kittens living out their existence in the crawl space under one of the older buildings. For me, as a Pagan, all of that has sacredness to it. How do I add that to my day? I breathe. I see the beauty and the sacred and silently acknowledge it. Being a Pagan doesn’t get turned off by a spigot. Its on everyday with me, because I breathe, I see, I hear, I feel, I connect. Being a Pagan means that I just be me…I experience it all through the connections I have with the world around. I am aware of how all of that connects directly and indirectly with me. being a Pagan means that I AM.

If I Were A Rich Man…

“Where are all the rich Pagans?” Nearly every single time I hear this, I get the visions of Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder trolling the two Klan members at the end of the queue signing up for Hedley Lamarr’s gang. You know the scene. Gene Wilder hollars to the Klan members: “Hey boys, look what I got here,” and then reaches behind the boulder to pull Cleavon forward. Cleavon then quips the infamous line of “Hey! Where all the white womens at?” The movie, of course, is 1974’s “Blazing Saddles” a deep dig at racial prejudice during the time by Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, along other genius writers of the film.

I bring up the movie, as a point concerning the original question. What is the over-zoomed monocular focus on “rich Pagans?” Yeah, I get it. There’s a lot of folks wanting to see more upper-class, white-collar types within the Pagan community. But is this really where we want to get hung up on the wider community? The monetary earnings of the various Pagans out there? Perhaps, since there’s a desire to do such inane things as looking for folks who aren’t “Pagan Enough”, we can also let the doorman and security know that there are just too many folks below a certain monetary earnings level as well. Too many poor folks in the room. Ya’ll are sucking too much of the oxygen out of the room for the folks with money. Step aside now.

Folks, are we really that fixated on getting Pagans with money into the room, that we constantly have to look around for folks wearing the suits and nice dresses? Let’s not play stupid and look at our feet and say “But that’s not us! We’ve never said that! Money’s not a big issue for us.” Really. I have been in Paganism for close to thirty-five years now. And this question eventually pops up. So do other questions fixated around money, such as a good Pagan never charges for their services. You know, like fortune-telling, tarot readings, crystal-ball scrying. No one should ever ask for a penny for their services, right?

Should people not be paid for their services? Certainly, they can give their services for free, when and where they wish. But that certainly does not give us the right to kvetch when they ask to be paid for their services in some situations and not others. That’s like asking an author to write a book, work with a distributor to get it printed and distributed into various markets…and demanding that the final price of the book be only what the costs of materials were to print it. Those authors, distributors, and all the other people that work in editing, distributing, promotions, etc etc – they need to make some money to be able to eat, and live (somewhat) on those earnings.

Truly, I have never understood the desire of people to just get things for free. And when they don’t, they make it feel like they had a pistol shoved into their ribs with the the threat to buy it or they’ll shoot. Really folks, I’m not made of money either. Sometimes I have to set a book that I want to purchase back on the shelf because my budget for that pay period is too tight to afford it. I totally grok the tight squeeze in one’s personal budget. However, I am not going to complain that the book costs $35.00 and that it should be $2.00 because that’s what I can afford.

Ok, yes I have a few author friends. And yes, a few of them have provided free copies of their books to me. Back when I had a podcast, I would purchase another copy of the book (or album) and give it away. That’s right. I BOUGHT the copy at the regular prices. Why? Because I want those folks to write another book or put out another album. I am happy to get the free stuff from them, but eventually, I buy a copy for myself…so there’s another sales point for them. Because I want to see them succeed at what they do. I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. But I am willing to support the authors, musicians, and even the clergy members that I have had workings/dealings with.

So, where are all the rich Pagans at? Well, much Cleavon wasn’t expecting an answer to his infamous query in the movie, I’m not expecting one to mine. Why? Well, because I refuse to be part of any kind of definition creating part of what constitutes a “rich Pagan.” I could give a shit how much anyone makes monetarily. I am more interested in the manner in which they create in the world around them. Some of my friends write books. Some play musical instruments. Some are clergy members, driven to help their local communities in whatever spiritual capacity that they can. If you really want to find the “rich Pagans”, find those people. The ones that give their gifts back to their community. The ones that strive towards bringing us together rather than driving us apart. They are rich in spirit. They are rich in giving. And that means way more than any check on their bottom line or profit margin. And my life is enriched in knowing them, and occasionally spending time with them.

New Pathways, New Companions, Old Territory

A couple of years back, I was afforded a rare glimpse and flirtation towards working with Flidais, the Irish Goddess of the Woodlands (among other things). After a time, the flirtation faded, and from time to time I would believe to catch a glimpse of Her from time to time in my meditations. After the Iceland trip last year, She began to spend more time being seen, allowing me to notice that She was not who I thought She was. In late December, during a time frame where I had been approaching the final aspects of healing from my pneumonia, I had several very deep, intimate meditations and dreams featuring this new figure. When we finally communicated between one another, She was very direct. No beating around the bush like there had been with Flidais. She announced Herself as Abnoba.

The name was immediately familiar to me. Back when I was in the United States Air Force and stationed at Sembach Air Base, one of my “touristy” things was to visit old Roman baths. One such bath is located at Badenweiler, which is about thirty kilometers from Frieburg, where one of my unit’s tenant sub-groups was located. When visiting there on a training mission, I got one of the folks I knew there to take me to the baths located there. These baths are dedicated to “Dianae Abnoba”. There is also a fascinating scene fresco there that depicts a dance between the living and the dead. “We are what you were, and you will be what we are” is what is translated from the fresco.

Abnoba, as I recalled from my visit there, is the Gaulish equivalent to the Roman Goddess Diana, thus the mixing of the two names at the dedication stone for the Roman baths. I understand the mixing of the two, but being the hard Polytheist that I am, I see Them as two different, distinct Beings. The Romans mixed their Gods and Goddesses with local Gods and Goddesses to better assimilate the local populace, in hopes of keeping the peace and getting the locals to adopt Roman customs as their own.

Since then, I have added a weekly devotion to Her, and have spent some dedicated time in focused meditation with Her. There are no requests for me to be Her Priest, attendant or any other role. Merely for me to return to my focus of being with the lands I am currently within.

There is a strong pull, given that I spent the last years of my Air Force career wandering through the wooded areas that are Hers. I also spent much of my youth, as a US Air Force military brat, wandering through these same woods. So I comprehend the strong pull. My personal heritage is Germanic, which also feeds into all of that. I have no desire to explore the Heathen pathways though…those are not my footfalls to follow.

I am not really sure where this new direction will take me. I know that I move forward with Crow still on my shoulder, Coyote still at one side, and Abnoba slightly in the lead, going through the thick trees and underbrush of the darkened forest. The fir trees are old and very tall. Their canopy blocks most of the light, though streams of light can be seen piercing the hood of darkness all around. The air is still, though a breeze can be heard high above, moving the upper part of the canopy. Dead pine needles cover most of the ground, stifling our footsteps. Where ground can be seen, it is wet, and covered in patchy moss. These rare patches of ground are punctuated by large rocks and boulders. These are the woods of my childhood. I walk these in my meditations and dreams. In my youth, I walked these paths in real life. Now, I am here again…

You and the Gods – My Advice

After reading a few blog posts, I am reminded that while communication between yourself and the Gods is a process that can be utilized and maintained with a little practice and patience with many different methodologies, the intent of what is communicated is not always crystal clear. For example, I kept understanding some of the communication between myself and Crow to be of a “Be my Priest” nature, which it wasn’t. The largest issue was trying to understand the meaning of what was being conveyed without placing what was communicated into the paradigms that other Pagan folk I knew had with their own relationships with the Gods. I would never caution people away from communicating and working with any of the Gods and Goddesses, but I would warn folks not to place their communication and working into the same categories that others do. The assumption that everything is the same will trip you up, and you may find yourself in territory unfamiliar to what you thought or in a bargain you never intended.

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

I posted this leading paragraph to Facebook a few days ago, as a preview to this post. I sincerely fall into the perspective that sharing too much knowledge waters down the experience for the person receiving that knowledge. Sometimes; however, it is best to bring up some of the warning signs to help others from stepping into the marshy, boggy spots that can ensnare the unwary.

Finding accord with the Gods happens when you follow a polytheistic path, but that is not for everyone. Some folks never get that experience, despite their fervent belief. Others have a shallow belief in the Gods, and get slapped upside the head in the same vein as being beaten by the fishmonger’s wife in Asterix. Why? I certainly wish I had the answer to this question. But to be certain, piety alone is not going to bring that experience forward for you. My experience has been that patience, persistence, and some practice in meditative techniques and ritual forms are the most helpful tools.

Practice

Part of practice is doing the research into what meditative technique or what ritual format you are going to use. Study it. Learn about it. Know it inside and out. Practice it – alone, with others, in the daylight, in the dead of night, on a beautiful summer night, during a massive rain storm. Practice what you are going to do. And then do it. And continue to do it, whether you get results or not. If you are wanting to work with a specific God or Goddess, show your dedication to Them with this. Be prepared for silence. Also, be prepared for an answer.

Patience

Probably the most difficult part of trying to draw the attention of the Gods is being patient for an answer or some kind of flicker of attention. It might take seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, even years for something to happen. It might never happen. Learn patience. Realize that your technique may not feel “right” but try not to change it too much or too often. I am all for improvisation in ritual and meditative techniques, but changing these too frequently can make for a shaky time frame, at least from what I have experienced. Its a lot like trying to find a technique that pleases your lover, you are finally doing all the right things, and then you change everything at a moment’s notice, which kills that excited state that you just spent time building up to. Be patient with your technique. Be patient with the timing of everything. Remember, the Gods are not human beings. They react differently, They see things differently, They have a different concept of every aspect of the environment around us. Patience builds the rapport you will need to communicate with Them and work with Them.

Persistence

Like I noted above, the Gods are not human beings. They see the world differently than we experience it. Sometimes, it can take a bit more time than you might be ready for to catch Their attention. My perspective is the try, try again mode. But that does not always work for everyone. If you need to, give yourself a time frame in which to work, and if things come to the end of that time frame, stop and evaluate what you’re doing. Let’s say you gave it a year to catch Aphrodite’s attention to work with Her. When the year is up, look back at what you have done, all the rituals and devotions you have worked with in Her name, all the meditations you have tried. Hopefully, you have kept a journal of all of this. Read through all of your experiences, objectively look at what you have tried. See if there’s any changes that you might need to try. Then decide if you are going to try, and give yourself another time deadline. or you might decide its no longer worth the try and move on. Remember, in the end, its your time. You decide how hard and how long you are going to try.

My Relationship is Not the Same As Yours

I know I am repeating myself for a third time here (I like threes), but the Gods are not human beings. They are Gods. They see the world differently. They also communicate differently. Back when I had seriously started working with Crow, I kept getting a message of working deeper, more intimately with Him. Several other Polytheists that I knew talked about their relationships as Priests and Priestesses with their Gods. After a time, I began to assume that this is what Crow meant by this tighter working together. Turned out, I was reading the relationships that others had into my relationship with Crow. Crow wasn’t pointing at my being a Priest or even a Shaman (which would be a weird role for me to take on). Crow was merely wanting me to work more closely in my own personal rituals, and in my approach to working with the world around me. It was one of the more awkward lessons I have had to learn. Be sure of what you are being asked. Ask if you are understanding correctly by using slightly different terminology. If you don’t comprehend what is being asked, seek clarification. Sometimes, working with the Gods is similar to being a lawyer. Understand every nuance of what is being asked. Otherwise, you can find yourself in a bargain you never intended.

The Gods are not trying to trick you into something. I work with a Trickster God (two, if you include Coyote). Their understanding of our world is a little different from our own. Remember, they are not human. They see our world through Their perspective. When we communicate with Them, do workings for Them, do devotionals in Their names – it is all done with our perspective of understanding. Our understanding of Their perspective is imperfect, just as Theirs is of us. Take your time, make sure of what you are reading/understanding, and be comfortable with what is being asked. If you are not comfortable….remember, you have the Free Will to walk away and say “no”. Before you do turn away, seek an alternative to what is being asked. That’s only fair to both you and the God in question.

Working with the Gods is like any deep relationship you have with someone else. There is work involved. There is communication that needs to be developed. Rapport will be found through trial and error, time and patience…its extremely rare to have an immediate hand-in-glove relationship – with the Gods or anyone else. Roll up your sleeves, be prepared to work, be prepared to have patience, practice what you do…and be prepared for an answer, as well as no answer at all. Remember, its a relationship…it will be work. There will be play-time too, but first you need to do the work.

Feed Lemon Ice Cream to the Whales!!

Life on the inter-webs is always a roller coaster ride. There are great days, and there are crappy days….and so very few days in between to keep the incline between the other two types from being so steep. I catch nine kinds of Hell from folks, no matter what position I take on an issue. Given that most of my stuff that I post is largely my opinion, I’m used to being on the open-end of the flame thrower. If you stick your head above the crowd, you’re bound to get rocks thrown at you. Occasionally, one or two will find their intended mark.

Lately, I have been getting blasted for not having the same opinions as other folks – not an uncommon song from the canary in the coal mine. How dare I not slam Trump every chance that I get presented to me. Never mind my point that I wouldn’t slam previous Presidents for the same issues, and I am only trying to keep my perspective from getting too entangled with my outrage over the other stupid shit the guy does. How dare me that I don’t follow along with this or that cause that you are championing?? I should have the good sense to be on the right side, because that’s the side you are on….right? Yes, I have taken fire from folks for not being as into their cause of the moment. Because I dared to not agree with the reasoning that Beluga whales should be fed lemon sherbet ice cream with long, silver spoons.

Well, I am not totally against feeding ice cream to the whales; though I think they would be a lot more appreciative of a large helping of krill or plankton or whatever their normal staple of food may be. But the reason that I am not going to fly over to the whale feeding bandwagon comes down to one thing – its not necessarily tops on my list of things to get completed. I have plenty of things that I have to get accomplished. Both in the course of my normal everyday, boring, mundane life; as well as what I have been tasked with by my Gods. Neither Crow or Coyote are overly demanding, so when I get asked to accomplish something for Them, I tend to do what I was asked for. Plus, I have another Deity that I have been working with as well, and I tend not to discuss Her business, but its stuff that needs to be done – and done by me. That was the agreement. And I stand by my agreements.

Does that mean I don’t give a shit about your cause of the moment? Nope, I sure don’t. What? Hey! I’m kidding!!! No, seriously I am kidding. Typically, folks take it that you are either uninterested in their cause of the moment if you don’t show the same level of enthusiasm as they do or if you show even the slightest point of disinterest. After all, what they are thinking is paramount throughout the world, right? They are thinking about it and sinking every bit of energy into it – the rest of the world should have an equal level of interest. Right?

The reality is that shoving your cause of the moment down the throats of others is a sure-fire way to turn them off to your message, as well as drive them away from any future message you might have. Manifesting and cultivating allies and friends to your cause requires a much lighter touch. Have deep discussions with associated facts, not preaching parties. No one likes a rabid, foaming at the mouth fundamentalist shouting at the room, one foot on the coffee table, the other balancing on the arm of the couch. No one hears what you are shouting, they are more likely wondering if you foot is going to go through the glass-top of the coffee table in the next few moments.

Having those deep discussions, where you show your energy and passion in the controlled but excited manner of pointing out the facts. The whales enjoy the lemon flavored Sherbet, particularly the Beluga variety. And in exchange, the Belugas are willing to setup, manage, and teach Beluga/English language classes. Five scoops of lemon Sherbet will get you a complete one hour lesson. A tub of the stuff will provide you with a lifelong membership to the Beluga tribe!! How exciting!! Is there a ritual involved? Yes? I’m in!! I gotta run to the store….

So, it might be best when pushing your cause of the moment to take a little longer to read your audience. Trying to sell me on voting for Bernie Sanders? That’s as unlikely as three feet of snow on a 100-degree day here in Texas. The whales need lemon Sherbet?? I’ll make a quick run to the grocery store. Tell them to wait until I get back. I hope they like orange, if the lemon flavored ones are sold out…

Holding Out For Some Heroes

Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the Gods?

So opens Bonnie Tyler’s song “Holding Out For a Hero” and to be completely honest, in today’s crazy times it is an appropriate question (though I would ask ‘where have all the good people gone?’). During the early- and mid-1980s, the Pagan community lived through the uncertain times of the Satanic Panic. Fueled by a new rise of ultra-zealous “Christian” preachers shouting at new members of their radio- and tv-airwave congregations, every individual practicing a belief system not recognized under the Big Five (Christianity, Judaism, the Muslim faith, Hinduism and Buddhism) were considered to be “Satanic” and dangerous to the minds and well-being of its adherents. Jobs were lost, reputations trashed beyond repair, and children were taken from their parents – all because of individuals praying to Gods other than those prescribed by the Big Five.

I lived through those times. I was in a more protected environment, known as the United States military. But I got a front row seat to watch my friends in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess have their families torn apart, lose their jobs, and have to justify their every action to Child Welfare Protection. Sometimes those explanations were not enough, no matter how hard they tried. There would be no fair shake in that deal. Children, afraid of being separated from their parents chose to leave the home and hide in the safety of familial friends. Yes, children ran away from the home so that they would not be placed into the terrible foster-care system that Texas had at that time (and arguably still has to this day). Heroes were few and far between during those times. Over time, the “Christian” agitators were discredited as the paragons of virtue that they claimed to be. And later, their claims would be laid to the side as measures of using fear to keep people in a panic. Fear is a strong controller.

After a time, people stopped caring what faith you belonged to, and kept to their own business, for the most part. Soon after, people started to pay attention to who you loved. And we have fought this particular battle hard and long. Many of the same Christian agitators from before have arrived again – continuing to spew their versions of hate and fear. Proclaiming that differences between people are reasons to avoid others, to treat them differently. We need a hero…

I find it quite interesting that certain types of people find comfort in coming out of the shadows, depending on who is President – at least here in the United States. When President Obama was in the position, people had no issues about coming out and being who they are…openly. Now, with President Trump in the position, many of the people who peddle hate and fear have started to come to the forefront and display their wares for sale. Yes, for sale. Think about how much money has gone into buying those moronic red hats. All so that one can be readily identifiable as part of “those people” without saying a single word. Without changing a single one of my personal values, I could wear one of those hats, and find myself no longer a target of the bile spewed from that side. Instead, I’ll find myself catching nine kinds of special hate and hell from those on the other side. All over a fucking hat. Really. We’ve become street gangs, fighting one another over the color of our clothing.

Do we need to fight this fight? Of course, we do. Everyone has the right – Constitutional and otherwise – to love who they choose, how many they choose, and in the manner that they choose, all in consideration that all parties are agreed and consenting. I do not need to be involved in your relationship or sexual habits unless you invite me in, and I choose to accept. In a country that is founded on the ideals of human freedoms, I cannot fathom why the citizenry needs to be worried about what happens sexually in the walls of your home between consenting adults.

But the sex side of things is only one part of the overall fight. People need to be able to practice whatever Spiritual beliefs that they have because that is part of being a free human being: believing what you believe. Sure, be a foaming-at-the-mouth fundamentalist Christian. Come preaching your beliefs at my door. Don’t be offended when I politely say ‘no thanks.’ Don’t be freaked out when I come out into my front yard ready to take your life if you happen to decide that throwing a brick through my window is an appropriate response or burning a cross in my front yard seems like a good idea. I have the fundamental right to protect myself and my property under whatever means possible. And were I dumb enough to do the same to your home because you decided to reject my overtures to be a follower of Crow or Coyote…I’d expect you to do the same. Otherwise, we can agree to disagree – and find another basis to be friendly to one another.

We need a hero. That hero isn’t going to win the fight in the streets or in the courtrooms or in the hearts of others. Those heroes are going to be the folks that will be there when the fight is done, helping to heal the rifts that widen further and further in our society, as our politicians plan their way to exploit the law-making functions of this country to force their narrow concepts of love and morality on us all. We are going to need those Spiritual medics when all the fighting is done, which it hasn’t even really started yet. I’m holding out for these kinds of heroes…because we all live together on this ball of dirt zooming through space. And there are far bigger problems that will need our attention very soon, some would argue that the time is right now. Yes, we definitely need some heroes…

No Questions, No Demands

What do you get out of your relationship with Crow and Coyote? Why put your energy and effort into a pair of gods that do not promise you a healthy after-life in Heaven?

I hear this kind of question quite a bit. More than I really care for. There are two concepts at play in all of this. The first is a relationship or partnership built on a quid pro quo concept. The second, well, is the ages-old perspective that Christianity is the only true way to a “healthy” afterlife. So I suggest we start with the second one since it is a faster answer.

I am not a believer in the concept that Christianity is the only way to find “heaven”. However, before you start proclaiming me as the general of the opposition, hear me out. I have nothing against Christianity and the precepts that it sets forth into the world around us all. Goodwill and health to all is always a nice perspective to come with. Proclaiming your perspective as the only way definitely does not wash with me. It is certainly not Christianity that I have the issue with, but rather the zealotry of a few of its adherents. In fact, it would be an easy thing to say that I have issues with zealots of any faith or belief system, including my own. When people start proclaiming their perspective to be better for everyone else, I completely disagree. Each person has their own perspective on the world around them. Being comfortable enough in your own perspective should mean that you have found what works for you, not what will work for others. Showing others your perspective is a perfectly acceptable approach. Damning people to an eternity of pain and suffering because they choose not to follow your perspective…that’s abusive in my eyes. And I will definitely call people out on that, and have.

Now, let’s talk about this concept of “getting something for something” perspective of dealing with the Gods. The Gods are not some mystical Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or vending machine where you put your prayers and devotion in like a coin, and then make the appropriate choice from what is presented. Seriously, if this is your perspective of approaching the Gods, I would offer that you are going about things the wrong way. Certainly, you can offer prayers to the Gods asking for Their intervention in some issue. Just don’t be disappointed when They choose not to do so. I’ll offer it this way – you have the Free Will to approach the Gods in whatever manner you think is best. They have Their own Free Will and can choose to ignore your approach. Yes Martha, the Gods have Their own Free Will. They can make Their own choices.

In conjunction with this set of questions, I often get asked how I approached Crow and Coyote. Honestly, I approached Coyote on my own. I read through the myths, I read a few scholarly articles on First Nations’ beliefs and quickly realized that the approach of First Nations’ folks through their ceremonies was just not going to cut it for me. I needed to fashion my own approach and not lean on an approach that was not readily available to me. So I took to meditation and offering my nightly devotions to Coyote. I attempted tasks that were presented to me, many of which turned me into quite the fool amongst those folks that knew me. And then one night, during a meditation I put my foot down. I demanded to know why I was being made into a fool, and why in the world would Coyote want to work with me if I was being made a fool. I refused to be a plaything any longer. That led to me being told that it was beyond time for me to have grown a spine. My tantrum and there is no other description for it, was precisely what Coyote was trying to provoke from me.

After several months, most of these being used to teach me some humility and perspective, Coyote led me to Crow. I was happy working directly with Coyote, but I was told that I had been taught what I needed to know and needed to approach Crow for my further steps on my trail. Crow and I talked quite often in meditation and dreams. No matter where I go, I tend to find a crow somewhere nearby. Usually in the top of a tree calling out to the world. Crow has always found a way to remind me that His presence is in my life.

So, what do I get out of all of this? Exactly what I need at that moment…even when I am unaware of just what it is that I am to get or how it will come to me. I have learned not to expect anything. If something is provided, I am thankful for what has been provided. If nothing is provided, I am still thankful for the time and presence that I have shared with Crow. I expect not a single thing in return for my prayers, devotions or tasks. The connection that I have is enough for me.

My connection to the Gods is not a quid pro quo. In many ways, it is like any relationship I have with other folks in my mundane life. My friendships and relationships with others is not based on what we can get from one another. My friends have a need, and I can provide for that need – it’s theirs. No questions, no demands. The same can be said for the relationship that I would have with any God. Does that make Them my friend? Maybe. But I wasn’t expecting that either. I was capable of providing what was asked for, and I provided. No questions, no demands.