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.

#JustMyTake – Why Not Those Gods and Goddesses?

Why the Corvid? Why not [insert God or Goddess here]?

Or alternatively…

Why don’t you serve/work with the Morrigan? You’re ex-military, you have seen combat…you fit all the aspects of why you should be in Her service.

…and there are so many other questions that crop up from it all. Why Crow? I’m truly not completely sure. My sense of humor matches that of most Tricksters. I’m not as malicious as some might perceive Them to be, but I do have that decidedly prickly nature that comes with using humor as a weapon of sorts. But that’s really just a guess on my part. To really understand the “why”, I would think that would need a direct question to Crow to find some aspect of an answer. And that’s a question that I consider to be somewhat rude. Now that’s my own perspective added there. Crow might not see the question as being rude, but I do. Thus, it is doubtful I would ever ask that directly. I might ponder it from time to time, but doubtful that I would ever ask it.

Yes, I believe in manners when dealing with the Gods. I believe in manners in dealing with most people, as well. But people are not the Gods. So, why not the Morrigan, or some other God or Goddess? Well, you would need to ask each of Them that question. I cannot and will not speculate as to why a God or Goddess does or does not call me. Perhaps, I don’t fit exactly what They need. Perhaps, They have never really noticed me. Whatever the case or reasoning, I just don’t feel Their pull on me to fall into service for Them.

At one point, I thought the Morrigan was calling me. That turned out to be a series of Valkyrie poking and prodding me over my lack of keeping myself healthy. Later that year, I caught pneumonia which I am just getting over. So, the message got drilled home harder than before. I got excoriated for not being able to tell the difference between the Morrigan and the Valkyrie. Meh. So be it. I’m hardly worried about the opinion of others when it comes to how I deal with the Gods. Particularly when its a set of Gods from particular cultures I have precious little understanding of.

But that truly is the rub, isn’t it? I blog openly about my experiences, which leaves me open to criticism, ridicule, and belittlement. And the internet is such an open forum for people to just casually criticize. When you do stuff like this, you have to grow a thicker skin, focus back on what you are doing, and not worry about the back-pew shouters. I do not claim to be an expert at any of this Polytheism stuff…not even for me. I muddle my way through it all the best that I can. I read other perspectives, I listen when other polytheists hold their talks at conferences that I attend, and I watch their videos on Youtube. I am always open to other ideas, techniques, and theories. And I am always willing to share both my triumphs and my burn-it-to-the-ground failures, as well as anything in between. In my opinion, that’s how we develop as Polytheists, and as people.

Would I serve the Morrigan or any other God or Goddess? Sure. On the short-term, I’m more than willing to be there to do single, one-off projects when these are presented to me. Would I turn one down? That depends on what is being asked. For instance, I would be extremely reluctant to intentionally harm another person. Though I suppose there could be circumstances where that might be acceptable…but it would certainly be a rare item.

Would I serve another God or Goddess long-term or in the role of Priest? Well, I’ve made it fairly clear that being a Priest is not a role that feels correct or right for me. However, I wouldn’t rule such a thing out. There is always a chance that it happens. Serving in a long-term capacity is something that I wouldn’t take lightly either. I would ask for time to think everything over, ask role-specific questions, and then weigh the “right” and “wrong” of it in terms of my everyday life. Working with the Gods is a relationship…no matter the length of the agreement. And agreements like that should never be taken too lightly, in my opinion.

Lastly, comes the status of me as ex-military. None of that makes an appropriate and clear line of connection between myself and any God or Goddess. I was never career military. I was never spit and polish military. I was never strong on military bearing or paying deliberate attention to positions of authority. I believed in my oath of commitment to the Constitution of the United States and still hold that oath as honorable and current in my life. But none of that feeds into whether I would be a good fit to work with a specific God or Goddess, at least not in my eyes.

Working with Gods does not happen for everyone. Some folks never wanted to attract the attention of the Gods and find themselves in the middle of everything with Them. Others are begging to have that connection and never seem to have it happen. For some, that strong bond between themselves and the Gods is everything that their Spirituality is. For others, its an ancillary aspect of what they do Spiritually. How does it all happen? I would suggest to not try, and let it happen. That’s what happened for me. Others will suggest other strategies. I would suggest listening to everyone, and determining which strategy feels right to you – and then doing it. There’s a lot of book learning and lecture learning in within Polytheism and Paganism. And all of that is great stuff. But without actually doing the stuff that you learn…you’re becoming a theorist in what you believe. Becoming means doing. And failing. And altering the process. And trying again. And potentially failing again. And again. And again. Life is about the experience, not theory… #JustMyTake

Of Awen and Imbas – My Perspective

As I sit here on a Monday night, pondering what to write, I have put a favorite album of mine into the shuffle slot on my iTunes. “Misplaced Childhood” by Marillion was one of those albums that really touched me. The music is the perfect backdrop to some of the most evocative lyrics I have ever heard. It was this album that led me to find the poet buried deep inside of me. To dip my hands into the thick, sweet liquid of the river of creativity, what I would later in my life come to know as the “Awen” of my life, and the “Imbas” of my life.

For those not familiar to Druidry, its probably a good idea to do some explaining here. Awen, as noted by Penny Billington in her book The Path of Druidry, is “…understood as the flowing spirit of inspiration…” For me, this comes in the form of serpentine river of an unknown type of liquid that is nearly gel-like and has a distinct hue of reddish-gold. Now, that’s my mind’s eye creating an image I can work directly with, I’m quite sure your mileage will definitely vary. This is where I tend to put my hands when I meditate and seek inspiration, usually to solve some coding issue I have run across, or even to write an occasional poem. The point is not what it looks like or the consistency I find it to be in my mind’s eye, but finding it and utilizing it to help my mind find solutions or words I had not thought of before. Sometimes it is a full river of liquid, and sometimes I have to search hard just to find the slightest trickle. Even inspiration can run dry from time to time and force you to dig further and deeper than you thought was necessary.

Imbas or Imbas Forosnai, sometimes know as the “Fire in the Head” is somewhat the same, but its also not. I hope I can do a good job explaining this concept. Imbas forosnai is an odl Irish term that translates to “inspiration” according to Wikipedia. I’ll accept that for the moment, and include that this inspiration was gathered through a means of sensory deprivation, which I have never red or heard of an exact manner of doing so. Once the poet was in this particular state, it is stated that the poet would have the gift of prophecy, stating things without being aware that he or she was doing so. Now, my perception of this is a little different…its the point where the poet, the writer, the musician, the orater plies their craft without knowledge of what they say, write or play until the geas is removed from them. It can last for any period of time. The results can be jumbled or deeply inspirational, depending on the individual hearing or reading the work(s) in question.

Now, my meaning may be different than what is accepted and I absolutely understand that. I still stick to my understanding of what “fire in the head” is – that state of being the tool through which wording, music, or whatever is channeled through you into the physical world. It is a state where you have one foot in this world and one foot in the Other World and you serve as the conduit between the two. And yes, the danger of doing this is that the prolonged connection (whatever time frame that might be) could drive the individual, serving as the conduit, mad. One might even describe this state as a form of possession, but regardless of all that – it certainly does exist, and can be induced in many different manners (or even using no method at all).

Do I strive to find these two states? I seek Awen constantly. When I need to see things from a different perspective, seek a different direction, or even to change a prolonged mood – I reach for Awen. A momentary surge or push towards what I am seeking. That nudge that I need, no more.

Do I seek Imbas forosnai? Not really. I have experienced this state twice in my life. Once, while writing a research paper for a college class. The results were unusable, though I did find bits of information in what I did manage to write. The other time was around an ADF fire during a ritual. There was a moment where individuals were invited to step towards the fire and say something, anything. Most were offerings and thanks to the Gods. I had already mentioned to someone else that I probably did not have anything to say. Yet, I still strode to the fire and offered a statement, asking the Gods to protect the water-protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline site. I knew nothing of what I said, only that I had said something. I asked several people what it was that I said…and I felt so stupid asking that question. I’m sure someone thought I was high on something. Except that I don’t do drugs, and had not a sip of whiskey to that point in the night.

Most folks will say “yeah, sure” in regards to all of this. I’m happy to end the conversation there and push off to a discussion on how their favorite baseball team is going to do this coming season. I don’t need to argue with people over what I experience. If someone is unwilling to be open to the idea, its far better to move on to another topic than to try and dissuade them from knowing what I did or did not experience. I don’t need to prove myself right or wrong – I am aware of what I experienced. I have no desire to argue the merit of what I had tried to convey.

As I finish this and try to find some way to close this post, I am confronted with my favorite lyrics from “Misplaced Childhood”:

A penny for your thoughts my dear
A penny for your thoughts my dear

“Lavender”, Misplaced Childhood, Marillion

Essentially I share this to convey some of my own experience with the “Fire in the Head”, and the manner in which I hold Awen within my life. Indeed, a penny for your thoughts, but I certainly hope you will pull back and ask for more. Its worth that…

  1. The Path of Druidry, Penny Billington. p205.

There’s Nothing Difficult About That

It sounds like being a Pagan is a really difficult thing to do.

I hear this a lot when I try to explain what I do as a Pagan or what being a Druid means to me. The truth of the matter is that I am terrible at explaining myself in face-to-face settings. Being a Pagan, a Druid or even a Polytheist is not really all that difficult. True, sometimes what I get called on or asked to do can certainly be uncomfortable, but in the end its really all about being myself and living my life.

A lot of the difficulty in trying to explain all of this comes from having to unravel the knots of misconception surrounding ancillary concepts such as magick, ritual, and the supposed ties to Satanism that many folks carry about Pagan beliefs. Certainly, I can no more turn someone into a frog than I can conjur a cup of coffee with the mere snap of my fingers – though I have tried to train the baristas at my local Starbucks to do just that. ::grins::

(Picture by John Beckett)

I have also heard things like “you’re going through a fad” or “you’ll grow out of it”. At the age of fifty-three, I appreciate the vote of confidence that I am still young, and considering that I have been on my Pagan path since 1986, I’m fairly sure that this is not some passing fad for me. No, this is what I am.

Then there’s the chorus of “its a mental illness you have” when I note that I converse with Crow and Coyote (among Others). Or that I can see and feel the Spirits of the Land. Or that I remember my ancestors in prayer. I certainly don’t feel that such is the case. Its no different than the Christian that feels the guiding hand of God on their life. Its no different than those that bend a knee and pray to God to intercede on their behalf when life gets rotten and rough.

Now, there are those within the Pagan community that would scream “foul” on how Christians seemingly treat those of other beliefs. If you’re not part of the Big Five (Christianity, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist), you seemingly don’t get a “fair shake” in the world. Back during the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, I remember Pagan friends having their children removed from their custody here in Texas. All because of their personal faith. I remember being cornered in the Sembach Air Base post office at 3am on a Saturday morning when I went to check mail and threatened. Thankfully, someone else thought to check their mail at that time as well.

Are Christians out to destroy Pagans and others? If you listen to the zealots of that faith, you could certainly make a case for it. But, I have run across similar aspects of zealotry within the Pagan communities as well. There are always people that will take things an extra step or two too far. The world is rife with those examples.

So, my difficulty in trying to explain what I believe tends to come from side commentary that arises from the discussion. I’m not a fan of the “elevator speech” because it leaves no room for discussion. The concept is meant to be a conversation starter, I grok that idea. The problematic part is that the first step in the conversation can go so many different directions. And for me, that is the real beauty of a conversation. I don’t need the other side to wait the one or two minutes for me to vomit out a prepared statement. Interrupt. Ask the question on your mind. Let’s get the conversation underway.. Letting it grow organically ia the key, in my opinion.

So, my so-called elevator speech has devolved from a two minute prepared statement to a single sentence. What is being a Pagan/Druid/Polytheist about for me? Its about living my life intentionally. Let the conversation start from there. And my firmest belief is that simple conversation works best. No debate. No argument. No my God is better than your God because he eats Ken L Rations. No competition. After all, we are all just trying to live our lives in the best manner that we can. There’s nothing difficult about that, other than the obstacles we create.

Advice to a New Pagan

These days I get a lot of questions from various types of folks seeking my opinion on this or that momentary issue within Paganism. Most of it is easily answered in short bites, not needing a ton of depth. However, I occasionally get some tougher ones, like this one I got from Jennifer M from Cortez, Colorado:

What advice would you give to a new Pagan?

This is a really tough topic to mess with. On the one hand, I would love to be helpful and informative. On the other hand, I do not want to come off laying down some set of empirical laws either. I definitely am not into placing anything into “you can” and you cannot” categories. For me, it is just not my place to become some kind of Pagan Pope defining what does and does not work for someone else’s Spirituality, so this is – in my mind – quite a high-wire act to walk. But I’ll give it my best try. Just remember, I am definitely not the “be-all, end-all” in anything approaching your own Spiritual walk. I can show you what rocks I stepped on to get across the river though.

Find What Interests You

Probably one of the first steps coming into the wide valley that is Paganism, is trying to find what interests you. In some ways, it is like stepping into the Bazaar on Deva (From the M.Y.T.H. Adventures by Robert Asprin). There are a lot of choices, a lot of directions…and yes, there are folks out there looking to waylay newbies. Not everyone is that way, but it is better to be on your guard than off of it. I will turn to that in a bit.

Some folks will turn to certain aspects of Paganism because of their ancestral DNA findings from 23 and Me or Ancestry.com. I can grok that. But don’t let that limit you. If you are interested in the Greeks or the Egyptians and only have enough connections to each cultural concept in your spice rack, no worries. Look into those areas anyways. The Gods are not going to shove people out because of racial issues. The Gods call whom the Gods call. But whatever choice you decide on, take your time. And remember that there are some cultural boundaries you should never attempt to cross.

For instance, I work with two First Nations Gods (Crow and Coyote). My DNA background is western European. From a DNA perspective, Germanic, Scandanavian, Celtic, Irish, or even Welsh Gods would potentially be a better fit. But Crow and Coyote took an interest, and here I am. Now, were I to try and force my way into the First Nations cultures, take on their ceremonial aspects, call myself a tribal Shaman…that would be inappropriate and wrong. Besides that, none of that really calls to my Spirit. I am not trying to recreate anything, just work with the two Gods that I work with, and live my daily life as close to the Wheel of the year that I can.

If You Believe It, Be Ready to Work

Honestly, there is nothing about one’s personal spiritual approach that will make life easy for you. Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, Catholic, whatever you want to bring up – you walk the walk, you are going to be constantly working, learning, reading on your Path. You will get tested on how set your feet are on your Path. You will be poked, prodded, insulted, ridiculed, examined and weighed by whatever Deity or Power you believe in. And once you step through the shroud of those troubles and tests, you will find a new piece of enlightenment that is meant specifically for you. That piece of the overall puzzle that will let you learn more, see more, and realize that the puzzle just grew by another thousand pieces that you did not notice before. Whatever Path you decide to walk will be a lifetime journey. There is no trophy to be hoisted. There’s self-development followed by a need for more self-development. That constant cycle of learning knowledge, assimilating knowledge, being knowledge and discovering sources for more knowledge and growth. It is not a cycle of becoming smarter than everyone else, rather it is a cycle of improving yourself.

Wait! There is Fun (And Danger) As Well!

Along the way, you will find family and friends through the folks you met. Pagans, for the most part, are warm, welcoming folks. Many are family oriented folks who enjoy talking and doing activities with folks who think and believe as they do. Fellowship has always seemed to be a strong part of the Pagan community. Some of my earliest memories within the Pagan community involve monthly get-togethers at a local pizza place in the Arlington, Texas community. I met a lot of different folks at these events, some of whom I am still good friends with to this day, some thirty-plus years later.

I know it’s super inviting to just leap into the first group that you encounter within a Pagan community. many groups are so inviting, full of fun people, and offering up their hidden mysteries of knowledge contained within whatever tradition that they are. Just like those big lakes on a hot summer day. You just want to grab the rope swing on the tree, fling yourself out over that smooth, cool watery surface and splash into fun adventures. But what if the water is only a few inches deep rather than the several feet you think it is? You could seriously injure yourself. You can do the same leaping into a Pagan group blindly as well.

Believe it or not, there are predators within the Pagan community as well. Check out your potential group. Meet with them several times over the course of a year as a non-member. Pay attention to the dynamics within the group. If there are issues, you will see those in time as the group gets “used” to you and drops their guard a little more. Talk with other Pagans and see how they react when you mention the group. Certainly, you will run into the “haters” out there but keep an open mind to what is said as well. If anything feels amiss, leave. There will always be other groups. It is always better to be safe than sorry. And I won’t even get into the sexual predator issues of trading sex for knowledge. Everyone should be smart enough to know better where that is concerned. All I can really say is be a smart, consenting adult…

…and if a group is not your thing, go it alone. This is the Path that I have chosen. It can, and does get lonely. And I will definitely say this – find a mentor. Or five. People that you can bounce ideas and thoughts off of and get opinions from. It is always helpful to have more than one set of eyes on things.

Learn, Grow, Struggle – Find Time For Fun Too

One last thing. Finding a home for your own personal Spiritual Path is always a rough and tumble adventure at one point or another. Even with all that hard work ahead and/or behind you, make time for fun in your Spiritual Path as well. Even if fun is really something as simple as walking through the woods, my favorite pastime. Take the time to relax, laugh, and revel in your accomplishments. When I finished my Bardic Grade in OBOD, I took a whole month to myself after my initiation into the Ovate Grade to celebrate. I did things such as write poetry and short stories, listen to music, write journal entries – all of which had NOTHING to do with my Spirituality. I literally let myself play for a period of time to cleanse my brain of all the hard work that I had done. Above all, don’t forget to take the time to play.

Now, none of this is a series of hard-and-fast rules for anyone – not even myself. This is just off-the-top-of-my-head advice. The only set-in-stone rule I can really give to you is this: once you make the choice to embark on this journey of finding your Spiritual starting position, it is all yours. The only person that gets to make the hard decisions is you. Seek all the advice you want, but in the end, the decision is still yours. To bring out a quote from the movie Starship Troopers (I know its a bad movie, but there are a few good quotes from it)….

Figuring things out for yourself is the only freedom anyone really has. Use that freedom. Make up your own mind.

What Does Shadow/Darkness Mean to You?

Over on Facebook, I have a few folks that ask questions to me via private messages. Usually, I take a few lines to answer – and the questions are typically short, softball questions that are all over the place. However, from time to time, I get a really extensive question that I feel might be a good blog post. This was how this post came to be…

Q: What does Shadow and/or Darkness mean to you

That is a really meaty subject to tackle, and not one I have really gone towards a ton. I certainly hope I can do this some sort of justice. I hit my own moments of darkness. I have spent time with my own Shadow-self. None of those times were pleasant, and I tend to not write about my thoughts during these times, though I really should make a more concentrated effort to do so.

Gizmo hiding…sort of

Perhaps, a better place to start would be a bit of a description of what I mean by these terms. Shadow or Darkness, for me are the tougher times in life. When I have tons of self-doubt of who I am, what I can do, what I am capable of. Many times, just interacting with this particular perspective can lock me up into a non-moving perspective. Where I am afraid to do anything for fear of not being “good enough” to do what is necessary. or that my actions or thoughts will just make things even worse. It is a severe paralyzing perspective, which can have me curled up on the floor of my office, literally, in tears.

Usually, I am fairly confident that I can find a solution to whatever problem I am given. Even when I don’t think I have the “right” skillset to tackle an issue, I am always sure that I can do my best to get around the problem with the skill sets that I do have. The innate troubleshooter that lives inside me is capable of putting things together to attempt a solution, no matter how awkward, inappropriate or offbeat that may be. However, there is always the moment where I have trouble seeing myself being able to solve any problem. Where I am telling myself that I am not good enough to even try and get to a solution. That it might be better that I never would have existed.

Those moments of despair are my moments of Darkness. Those are the moments where my Shadow Self whispers my worst fears into my ear, and my brain buys into what is being said. Those dark moments of the soul are extremely difficult to get through.

There are other sides to Darkness and Shadow as well. Shadow and Darkness are not just markers of despair, anxiety, or other moments of self-weakness. Darkness can also be a veil between the know and the unknown, purposefully keeping you off of information and experience you are not quite ready for. You need only tighten up your belt and courage, and reach through that veil to find what you might be seeking. No matter the distance of the veil, there will always be another opening of light further on. Are you willing to go? Are you willing to take those steps into the unknown? Be careful of stepping forward too quickly and too willing. The darkness can hide obstacles in your path. Gnarled tree roots seeking your footfalls. Slippery rocks seeking to unbalance your walk. Sharp ends of branches looking to snag your hair, your clothing or deeply scratch your skin, so as to alter your sense of direction. Or who knows what else? Those noises you hear may be unnatural things, seeking your flesh.

The true meaning of what Darkness or Shadow may be is truly up to you. For me, it depends on the situation and the momentary experience. There can be the shroud to push through to find those new experiences. But that shroud can also bring despair, confusion, and doubt to those who are not completely prepared for what can happen. Sometimes the shroud obscures the world around you – depriving you of one or more of your senses. Other times, it can show you the world around you in extreme clarity, and provide a sensation of doubt over your abilities. In either case, the Darkness or the Shadow is there as an experience. And sometimes that experience can be so painful as to stop your whole world.

So what to do?? How to get beyond those moments? Well, that answer is different for everyone. But I can promise you this: someone is there to help guide you through things. If you need a hand to guide you, there’s Cat Treadwell’s extremely awesome book Facing the Darkness. Nine Hells, there’s always me. You can always write me (elfster@gmail.com). It might not be the same thing as someone being there, but at least its something. Like I said, there’s always SOMEONE that can help you. You can call a crisis helpline, and talk with someone. It’s something. And something is always better than nothing.

Remember folks, everyone goes through the moments of Darkness in their lives. Everyone has a Shadow Self that whispers those thoughts of doubt in their ears. Some folks are better at telling that Shadow Self to take a hike. For those that aren’t, there’s always help available, somewhere. Those dark moments won’t last forever. Those moments do hurt, but in time the darkness fades, and there’s a hand to hold.