From Slumbering Acorns…

There were so many side conversations at the ADF Imbolc Retreat. The rituals are nice, the presentations are gems in their own right, but its the side conversations that really stick with me throughout the experience. Not only do you get a chance to catch up with people you have not seen in nearly forever, there are deep, conversations that take place spontaneously that are sheer magick.

One of those conversations took place at the top of the hill, overlooking the camp. And it was more than just a conversation, it was a moment where I got to see myself through someone else’s eyes. And I not only understood what was being said, it was echoed later in a handful of other conversations.

Being blunt and honest here, I do not have the most positive self-image. It tends to show in the way that I present myself. And it bleeds through in so many other ways. My self-defense mechanism is self-deprecating humor. Its my way of deflecting what I perceive as the way others might view me, by finding ways to subtly (and sometimes not) insult myself. As was told to me at that moment on the hill, its not pretty to watch. Its also cute the first few times; after that it becomes a huge turn-off in leading towards serious conversations.

There are a few people who have seen beyond that sheer covering and gotten to understand me a little better. But again, that self-defense mechanism tends to drive others off to the side. And it doesn’t just hurt my relationships. It has destroyed parts of me slowly from the inside. My self-deprecating humor has led me to developing an even thicker coating of an introvert. Once people get to know me a little better, they realize that the aspect of introversion is another of those defense mechanisms that I employ.

During the retreat, I sat around the fire and marveled at how everyone was so comfortable getting up in front of everyone and singing, telling stories, and reciting poetry. The next morning (Saturday) I was approached by one particular individual who asked why I didn’t get out front and tell stories. I replied that I was not that kind of person. The response back was to notice that another person got out there and told stories by the fire too. If that person could do it, so could I.

That one moment planted an acorn, and the tree has already started to grow from it. I watched everyone around the fire during the Bardic competition. There were folks who sang serious songs, some who brought their own marvelous compositions to the fire, those who utilized bawdy humor for their contribution….and each tightened their belts and stepped up to the moment. And then there was the one recitation of poetry, where I watched someone that I know utilize the poem, the moment, and the environment to transform themselves into the poem itself. A truly magickal moment that I will never forget. Sitting there to the side, I kept thinking back to the earlier conversation…and realizing that I could do that too.

“Except,” said the back of my mind, “You will have to get past your fear of crowds.”

“But I really can do this,” I responded. “I acted in school plays before. Not only did I memorize all the lines of the play, but I even created an English accent for my character – who happened to be a Tory sympathizer. I have done this before.”

“Forty years in the past,” I dutifully reminded myself.

There it was. My own self-doubt rising up to sow the seeds of the unknown. He and I have dealt with one another for so long, I even know exactly what flavor of coffee he likes, and how much sweetener to add to it. We have danced this dance many times.

“Play guitar?”

“Your hands are too small.”

“Sing?”

“No one wants to hear THAT voice.”

“Write poetry?”

“You are not very good at that at all.”

“But! I did enter the Creative Writing contest a few years back. Not only did I win my category, my poem was chosen as the best entry overall in the competition. I didn’t just win a first place award, I won a best-in-show aspect. So there!  Folks outside of my own friends and family loved the work enough to declare it to be good.”

“Yes. But your entry the next year placed third overall in your category.”

“That’s because I entered in the adult category rather than the student – and there was only an option for essay or short story. But still, it placed. Besides ti was never really about placing anywhere – it was about submitting it.”

Sometime during the evening after the Bardic competition, while I was watching everyone around the fire continuing the singing and storytelling – I realized that this is something I can do. I do have the ability to be all of this, and more. I merely have to believe in my ability to do it.  I won’t be the next David Bowie, or have the relevance and polish of my hero, Robert Frost – but I don’t have to. I just have to be the best that Tommy can be. The idea is not to be the best, but to share the emotional aspects of what I have in my Life. Joy, sadness, anger, despair, elation… all of that can be encapsulated in the poetry that I do write, as well as the stories that can be told.

Getting over my fear of crowds….can be done by confronting my other biggest fear: myself. I need no critics, including myself. I only need to want to be the Bard that is trapped somewhere underneath all those defense mechanisms. And obviously there is something worthwhile down underneath all of that – I wouldn’t have created defense mechanisms to protect it otherwise.

So, I’ll start with the podcast. Retelling shorter stories and reading poetry 0 including my own. It won’t be the primary feature, but it can be a part of the overall show. And it will be baby steps towards overcoming my own fears that are generated by me. As I have said before, 2017 looks to be another year of change and transformation. Some thing are coming to an end within my life. Others are the slumbering acorns that are now awakening. And that little voice in the back of my head? Well, if he shows up…I’ll strangle him in my sleep. I can do this.

Morphing the Myth: What Does Myth Mean to You?

This is the second in a series of posts that are inspired from questions I wrote down during the “Morphing the Myth” panel at Pantheacon, earlier this year. In asking myself these questions, and writing about them here in the blog, I wanted to take a deeper look at an area of my own Path in Paganism that I sometimes overlook.

As I noted in the last post, Mythology and story-telling can provide the gateway for folks to look deeper into Paganism – or for some, be the first steps that they may take on their search within Paganism. I am no different in that manner. Digging through Encyclopedias at the base library opened a door of belief and thought for me, particularly where mythology and folk-tales were concerned.

Thanks to the wonderful podcast “The Celtic Myth Podshow” run by Gary and Ruth, I have been introduced to the world of Celtic Mythology in a manner that I have never had before. They produce a podshow that retells the stories of the Celtic Myths in a manner that I can only describe as something akin to the radio programs from a historical time frame called “The Golden Age of Radio”. At times, they have included interviews with various Pagan folk as well. One particular moment that stands out in my mind is when Damh the Bard and Cerri Lee were interviewed in an episode. The recreation of such myths as the First Branch of the Mabinogion, and the Irish Mythological Cycle have introduced me to a world of stories, and tales that I had never known previously. These shows are literally story-telling treasures for me, and occupy a place on my iPhone that I reserve for long trips. If you have never heard of this wonderful podshow or these two fantastic people…you seriously need to.

What does myth mean to you? How do you incorporate it into your life?

Myth can have so many meanings to so many different people. Stories, folk-tales, superstition, lessons from time….the list can literally be endless. For me, myths, and mythology are ways in which I can connect with my ancestors, with my Gods and Goddesses, and with myself. My ancestors, like the ancestors of anyone else, told stories around their campfires, late into the night. These stories held cautionary tales for the listener, explaining where and how things went sideways…and how everything eventually got put back together. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what cultural environment you look to, you will find the Bardic Arts involved in society – telling the tales of the Gods, the Goddesses, the Heroes, the anti-Heroes.

For me, I live in an area of the southern Plains peoples. Here, the peoples of the First Nations lived, hunted, warred with one another, and were part of their cyclical aspects of the environment around them. At their fires, they told the tales of their Gods and Goddesses. How trickster Gods such as Crow and Coyote created mayhem and mischief, and the punishments and repercussions that occurred from those actions. When I finally felt the pull and call of the Gods, I was not overly surprised to find Coyote and Crow over my shoulder. I read up on their respective myths, learned how to handle their aspect of humor, and derived my own lessons of humility from those tales and my own interactions with both of Them. Their tales do not always overlay completely into my own Life. In fact, that rarely happens ever – if at all. But there are parallels between Their tales and some of the lessons I have encountered in my Life.

Its difficult to relay the meaning of Myth to my own Life in a manner that may make sense for you, the reader. Everyone will draw something different from Myths. Everyone’s interaction – or non-interaction – with the Gods and Goddesses will be different. After all, we are all unique individuals, its only logical that our experiences with the Gods and Goddesses will be just as unique. For me, Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas, are ever-present. Not always over my shoulder, or whispering in my ear – but typically near. The Myths and Tales that I do have, are treasured readings for me. Whenever I feel lost or out of sorts, I pick a Tale and read. Sometimes, I find meaning in a place I had not before, and sometimes reading the Tale provides some insight I had not considered before, even if it were not provided directly within the story itself.

I sometimes wonder what will happen when the Tales, Stories and Myths will no longer be told. I truly believe that which is remembered will never fade. And those moments become reminders that this is part of what brought me to the Path of Druidry – the Bardic Arts. Damh the Bard, Bran Cerddorion, Wendy Rule, Spiral Dance, Paul Newman, Loreena McKennitt, Gary and Ruth, Fionn Tulach, the great Robin Williamson….and many, many others, have brought the Myths to life in their songs and retellings. yes, that which is remembered, never fades….

–T /|\

Morphing the Myth – a Personal Look

One of the nice things about taking time off from everything else in life, is that I get the chance to look backwards a bit. In this case, I was digging through some old notes in my Evernote application. I ran across some things I wrote during the “Morphing the Myth” segment from this year’s Pantheacon – which was an absolute blast. As I read through the notes, I realized that each point could be written in up as a set of posts for the blog, and I have been working on that since that point. Later this coming week, I will start publishing those here on the blog. However, I thought it would be prudent to preface those posts with this one.

One of the first things I should do here is to introduce what the panel was about. According to the Pantheacon booklet I received during my registration:

Morphing the Myth (S.P. Hendrick)

Mythology is an integral part of our belief systems. Over the years, however, these ancient tales have been transformed and added to in order to make them more palatable to modern audiences. Many Pagans of today had their first experiences with Paganism in their reading of ‘The Mists of Avalon’ or watching the British ‘Robin of Sherwood’. How has the modern interpretation of mythology changed the Pagan community, and is it a change for the good?

When I was putting together my schedule for Pantheacon, this was one of the “must attend” panels I had starred. There were only five of those total. “”Finding Your Personal Magic” (Shauna Knight), “The Dark Side of Druidry” (John Beckett), “The Cauldron of Change” (Kristoffer Hughes), and “Bardic Magic” (John Beckett). The last was held in the ADF Hospitality Suite, and I would hear it again later at the Gulf Coast Gathering (2016) in a slightly revised format. The other panels were all presented by people whom I have met (briefly in some cases), but “Morphing the Myth” was on a topic that has drawn me in quite a lot over the years. Mythology. And it went further down the trail…into the realm of how new stories create new mythologies, and how retelling of the stories can change with the moods and tastes of the popular culture of the time. In other words, morphing the story to fit the understanding of the new cultures that have grown up.

Yes, the panel intrigued me quite a bit. In fact, I might even say that it was the highlight of the entire Pantheacon for me – at least from an intellectual side. And that’s not taking away from the cerebral aspects of any of the other panels I attended. Hardly. Just merely stating that this one panel piqued my curiosity in a manner that I could not explain, heading into Pantheacon.

Once I arrived at the panel, I found quite a few folks had already arrived. I was four deep in what appeared to be a crowd of about thirty-five. For an early morning panel, I assumed that this was a healthy number of attendees. As the panel continued, more folks filtered in. With S.P. Hendrick were two other individuals – an Australian man (judging from the accent) whose name I never caught, and a lady whose face seemed familiar. She turned out to be the author Diana Paxson, whose books I have adored for quite some time. As my notes show, the conversation moved along some very familiar territories, which I will explore through the next series of posts. And the conversations were absolutely fascinating. In one of my writings after Pantheacon, I noted this as well as how the panel has had me looking through various stories that have been favorites in my life.

IMG_0215And while I have alluded to where I am headed with this next series of posts…I am about to dive a little deeper than before. What I am wanting to do, is to dig a little deeper into the ways that mythology, stories, songs, poems and other aspects of the Bardic Arts fuel the fire of who and what I am. Hopefully, some of what I am about to present over the next few posts provides a way for you to look deeper into your own personal Spiritual fires. And perhaps, some of the questions I walked away from this panel with will also help you look a little deeper into how mythology presents itself to your life, your Spirituality, your connection to the Gods and Goddess, and your connection to the world around you. I know its done just that for me.

–T /|\