Four Tablespoons of Pagan, Please

As I sit and watch another round of an “are you Pagan enough?” diatribe taking place on the interwebs, I am reminded of what makes me a Pagan, and why a yard-stick measurement argument rings so hollow to me. A lot of this back-and-forth arguing sounds so much like church services to me. A competition based on how holy you were, presented through the lens of clothing, singing, standing, and tithing.

Back when I was exploring the Christian side of things, I recall how the Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at the Southern Baptist church I was attending was like. The older folks would arrive on Wednesday evenings in their business casual attire, straight from work. Sundays would be reserved for the coat and tie or the proper, conservative blouse and dress. Those of us fresh out of high school, or still in high school, would show up in torn-up jeans and t-shirts or if our families were attending church, in nice slacks and polo shirts on Sundays. Most of us were frowned upon because we did not dress the part of the penitent Christian, desiring to be all-dressed-up for Christ.

During the church services, there was another silent contest going as well – who could sing the hymns the loudest, with the prettiest voices, and without looking in the hymnal. And who could rise and sit at the appropriate moments during the service as well. Rarely did I stand. I always figured that if the Christ was going to look into my heart and decide if I was an appropriate member of his “flock”, he would be able to do whether I stood, sat, or laid down in the middle of the aisle and took a nap. And singing? Shit…if you have heard me sing, you know why I don’t do so in public. I could easily be considered a deadly weapon.

All of that aside, none of that was about following the edicts of what Christian was about. It was a pissing contest to see who could pee the furthest up the hill. Noe of that determines whether you are a good Christian or not. But all of that, and a fiver in the offering plate will definitely have the pastor openly stating that you are punching your ticket to heaven. Yeah. Pure bullshit. if you really want to find the individual following the teachings of the Christ, look for the person who volunteers in the soup kitchens to feed the poorest of those among us. Look for the individual who stops what they are doing in their own lives to provide their energy, ability, and thoughtfulness to those who are alone. There you have someone following the teachings of the Christ.

Ok, three paragraphs of examples of issues relating to Christianity…all as a manner to drive a point home about Pagans. Silly, isn’t it? Here I am painting a picture of Christianity done wrong and right so I can showcase an issue about why its silly to try and determine if someone is “Pagan enough or not”. And all of that really showcases another issue we have – and I didn’t even intend to do this – how we constantly find ways to set unintentional (or even intentional) measuring sticks of Paganism against Christianity. I should delete all of that and rewrite this so it is not there, but I am going to leave it – because it really does help drive a secondary point home. Doing what I just did above to provide a parallel perspective of Paganism and Christianity really isn’t necessary.

What does being “Pagan enough” really mean? Should I set a yardstick of myself against Chris, John or Lauren when it comes to working in ritual? These three are the most brilliant ritualists I know. My skills at doing ritual pale deeply in comparison to any of these three. Does that make me any less of a ritualist than they are? Does it make me less of a Pagan because I do not have their skills at doing rites to praise the Gods and Goddesses? Do the Gods and Goddesses care that deeply about my deficient skillset?? And if They do, would They not convey that to me? Does it make me any less of a Priest than any of these three? Or is the true measure of who we are as individual Pagans what we have in our hearts, what burns deep within our souls, and the callings that we feel? Can we distill that down to a liquid, vapor or a powder that we can then measure against someone else?

Does that not sound absolutely silly to you? It does to me, nearly as silly as my three paragraphs above trying to make a pound for pound comparison between some similar comparative, competitive nonsense that I experienced within Christianity as this within Paganism. I really have no real desire to hold your head in my hands, look into your eyes, and try to measure the “Paganism within you.” I would say, that if you feel deficient in what you are doing in your daily Pagan practice, take a few minutes to examine what you are doing – and determine how you can put more of who you are into what you are doing. If that means holding your own personal rite in your backyard at each full moon, go for it. if it means waking up earlier in the morning and greeting the Sun as part of your daily practice, go for it (its what I started doing a few years back). If it means taking up Yoga for thirty minutes each day and spending that time in thoughtful meditation through each of the poses, go for it. Whatever it is, make sure it has meaning FOR YOU and TO YOU. And only you can be the true measure of what that really is, and how it gets measured. Just sayin’….   –T /|\

 

Advertisements

If You Want to Predict the Future, Live it With Your Eyes Wide Open

Tommy at the Beach
Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

I read a lot. Probably more than I should. And rarely is it just stuff on Paganism or Druidry. usually, it is about History, particularly the history of computing. One of my favorite books is What the Dormouse Said” by John Markof which goes into lengthy detail about how the world of experimental drug use helped some of the visionaries of the computer dream up some of the stuff that we take for granted. One of the people chronicled in the book is Alan Kay, to whom the quote that stirred this post is attributed to. There is some debate as to whether he really stated such, but it eventually became the working maxim of Xerox PARC, where much of the computing world’s innovations grew from.

If you want to predict the future, invent it.

Which is quite literally, what they did at Xerox PARC. So, what does this have to do with a blog on Paganism and Druidry? Well, if you have read this for any length of time, you know that I take long looks into my own personal past. I have never claimed to be a Saint or any type of visionary. I have helped out in a handful of causes within the United States military to help further religious equality. When I left the US military, others stepped up and took my place and continued pushing forward. My contributions, however small those may be, are a part of the legacy I leave behind.

Standing still and looking back is nice, but coming back to Kay’s point – what about tomorrow? I turn fifty-three later this year (much later this year), and I have no desire to shuffle off this mortal coil any time in the future. As a wider-arching community, we stand in a whirling dervish of confusion, anger, miscommunication, and pain. When I try to see forward, that miasma clouds what may happen, what might be, what can be – and that makes the footing uncertain. what can I do to help leave my Pagan community a better one than when I arrived in the middle of the Witch Wars of the late 1980s?

To be extremely explicit here, I am no savior. I won’t be the individual that solves all the problems of the world. In fact, I see myself as nothing more than an extremely minor character in the world around me. I blog. I write my thoughts out here for others to read. My readership is fairly small. What impact can I have? I have no desire to be a “famous-Amos” in the Pagan community. I truly just want to be me – a simple Priest of Crow, a Druid on a Path to honor the Gods, just me. I am not a shining beacon of hope. I am no paragon of virtue, no hero of true deeds. Every day, I ask what it is that I can do to help make my Pagan community better. And every day, I hear the same things in the back of my mind:

Get involved. Just be you. Your contribution is to be yourself. Your future is to walk your Path and to stumble and fall. And then to get back up, dust off your cloak, and continue your Path.

Is it really just that simple? Just get up in the mornings and greet the Sun? Get out in the backyard and pour my offerings to the Gods? To say the words, make the gestures, and pour my soul into what I believe? Surely, there is a quest that I can undertake? There is a fight that I can be a part of?

And then the response comes:

What about getting involved? Get off your ass and get back into your community. You are a solo Pagan. Being solo means you walk your Spiritual Path by yourself. That is who you are, but you do not walk your daily Path in life by yourself. You cannot and will not survive like that. There are no heroic quests to undergo. There is no ring to carry. No tremendous burden that needs to be placed on your shoulders. You want a quest? SHOW people what it means to be a Pagan. BE who you are, but no one can see that just through your words.

Yeah. Getting dressed down by your God is never an awesome thing. Nor is it a great thing to realize that you have been eating too much of the fantastic world of Fantasy novels, where the common character becomes an uncommon hero by having some heavy burden or quest placed upon them. Life is not a quest to throw the One Ring into the volcano. And real Life is not a constant struggle against the Orcs or the difficulties of traversing the mines of Moria.

So what does the future hold for me? I really cannot say for sure. As I noted, the way forward is cloudy. But then, the future is always an uncertain thing to predict. Sure, I can follow Key’s maxim and try to ‘invent’ my way through it. But then, isn’t the future always going to be a product of invention? We are never sure of the way forward and have to take the steps to see if the footing is firm and sure. Inventing is – for me – a rather poor word choice for this. Perhaps, a little editing and mending might be more appropriate.

If you want to predict the future, live it.

After all, finding out what the future holds means walking through the mists and discovering what lies beyond. And for me, that means shedding some of the illusions of being some form of hero in all of this. As has been noted before, the Storm is here. The dervish has pulled all of us into it to one degree or another. We have all experienced some of the chaotic winds that it provides. And for me, I have stumbled and fallen from my Path. Time to right myself, dust off my cloak, pick up my staff and continue doing what it is that I should be doing. There are some unpredictable aspects to all of this, including how to get back into my wider Pagan community, which means trying to see how and where I fit in. And being an individual that is not very good at public, social situations – that means pushing myself into areas where I am uncomfortable. I have no desire to predict the future, but to find out what the future holds – I have to live it. And I have to live it with my eyes wide open.

–T /|\

Walking your Path may sometimes require you to turn back and walk a stretch of your journey that you have already walked previously. Turning back and covering ground you previously tread is not an invitation to become a sentry walking a post.  Sooner or later, you need to continue making forward progress on your Path. You are trying to add experience and sensation into your life, not become a guard.  –TommyElf

Lather, Rinse, Repeat – When Daily Practice Becomes Dull Routine

From time to time, I find myself stagnating on my own daily Path. Let’s face it, the same old thing day-in and day-out can be a dull drag at times. Plus, I have run across folks who have this odd belief that when you work directly with a set of Gods, that life is full of excitement – like a Laura Croft adventure. The truth, its nothing like that. Sometimes, life, and even daily practice can fall into a rut of routine. The same offerings, the same prayers, the same tasks – lather, rinse, repeat. No ancient temples to explore, no epic tasks to complete which Bards will sing and regale the tales of. Just the same prayers, the same offerings, the same everything. Surely, a monastic life might offer a bit more, right?

But. I am not living a monastic life. I even have problems describing myself as a “Priest” at times (see earlier posts in this blog, if you’re interested in that). I am claimed by Crow. I do walk my Path frequently with Coyote at my side. And I still have coquettish flirtations with Flidais. These Three are in my life daily. But its not a glamorous thing. I do my devotions and prayers to each. I occasionally get my direct communications with each. Occasionally, I am given work to do. But I’m not becoming a wild activist trying to destroy oil pipelines or foresting equipment (though there is nothing wrong, in my eyes, with either of these things – particularly where Native peoples are brushed aside as if they were sub-human so that these activities can be done on their lands). I don’t lead a group; its not my calling, so I am essentially a Priest of one (which is where I think it should be, but that’s a blog post for another time). What I do, is continually explore who I am, what I am to be, and the connections between myself and the world around me. And all of that wrapped up with my devotionals to the Three that are in my Life.

And that routine does get dull. Like I said, not glamorous…nothing like people seem to bring about in their minds when they hear that you work with the Gods. Sometimes, that routine gets off-putting too. I have had thoughts during these long stretches of routine….

What the Nine Hells are you doing?  ::What I am called to do::

Do you really believe this stuff?  ::With all my heart and soul::

Wouldn’t it just be easier to go with the flow and worship a dead man on a tree like everyone else around you?  ::Sure, but I would be betraying what is in my heart and essentially living a lie, just for the sake of convenience::

…and there’s more. But these will provide the tip of the spear, so to speak. I do have a mind that will doubt what I am believing, and question what I am experiencing. And all of that is part of the doldrums of the constant routine. I do crave new experience. I do seek out adventure. I do want to feel the rush of being somewhere new, experiencing something I’ve not been through before….and to be bluntly honest, there are times where I seek to be a Gandalf the Grey – constantly in battle against the evil of the world. But that’s the TV shows, the movies, and the books. And I do have to remind myself of this from time to time.

Life is not an adventure to destroy the One Ring and free this existence from an unimaginable evil. If it were, I would have already cut Donald Trump’s finger from his hand, with wedding ring still on it, and found an active volcano to throw that digit and ring into. But life is not that way. Instead, I bide my time until Donnie comes up for a vote, and will actively campaign against his re-election – provided that the Democrats will provide a candidate worth my vote.

But all of that is just an example – not what the post is about. My daily devotionals and prayers are my focus that connect me with Crow, Coyote, and Flidais. This is a daily process that keeps me grounded in what I believe, and what I experience. Yes, the same thing over and over can get dull, and begin to feel quite routine – until I start to examine the process in a bit more detail. An offering of a small shot of whiskey to Flidais. A handful of birdseed left in honor of Crow. Five minutes of a late evening staring up at a large, bright full moon to remind me that Coyote and I see the same thing that evening. Each offering has its own meaning, and each prayer said over those offerings can be changed ever so slightly – to make it new, and refreshing. And sometimes, rather than a prayer – an offering of a song or a poem. All of that changes the moment, redirects the energy from a long programmed direction, and adds a feeling of newness – without changing too much of the process so that it becomes unrecognizable.

Much like this morning’s small rainfall (less than .01 of an inch) provided a change to the local environment from the past few days, making small changes to my prayers and offerings is a refreshing draught against an oppressive heat of routine. The change of the process brings me new focus, allows for a different feel in the energies I put into my devotionals. I like to believe that it provides a much needed change in the interaction between myself and my Three from Their end as well. Personally, I think its far better than the same old routine…turning my devotionals and prayers into something as programmed as washing my hair. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Life as a Long Hike

As I noted in a previous post, some of the minor themes in a talk given by Starhawk at Pantheacon this year have brought interesting conceptual thoughts to my mind. One of the more interesting ones was looking at one’s life-time journey as a hike. A really long hike.

Now, I enjoy walking. I get a chance to wander and accomplish what I call “walking meditation” where I can literally turn a single thought over and over in my mind as I walk. Lately I have not done a lot of these, and I really do need to change that. But that is a thought for another time. Using a hike as a metaphor for life was certainly an intriguing thought. There are all sorts of things that can be utilized in hiking that can be brought over to looking at one’s journey in life.

Pathway in Mesa VerdeFor instance, probably the easiest one to bring into focus is the ups and downs of life relayed into the hiking of hills and valleys on a path. I walked a rather long trail in Mesa Verde National Park. The start of the trail was up a steep hill to get closer to the cliff-side nearest to me. Once there, the trail hugged against the cliff-side, and narrowed considerably. The drop-off into the valley below was extremely steep and at times a sheer drop-off. At other times, the path passed through very narrow passageways between large boulders and the cliff wall. It was along this pathway and through one of these passages that I encountered Crow, which I can describe in no other way than an initiation of sorts. At one point, the trail scaled straight up a cliff wall, which – for me, as an individual with an acute fear of heights – was quite harrowing indeed. But thinking back along the lines of a hike as a metaphor for life….makes perfect sense.

The steep climb at the start of the hike, is quite similar to the initial steps one takes in life or even a Spiritual Path. We do not necessarily know exactly where things are or how definitions to certain terminologies or concepts can map into our own lives; so there’s a rather acute struggle. Or if you prefer, a climb of sorts. As we accumulate knowledge and understanding, we build on each concept and build and grow our application of that to our own lives.

But hills and valleys can have other meanings as well. The height of a hill can be a positive moment in our lives. Where we reach the pinnacle of some aspect. Everyday life seems to be in harmony with anything we do or try. We feel the awesome joy of accomplishment, able to look outwards at all that is our life, and survey the beauty of everything that is there. The valley, with its downward momentum, can have the feeling of riding in a vehicle without brakes. Gaining speed at every moment, careening dangerously along the path; a certain painful, and sudden stop that may certainly be in our very near future. Our demeanor reaches depths of sorrow and despair, as if our immediate world is being torn asunder. And we know that once we reach the bottom with our painful, injurious stop accomplished, that our future will require a slow, difficult climb to reach the heights. At times, we can feel like laying at our stopped location in the valley, staring up at the sky with despair that we will once again have to expend the energy to achieve what we once had. And we know that the top of the coming climb will provide a different vantage – similar to the previous one we had – but different all the same. Each individual person will have to determine whether they feel that such a climb is still within who they are.

And then, there is the narrow pathway that I found along my Mesa Verde walk. There were places where the path lead down a very steep, and short dirt path to the cliff edge. The drop off was certain life-threatening. A single misstep could potentially spell outright doom for me. Every step was carefully determined, each handhold was carefully tested to insure I had a strong grip, and that the handhold would hold enough to keep my pudgy ass from pulling me over the edge. Believe me, that the cliff edge was very much on my mind. We do much the same thing throughout our lives. We make plans for this or that; we make preparations for how we are going to accomplish these tasks. We make plans and preparations for our rituals. We decide where and what we are trying to accomplish. And sometimes, that narrow Path is the only way forward we have. Its not the yards-wide Path with smooth dirt or concrete or asphalt that we would prefer. Its rocky, uneven, and fraught with ways for us to trip and fall. We take our steps slowly, trying to keep our balance, and our footing. We navigate our way through some aspects of our lives in careful, measured steps. Where we have walked many times before, we might make quicker steps – faster decisions – sure of our footing or our position. And we might find an unknown root in our way, ensnaring the toe of our boots, and sending us sprawling face first into the Path. What else is there to do, then pick up our wounded pride, check for injuries, dust the dirt off our clothes, and move forward – looking more carefully?

So, there are certainly ways to see Life as a long, long hike. We get a little cocky on our walk, trip and fall in places where we seemed to be certain of our footing. In other areas, we are acutely aware of the drop-off at the cliff’s edge, and tread far more carefully. But the true measure of our hike is not how far we’ve managed to walk. That comes from looking around us. Seeing the environment within which we’ve walked. During my walk along the Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde, I was struck by how beautiful the views were from my side of the wide valley. The land rolled outwards from my vantage point, moving hundred of yards in distance until the other side of the valley rose sharply from the ground. Once I got far enough away from people, I could see deer – or they might have been antelope – down in the valley below me, searching for food and water in the brush far below. Crows cawed from the trees above me, and Hawks soared on the thermals in the skies above. There is so much to what happens around us in Life as well. People come and go in our lives. Some stay and walk the Path with us from time to time. Some stay longer than others. All of them touch our lives to some degree, even if just momentarily.

Life is a long hike. But its not the distance that matters most. Its what we experience along that distance that matters the most. Those experiences make us who we are. Steep climbs; long valleys; thin trails; deer trods that we can barely see; extremely wide, paved paths – all of it provides the trail. But what we encounter on the trail, and just off the trail adds to what makes our Life experiences. And from my own perspective, those experiences are the treasured aspects of who and what I am.

 

Circling Back to Pantheacon

So let us take a few steps back. Its not that far in time – just back to Pantheacon of this year. I do enjoy attending Pantheacon to meet people and see folks that I don’t always get the chance to. But I also get the opportunity to sit in on panels and listen to people talk about topics that I normally don’t twirl around in the pink mist. this year, there was a lot of talk about death, change and renewal – which only slightly touches the areas I would normally think of. Turns out, each one of those panels and talk were precursors for a lot of study that I am currently wading through. Yah for team Synchronicity! But there was a lot of talk about difficult times as well, and one panel in particular proved to be quite interesting:  Starhawk‘s “Crossing Stony Ground”.

Much of the panel was geared towards the current political upheaval that is going on across the United States. But I am not a terribly political animal, so much of that was material that did not quite call to me. However, pieces of these little mini discussions did have threads that I pulled away…and I am going to try something different here. Usually, I try to condense all this into a paragraph that talks about each point. Instead of that, I will recreate the bullet-point notes that I took.

  • “create a circle” – watch chaos
  • do not compartmentalize your Spirituality
  • band together – work together – build what we envision
  • take action for your environment
  • do not divide Spiritual and Political – use together for action
  • restrengthen Druidry connections with your environment
  • Add your passions to your daily life
  • Ups and downs in Life are like hiking trails
  • Practice your grounding daily
  • Put your devotionals at the forefront of your mind when doing those
  • Find your center and your calm during tumultuous moments
  • Feel your anger and your sorrow when they occur but do not dwell on them for too long
  • No “us” – No “them” – there is “We“. There is “All“. We rise together – we survive together – we fall separatedwe fall individually.
  • PLP – Plain Language Programming – watch what you say or repeat.
  • Empty your backpack! Carry only what you need. Do not anticipate issues – carry only for issues that you know. Improvise for unknown situations. “We travel lite – we hunt!”
  • The Storm is here. Be ready to help where you can. The Storm affects everyone.

Now, all of these are what I gleaned from the conversations. Very little of what is written here is what was directly stated. Much of it is parts of conversations that meant something to my mind when I heard it, and written as it pertained to me. Well, I guess I should explain a bit more of why I wrote these things this way.

This was the one panel that I had circled in my conference book let and had a single note written next to it: “Clear your mind, open your senses.” What I was reminding myself was to ground, center, and clear my thoughts prior to the start of the panel. I wanted to listen carefully to what Starhawk (and others) had to say. I also wanted to open my thoughts to allow what was said to form in my mind as I wrote notes. My intention was to take these notes and bring this into my daily routines, rituals and practice. What I wound up coming away with was some of that, but also a lot of reinforcement for what I was already doing. I wasn’t really prepared to hear all of that. I was expecting to get a list of “new”, “shiny”, “unknown” things that I had never thought of before.

Circles and Chaos

The first point that is written here comes from the very first moments of the panel. The chairs were all lined up on opposite sides of the room, and Starhawk asked all of us to move our chairs into a circle. After a few minutes of people moving chairs, trying to find appropriate spacing from others, and a few others attempting to direct the process, she called for everyone to have a seat. What we accomplished was much closer to the shape of a football than a circle. Her ensuing point was that vague directions – “make a circle” – will provide vague results. The panel’s concept of “crossing stony ground” was about moving with intention and purpose through chaotic times. Intention and purpose will never find results from vague instructions, weak wording, and open-ended definitions.

From this point, she pivoted into an area I have far too much practice at – compartmentalizing. For a long time in my life, I have had two sides of me – two compartments of who I am. On one side is who I am to the outside, public world. Just an average working schmoe. I live a generic life in the eyes of these people. I do my job, I go home at night and watch tv. On the weekends, I hang out with friends, and watch baseball or soccer on tv. When I am away from work, I get to be the Pagan that I am. I can openly embrace my beliefs around my friends, who are more like my extended family. There’s nothing to set off to the side. There’s no barrier there. But that double-life, the two “me”s are constantly in conflict with one another. Until I decided to start letting the two aspects merge into one. But only to a point. I don’t talk about the Druid I am at work. Many people would not understand, and there would be too many things to try and explain. So I still compartmentalize to a degree here. But I no longer hide the fact that I am a Druid, or the fact that I am a Pagan. I just choose not to advertise it openly. Its not a perfect merging, but its better than it was – and I have removed some of the stony ground that I walk upon.

Much of the rest of what I wrote is stuff that I already handle within my life to some degree or another. I’m not the greatest in the world at some of this stuff. But I certainly do try my best. However, three things really stuck out for me, and I will write more on these in the coming days:  Life as a Long Hike, No Us/Them, and Plain-Language Programming. Each one of these points has led me down some interesting deer trods in my mind. I’m looking forward to exploring these a little further with all of ya’ll here in the blog.

–T /|\

Lead, Follow or Make Your Own Way

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

When I was in the military, my first direct supervisor imprinted this in my mind as the best way to make my way through the United States Air Force. And honestly, it is quite a true statement. Making my way through a regimented society – and the military most definitely is a regimented society – was most easily accomplished by either taking charge, following those in charge, or stepping aside and letting others handle the situation. My biggest problem was dragging this into the civilian world when I left the military.

Occasionally, I hear this same concept handled in regards to dealing with one’s own Spiritual Path. Either step up and take charge of being within a group, step aside and follow the lead of others in a group or just don’t be a part of things. And generally, particularly for people new to Pagan groups, this is taken to mean that they should just quit being a Pagan and find something else.

Been there. And to be brutally honest, it is a moment that just sucks pop rocks. Being given an avenue that offers only a pair of choices, neither of which is palatable or workable, can feel rather limiting. So can being given the similar binary choice of either those two choices or get out. That is a moment that can send anyone down the endless spiral of doubt as to whether being a Pagan was a good choice or not. After all, you find this wonderful Path that provides freedom of thought and choice in a manner you never dreamed would be possible. Excitedly, you find a Pagan group to discuss this with, and you find there’s only these choices provided to you. An absolutely terrible ice-bucket-challenge moment.

My senior year of high school, I had some classes that I had to take because I had not done my freshman or sophomore years in the state of Louisiana. Taking these classes meant that I would be on a class schedule similar to that of the first two year students, placing me on their lunch schedule. When I was at lunch, all the other senior-year students would be in their classes, while I ate lunch. I would be the only senior on that lunch bell. Effectively, I found myself ostracized from my fellow classmates, and being a senior, I was keep at an arm’s distance by the under classmen. It was a very disheartening experience for me, because I found myself on the outside looking in for most of the functions for my class. And as a result my experiences and relationships with the people I graduated high school were thin in nature and strength.

It is not quite the same thing as finding a Pagan group, and realizing you have nothing in common with them – and realizing there are no other Pagans to be found to talk and discuss things with. However, that sense of loneliness and disillusionment can be quite similar.

My way out of the issue in high school was to seek friendship with people outside of my school. I went to a private Catholic all-boys high school, so it was a little easier to find a cadre of friends outside of the school. I found mine via the Friday night showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the St. Vincent mall in Shreveport. The friends I made there accepted me for the awkward, semi-shy person that I was. They encouraged me to grow in the things that I enjoyed, even when they didn’t completely agree with it. In this instance, I was exploring my musical tastes by delving into hardcore metal – and while they didn’t really care for my musical tastes, they did discuss some of the merits of bands such as King Diamond, Exodus and Slayer in comparison to some of the musical tastes they had. In essence, we were a band of misfit friends. We were all very different from one another, banded together over our desire to be free to explore.

The same can be said for how I approached my Paganism. I went through the rejection aspect too. But I also found ways to connect with Pagans elsewhere. Through message board systems on local BBSs, I found folks in PODSNet, the Magick SIG, and other places where I could talk about what I believed. Through this, I found people who were willing to listen, respond, and assist me in growing myself into who I became.

To put it a different way, I realized that sometimes the path or deer trod through the forest is not always the best way to travel. Sometimes, you have to tighten up your cloak around you, step off the path and enter the forest proper. Granted, there’s a huge degree of caution that one has to take. You have to be careful of your footsteps so that you don’t slip and fall down a steep embankment. You have to be aware of your surroundings, making sure that you don’t run into any animals that may find you to be an intruder that must be repelled. But the experience of blazing your own trail through the forest can be exhilarating, sobering, and intense.

To be upfront and blunt, I do not recommend making your own way to every single individual that is out there. Sometimes, when you get rejected from a group or when you find a group just does not fit who you are – keep looking. Keep knocking on doors. Keep looking for those others.

If you find yourself on a trail on your own, or you find yourself needing to wander off the trail and finding your own way in your own Spirituality – take that chance. Again, be prepared. It can be a lonely path. You will find yourself doubting what you are doing. You may find that you really do need to go back to the trail – and there is not one thing wrong with that. Blazing your own way through the forest is not for everyone. Don’t feel ashamed or upset over it. Cherish the experience, and set it off to the side. You might be able to utilize that experience in something else. And if you do manage to blaze your own trail (and even if you don’t) – be sure to record your experience of it somewhere. In a journal. In an audio recording. In a video recording. Somewhere. So that you can come back to it. Recorded experiences are valuable tools in future learning. And I honestly wish I had done the journaling that I do now back in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the meantime, it is time to pick up my pack, grab my staff, and continue walking my daily Path. Whether you choose to walk a trail or blaze a path of your own – remember this: leading groups and others is hard work. Following others is hard work as well, as you need to watch, listen, and feel to make sure you need to keep following. Getting out of the way, merely means you are standing still. Nothing wrong that. Just get moving eventually. Make a choice, experience it, embrace it, and eventually stop. Evaluate what’s going on. If its still working, stick with it. If you need to adjust do that. If you need to change, do that as well. It is your Spiritual Path. It is your walk in Life. Only you can choose where your footfalls will wind up.