Episode 019 – This Is It!

IMG_7076Yeah, it has been a while since I have put out a blog post. Two things have been taking up all that time to write – trying to finish up the last episode of the podcast, and the need to handle some Self-Care. My head-space has been in a place where I look at my ever-growing to-do list and just freeze up from all the stuff that is there to get done. And that place is not a pleasant one, to be sure. I pride myself on being able to get things done and staring at a list of things that need to get done just reminds me over and over again that no matter how hard I try, that list will continue to grow. Completed tasks will always be replaced by new tasks that need to get done. Some of those tasks will replace themselves, as it becomes a repeating cycle of completion, setup, complete again – over and over.

Since I announced the end of the podcast, I have had a ton of folks come out of the woodwork – telling me how much they enjoyed both Upon a Pagan Path and my first podcast From the Edge of the Circle. There has been an echo about how listening to me helped them understand how they needed to work their way through their own journey of finding themselves within the complicated gathering under the big tent of Paganism, as John Beckett calls it. I not only appreciate those telling me this, as this was the whole point of doing these podcast episodes all these years – to show others that they can work their own way through the forest. The trees may seem thick, the brush may seem daunting and difficult to get through – but somewhere is that clearing in the forest that you seek. Where you can sun yourself and rest, assured that you found that place where you clearly belong. I did just that, over the last thirty-four years. And as cliche as it sounds, if I can do it – so can you.

Sitting here writing this, Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” has come on the Sirius XM channel that I listen to. What a soundtrack to listen to while I write this…I have never fashioned myself much as a “cowboy” but as I grow older, I find myself gravitating to one of the archetypes – the drifter. I have the long trench-coat to wear in the cold winter nights. I have the cowboy boots now (something I never envisioned myself getting), and I am seeking out a cowboy-style hat to wear. Aside from the hat, I lack the crow feathers to attach it as well. Yeah, what an image, eh? The lyrics of this song remind me quite a lot about myself.

Each night I go to bed, I pray to Crow my soul to keep
No, I ain’t lookin’ for forgiveness, but before I’m six foot deep
Crow, I gotta ask a favor, and I’ll hope you’ll understand
‘Cause I’ve lived life to the fullest, let this boy die like a man

Yeah, I took some license with the lyrics…Bon Jovi prays to the Christian God in the lyrics, which does not work for me. Besides, I have plenty more life to live before this becomes a reality, at least I hope so.

On the podcast, you will find an interview I did in February with John Beckett. I consider John to be more than just a friend. For me, he is family. Someone who has always been supportive. John has been there for my initiations into the Bardic and Ovate grade, gestures of support that I deeply appreciate. We do not always agree on how to approach a particular topic…as it should be. We are not the same person. My Path is not a carbon copy of his, nor is he likely to be swayed into the world of Tricksters. We sometimes travel the same dirt, but we are responsible for our own footfalls. I appreciate John’s willingness to be the first interview I did for the podcast and becoming the point of full-circle as the last.

Also on the podcast, you will find the music of Melanie Gruben. For me, she is a new artist. Her music is exquisite and has accompanied me on several long drives that I have taken. If you enjoy her music, please go to her website and buy her music. I was given her music to play on the podcast – and like with any of the other independent musicians that I play, I will be buying her music very shortly. The music industry has changed quite a bit over the years, and the independent musician has a better chance of making it by working on their own, rather than depending on the dying gyrations of the big music corporations. But that requires word-of-mouth advertising, which I am doing here and on the podcast itself. Please support your favorite musicians by purchasing their music, that small monetary donation means more than you know for them.

So here is a link to the finished podcast, the last I will ever accomplish on my own. Maybe someone will invite me onto their own show, perhaps not. But I am proud of everything I brought to you. Just remember, the point of all of this was to show you that you can blaze your own trail within your own Spirituality. But just like any point of improvisation, you will need to learn the basics first.

All I can really finish with is a heartfelt “thank you”. Thank you for listening. Thank you for downloading. Thank you for finding inspiration in what I have said. Thank you for listening to the folks I brought to you on the podcast. And thank you to all the folks that I featured on the show – John Beckett, Troy Young, Joanna van der Hoeven, Brendan Howlin, Brendan Myers, the amazing Bran Cerddorion, Chris Godwin (the most amazing ritualist I have ever encountered), and Cat Treadwell, who remains one of my most favorite people on this planet. Each of them provided a piece of who they are and what they have created on this podcast, and it has been my pleasure to bring them to all of you. Many of them have books available…much like musicians, please consider purchasing their materials.

Lastly, I am not getting out of the interviewing world. I plan on interviewing more people, and discussing how they got to where they are on their own personal Paths. I will be doing all of that via Soundcloud. You can find the site here. The interviews will solely be discussion pieces. No podcasting stuff to add around it. The discussions will be unedited so some of the discourse may be a little NSFW. And to other podcasters out there, if you want to use a discussion that I post there – please ask beforehand. I am happy to provide the files, but I also would prefer to get the permission of the individual(s) that I had on the recording as well.

I, again, appreciate you taking time out of your own day to listen to the podcast. Thank you or allowing me to be a small part of your world and your journey. I hope you continue with me here on the blog. And who knows, I might even have a book in me. That is still up for debate at the moment – I am never sure of what to really write about when it comes to something along those lines. But who knows…

A fire’s gotta burn
The world is gonna turn
Rain has gotta fall
Fate is gonna call
But I just keep on breathing
Long as my heart is beating
Someone’s gotta hate
It’s never gonna change
Gets harder every day
It’s a hell of a place
To keep your heart from freezing
To keep yourself believing
But I won’t run
I’m not afraid
I’ll look em in the eye
Gonna hear me say
It’s my life, my love, my sex, my drug, my lust
My God, it ain’t no sin
Can I get it, can I get an Amen
–Halestorm, “Amen”

 

 

Direct Download link:  http://traffic.libsyn.com/paganpath/Episode_019_-_This_Is_It.mp3

 

Slowing the Pace, Reading the Stories, Doing the Rituals – Looking For Quality Over Quantity

One of our problems today is that we are not well acquainted with the literature of the spirit. We’re interested in the news of the day and the problems of the hour. It used to be that the university campus was a kind of hermetically sealed-off area where the news of the day did not impinge upon your attention to the inner life and to the magnificent human heritage we have in our great tradition – Plato, Confucius, the Buddha, Goethe, and others who speak of the eternal values that have to do with the centering of our lives. When you get to be older, and the concerns of the day have all been attended to, and your turn to the inner life – well, if you don’t know where it is or what it is, you’ll be sorry.

Greek and Latin and biblical literature used to be part of everyone’s education. Now, when these were dropped, a whole tradition of Occidental mythological information was lost. It used to be that these stories were in the minds of people. When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you. With the loss of that, we’ve really lost something because we don’t have a comparable literature to take its place. These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don’t know what guide-signs are along the way, you have to work it out for yourself. (The Power of Myth, p1-2)

This lengthy quote from “The Power of Myth” really got my mind to wondering about a variety of things, such as how different our individual approaches to the aspects of Spirituality that appeals to us may have been if today were just ten or twenty years prior. “The Power of Myth” came out in the late 1980s, a time frame where I had just started on my own Pagan Path. Therefore, some of what Campbell references here is very clear in my somewhat fuzzy memory. The news cycle had started to shorten with the arrival of cable news networks. Compared to today’s endless 24x7x365 news blitz, the starting point from much of this was much shorter. Even in this changing moment for news reporting, the traditional news cycle that was handled as a combination of daily newspapers, national news broadcasts at 5pm local time, and local news broadcasts in the morning, noon, evening, and late-night (10pm local) still ruled the roost. Today’s constant, non-stop news cycle is a hallmark of the fast-paced, constantly on-the-go lifestyles we have adapted to. And in some cases, this go-go-go lifestyle is all that one may ever have known throughout their life. And that fast-paced, constantly “on” pace provides little time or need for classic learning behaviors. Through this, certain aspects of our lives are swept aside as “unnecessary”, ‘unneeded”, or “unwanted” because there is not a quick, neat correlation to this new, quicker paced lifestyle.

John Beckett recently did a second installment of his Q&A posts, what I gather to be a monthly installment for his blog. I read the first version with curiosity, and was very intrigued by the questions asked of him, as well as his answers. For his second installment, I decided to play along. I decided to utilize a topic I knew would resonate deeply with John – ritual. I have witnessed a few of the rites that John has had a hand in creating – and these are wonderful moments to catch. The way he layers meaning, symbolism, and intention into rituals is truly a wonderful thing to behold, in my not so humble opinion. So, for his post, I did a rapid fire of quite a few questions, thinking he would pick one or two to answer. I did not expect him to answer ALL of the questions, but he did and with his usual insightful perspective.

[From John’s Post]: I’d like to see more ritual acts of devotion, especially simple things like saluting the sun in the morning and/or evening, and the moon when it’s visible at night – little things that done consistently remind us of our connections to Nature, the Gods, and our ancestors.

[My Response]: Yes, all of that makes for a daily practice that becomes more intense, more personal, more connected. And I cannot state how much of a difference it can make in one’s life. The focus it provides is quite intense and intentional. I have always wondered if a lack of personal rituals around moments in our lives is a catalyst towards the de-emphasis of how connected we are to the world around us. I would tend towards “yes” but I don’t really have any empirical evidence to prove my supposition.

The above is from my comment on the blog. And coupled with Campbell’s previous quote, I can see where aspects of all of this have started changing the perceptions of how people relate to Paganism, Druidry and personal Spirituality in our new, faster-paced, “modern” world. Daily routines and rituals, such as my morning ritual of greeting the Sun at dawn (something I try to do every day), have been pushed aside that there is more time to cram in to the information overload that we gorge on daily. We’ve pushed classical education to the side, so that we can focus on educating students on subjects that “matter” in the workplace…mathematics, writing/grammar, and technical topics – each essential to a student’s education, but a major de-emphasis on history and philosophy, where students are provided the opportunity to stretch their theoretical legs around concepts revolving around ethics, moral principles contained within stories and tales. In essence, we have pushed our mythologies, our rituals, our daily rites off to the side in the name of convenience. We aim for speed, efficiency, maximum profit for minimum effort…rather than finding the quality in what we have. Quantity over quality to utilize a phrase that was dictated as a “standard” in modern business practices in my MBA degree program.

img_9678Recently, I posted about taking a drastic change in my approach to my Ovate studies within OBOD. I termed this as “diving deep” into my studies, moving at a pace that allows me to bring a certain degree of quality to my understanding of the material. The approach will lengthen the time that I work at these studies, but thus far, it has enhanced the depth of what I am learning by allowing me to take some of the side-trails in what I find in my studies. In this manner, I am allowing myself to branch further out in these studies than I had originally planned on doing. Rather than approach the studies on a plan of do(x) then(y), I do(x) until I find a natural end to the studies of (x). Only then do I move to (y). The previous methodology was focused on accomplishing this set of studies on this particular day. Then moving forward into the next set of studies which were to be done on another certain date. Quantity over quality. After just a handful of Gwers, I started to realize that I was not learning anything in this methodology.

I do not pretend to have any answers to how to live life. Not even for myself. I muddle through life like everyone else does. However, I am increasingly left to wonder if we tried approaching life with a bit more intention, we might be able to improve some of the quality that we seem to be missing. If we brought back rites of passage – such as proper celebrations of birthdays (as a singular, very secular instance), we might find more joy in life? Perhaps, we could tone down the pace in which we devour our news cycle, and choose to consume aspects of daily life at a much slower pace – we might find that quality we all seek? I know when I approach my life with a bit more deliberate intention, I slow down quite a bit. And to be really honest, that change of pace has made all the difference to my attitude in life. Truly, I cannot say that any of this will work for everyone else, but bringing back our stories, bringing back some intention in our daily routines, setting time aside to honor our Gods, our Ancestors, the Spirits of Place – surely, if all of that provides a better connection to the world around you, helps you find a small niche in this world where you truly feel you belong…wouldn’t that be worth it? For me, it has been….

Review: The Path of Paganism – John Beckett

Before I get going too far, I do have to note – I know John in real life. I am also an avid reader of his blog. And while both of these provide some degree of prejudice when it comes to reviewing his book, I like to think I am capable of being more than just a raging fanboy. With that noted here at the onset, let’s take a voyage into The Path of Paganism.

First off, the cover depicts a forested scene, where a part of the upcoming pathway seems to be lit from the sun above. After reading this book, its apparent that this is an appropriate image for what John has written. We all travel a path through the forests of our lives. Occasionally, we come across something – music, books, lectures, experiences – that illuminate the Path for a moment. We cross through those moments of light, feeling the warmth and depth of the light in comparison to the denser parts of the forest where the same light struggles to penetrate to the floor below. This book, I believe, will be a moment where the light penetrates to the forest floor for many of those that read it, and take meaning and experience from it.

This book is a 101 Paganism book, but then again – its not. Instead of endless pages on the same rote concepts of the Wheel of the Year, how to perform ritual, or ways to meditate – John provides a bit more. Steps beyond those positions. Granted, in some of the instances, John does revert back to basic-level explanation to get the reader to a point where the next steps can be taken, thus my 101-sticker application. However, once that context has been exposed, and provided appropriate explanation, the next steps are taken on ground that is far more solid than it would have been without the lead-in.

At the end of each section, John provides small statements of food-for-thought, or even questions for you to spend time on. Some of these have even made it into my daily journal entries, and were the stepping stones to even deeper questions that I posited to myself. For me, these ending aspects provided an entire cache of intellectual and spiritual fodder that I will be working my way through for quite some time. Or, as I said to myself when I realized I had seven pages of hand-written questions to work through:  “Thanks John. Just what I needed. More stuff to write about.” But I am kidding. All of that writing helps me work through concepts and issues in my mind that I had never thought of before. And I am grateful to have the chance to do so now and into the future. For that’s how I grow. Writing and thinking and doing and experiencing.

Writing and thinking and doing and experiencing. Well, if you were looking for a summative phrase for John’s book, this might be it. The material in the book is about more than just reading though. Its about doing. Its about experiencing. And sitting back and reading is only the measure of opening the door. Utilize what’s written there, take on the suggestions he sets forth, and improvise when he feel comfortable enough. In short, experience it, for real.

So, if you’re new to Paganism, this is not a bad starting place – though the concepts might be better handled if you read other books first, and then turned back here immediately afterwards. Just to have a good base to work from. If you are not new to Paganism, give the book a read. You never know, you might find something different to muse over. You may see things in a different light. And after all, that’s really what this book seems to be written towards:  seeing things on that Path with a different light. Hence, the gorgeous book cover.

In my opinion, biased as it may be, get it. Read it. Try it. Experience the world around you through some of the suggestions contained within its pages. Think about the concepts. Ask questions about those concepts with your friends. Discuss. Talk with others. Experience it together.

Riffing on Paganism and Druidry

John Beckett has written a recent blog addressing aspects of polytheism moving forward in a monotheistic environment. It covers a lot of ground, and proposes quite a bit of food for thought and discussion, but one particular part of it jumped off the page at me when I read it.

At the 2009 House of Danu Gorsedd, John Michael Greer said that Paganism in general and Druidry in particular are not revived religions or even reconstructed religions. Rather, they are indigenous religions of modern Anglo-American industrial society.

Now, I am far from someone that takes my understanding and interactions with the Gods and desires to hearken back to the manner of worship within the Past. And this little quote from John’s blog post reiterates that for me. In fact, it tickles a particular thought I have had over the past year: do the Gods really care whether we follow the exact same patterns of worship from long ago? This plays into what I have taken to calling “Jazz Paganism”, which is a style I essentially practice. I wrote about this a while back in “The Song I Sing for Today” and “Free-Form Ritual – Knowing It“, both of which have addressed my style of beliefs and practice. None of that has changed. And its rather doubtful any of it will in the future. Its a style that works for me.

One of the bones of contention has been over the term indigenous. Rather than trying to argue and nitpick over definitions, I will just set the way I understand the term, and leave it at that. Revealed religions are those that are started by one individual who has a spiritual way revealed to him and shares with others. Nature religions, on the other hand, are indigenous and revere nature. In this aspect, indigenous refers to something that grows naturally from a region, for instance Native American beliefs or Celtic beliefs. From my understanding, one telling difference between the two is that the Nature religion has the flexibility to continually grow and change, while the Revealed religion has a very stringent set of rules or guidelines (I would tend to call this “dogma”) that adherents must follow.

So, if I follow what Greer is saying above, Druidry is a set of beliefs that grow, change and/or evolve over time. Druidry as we know it today is not the same as Druidry as it was in the 1960s, nor will it be the same as Druidry in the 2020s. I am not sure I completely agree that Druidry grew out of the modern industrial society, though. From my perspective, it found fertile ground within that cultural environment, where a need and desire for things natural, green, and growing was a necessary contrast to the cold, dark, steel and concrete environment that manifested in the western world. Much like we humans need complexity and simplicity, we also have needs for the industrial world as well as the natural. That concept of dichotomy seems to be rampant within the way our human minds operate.

So, if someone asked me for an in-depth answer of how I view today’s Paganism in comparison to say, Paganism in the 1960s – I would say that today’s Paganism is continuation of what we have seen. Its evolved, and changed. In many ways, its a direct answer to many of the issues that we have in our modern society. And in many others, its an offshoot because of those issues. Not quite an answer, but closer in concept as a result of those issues. And from that, people are coming to Paganism to remove themselves from a dogma-filled aspect of the Revealed religions.

With no dogma, many of the Natural religions allow people to explore concepts of Spirituality in ways that they haven’t been provided before. I know it is a major pull for myself. Had I remained a Christian, a doubt I would have even stumbled over the amazing experiences I have had, nor would I have grown as much as I have as an adult. And trust me folks, those who remember me in my twenties prior to finding my way into Paganism, can attest to the asshole that I was.

So, is Druidry and Paganism the framework for moving forward into the future? Well, I don’t know about the entirety of the human population. After all, we are all very different individuals with very different ideas to the bigger and more useless questions of life, such as who should be President of the United States. But I hold out hope that one of the smaller, and more important point in life is something we can all share throughout this world: we need to treat one another far more kindly. For me, my exploration of Paganism and Druidry is my guiding aspect in all of this. Respect for other aspects of Life, including other human beings. It might not be the sole guiding principle, but it certainly is one of the major ones for me.

So, back to Greer’s statement. Is Druidry something that grew in the wild from the muck of a modern Anglo-American industrial society? I would tend to agree. The seeds do not come from this particular part of history. Those go much, much further back, and are shrouded in the mists of oral history, and muddied by the attempts of individuals to take from that oral history, and document it in writing and video and other forms of media. Much like a plant can be “groomed” a certain way (think ivy vines growing over an archway or up a wall), I would posit that much of what we understand of Druidry today is “groomed” by the manner in which it has been recorded and documented by others who have long since passed beyond the veil.

I would also posit that Druidry has changed, thanks to the many writers we have today, and the numerous Traditions as well. Druidry (and Paganism), in my mind, is a growing entity. It will evolve and change in response to the issues and crises of the momentary point in time. In a Druid Prayer and Devotion on the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids website, there is a particular series of statements:

And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;

Druidry has a focus on social change, a focus on addressing corruption in government at all levels, and a focus on understanding and respecting others regardless of their beliefs, skin color, eye color, hair color, height, weight, gender, political affiliation, etc etc. In my eyes, this is where Druidry can be utilized to address the issues of the current moment in time. There is a desire to find equality for all, that none are treated differently or seen to be different. There is a desire that each are treated equally for aspects of justice, regardless of social status, personal wealth, or whatever other difference making descriptive you can think of. For me, this particular point, along with many, many others, allows Druidry to be elastic in its usage as an approach to the future. This is what allows Druidry to grow from the muck of the world around us, to produce a strong, steady oak tree into the future. And as the tree grows and sheds its acorns into the future, those grow into more oaks, providing more relevance to tomorrow’s society. For me, Druidry is a continually evolving and changing response to our global society and its ever-changing issues and crises.


One final note. It took me nearly five days to formulate this. All based off of a single quote from John’s original post. It is not quite what I think John had in mind, when he published his original post over on Patheos. But I let this grow organically in my mind as I wrote it. Hopefully, its coherent. And hopefully, it does for you what John’s post did for me:  spark some deeper thought. I encourage you to clink the above link to John’s original post, and give it a couple of reads. Check out the comments as well, as there are even more thoughts there that can hopefully help spur discussion and thought.  –Tommy /|\