My Druidry Order Bowls Better Than Yours

Last week, I got a barrage of Emails from a few folks who started asking if I was a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin, or as it is more commonly referred to as ADF. Instantly, I knew what had happened. Someone that I am friends with had posted something on their blog about the ADF. There are a handful of folks out there that think that I follow directly in the wake of my friends – particularly those who are far more well known in the online Pagan community. The assumption is made that if that individual or these individuals are into this, that I will be following in those footsteps as well.

Now, as someone who walks a Path of Druidry on my own, I find that a bit insulting. I might walk my Path, at times, with other folks. But at the end, where my footsteps fall is determined by me. And considering how many other folks have walked these Paths in the woods before me, it is inevitable that I will cross over the places and locations that others have already been. But let’s set that to the side because it is not really the thing that flared everything up for me in the end. One Email exchange continued in the questioning about why I am not a member of ADF.

It is, after all, AMERICAN DRUIDRY. Should you not prefer Druidry that appeals to you as an American? Besides, the way they approach Druidry is far better, far more nuanced, and better understood.

This one scorches a lot of buttons with me, admittedly. I did a lot of research into the wide variety of Druidry Orders and groups out there before I finally settled on the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). I was not looking for what was “better” but rather what fits closest to what I believe. OBOD’s approach was more in line with how I approach my own Paganism, and therefore was where I wound up. Not to say that none of the other approaches had a similar appeal to me. The differences….truly are not that important. Plus, anyone looking to determine whether one Druidry Order or Group has the better appeal for you – I would suggest doing your OWN research. Taking my word that OBOD is best for me, does not mean it would be best for you. Each individual has their own way of approaching their Spirituality.

img_9678I will discuss, for a few moments, the appeal that OBOD has for me. There is an emphasis on working within yourself to be able to work with others outside of yourself. Following the lessons contained within the three grades is – for me – about strengthening your connectivity with yourself, and the community directly around you. There is no emphasis placed on a particular set of deities or a particular pantheon. I am able to use the framework of OBOD to set my own perspective of the Gods, the Ancestors, and Spirits of Place onto it. And through that, I can find a better connectivity to the landscape and community directly around me. That is not to say that such an approach is not available in any of the other Druidry Orders and Groups- I am quite certain it is there. But OBOD’s approach is what is more similar to my own approach.

Now, the concept that “American Druidry” should only appeal to “Americans” smacks so hard of Nationalism, that I have a difficulty trying to place that within what I find Druidry to be. That is not to say that I have the be-all, end-all understanding of what Druidry is – merely that I just cannot fathom the concept of Nationalism being used within the construct of Druidry as I understand it to be. To me, this smacks of a competitive thing which I just cannot fathom within this same construct as well.

I posted on this on Facebook where several of my friends (most of whom are Druids of one type or another) had plenty of commentary on. Some of the points made were on the differences between OBOD and ADF, as well as notations that I should just join ADF so that I could answer “yes” to those that asked if I was a member of ADF. That, honestly, would be fraudulent on my behalf were I to do it. I enjoy attending ADF events. I enjoy being in ADF rituals and even participating, to the small degree that I do. But I do not feel a draw to ADF. Joining just for the sake of joining and being able to tell people I am a member of both orders would be the wrong reason to become a member. In my mind, attending their events and spending time in fellowship with their members is more appropriate. Quite a few of the ADF members that I know here in Texas are extremely close friends to me, as well as others that I have met from the northwest United States. These folks are family to me, but being family does not earn me a pass at being an ADF Druid.

One other aspect of the Email exchange I had with this particular individual was about how ADF was better at this that and other than OBOD. The earmarks, in my perspective, of competitiveness. “My Druid Order bowls better than your Druid Order.” Oh fucking puh-leeze (yes I use Anglo-Saxon descriptives – I even answer to a few). What makes one order better for your own Spirituality is something that occurs WITHIN you. But what happens within you should never be the benchmark of what would make a Druid Order right for someone else wanting to traverse a Path of Druidry. Ever. Perhaps ADF bowls better than OBOD. Who knows? Maybe we can get a worldwide bowling tournament setup between all the Druid Orders and Groups that are out there. Then we can settle that point. Maybe come back to it in another four years, right? Like the World Cup? ::sigh:: Some of this also boils back to painting someone else’s approach to Druidry on to me. I have talked long and wide about how labels are not a useful manner to trying to understand the world around us. There is always an exception to the rules.

So, in trying to bring this to a close, I would like to find a more positive point to finish with. Every Druidry Order and Group provides a different approach and perspective to its adherents. And every adherent will bring their own unique understanding to that. In the Facebook discussions, Jean (Drum) Pagano, the current Arch-Druid of ADF and a Senior Priest in ADF provided a perspective that really opens the perspective in a manner that echoes my own:

…I like to describe the family of Druidry, where we celebrate our similarities and work to understand our differences all under the banner of “Druidry”. I am a Druid.

To this, I completely agree. Druidry is not about competition. Druidry is about our approach to our Spirituality. Our connection to the world around us. Our respect and devotion to our own perspectives of the Divine, in whatever aspect or understand we find in ourselves and outside of us within the world. Like Drum…I am Druid. My approach through the OBOD framework is merely the context that provides an understanding of where my approach comes from.

But I still believe my Druidry Order can bowl better than yours. Or even play darts better than yours. And none of that matters one whit.

 

The OBOD Camp Experience – Gulf Coast Gathering 2018 Version – Getting There

I am in Covington, Louisiana (opposite side of the lake from New Orleans) for the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. This is the fourth year of this little gathering – and the fourth year I have attended. And I do not see myself missing any into the future, unless work or illness gets in the way.

IMG_1593Its a short drive here from home. About 600 miles, around 9-10 hours if I am not pulling the trailer with me – an additional three hours if I am. This year, well – I am not traveling with it. Thanks to my own fault, I don’t have a current registration on the trailer – and I am just not going to pull it without current paperwork on it. But its OK, its just one trip. I will take care of that when I get back. My truck gets a range of approximately 450 miles on a full tank of gas. But with the trip being mostly interstate driving, the truck’s transmission optimizes that rate to expand my range to nearly 600 miles. In other words, I can nearly make the trip one way on a single tank of gas. Nearly.

The drive, for the most part, is typically interstate fare. Not a lot to see out of the windshield, and a lot of time to think. Thanks to some downloaded “Down at the Crossroads” episodes, I get to listen to excellent conversations – and usually learn something while I am driving. And while I could take a flight to New Orleans, rent a car and drive across the bridge – I do enjoy the distance driving because I do get a chance to reflect on various things and allow my mind a time frame to wind down a bit from the stress of work. Plus, I’m not a fan of flying – if I were completely honest.

So what draws me down here for three days every year? Why do I always make the time to be here? Its not a really complicated answer. This gathering is home to me. I did my Bardic grade initiation here in the gathering’s first year. I am still in contact with most of the other initiates who also had their Bardic initiations during that gathering. Last year, I had my Ovate grade initiation here. The year previous to that one was the year that the “Screen Door Boar” incident took place. The people that come to this gathering are more than friends to me – they are family. And even if the gathering moved to another nearby location, it would still be home to me because it is not about the location – this is about these folks.

At this year’s gathering, I have asked to help out more with the initiations for both Bardic and Ovate grades. I intend to provide myself to help out more during the ceremonies, because I no longer want to just be a spectator. I want to help facilitate the experiences of others. I look forward to the conversations I will have over the next few days with the folks here – both those that I already know, and those that I have yet to meet. As an individual who is in a solo situation, the times where I have the chance to fellowship with other Pagans is generally few and far between, aside from online. Plus, I know how awesome, and intimidating my first moments at an OBOD camp were – and I want to be able to extend my welcoming hand to those newcomers as others had done so for me.

Now, others are drawn close to the land here. And its an interesting mix of bayou swamp and Louisiana woodlands around the camp. Me? Not so much. My last two years of high school were spent in the northwest corner of the state in Shreveport. And the woodlands there are quite similar to the woodlands here. And its just not a part of the land that really calls to my soul. Not like the northern tier of the Rocky Mountains do. For me, those mountains are the true calling of home. My trip to Glacier National Park (a three-day drive, but worth it to me) was an experience I will never forget at any point in my life. But the bayous of Louisiana just do not have the same call for me. The first year of the gathering, the weather was nice and nearly Spring-like. Every year since has been much cooler and far wetter. This year, the wet times have already happened. So there will likely be some mud. The weather is looking good, so maybe some things will dry out and some more walking can be had.

This year’s guest will be Philip Carr-Gomm, the current Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Philip before or hearing him speak in person. I have had the chance to catch him in the recorded versions of “Tea With Philip” that he does on Facebook. However, the timing of the live broadcasts via Facebook Live tend to happen while I am at work, so I rarely get the chance to participate (though I would love to). I am looking forward to hearing Philip speak – particularly in a segment entitled “The Future of Druidry” which is something I have been wrestling with in thought for quite some time and have even blogged about a few times here on “Life With Trickster Gods“. It is quite likely that I will be blogging about this again in the very near future (‘natch!).

This will be the first of a few blogs that I will write while I am here. The point is to provide my own point of view of what you might experience when coming to this gathering. Like I said, I consider the folks who run this to be family, and for me this gathering is home. Thus I am quite biased in my perspective, and quite enthusiastic as to the experiences I have here. But hopefully, you – whoever is reading this – can glean an idea of what this is all about, and hopefully come to an OBOD camp – here in North America – or wherever else one may be held. And hopefully, in the future, I can find time (and money) to make an OBOD camp outside of North America – and expand my own personal experience of what OBOD offers in these camps. But as I said before…for me, the most important part of this is the fellowship with other Pagan folks…and family that I rarely get to see outside of the internet.

May your day be magickal and provide opportunities you did not realize existed.  –Tommy /|\

Spending Time With My OBOD Family

The past five days have been a complete adventure for me. Wednesday and Sunday were thirteen-hour marathons of driving with my RV trailing behind my truck. The days in-between were filled with fun, awesome presentations, and some super excellent food. Somewhere in all of that, I wound up initiating into the Ovate grade, which I am still floored over. And there was my telling of the saga of the Screen Door Boar and the Bardic Initiates around the Saturday night fire. But the best part? That’s extremely simple. It is the people.

Every Gulf Coast Gathering has afforded me the opportunity to get to know several folks. I count many of these people as family. And they are far too numerous to name without me leaving off a name or two because I have an old man’s memory. Each of them has played a role, in one way or another, in my life. Whether they know it or not. And that goes just as well for the “friends of OBOD” folks who attend as well. I am deeply honored, and quite lucky to have these people in my life.

When people ask me about these OBOD retreats, I typically respond that I can only talk intelligently of two – the Gulf Coast Gathering and the East Coast Gathering. There are other camps elsewhere, and while I am quite confident that these camps are just as warm and welcoming as ECG and GCG, I have not attended those before. If you are an OBOD member and wondering if it is worth your time to travel to a camp, I would emphatically say “YES!” The people you meet there will be tied into your life in ways you could never imagine possible. All you need to do is open your heart.

For me, a huge part of what Druidry is about is connectivity. With the land around, with the Spirits of Place, with the Spirits of Ancestor, with the Gods and Goddesses….and with people. All of that connectivity helps to define the way we live, and the depth that we love at. And its not a one-time walk on a pathway either. Its a lifetime exploration. For me, that’s the easiest way to define life. Its not an all-encompassing way to see things, but it is a way to START to see things.

Let’s be realistic, Life is complicated in so many ways. With local, county, regional, state, national, and world politics, changing laws, and the ceaseless news cycle – its easy to get bogged down with things that can be crazy, bewildering, and sometimes downright depressing. But boil all of that away, and what you have left are the things that matter. And for me, that’s the people I know and cherish, the Spirits of Place, my Spirits of Ancestor and the Gods. My Druidry helps me to weave and strengthen those connections. And all of that culminates in these OBOD gatherings. And when members of my extended family are missing for whatever reason, there’s that feeling of an empty chair around the fire, and I can literally picture them in that spot – laughing and smiling along with everyone else.

So, while I did go to Gulf Coast Gathering to initiate into the Ovate grade, and was thrilled to do so, it was the people that made it memorable. To be able to hug people I look up to, people that I call friend, and people that I call family – that made all the difference between an initiation and a moment I will cherish forever in my life. Having friends and family there was all the icing on that cake-like moment that I needed. And being able to entertain my friends and family with the telling of the saga of the Screen Door Boar and the Bardic Initiates was the final cherry added to the mix. I did enjoy making my friends and family laugh at the silly antics of a moment from the previous year.

–Tommy /|\

Pinky-to-Talon Swear – Moments of Transition

This particular blog post is coming to you from Fountainbleu State Park campground in Louisiana. I made it here after twelve hours pulling my RV behind my truck from north central Texas. So why I did I drag my RV down here? For OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering, of course!

This is the last of my major trips for the front part of the year. I will be attending Many Gods West later this year, as well as CalderaFest (which I will again pull the RV along with me). As an introvert, coming out to Pagan gatherings, festivals and conferences its a tough experience for me – but there was a promise made. Pinky-to-talon swear. But the OBOD GCG is a different thing from those.

First off, this is family. These people are members of my extended family. Many of them have burrowed their way into my heart and life over the past few years. Some of them, I have known much longer – and our friendship has turned into something much deeper. For me, this is a yearly family reunion. Where we can hunt Screen-door-swinging-in-the=Breeze Boars, play London Bridge with the Bardic initiates, sit down to talk/laugh/carry-on – essentially build experiences and moments that will sustain us for another fifty-one weeks of the coming year.

Second, its a moment of transition for me. This year, I will be advancing from the Bardic grade to the Ovate grade. After seven years of working my way through the Bardic Gwers, my constant stopping and starting; I have made it through and am moving forward in my studies. All due to another pinky-to-talon swear. I am excited, anxious, and completely terrified at where things go from here. This is the moment where I step off well-worn Path and move into an area of the forest I am unsure of. Where the Path ceases to be a well-walked foot path, and becomes a slightly discernible deer trod.

Over the past few weeks, three themes have been recurring in nearly everything I do:  death, dreams, and freedom. And as I walk further along these new steps to my Path, I can see where these all intersect at varying points coming up. Or perhaps its a slight illusion where I think that the bridge I see in the distance is part of the Path I walk, but its actually not.

There’s only one way to find out, eh? Taking the step forward. And then putting another step forward. I have mentioned it before, its time for me to be the Priest I am supposed to be. It is long past time to pick myself up off the Path, dust off my hindquarters and get on with being the Druid I am. Its time for me to start digging deeper into stories, myths, and communication. Being stagnant on the Path is nice for a short rest, but I have rested enough. And as I said, I am excited, anxious and terrified about where those steps will take me. Onwards. /|\

Back From Another Gulf Coast Gathering….

Been gone for a few days, and I didn’t have any blog posts queued up for delayed release. So, shame on me for all of that. I will have to do a better job of writing going into the future. But I have a good reason…I was away at the annual OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering (2nd one so far), near Mandeville, Louisiana.

Last year, when I attended, a few life changing moments happened in my life. During the camp, I received news that my father had passed away in his home in Hot Spring Village, Arkansas. It was a moment that I handled semi-well during camp, but I have not forgotten (and never will) the outpouring of compassion and love I received from people I had not met until that retreat. A short while later, I regained my center, and underwent initiation for the Bardic Grade with a fine group of others. Since that night, those fellow initiates (and a few others from the ECG camp later in the year) have become some of my closest family members. They’re not just friends…they are far more and far deeper than that in my heart. Seeing many of these same initiates in camp again this year, literally made my heart sing with joy. And we all picked up right where we left off last year – laughing, cracking jokes, hugging on one another, and generally being the unruly children that we are. (grins) There were a few that could not make it for one reason or another…which was heart-breaking, but understandable. Life does get in the way…but they were always in our thoughts, every single moment we were there. We shall see them soon enough.

image
A walking trail near the GCG campsite

Many times, I have been asked what OBOD camps are like. The only adjective I have is that the camps are just flat out awesome. And that’s a weak description, because the camps are so much more than that. The panel discussions, the rituals, meals, campfires, walks in the woods, one-on-one conversations into the later hours of the night…all of that rolls together into something that cannot be described – only experienced. The contact high that I have from leaving camp and coming back to my daily routine at home is something I will carry with my in my heart through to the next year.

And there is so much to thank our hosts – Highland Oak Nemeton – for. They made our time there fun, informative, and it seemed as if nothing went awry. I have worked a few conventions in my time, and I know that it is never the case that everything goes flawlessly…but its a true testament to their dedication when stuff that does not go as planned is hardly noticed. I, for one, was truly impressed by the manner in which everything proceeded, and that those helping to host the event still had plenty of time to connect, talk, discuss, and enjoy our company as well.

Yes, for those asking, it did rain. A few times. But nothing that could extinguish the warmth of our time together there. I spent a lot of my time reconnecting my group of Bardic initiates from last year, and getting to know the equally fun and impressive group of Bardic initiates for this year’s camp. I see and feel a completely warm, and ever-growing family in the eyes and faces that I encountered in camp. And that warmth and love will remain with me until next year, when I make it back to the Gulf Coast Gathering.

So, again, I apologize for not putting out posts on a time-delayed fuse while I was gone. I have not gotten good enough in my writing to manage that just yet. But I am working towards it. I came away from camp with a lot of topics sloshing around in my usually empty head. And I am already in the process of outlining some of those into blog posts, which I am looking forward to sharing. In the meantime, you get my stream of consciousness post here. 🙂

 

Embracing the Change…

My Poetry Journal
My Poetry Journal

There’s a lot of change in the air on this side of the monitor. Some of it fairly good, some of it – well, a little uncertain. Most of you know that I am an adjunct faculty member at the college, so my job is always a shaky prospect from semester to semester. But that’s not the kind of change I am speaking of – though it certainly adds to a little of that shaky feeling.

As I noted a few posts back, a poem I entered into a Literature contest at the college won first place, as well as the Award for Literary Excellence for the poetry category. That was the first moment that I can put my finger on – the moment where things started to change. That realization, that I had reached another small crossroads in my Spiritual Life – one that could easily change a lot about who I am. I mean, shit folks I’m nearly 50 years old. I thought that Life would have me on a fairly firm Path at this point – a job that I was working towards some kind of retirement, and a fairly set Life in a lot of other regards. Instead, I find myself at a crossroads in my Life when it comes to my professional career. And then I get hit by a potential change in my Spiritual Life.

Its fairly obvious to me that I am a Solitaire by my nature. I handle ritual and celebration much better as a solo practitioner than I ever did as a group member. There’s no eventual expectation on me to hive out of my group and create a new one. I’m a group of me – there’s not a whole lot of expectation of hiving off. But there is the expectation of constant learning, constant evolving. When I first set foot on a solo path, I utilized the strains of Wicca I had been taught during my early time on my Path, when I was in a group. Some of the ritual I changed to fit my needs and whims, some of it I kept since I felt comfortable with it. But over time, I felt the push to move on to another Path. I really didn’t know what that would be, until I stumbled onto the Path of Druidry through the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). The framework is something that I have enjoyed utilizing, and is definitely the right structure that I needed.

I decided early on to utilize the Native American Path as the thread I would work through the framework, and found myself adopted by first Crow, and then Coyote. Crow was more of a messenger, constantly leaving me items in my meditations and dreams – little puzzle pieces I had to work with. Coyote is different. We are kindred spirits. Through Coyote, I have learned to not take myself so seriously – to see mirth in every aspect of Life. And it will continue to be an ongoing lesson throughout my time on the Wheel. Crow, on the other hand, has started pointing me in a different way. This started with the poem and the contest.

As I have said before, I do not take my poetry all that seriously – its an emotional outlet for me. Entering that poem into the contest was done under some major cajoling from friends and family. And its a weird moment – because in the rest of my Life, I take myself far too seriously, and yet here with my creative writing side, I was not taking myself seriously at all. That has started to change. Crow has had some moments of moving me towards other areas of inspiration within the Gods and Goddesses. I had figured it would be the more familiar Greek or Roman thematic that would be the stronger pull for me, but that proved not to be the case. Somehow, I find myself drawn towards Taliesin and Lugh – the Celts.

My ancestry is mostly Germanic and western European, so I would guess that it makes some sense. I am still a little muddled on all of that. I have never identified with the Celtic aspect all that much, so some of this makes no sense to me. Taleisin, of whom I have been studying quite a bit through my OBOD lessons, seemed a natural fit. The Bardic strain runs deep within there. But Lugh, is a bit of a mystery to me. And one I will have to start doing some research on.

Yes, I find myself on a Bardic Path. Not just as a grade of learning within OBOD, but in how I present myself to the world. I am already spending major amounts of time writing – just automatic writing, anything that comes into my head – and than seeing if there is anything there that I can work with later on. I am looking at my older poetry, and trying to see if there are ways that I can improve some of the wording there. I am already looking into mythic stories that I can attempt to learn for recitation. Nine Hells, I already do this in the classroom – my lecture style is very informal, and interlaced with story-telling of good and bad times within my career. I am not at all sure how I got here – how my feet have led me to stand high on this mountain I now find myself…but I am here. All I can do is embrace what is in front of me…and feel those rays of sunshine on my face, and that fire deep inside…  I know that my Path will not be a purely Celtic one – I am not here for reconstruction, I am here for inspiration – I am here to find the salmon…