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.



Dive! Dive! Dive!

So, what do I mean by “depth” in Spirituality? That’s a fair question, particularly concerning my little back and forth jaunt in yesterday’s blog post. But before I get going too far – let me preface this a little bit here. Trying to define what is and is not “deep” about one’s spirituality is a rather tough topic to tackle. After all, what I believe to be an approach of depth concerning Spirituality could be considered a rather shallow approach to someone else. Thus, for me to define the concept of “depth” for someone else would be a silly gesture. But I can describe how I approach the concept of “Deep Spirituality” and what it means to me. My approach might work for someone else; or it might not. It might inspire someone to seek a perspective of what “Deep Spirituality” means to them; or it might not. The truth of the matter is that I can only speak for myself.

For me, my turn towards a more in-depth approach to Spirituality began with taking my understanding of polytheism a little deeper than I had. To some degree or extent, I have had a belief in more than one God and/or Goddess for quite some time. I never truly approached the concept beyond that of the dual aspect of God and Goddess; seeing the various masks as psychological aspects. Except that I really didn’t believe that. I could see that each God and each Goddess were separate entities. Just as there are so many stars in the night sky, I could see that aspects of polytheistic belief worked the same way. All I needed to do was explore more; come to understand each aspect individually. Bumping into Coyote was not what I truly expected. From Coyote came Crow. Fliodhas has been a long, ongoing flirtation. And I have no clue with what is coming with the ravens. I assume I will find out soon enough.

Each introduction to these Gods and Goddess (one at this time) are far more intimate than I am willing to reveal on a blog post. But each has brought me to another part of diving deeper – research. And that’s one thing I can truly say for Pagans over Christians – Pagans tend to be a combination of data analysts, librarians, and folk researchers. Always combing for more information, looking through the tea leaves, the bones, and interpreting the cards. Hardly leaving any stone untouched, or any potential path to be examined. In my mundane job, I am asked to find patterns in the habits of students, the grading patterns of instructors, and the ebb/flow of enrollment between three main semesters of an academic year. In a manner of speaking, this is part of diving deeply into the analysis of my college’s student body. The same can be said about expanding and deepening my understanding of such concepts as the Wheel of the Year. All the rituals associated with certain aspects of the year, as well as the ebb/flow of the moon phases have patterns as well. Through continual study, as well as examination of ritual concepts against such aspects as cultural history and folklore; patterns can be discerned, examined and acted upon. But there’s always the reminder in the back of my mind:  I am not trying to recreate something from the past. I am trying to bring pieces of the Past forward into the Present, where I might be able to utilize these in moving with far better grace into the Future.

Its those connections, between myself and everything else, and everything else with everything else that keep me driving forward. As I mentioned in a few recent blogs, conversation with other folks is another aspect of diving deeply for me. I don’t get this as much as I wish I could. But, that will eventually work itself out for me. Of that, I am confidant. Sharing of ideas and concepts with others is a wonderful to expand my point of view, in my opinion. Everyone tends to approach a topic from different angles, and each individual experience adds to what I consider to be the overall consciousness of an issue.

I know that some of what I have written here will strike a vein with some folks. Other folks will shrug and make an observation of the lightness of my approach. Others may scratch their heads and not completely understand. Believe it or not, I grok all three of those positions. I have been there. Each is an experience that I relate to very, very deeply. And at the same time, I know that everyone’s approach will be a little different than my own. Its what makes us all unique.

At the end of it all, I know that a large part of my Spirituality is about continually learning, growing, and evolving. There is no end-game. Only continual experience. Only expanded understanding. I don’t have a mystical hall of roads paved in gold, and a heavenly mansion awaiting me. Only experience. For me, that’s the blanket of the future for me. Always weaving itself. And the best way I have managed to do this? By not trying at all. Ain’t that some kind of paradox? Personally, I don’t think so.

One’s Spiritual Belief Should Never Be a “Numbers” Game

Ever so often, I hear/read fellow Pagans who lament the speed of growth for Paganism over the years. I will be honest, I know very little about the numbers of how Paganism may or may not be growing – and frankly, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it if I knew.

See, I work in statistics on a daily basis. Population growth is one measure that my college utilizes to predict such things as budget, employee cost, and a whole host of other financial positions. I completely grok what the point of that is. The college needs to predict aspects of base-line growth to determine things such as outreach needs, as well as determining larger scale projects that impact bottom-line costs. That stuff is necessary for working a business. I’m not sure its necessary for working with a Spiritual belief system.

Honestly, I am not trying to throw cold water on the idea of Paganism’s wider growth. In fact, I am always happy to see people come to Paganism, when they realize that this is where their Spiritual home is. Alternately, I am also happy when I see people come to Christianity or any other faith when they realize that is where their Spiritual home is. Just as I am happy when I see people accept Atheism or Agnosticism as their Spiritual (or not) home.

For me, its not a “numbers” game. I am not counting up the number of Pagans that are in the bucket I am, nor am I looking for a wild game of Spiritual Red Rover with the Christian faith (or any other faith for that matter). Its not quantity that matters, its quality. Specifically, quality for the adherent of (pick a faith).

IMG_9670Early in my search for a Spiritual home, I wandered to the southern Baptist faith. I was never comfortable with where I was. I didn’t enjoy the yelling and shouting at me. I could not correlate the concept that my soul was going to Hell unless I accepted Jesus ben Joseph as savior. I couldn’t fathom how a “loving” God would do this. But I glossed over those differences between what I believed, and what the over-arching aspect of this faith taught. Why?  Because I wanted to belong with these people. I found people that I thought were friends. I wanted to be a part of the crowd. I wanted to be one of the “numbers”. When I started questioning, I found that I wasn’t accepted because of that. I was drummed out for not “going along.”

Within Paganism, I don’t count myself as part of a number. I am a Pagan. I feel and experience the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits as individual entities. I walk a Spiritual Path that I have learned to define and develop for myself. My relationship with Fliodhas, Crow, and Coyote are between myself and each of Them. I have fellowship with other people who think very similar to myself, and I count many of them as friends. But its not because I need to be part of a number of people. Its because I have unique relationships with each of them as individuals.

It took me nearly twenty years to understand all of this for myself. So, when I hear people talk about a lack of growth within Paganism, or someone points out a study that marks Paganism at (x) percentage of the population; I smile inside. I remember when hearing those numbers heartened my soul. Now, my Spiritual beliefs fall to a population of one. Me. There are others that are similar. And we have forged friendships from this. But those friendships are based on who those people are as people. Not from what they believe or practice spiritually.

But I do hear the drums in the distance. And I realize that there will come a time where what I believe will be contested by others. But that is a post for another time….



Looking Forward on My Journey – Part 3

So, I enter into the third and final part of looking at my Spiritual journey…a look at today and the unknown reaches of tomorrow. I have discussed the aspects of why Druidry is the framework I choose to work with. My current daily work leans more towards impromptu ritual, finding the spiritual in the everyday mundane, and trying to find new connections with the Gods, the Spirits of Place and Ancestor. This includes a deeper look into my own DNA and Ancestry that started last year during a visit to “The Celts” exhibit in London during my UK trip at the New Year.

DNA-related family has never been a strong point of mine. I have never felt like I was part of my relations, as my Path in life is vastly different than any of theirs. But during my trip through the Celts exhibit, there was a lot of information relating to the DNA side of things. That started me to wonder why I am drawn so heavily to a Celtic framework, particularly over these last few years. The more I dig into my ancestral roots, the more it makes sense. The more it makes sense, the more I relate to aspects of Celtic mythology that I never paid much attention to previously. I honestly do not see some of the connections, but am starting to see small aspects of it in the way I relate to the environment around me. The result of look at my Ancestry has me finding out where my family comes from, how they might  have believed, and how they may have related to their native land.

There’s Fliodhas. An Irish Goddess of the Forest, that has found Her way into my everyday Life. I do not readily understand the connection, but She takes a prominent role in my daily Life. She is in every moment that I am outdoors, whispering in my ear about the beauty of Life and the connections associated with that – both readily known, and those that are far more subtle. Where that Path is drawing me towards, I have no idea. But I readily walk it, staff in hand.

And finally there’s Druidry. I started my Bardic Grade a few years back. And honestly, I started out on-fire. Just ready to get things done. And then Life happened. Job changes. The amount of money that was available at any given time. Many other personal issues. I faltered. I took steps backwards in my studies. I did a poor job of documenting where I was, what I did to get to that point. I wound up dancing back and forth in place. Last year, after a conversation with several people at Gulf Coast Gathering, I buckled down my resolve to finish, and changed my attitude towards my studies. As a result, I am continuing down the road with what I must learn in the Bardic Grade, and am taking far better notes – not just on what I am learning, but also HOW I am learning it. The idea/hope is that I will be able to take those lessons and apply those going forward into the Ovate Grade, provided I am accepted to move forward.

Lastly, there is my tie to two First Nations trickster Gods. Crow and Coyote. Coyote started my journey, with lessons concerning the degree of seriousness I approached the world around me. I have learned to be a bit looser with the way I approach the world, and to not only find the positive in the world — but also find the humor in situations. Even when things look catastrophically bad. Earlier this month, I purchased a camper. I have no idea how to back it up properly. To get it into my driveway, I drove through my front yard in order to pull it down my driveway in a semi-straight line. That, I could back up. It certainly smacked of being a silly situation….and I can laugh about it. It happened. It was a silly solution, but it was still a solution.

Every day is a new moment for me. I greet the sun’s rise, and try to approach the day with a new motivation, a new vision to accomplishing tasks set before me, and with new eyes so I can try and discover new pathways that I did not notice before. At the end of the day, I say goodnight to the sun, and ask for the promise that He will rise again for tomorrow’s dawn. I set aside my frustrations over the course of the day, and prepare for an evening where I can relax, read, or study. My daily Path is about constantly learning, focusing, relaxing, and then refocusing again – all with the measure that each day is a new start. And each new day allows me to take new, fresh steps on my daily Path…find new connections I had not considered before, and strengthen the connections I already have. My Past through the Catholic faith, the southern Baptist faith, and within Wicca have helped bring me here. Whether the lessons I learned were negative, positive, or neutral does not matter. There was something to be gleaned from those times within my life. Paganism is the stream that brought me to where I am now, opened my eyes and mind to the perspective of individual Gods and Goddesses, and has renewed my faith in that perspective each and every day. I am on a pathway of Druidry, as a Polytheist Pagan. That’s who I am. But I can never discount or demean where I have come from. All of that is a part of me as well.


Living Your Truth Out Loud

In a recent post, Nimue asked: “What’s your truth, and what do you need to do to speak it into everything you say, and carry it into everything you do, and what happens if we do that?” Before I continue on, let me encourage you to go read Nimue’s very thought-provoking post. I’ll wait patiently here at the keyboard.

What Nimue is discussing in her post is a very powerful process. It requires a lot of inward soul-searching, in my opinion, as well as looking to see where your flashlight (or torchlight, if you prefer) is pointed. Which reminds me of a quote from Babylon 5 that I believe helps showcase a part of my own truth.

If I take a lamp and shine toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search for truth, for understanding. Too often we assume the light on the wall is God, but the light is not the goal of the search, it is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the revelation upon seeing it. Similarly, someone who does not search, who does not bring a lantern with him, sees nothing. What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light, pure and unblemished, not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes, we stand in front of the light and assume we are the center of the universe — God looks astonishingly like we do! — or we turn to look at our shadow and assume all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose — which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty and all it flaws, and in so doing, better understand the world around us. –G’kar

For me, in trying to speak my own personal truth, its the very end of this moment that expresses what my own truth is all about. See, I’m a polytheist. I believe all the Gods and Goddesses are real. I believe the Spirits of Place and Ancestor are also real. I believe that all of Them are individual entities, which we can work with, in our own individual manners. I believe that each of our relationships with these entities is individual and unique. And those unique relationships are the walls where I shine my flashlight, so that I can examine, inspect, and marvel at the uniqueness of what I am experiencing. But that’s not all.

My Truth

A large part of who I am is about experiencing things. Walks in the woods. Long drives through the vast countryside of the United States. Working with my programming and databases. Sitting in the backyard next to my pool. Standing out by stone circle, in another part of the backyard, to watch the sun rise. Watching the growth of the cattle that I pass every day on my way to work. Standing on the back porch to feel the warm Summer rain, while listening to the mighty boom of nearby lightning. Conversations with friends and strangers on a wide variety of subjects. The warm, enveloping hug of friends that I saw yesterday, and the strong, enthusiastic hugs of friends and distant relatives I haven’t seen in quite some time. I tend to refer to all of that, as “my Druidry” – but that is the same thing as saying that it is a large part of “my Truth.”

Not All Personal Truths Are Equal

Perhaps, a few of you are reading the above statement and shaking your head. “That’s definitely not my truth,” you might be saying to yourself. And that is definitely all right. Much like the relationship between one individual and the Gods is one thing, another individual’s relationship to the Gods may be something completely different – even to the same Gods. Your own Truth may not be about experiencing things. Your own Truth might be about something way different. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you are proclaiming that your Truth is the Truth that everyone else must have as well. Then, we start down the road to the unbending rod of dogma. And while that may be your Truth, for me, a rigid dogma is a definite “no” for me.

Speaking Truth

For me, this is a very simple thing. Speaking Truth everyday is adding my experiences to my daily Path. This means taking time away from my keyboard at work, so I can step down to the gazebo at the duck pond, and just watch everything happening around me. The students coming and going, the sounds of their many discussions. Watching the clouds rolling in from the west, as the jet stream pushes them forward. When I do encounter students in my daily work, I try to be encouraging. I listen to them as they talk, ask leading questions to get them to puzzle out their problems for themselves. I step into their experiences. And every once in a while, they will ask how I manage to understand all of that, and I get the chance to discuss my own concept of dealing with experiences. Whether they adapt some of that or not, that is for them to decide.

In my nightly devotions to my two Gods and single Goddess, I try to add small commentary about my experiences for the day. Just as a way of sharing my day with Them. Plus, it serves as a reminder to me that these experiences have helped me to grow, and understand the world around me, and all the connections that are a part of that and myself.

So, What Happens?

This is where your mileage will vary greatly from my own. Because what happens is nearly as unique as the connection between us and the Gods. Or the connections between us and other people. Or our experiences to various moments in time. But, one thing I have found – when we start speaking our Truth, when we start consciously understanding our own personal Truths…it bleeds out into everything we do. We begin to commit actions that mirror how we believe. For me, this was learning to live my life much slower, more deliberately. To not be rushing from one location or task to another – unless it was merited by a deadline or a specific individual requesting data. Slowing life down in a deliberate manner, allowed me to embrace the connections I could readily see, and discover newer ones that were not readily available.

Slowing life down has also allowed me to embrace a different mantra. For this one, I have to lean to Mickey Hart of Dead & Company. At the very end of the Grateful Dead 50th anniversary celebration, he made the following statement:

The feeling we have here — remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I’ll leave you with this: Please, be kind. –Mickey Hart

…and for me, that encompasses an even greater Truth. If we live our own Truth, we will find that it all leads to one simple mantra (at least I hope it will): be kind to others. I cannot say for certain what your Truth is or is not, but I certainly hope that in the end, when speaking it to others, when living it in yourself, that it all boils down to one thing: being kind to others.

If you have found anything I have written here intriguing, or you are intrigued with what Nimue has posted….please, take the time to explore your own Truth. Write it down. Examine it. Write about that examination. Put your Truth in motion. Don’t let it be a hidden part of you. Live it out loud.


Crow Doesn’t Care About My MBA

All throughout my (ahem) professional career, I have seen a literally alphabet soup thrown at me. MBA, DBA, MCSA, MCSE, MCP, PhDE, and even more – all usually appended to the end of a signature block in an Email. In my Spiritual life, I have seen similar notations. 3rd Degree this, Certified instructor of that, yadda-yadda-yadda. Now, its easy to be dismissive of this stuff. After all, not everyone is financially capable of chasing these little scraps of alphabet – all of which have meaning. These credentials speak of who these people are, and what they (supposedly) know. But I do know individuals who have not played the Alphabet Chase game, and are as intelligent (and sometimes more so) as the individuals gathering the titles. So, do are these non-titled individuals an anomaly, or are they indicators of the poor quality of results from the institutions that bestow these alphabetized, encrypted descriptors?

Let’s open this with a bit of honest. I have credentials after my name as well. BSIT, MMIS, MBA. All this means is that I hold a (BSIT) Bachelors of Science in Information Technology, a (MMIS) Masters in Management of Information Systems, and a (MBA) Masters of Business Administration. Here in the outside world, the MBA tends to carry more weight. More “oooh!” factor. Its the one degree I care the least about, and the one that has the least amount of meaning towards what I do for a living. It was a door prize to a failed attempt at a Doctorate degree. Essentially, I amassed a pile of credits trying to get to the Doctorate degree, and when the pressure finally forced me to capitulate, I was offered two more Masters level classes to attain my MBA. Sure. Why not? I did quite a bit of work…I should get something for my effort, right? Most people are in awe when they hear I have an MBA. The concentration is in Information Security. Think about that for a minute. I have a Masters of Business Administration in Information Security. If that doesn’t sound silly to you…it should. But if I had said nothing more than I had an MBA, there’s a greater potential of you being in awe. But I honestly did not achieve my degrees to place people in awe of my credentials. I wanted the knowledge that supposedly backs up those credentials. And in all honesty, I could have (and probably have) gleaned most of that knowledge through my workplace experience.

See, credentials from colleges, universities and such state that you have knowledge of the theory of how to do things. The same goes for programs such as the training within OBOD, ADF, or any other spiritual organization. And knowledge is a good thing to have…but without using that knowledge to grow your experience, its just knowledge. Which is why I am not impressed with Alphabet Soup credentials. Knowing things is good. Using what you know to get things done, is even better. And sometimes, you didn’t need to go through an entire study program or college degree to get the knowledge that you needed to make things go.

Earlier this year, I attended Pantheacon – my first ever Spirituality convention. I honestly had nu clue what to expect. What I experienced was something somewhere between a giant meet-and-greet, an Anime convention, and a professional organization’s convention where training gets dispensed. Its the latter part of this that I want to address. The panels were far and away, the most intriguing moments for me. Certainly, other parts of the convention were great: being startled by the Krampus Walk and the total amount of noise that they made coming down the hall to the lobby; meeting Shauna Aura Knight and spending time talking with her face-to-face; getting to watch the lovely silliness of Kristopher Hughes; and two lovely morning breakfasts with my roomie for the event, John Beckett, and fellow OBOD member Frank Martinez. All of that made for a great time, but it was the panels were I was able to listen to how other people approached the themed topic, and write notes of how I could incorporate some of their approaches into my own.

For a couple of year running, my local area had Pagan Pride Days events. The last two years, we have had Pagan Unity events – which have had a similar feel and vibe. Each of these events have had panel discussions available to the folks, as well as rituals done by various local groups. I have been party to more than one super awesome conversation at these events, and have been able to take away something from each one that I have incorporated into my own daily life. So, Spiritual conventions are not the only place where such information can be gathered, and such discussions can be had. And social media platforms allow us to branch out in further with blogs, such as this one, and podcasts, and online radio shows, and Facebook groups, and Google Hangouts, and Twitter feeds, and Instagram accounts, and Email – oh my!

But the key isn’t just reading, and listening. Its about having the conversations through comments. I am envious of John Beckett’s blog over on Patheos – its located here, if you want to check it out. His posts gather all kinds of comments which turn into some really awesome conversations. Quite a bit of the time, I feel out of my depth with the people that post there, but I have dipped my toe into the conversations from time to time. But whether these folks realize it or not, I learn something from their comments. Yes, John posts excellent stuff, but many times, his comment threads yield very rich, enticing, and complex conversations that take deer trails in so many different directions from his original post. We also have books. And music. And rich podcasts such as “The Celtic Myth Podshow” which literally bring the myths and legends to life right before our very ears!

Literally, we have the equivalence of college material at our fingertips, where our Spirituality is concerned. We can learn any direction and style we want. We can expand on that knowledge with conversations – physical and electronic. We can petition the writers of the blog posts, the creators of the podcasts, the authors of the blog posts for more clarification on topics. We can meet with our fellow travelers on our various Paths both face-to-face, and in online environments. In the end, its not about how much knowledge we glean, or what credential we can place after our name – its about how we take that knowledge, the methods we have discussed with others – its about taking that and putting it to use.

For me, as a polytheist, its how I utilize that knowledge to move forward in how I honor my Three, and how I handle the work and tasks provided to me by Them. Because, to be honest, Crow doesn’t care that I have an MBA. Crow doesn’t care that my MBA was a door prize to a failed run at a Doctorate degree. Crow cares about how I utilize that knowledge. Its not about the credentials, its not about the degrees, its not about the certifications, and to a point its not about the knowledge. Its about how I use that knowledge.


Its Not a Degree Program…Its Far Deeper Than That

We have all heard the statement made….

I’m going to be….

Nine Hells, I have made that statement a ton in my life. Especially when I was much, much younger. Now at [mumble-mumble] years of age, I understand a bit more of the underpinnings to statements like that. To be able to be….(waving one hand in the air)…whatever….there’s a lot of hard work that needs to be handled before you get to that title, position…(waving hand again)…whatever. Let’s take an example…

Quite a few years ago, I ordered my Bardic Grade lessons from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I was confident that I could handle the self-paced timing of the lessons. I had a Bachelor’s degree and two Master’s degrees…this couldn’t be any more difficult than that, right? Yea, famous last words.

Make no bones about it, the Path to becoming a Druid through these lessons (or any set of lessons for that matter) is not one of academic pursuit. It is definitely not the same thing as getting [x] number of credit hours in various subjects at your local college or university. And approaching it from that mindset was a major stumbling block for me. This is not an academic pursuit. It is a spiritual one. And there is a huge difference between the two.

Truly, there is some academic pursuit involved in wanting to accomplish the knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a Druid grade member in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. After all, you are going to be touching base with history, religious theory, mythology, and writing. Lots of writing. All of that can be found in the pursuit of an academic degree. But there’s more to this than academia. There’s finding a framework to work your own beliefs upon. Whether you are working a monotheistic, polytheistic, or even a non-theistic belief structure to the teachings that you are learning, there’s plenty of areas for deeper thought and contemplation on spirituality, personal philosophy, and even exploring one’s own moral compass. And that does not even approach the exploration of meditation, and ritual concepts.

In the end, this is not the same thing as working towards a degree that proclaims to the world the base of knowledge that you have attained within a collegiate structure. This is about enriching your own personal spirituality, finding your connectedness in the world around you, and becoming part of something far larger than you. You are growing yourself, not working towards a degree that allows you to place some initials after your name.

Back when I was in the Air Force, one of my supervisors used to tell me that in order to achieve level-5 (a status level that allows you to work unsupervised in the career field I was in), I had to put in the “sweat equity” to achieve it. In other words, I had to do the work to get the certification. I had to prove my knowledge base. I had to roll up my sleeves and get into the material.

A few years back, I was frustrated at several points along my studies in the Bardic work.  Because I had not been putting the *right* sweat equity into my studies. I was looking at my studies as a way to achieve a title. I was approaching my studies from an approach of an academic student trying to achieve a grade in order to obtain credits that would be spent towards earning a degree. This is not a degree. It is a study that is meant to provide a means for me to understand my Spiritual Path better.

Kokopelli's Stone Circle at the New HouseThis morning, I woke up at 2am. I walked out into the backyard, and stood by my Stone Circle in my overgrown backyard (it needs mowing desperately). I looked up at the stars, and just stared. What I have just written here, occurred to me during those five minutes outside. I had brought a glass of water out with me to drink, which I poured at the northernmost stone in my circle. I chose my phrasing carefully. I stepped back onto my Bardic Grade again, with a fresh perspective. I am not on this Path to achieve a degree or a title. I am studying this Path to understand better. I am on this Path to learn more of myself. I am on this Path to honor the Gods, the Goddesses, my Ancestors, and myself. I am on this Path to connect in ways I had only dreamed of before.

Sometimes…it takes a shift of one’s mindset to realize where one’s foot slipped off the Path. And where one’s leg went knee deep into the bog. One thing is for sure…there’s work to be done. Nothing is going to be given to me. I have to want to learn on this Path….and I do. Any title or accolade may be nice, but is certainly not necessary. But the sweat equity most definitely will be….