Each Path for That Individual at That Time

Q:  How does one become a Pagan??

A:  Well, in my experience, as well as what I have managed to glean from others, it’s not so much “becoming” a Pagan, as much as it is finding that this wide myriad of Paths holds one that simply just “clicks” with you.

9112248859_703762b7e2_k…another of those questions that I get a lot from non-Pagans. Perhaps, I am a little different in my own personal theory on this, but I do not believe that people become Pagans, so much as they find one of the many Pagan paths that are out there that align better with what they believe within themselves. Not everyone is going to be a hard polytheist. Not everyone is going to find what they need within Wicca (I didn’t). But there is nothing wrong with either of those or with any other approach for that matter. Yes, I will even defend those that decide to place a pinch of racism into their own beliefs. So long as you are not harming anyone else because they do not follow your beliefs…or trying to push them off a Path that is similar to your own, simply because they will not align exactly with your own or (Gods forbid) using your beliefs or your position within those beliefs to harm another…I have zero issues with someone exploring their own idea of what the “divine” is.

For me, people eventually come to their own beliefs through their own experiences. For me, I always felt that the Gods and Goddesses were alive and individual beings when I was a young lad, hunting through encyclopedias in the Base Library. I could feel Their presence in the woods throughout Germany when I went walking with my parents (and several hundred other folks) during volksmarches. For others on their own spiritual paths (even on a path of Druidry very similar to my own), they may hold that there are an archetypal God and Goddess, or a universal Spiritual Divine, or even the Christian Trinity. It is not how I connect to the world around me, but I am not willing to push them off their Paths simply because the manner in which they experience their connectedness is different from my own.

We are nearing the beginning of Spring here in North Texas. Every day that I drive the eleven miles to and from work, I see the new-born calves in the pastures, sometimes huddled close to their mother cows, and other times running with my truck as I drive past them. Even despite the last pushes at a bitter cold have come down from the northern tier of the United States, these newborns are a reminder that Spring is on its way – as promised every year in the turning cycle. Through those moments, I see the hands of the Gods and Goddesses everywhere. Just as I am sure that a soft polytheist sees the nurturing aspects of the archetype Mother, and the Christian sees the nurturing hand of God.

Though it sounds like I am making a hard comparative point, I am actually not. Each of these is a manner in which some of my friends see the world around them, and find their own connections. Each sounds similar, but the reality is that they are not. Every individual finds their own unique connection to their environment utilizing the framework that works best for them. Other folks, do not even attempt to seek that connected strand out in their lives, while some will find the strand regardless, with no spiritual pull to it all.  And the hard reality is that each approach is correct – for the individual that utilizes it. And if it is not, that individual will seek a new connected experience, in their own time, at their own pace.

I know how I feel the connection to the Gods and Goddesses – to the Ancestors – to the Spirits of Place. That approach works for me. It is definitely not for me to tell a single person that their approach is wrong or incorrect. When someone comes to seek my advice (and admittedly, it is not often), I try my best to describe my approach and point out that it is my own. They might be able to glean something that works for them or perhaps, just hearing about my approach might spark an idea in a completely different direction for them. And that is really all I can do. Try to show other avenues that might be available and useful for them. It is why I write this blog. It is why I am going to continue the podcast. So that other folks can see that not every avenue is appropriate, but that searching out for different approaches might be enough to open the door.

This morning, I was watching the movie “Troy”. This is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the dynamic between Achilles and the Priestess Briseis. There is a moment, which disagrees with how I perceive the Gods that takes place between these two characters:

Achilles: I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

While I agree with the sentiment of the beauty and fleeting treasure that a mortal life is, as Achilles describes it – I disagree that the Gods envy us. I believe, like us, the Gods have their own aspects of connectivity. Certainly, there is something to be said about how much richer the beauty of a fleeting moment may have. It certainly is a reminder of what we are as mortal beings. To find beauty, we only need to be silent in a forest at morning. Or in a field. Or even just outside of our front or back doors to our homes. To hear the wind whisper through the branches of the trees, through the tall grasses of the farmer’s field or through the leaves of the bushes near our homes. The warmth of the sun on our faces, or the cooled drops of rain. The feel of the dirt in our hands as we plant our crops or weed our flower beds. And those moments, those fleeting moments that will not be the same – even if we come back in an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year or ever…those are the moments that live in our memories. Moments we will never experience exactly the same, again.

How we connect to everything around us, everyone around us, the Gods and Goddesses, our Ancestors, and the Spirits of Place – how we celebrate those moments in our own memories is what is important. Which Gods and Goddesses we seek the Divine in our lives is important – to each of us individually. When we gather together at certain points in the Wheel of the Year, we honor all the Gods and Goddesses collectively – aloud or silently. We also honor ourselves and each other. For we are unique individuals, and we will not be the same ever again then at that moment. For like our environment, just like the Gods and Goddesses, we are changing. Some changes are small, others (such as death) are massively consequential, for us, and others.

This all might seem a bit “rambly” (the spell-checking dictionary claims it to be a word) in nature, but I assure this is not. For me, it is quite a cohesive thought. I never “became” a Pagan. I never “became” a polytheist. I am both. I have always been both – even when I had no words or concepts to express it as such. I firmly believe that we do not “become” what we are. We grow into it. From whatever faith. From whatever perspective. Some get to that point of understanding faster than others. There is no judgment in that whatsoever. Some people walk a darkened forest path very quickly, instinctively knowing that illumination in some form will happen eventually. Others move along it slowly, careful not to trip over a hidden rock in the path, and listen carefully to the still air. The correctness of either of those choices or some other option is clearly up to the individual. It took me a while to find my Path, and to be at this point of it. There is a lot more for me to walk, experience and learn from. And even when I reach that destination tht I am seeking; there will be more Path to explore beyond that.

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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.