Have you heard the news? In the fall of 2015 a new Pagan festival came to town in the Arlington, Texas area and blossomed into fruition. The project was spearheaded by Becca Shugart and she organized volunteers, sponsors, vendors, entertainers, coordinators and anyone else willing to help. She later passed the torch on to myself and Arachne Crowsinger and we invited other local organizers as she moved on to other places and adventures. A planning group was established and some coordinator positions were quickly filled shortly after the first announcements of this new spiritual gathering were made.
Arlington UU church has gracefully opened their land up to the event since the first one was held in September of 2015 and volunteers are always welcome. Some of the assistance always needed includes:
Land crew to help with set up before the event and break down afterwards.
Graphics and Promo Team
Auction and Raffle Team
Children’s Activities Coordinator
DFW Pagan Unity fest was born out of a need within this community to have an event for like-minded individuals during a time that other, similar events did not seem to be taking place. It stands as proof that a community can come together and overcome obstacles to make things happen even if there is opposition or obstruction. May the spirit of unity live on in future events of this nature and may the entire spiritual community reap the benefits of sharing joy, laughter and time together in harmony. Thank you to Becca Shugart for starting this ball rolling. Your torch burns brightly as a beacon for all to see.
Okay pet peeve time. This is one that has been eating at me for quite some time (years actually) and I just gotta get it off my chest. It’s the thing a lot of people do when they say “Oh, I have to watch what I say or do around this person or that person because they are very religious.” When what they really mean is that the person adheres to a very strict and fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian bible or one of the other Abrahamic scriptures and expects everyone else within their vicinity to likewise adhere to this moral code. That is not synonymous with religious.
A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life, the origin of life, or the Universe.
Christianity is a religion. But Buddhism is also a religion. Hinduism is also a religion. Wicca is also a religion. Druidry is also a religion. I religiously, every single day, wake up and light candles and incense on my altar, say a prayer and pull a rune for guidance from my gods. I am a very religious person. To call only people who adhere to one set of beliefs and one interpretation of those said beliefs at that religious is like calling all of the rest of us less religious for not doing so and I, quite frankly, find it rather insulting. Now, I don’t need to hear from the “I’m spiritual but not religious.” crowd on this. I get where y’all are coming from and I know your slogans, quotes and memes. I’ve shared many of them myself on various social media circles. Yes, yes, yes. “Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.” My religion has no concept of hell for one and that quote is not indicative of how I see my religion or my spirituality. “Religion is belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience.” Okay, I can buy into that one maybe. But I do not feel that one necessarily excludes the other. I have both a belief in the experiences of others as well as my own. What I am talking about here is not the difference between spirituality and religion but the difference between one group of religious people and another group of religious people.
I am not ready to cede the word religion or it’s derivatives to just a group of people who adhere to one interpretation of one religious text. There are millions of people who practice Christianity who don’t do it in the way most folks who throw the “he/she is very religious” line around are referring to. I don’t think those Christians are any less religious than the other Christians just because they don’t believe in stoning people to death in the streets for eating shellfish or whatever. By all means, call those people what they are. Call them fundamentalists. Call them intolerant bigots if they are the type who look at a piece of religious jewelry on someone else’s person that symbolizes a religion that is not their own then makes a face like someone just passed gas immediately thereafter. But please, don’t give them the word “religious” wholesale. Some of us would still like to use it too.
Thank you! I’ll step off of my soapbox now. Have a nice day! 🙂
I get asked this a lot and more often than not, my answer is that my personal spirituality certainly has Wiccan DNA but I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself Wiccan and leave it at that. The reason being is that Wicca has some specific beliefs and traditions that I don’t adhere to but many that I do. My first formal training in Pagan religions was in Alexandrian Wicca although I only attained first degree in that tradition. A lot of my self study as a solitaire came from reading books by Wiccan authors but it doesn’t stop there. I also studied (and continue to study) Druidry formerly with ADF and currently with OBOD. I incorporate a lot of their practices and beliefs into my personal spirituality as well. I have some influences which come from those parts of my heritage that are Native American in origin. Whereas Wiccans typically see the divine in a duo-theistic way (One God and One Goddess of which all others are aspects), my own concept of the divine is more polytheistic (individual gods and goddesses) as well as animistic (the divine energy is in all of creation). The tradition I am a part of, Spirit Of the Sycamore Tradition is derived from a Wiccan lineage so it is technically accurate to call ourselves Wiccan although, again, I don’t typically describe myself that way personally because I think it only tells part of the story and to just say that I am Wiccan and leave it at that does a disservice to traditional Wicca as well as to my other spiritual influences. So, I generally go with Eclectic Pagan or Animistic Pagan to describe myself. In Spirit Of the Sycamore tradition we have a very open framework for expectations at the tradition level to be a member group. So, while Mystic Willow Coven uses the name coven to describe themselves and come at things from a more traditionally Wiccan viewpoint, my own group Temple Of the Standing Stones, is more Eclectic in nature and therefore doesn’t utilize the term coven. But, if you come to one of our open rituals (of which we have many), you will see a lot of Wiccan elements involved. We do call upon the Lord and Lady (the masculine and feminine divine energies) but we also ask participants to call upon their own patron deities. We do cast circle and call upon the elements but we also make an outdweller offering to appease those spirits whose energies are not aligned with ours.
Ours is a ritual style that we are still developing and making our own but it’s easy to see that it is indeed influenced by ritual formats used by Wiccans in many ways. And why not? It is a solid and familiar ritual style for most modern Pagans. It has been heavily popularized in books and other works so it’s something almost anyone from anywhere can come and feel pretty at home with. That’s the sort of environment we hope to create and establish for people. One in which they can feel comfortable enough to make their first forays into group ritual if they haven’t before or find others if they are new to the area but also one in which they can feel free to explore and learn new things. We practice balance and harmony of the genders and energies. No one is greater or lesser than another based on their race, sex, or other attributes which they are born into. I like to embrace the power of diversity and believe wholeheartedly that the whole can be greater than the sum of it’s parts. I also believe in the old quote usually attributed to Einstein although no record of him saying it exists “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” We all have our strengths and weaknesses but when we all work together we share in one another’s strengths and help one another overcome the weaknesses.
So am I one of those Wiccans? Maybe, a little bit. But I’m other stuff too. Aren’t we all? 😉
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Long before I ever learned that I was Pagan I was a young man who was going to school and had decided that I was agnostic because very little I found in the offerings of mainstream religion rang true for me. Oh, I agreed with the core philosophies, “Love thy neighbor” ,”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, etc. But the inconsistencies, and long lists of “thou shalt nots”, many of which made no sense whatsoever, didn’t add up for me. Couple that with the televangelists wanting us to put one hand on the television set and pray with them and the other hand on our checkbook so we could send them some money and the many scandals said televangelists found themselves in during the eighties when I was taking all of this in. Then there’s the guys with the slicked back hair and used car salesman vibe who spoke over the body of my father in 1977 and then over the body of my mother in 2009. In my lifetime I never saw either of my parents attend a church due to their own misgivings about “organized religion” except for funeral services and weddings. But both times I distinctly remember the preacher who did not know them from Adam, standing up there and turning the entire event of their funerals into a sales pitch for his religion. Telling stories of how he could see each of them up there standing next to Jesus and telling all of us down on earth how we needed to come down the same path. Both times the whole thing reeked of showmanship and hard selling to me. I left the place feeling like I needed to take a shower. So, no, I was never much attracted to that path even in 1977 at 8 years old.
But my mom and dad lived through World War II. My dad had just turned 18 in 1945 so he enlisted as soon as he could. This, of course, turned out to be the tail end of the war so he didn’t see much action but was stationed in Alaska in the Signal Corp of the U.S. Army listening for signals from our ships in the Pacific theater. Both my parents were tremendously patriotic. But patriotic in the sense that they vehemently believed in and defended the ideals upon which the United States was founded. Those ideals spelled out in the Declaration Of Independence and the Constitution as well as the writings of our founding fathers. Not the blind kind of patriotism which seems to be all about waving the flag and chanting U.S.A. every time someone has a point of view that you personally feel is “un-American” simply because it’s different from your point of view or the version of history that your favorite clergyperson is selling. The kind of history that gets books touting Moses as a Founding Father approved by the Texas State Legislature as text books for public schools. Yeah, I’m not interested in that form of patriotism. That form of patriotism reminds me too much of the type that led a nation to follow a madman into trying to establish a third reich. I have no interest in living in a theocracy, a plutocracy or a fascist state. I much prefer a representative democracy thank you and MUCH preferably one in which the representatives represent “the people”. ALL of the people, not just those with deep enough pockets to buy the representation and laws which benefit themselves at the expense of others.
No, I’ve always been inspired by quotes from our founding fathers like:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.
– Thomas Jefferson
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
– Treaty Of Tripoli, Article 11
and of course…
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
– Preamble of the Declaration Of Independence
The ideals of freedom for all were there from the very beginning but for many they have had to been fought for ever since. It wasn’t until many years later, in 1865 that black people received freedom from slavery and much later still until the civil rights movement took place in the 1960s. Women didn’t get to vote until the late 1800s in some western states and not nationally until 1919. Not to mention the genocide of the native peoples and everything that was taken from them. No, it hasn’t come about automatically and there are still many freedoms people are having to fight for from those who would limit the rights of others because it pleases them to do so.
But this, the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that were the vision of our founding fathers is what I am patriotic about. These ideals are what I see in Pagan religions that I never saw in mainstream religions too. But because I have always looked at the world in this way I asked lots of questions as a child like “If we are a nation founded on the principles of religious freedom, why can’t Mormons have multiple wives if that’s what their religion says?” Why can’t we buy hardware on Sundays if my religion doesn’t say we can’t work on Sunday? (Yes, as a child I remember going into the Buddies grocery store with my grandfather and seeing the hardware aisle roped off on Sunday because of the Texas Blue Laws.) “Why are there crimes against things which have no discernible victims like prostitution, growing and using certain plants, etc.?)”
Yeah, they never cared much for the questions I asked and sometimes they would make feeble attempts at painting a picture in which there were victims to these crimes but most of the time the arguments didn’t hold water because it was clear that these things wouldn’t have those pitfalls in the first place had it not been for the act of making them illegal. These were questions I was asking before I had even hit my teenage years because what they were telling me in school about the ideals we were founded on and what I was seeing out there in the real world just didn’t seem to add up. Freedom? For some people maybe but not for others. What’s wrong with this picture I kept asking. What indeed. So yeah, I think everyone should be free to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as long as their pursuit doesn’t infringe on the rights of another who is pursuing theirs.
Hey now! Don’t roll your eyes. LOL! I’m not judging you if you are. Be who you are when you can. We all have many different hats to wear and different personas we are sometimes forced to portray depending on who we’re with and what situation we’re in. We don’t all have the benefit of work environments, family dynamics or social circles to always be ourselves and still be able to get along in society. Besides, it’s not like you really need to wear your spirituality on your sleeve and be one of those annoying religiously obnoxious types.
But, at the same time I would like to say that, just as some Christians lament the fact that they have adherents who only show up at their churches for Christmas and Easter, many of ours only come around at Beltane and Samhain or when something fun is going on. There’s no point in getting bent out of shape about it. It’s just human nature and folks make time for what matters in their life. Also, like I said, everyone’s situation is different and people have to adapt to the environment that they are in to a point. But if you are looking for a way to make your spirituality more a part of your daily practice, regardless of whether you practice with a group or if you are a solitaire, there are some things you might consider doing. In my temple we encourage our dedicants and initiates to make meditation a part of their lives. If meditation is a new thing then we recommend starting off with maybe once a week, then twice, then building up to daily practice over a matter of months. Experiment with different techniques and styles until you find one that is right for you or several. There are different meditations for different purposes and situations you will find.
Consider doing a morning devotional or prayer to your deities of choice maybe. This is a great way to start your day and make the gods and goddesses a part of your life. Building a relationship with them, you may find, increases your awareness of them throughout the day and you may notice signs or omens you didn’t see before. They do speak to us every day, we only need to quite our minds and listen.
Consider learning some blessings for regular occasions like meal times, bed time, preparing to travel, etc.
We have some of these on my temple’s forum which are freely available without even having to register. You can use the search function on the forum to find one that fits your needs.
According to some sources, apparently proselytizing is defined as any attempt to change another person’s point of view on a subject, be it religion, political affiliation or brand of shaving cream they use. I’ve been told that I, myself, proselytize because I write blog posts about Paganism and try to get people to at least open their minds and be more friendly to Pagan viewpoints on a variety of topics. I’ve suggested that it might not be a bad idea to “plant seeds of reason” in the minds of those whose views are intolerant so that they might, perhaps for the first time in their lives, take an opportunity to see things from a different point of view. Is that proselytizing? Ehhhhh. Maybe so, to some folks, Merriam-Webster included these days I guess. I don’t suppose it matters much what ya call it. Perhaps it’s due to the environment I grew up in but I tend to have a less broad view of what that word encompasses. To me, the people canvassing neighborhoods and knocking on doors to “share the good word” are proselytizing. The guy standing on the street corner holding his favorite book of scripture and shouting at passersby is proselytizing. The guy whom you’ve told a half dozen times already that you’re not interested in the sermon he’s trying to get ya to come hear but he just won’t take no for an answer is proselytizing. But, hey, if I’m proselytizing by sharing my point of view too, so be it. I’ll proselytize at ya! 😉 It’s often said that Pagan religions are not proselytizing religions and indeed we don’t have a huge vested interest in getting people to follow us on our paths. No Pagan religion that I know of has a concept of eternal damnation of one’s soul if they don’t make offerings to the correct deity or go to circle every full moon. We don’t get extra points for “saving souls” and “bringing them to the light” or anything like that. Most of us believe in a live and let live philosophy that says that if your path is working for ya then stay on it. If not, try another. There are many ways to get to the top of the mountain they say and the only one who is on the wrong path is the one who is running in circles around the mountain telling everyone else that they are on the wrong path.
I think Pagans, myself included, are leery of the word and it’s connotations because of the frequency with which the charge is aimed our way that it is us who are seeking to “recruit” more people to our faith. The irony of that charge considering the tactics used by those usually making it aside, I think the best way to to attract someone to your path, if that is what you desire to do, is to simply live it and let the way it fills your spirit and fosters happiness, wisdom and enlightenment in your life inspire others to walk with you and see if it is right for them as well. If it is great! If not, that’s fine too. Let them keep seeking until they find the one that does work for them. See ya at the top of the mountain!
So I’m out and about today and I run across this card propped up on a water fountain outside a restroom. Advertising or proselytizing? I would say advertising myself but is it also a form of “recruiting” ?
I have to hand it to them. This is a brilliant piece of advertising for their particular religious group. You run across these things all over the place if you live in the “bible belt” as it’s called. I really have no issue with it but I also know that if a Pagan group were to place cards like these in public places (not just at metaphysical stores and other places Pagans frequent) then it would only be a matter of time before someone would be proclaiming that “Those evil Pagans are out to recruit people!” This, folks, is an example of being in an overwhelming majority position and enjoying the privilege which comes with that position. You can do things without repercussions which others can not. Anyone, in any sort of minority position knows what I mean. It’s why I tell people, don’t follow this path unless you mean it and are truly called to it. It’s not something to be taken up as a fad or because you want to rebel against something or someone. It’s not an easy path to follow and you’ll come up on resistance, sometimes in the most unexpected places and at the most unexpected times. But, that being said, those of us who can be out and open about our Paganism can help the others by being vocal and speaking our minds too. So, if you are in a position to speak openly about your beliefs, please do so when you can. Every mind that is opened makes the world safer and more hospitable for others.
I should be writing right now but I’m probably not. These things keep residing in my head, wanting to come out, but too often get lost in the dark recesses of my mind not to see the light of day. Writing needs to be a habit.
Oh my gods! I have so many things I want to write about but these days it seems that every time I find a little quiet time to sit down and collect my thoughts so I can start putting them into words something comes up. *Sigh* I’ll keep trying though. It may help if I could stop getting myself distracted by the ever flowing stream of notifications and cool things to look at and share on ye old book of face too. Ah, easier said than done. But really, some of the topics that have been rolling around in my head are my thoughts on some of the recent excellent posts I’ve read by other bloggers out there. Also, I want to say some more about Spirit Of the Sycamore tradition’s Beltane 2015 event, the idea of a North Texas area Pagan Festival that can be closer to home and less expensive than other events, some of the things my temple has been working on like music and dancing, new lesson ideas, crafts and more, the need for more community interaction and networking (I know, I talk about that a lot but it’s really important and I’ve seen some recent events which really illustrate why that I would like to point out. I need to to secure permission from some folks to talk about it and see if names should be kept out. I’m thinking in this case they should.) Anyway, stay tuned. If I get to lock myself up in a room somewhere and not take any calls or door knocks, I might crank out some articles soon. No promises though. I do still have a 7 year old and 15 year old to monitor and sometimes regulate.
I suppose it is inevitable that at some point, someone will type “standing stones Arlington Texas” into a search engine probably looking for the beautiful Caelum Moor sculpture which now resides at Richard Greene Linear Park across the street (more or less) from both the Dallas Cowboys Stadium and the Texas Rangers Ballpark. What they might also find with those search terms is my Pagan religious group’s website Temple Of the Standing Stones. No, this was not by design at all, it was quite by accident actually. But, because I am an SEO minded kind of guy and quite often type things into search engines to see how my sites rank for terms someone might be inclined to use to find them, I happened upon this fact and thought, hmmmmm, someone is going to think I did that on purpose someday. Maybe I should write an article explaining myself that I can point to when that day comes. Especially considering the controversy said artwork has had in the past due to it’s association with Pagans.
Last summer I had decided on a name for my new temple as I was coming within months of reaching my third degree and hiving off to start a temple of my own. When I decided to call it Temple Of the Standing Stones my mind was on my Celtic heritage and spiritual leanings and the many standing stones of antiquity scattered throughout the homelands of my ancestors. I even wrote an article with some pictures of several of them called Standing Stones. If you look at the article you’ll see about a half dozen examples of standing stone structures. What you won’t see there is Caelum Moor. It’s not because I don’t have a great fondness for Caelum Moor. I most certainly do. In fact, years ago I emailed back and forth with a local city councilwoman about things my friends and I could do to support having them brought out of storage in the water treatment facility where they resided for many years and put them back on public display. Unfortunately, the moving around of 22 ton stones is a monumental effort (pardon the pun) and beyond the financial capabilities of myself or anyone I know personally. Thankfully, Jerry Jones, whom I am not usually fond of but this act was certainly one of the best moves I’ve ever seen him make, took care of that situation and now the stones are once again available for public enjoyment.
So why were the stones in storage? Well, not to re-hash history too much but the readers digest version, as I understand it, goes like this. Remember, most of this took place before I discovered I was Pagan and still considered myself agnostic. So, I wasn’t personally involved and only have sources who were around at the time to go by. Oh, I remember when Caelum Moor was over by I-20 back in the day and even went to visit it a time or two back then thinking, what a wonderful place! I wonder how it got here all by itself in an empty field near the interstate? Well, apparently there was going to be a huge commercial real estate venture in that area back in the eighties and Caelum Moor was built by it’s creator, sculptor Norm Hines who the investment company contracted to establish this piece of art for the centerpiece of the planned venture (I’m guessing they had something in mind along the lines of The Highlands mall which is at the location now. Unfortunately, the investment company went bust during the economic downturn of the 80s when the oil boom went bust. So the project was shut down and here was Caelum Moor left all by itself in the field. Apparently, teenagers used to go out there and have wild parties and, because they are standing stones, reminiscent of Stonehenge in some ways, of course local Pagan groups were attracted to them and thought they would be a nice place to go out and hold rituals. I don’t disagree with them. They are indeed beautiful and are made of some lovely Texas Pink Granite which vibrates with some powerful energy all their own. But I think any of us who are of reasonable mind also recognize, they are not a spiritual structure by design. They are a work of art and their creator is Christian to the best of my knowledge. They aren’t about religion, they are about heritage. But, sometime in the nineties another private firm bought the land that Caelum Moor sat on and wanted to develop it. They said, hey, this is a beautiful piece of artwork here but we have no use for it. Would the city like to have it and make it a park for the public to enjoy? That’s when the trouble started. The way I hear it, about 19 area ministers raised all kinds of hell (note, I didn’t use my usual Hel spelling here) about it at the City Council proclaiming that it was a “Pagan Temple” and therefore having the city be in charge of it would be a violation of the separation of church and state. (A concept I am in favor of by the way). The irony here is, around about the same time I learned about this argument being used against the city taking possession of the stones for use as a public park, a Christian Church (Highpoint Church which later bought the old Johnson and Johnson facility at Arbrook and 360) was meeting at the auditorium of Workman Jr. High School. (What was that about separation of church and state again? Isn’t Workman Jr. High School funded by taxpayer money? MY property taxes actually?) Anyway, the 19 area ministers had their way. The city did not take possession of the stones and make a park at that time. Instead they were transported to storage at a water treatment plant where they stayed for years and years thereafter until Jerry Jones bankrolled their restoration. Like I said, I’m not particularly a fan of the guy but I gotta “give the devil his due” as the Christians say. 😉
So, fast forward to the present day. The stones are available to be enjoyed by the public once again. The Pagan public, the Christian public and the Pastafarian public for that matter. That’s a good thing in my opinion. They are too beautiful not to be enjoyed by everyone and I am deeply grateful to Norm Hines for creating them. Do Pagans love them? Yes, most that I know certainly do. But we don’t consider them to be a “Temple” unto themselves. They are, what they are. A beautiful piece of artwork created by a Christian sculptor who’s concept was to celebrate the Scottish heritage of the settlers who founded Arlington, Texas.
I did take some of my temple members to visit the stones a couple of times because they are a wonderful place to have a picnic, enjoy nature, and generally just feel good. At some point, some of us plan to go up there and take some photos in our ritual robes to put with our profiles on our website because they do make a wonderful backdrop for such things. But I am hesitant to go so far as to hold a ritual out there myself considering all the uproar that has happened over that in the past. I’d hate to see such a beautiful place get caught up once again in ugly controversy and bigotry just because some of us happen to enjoy them, maybe a bit more than others.
Oh! The picture I included! Yeah, that’s my brother Ta’li Seabhac the night I introduced him to Caelum Moor drawing in the energy at Tuatha De Danaan (which means children of the Goddess Danu by the way). Oh yes, energy is there. Both because that pink Texas granite comes about it naturally and because so many Pagan groups in the past did indeed hold ritual and no doubt blessed these stones before us. It’s unmistakable. But don’t let that freak you out. It’s all positive energy and I think anyone, no matter what your particular spiritual flavor might be, would get a good vibe visiting those stones. If not, well…. maybe the problem isn’t the stones? Just sayin’! 😉