Spirituality – Living It vs. Reading It


The following article on living was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on July 7th, 2013.

Festival Drum - Living It!
Djembe By Campfire – Living It!

Each morning I start my day off in basically the same way. I wake up (hopefully) and look over at my altar which sits right next to my bed on a small shelf attached to the wall where most people would keep their night stand. If the spirit candle has burned out I light a new one. I light a tea light candle in the southern quadrant for the element of fire. I light an incense in the east for air. I check on my malachite and other stones in the north and my sea shell in the west. Sometimes I change out and have a chalice of water in the west or some other representations but these days that the basics of my altar. I light a healing candle if anyone I know of is in need of healing or other energies. Then I pick up my athame and cast an invoking pentagram followed by these words or something similar.

Great Goddess, Mighty God

You who are of me and around me

Guide me through this day

Show me the way through darkness and confusion

Grant to me peace, love, balance, courage, health and joy for this day.

So mote it be.

I place my athame back into it’s sheath (it’s a replica of a Royal Scottish Dirk which my wife gave to me as a gift) and lay it back onto the altar. I reach into my bag of runes and take out one for my guidance for the day. Write down what rune it was in my journal and a little about it’s meaning then go on to start my work day.

It’s a simple ritual and very Wiccan in style but I do it every day and it helps me to connect with the divine, ask for their guidance and feel I am off to a good start. If I were to miss it I would probably go through the day feeling lost because it has become an important part of my life and of my daily routine.


In the past I have done daily invocations in the style of ADF Druidry but since the Goddess smacked me upside the head nearly a year ago now and made it quite clear that I needed to get my butt back on my path this is the ritual which has been working for me. Later I may change it but I will likely always start my day with something like this.

We all have our own ways of reconnecting with the divine, the center, nature or however we describe what makes us feel….. for lack of a better word, right? That we belong? That we are a part of something?

I know that whenever I am out in nature I also feel the connectedness of the divine. Some of us need ritual, some of us don’t. We all have our preferred methods of divination. Some of us are heavily into magickal workings, some of us are more interested in learning our history and rituals. But we all, together are living our spirituality in our own ways. How do you live yours?

“Go out, go out I beg of you 

And taste the beauty of the wild. 

Behold the miracle of the earth 

With all the wonder of a child”

– Edna Jaques


Fear – Are You A God Fearing Person?

The following article on fear was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on June 27th, 2014.

If you are shocked by what I say then you obviously haven't paid attention to who I am. Fear.
If you are shocked by what I say then you obviously haven’t paid attention to who I am.

I was visiting my friend Camie at Texas Snow Store in Watauga as I sometimes do on my way home from work and a couple of guys walk up carrying a big box of banana nut bread for sale. She says, “Oh, you have to try this banana bread! It’s the best ever!” So, she goes running up to meet them and buys a few loaves for herself and one for us to share. She offers them a snow cone each to cool them off from walking in the afternoon heat and humidity and they come over and join us in the shade of Dave’s gazebo close to his Philly Shack restaurant.

These two guys are from a Christian based rehabilitation house nearby which helps drug addicts turn their lives around and change their habits. The banana nut bread they sell helps fund the program and helps the people going through the program get accustomed to the trials of everyday productive work and interacting with people. They tell us about how some of the people who are doing what they are doing don’t want to change their ways and instead steal the money made from selling the bread to go buy drugs.

But if the program can help 1 in 10 people pull themselves out of the gutter of addiction then it’s worth it right? I am happy to see people improving their lives through whatever means work for them. Now cynical me has thought on occasion about how these programs latch on to people when they are at the lowest points in their lives and most vulnerable and susceptible to persuasion in order to brainwash them into a manner of thinking which benefits the people running the program. Like, I said, that’s cynical me talking and indeed such programs do usually come with a stipulation that one needs to submit to and turn over their faculties to the particular organizations interpretation of what their “one true god” wishes. Essentially using it as an avenue to recruit more members. The very thing those of us from minority religions like Wicca and Druidry are often accused of.

But still, if this organization helps those people to make a better life for themselves then some loyalty in return is probably not too much to ask is it? Perhaps some of the Pagan organizations should take note if they ever become large enough and organized enough to fund such programs. 😉

But anyway, at one point one of the guys pipes up and asks us if we are “God fearing people.” I answered as I often do such queries. “I have no need to fear my god because I know my god loves me.” He wasn’t quite sure what to do with that answer based on the look on his face but it was no matter because Camie piped in with “Well, he’s spiritual but not religious.” So the guy says, well, the important thing is that we believe there is something bigger than just us out there. Which I agree with regardless of what form that something bigger might take on from one individual or another.

That phrase and others like it have always bothered me though. It’s a popular one in Bible Belt Christianity. “God fearing.” It smacks of being in an abusive relationship to me. Why should I have to fear my god(dess) if (s)he loves me? Perhaps fear letting my god(dess) down if my actions are not worthy of his or her approval or that I am not living my life up to the fullest potential the gods have laid before me. But to fear my gods themselves? That concept just seems odd to me. What do you think?

image

Ugliness And Nastiness – No Thanks!

The following article on ugliness and nastiness was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on May 28th, 2014.

Be strong, but not rude; Be kind but not weak; Be bold, but not a bully; Be humble but not timid; Be proud, but not arrogant. No ugliness!
Be strong, but not rude; Be kind but not weak; Be bold, but not a bully; Be humble but not timid; Be proud, but not arrogant. No ugliness!

As I have mentioned in past blog posts,  in my 15 plus years hanging around in the Paganesque community I haven’t received nearly as much negativity from the people you might expect. No, not the hardcore fundamentalist Christians who dominate the region I grew up and live in. The truth be told, the most hateful, negative, ugly words I have ever heard directed towards my beliefs or those of other minority religion faiths have come from right within the Pagan, Heathen or Earth Based Spiritual communities.

It’s a bizarre phenomenon to me. Here we are surrounded, literally out numbered 1000 to 1 or more by people who wholeheartedly believe we are bound for a lake of fire and eternal damnation for daring to believe differently than they do, but some of us would rather cut one another’s throats, figuratively (hopefully), than understand one another and embrace our differences in the midst of mainstream dogma.

I remember a time, back in 2002, I was a freshly minted 1st degree Alexandrian Wiccan priest. I was proud of what I had learned in my past year and a day of study. I was proud of my new pentacle and robe. I was delighted to be a part of a Pagan community which I naively believed at that time to be all open minded, friendly, earth loving, ancestor honoring people supporting one another in their paths. I heard about this Druid gathering going on near Austin called Modron’s Gate. To this day I do not know who the organizers were or which Druid order was represented but I think it was ADF (the one I eventually joined many years later) and I think I remember Skip Ellison (former Archdruid of ADF although he was not yet Archdruid at that time I don’t think) speaking there.
I had really enjoyed myself there that first day and that night went to sit down by the fire with the others and listen to the drumming and story telling.
At one point the drumming stopped for awhile as people were resting their hands and refreshing themselves and someone, I don’t remember who, began to speak. He went on for quite some time about why he believed Druidry was superior to Wicca which isn’t bad in and of itself. Everyone is entitled to their opinion after all. But as he continued the stereotypical cliches about Wiccans came out. The stuff about how all Wiccans believe magick is powered by fairy farts and unicorns who shit rainbows. All Wiccans believe everything in the world is love and light and there is never any darkness. All Wiccans believe in a bunch of New Age (which rhymes with sewage) mumbo jumbo and don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground. You know, the kinds of things people say when they are stroking their own ego at the expense of others in an attempt to make themselves look superior.

Well, needless to say, I left that place thinking, if this is what Druids are about I don’t want anything to do with them. It was many years later that I bothered to look into it and find out there was much more to it than that person’s impression left me with. The founder of ADF was, himself married to a Wiccan and didn’t feel at all that way about Wiccans. But, how much more might I have been willing to learn about Druidry in 2002 had I not been driven away by that ugliness?

Also, back in the day I used to frequently make trips down to a popular Pagan festival ground to volunteer my time at work weekends. The land crew as it was called had their own camp ground and because I had helped out with the clearing of the land for camping places, I was invited to camp with them at the first festival held on the newly acquired land. My friends and I had a great time that night at land crew camp. There was drumming, dancing, story telling and camaraderie. No one was negative and I don’t recall a cross word being cast toward anyone. Then, the next evening, my wife at the time (ex now) went down to the medical tent area because she was experiencing some pain as she often did and needed some attention. While there another individual was in the area commenting about how there had been some “strange energy” coming from the land crew camp the night before and it just wasn’t good. I’ve come to learn that sometimes “strange energy” is used by some people as code for “I don’t like those people.” But I had no idea what the guy was talking about. I had been there the whole time and they all seemed like a wonderful group of people to me. Still, it stayed with me and showed me that this was not the cohesive, spiritually focused community I naively led myself to believe at first. But why can’t people talk to one another instead of about one another? It’s much as Tommy Elf said in his article, You Never Know Who Is Watching. You really never do and while most community leaders and organizers want to see their community grow, such negativity and divisiveness has the opposite effect on new comers. They see it and it usually makes them want to run the other way.

I, only recently started exploring the Reddit online community or the Front Page Of The Internet as they like to call themselves and I found out they have subreddits for groups like pagan, druidism, wicca, heathen, etc. I’ve known about Reddit for a long time and have been on the site a time or two but never really took the time to fully explore it and get involved. I used to spend a great deal of time on Digg reading news articles back when I was kind of a news junkie and the people on the Digg boards would frequently mention what was going on over on the Reddit boards because, at the time, I think the sites were very similar in style as far as what niche markets they were catering to. Apparently on Reddit, anonymity is a big thing. They don’t even let you put much personal info on your profile over there which has it’s good points and bad points. On the plus side under a cloak of anonymity people feel more comfortable expressing themselves and saying whatever they want. On the negative side under a cloak of anonymity people feel more comfortable expressing themselves and saying whatever ugliness they want. What I mean by that is, some people hide behind anonymity to say some of the most negative and ugly things they can think of which they probably would never say in a face to face conversation. Sometimes it’s just out of pure meanness, ugliness and spitefulness. Other times it’s just general trolling. I come from a long history of not feeding trolls that stretches back to the days before DejaNews got bought out by a search engine newcomer called Google. So, I don’t give the trolls the satisfaction of a response most of the time. But, if these people are not trolls but instead regular participants in their tradition’s particular subreddit board, I wonder if they realize their antics do their groups more harm than good or if they even care. Look at all the good Westboro Baptist Church’s ugliness has done for views on Christianity after all. (/sarcasm)

Health and Blessings!

Cianaodh

Pagans, Integrity and Forgiveness

The following article on forgiveness was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on Father’s Day, June 16th, 2013.

Paganism is a living religion - Always changing, always growing! - Forgiveness
Paganism is a living religion – Always changing, always growing!

Happy Father’s Day to all my fellow Dads out there as well as moms who are having to be both mom and dad to someone. Expect today’s blog post to be somewhat convoluted as I have several things that have been bouncing around in my head that I wanted to write about today but no clear plan going forth as to how to go about writing on them. So bear with me as I juggle the duties of writing this along with my dadly (yes, I created a new word) duties of helping a young child who fell asleep on the living room couch last night and had an accident. Oh! and get him breakfast too! 🙂 So anyway, yes, as the title suggests I would like to talk a little bit about how Pagans in general (based solely on my own experiences) treat the concepts of integrity and forgiveness. A lot of Pagans seem to feel that forgiveness is a predominantly Christian concept and that people should be held accountable for their actions to the bitter end. Now, I am no expert by any means on the teachings of all the traditions out there and I write just as much so that perhaps some of you who are more knowledgeable can have an opportunity to enlighten me as I do to express my viewpoints. Anyway, whether forgiveness is a concept that comes from our own lineage or not my question is shouldn’t it be? One of the graphics I see come across on the book of face quite a bit that I usually share when I see it says that we forgive someone not always because they deserve it but because we deserve peace. Another says that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It just doesn’t work that way. Believe me, I am very much human and very much struggle with these ideas myself but ultimately I do see the wisdom in them.

Moving on to integrity. I also see a lot of posts, and have probably shared some myself, along the lines of “I do whatever I want and screw what you think about it.” Certainly our individuality and rebellious nature is a thing to be celebrated I think but there comes a point sometimes when the actions we decide to take might become harmful to others or show a lack of ethics or integrity. If we make an oath, take a vow or otherwise give our word on something then later take an action that shows we have not followed through on what we’ve said, whether we like it or not, others judge us on those actions. Whether they say it out loud or not the thought is still in their mind and they will deal with us accordingly. Sometimes our actions come with a price. They might cost us a great deal of trust and respect. So, certainly do what you want but understand that what you want and what is right may or may not be the same thing and consider what the consequences of your actions might be. But, since we are all human, we’re all going to slip up once in awhile. Let’s try to work on that forgiveness thing. Agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts. I have to go do more dadly stuff.

Many Blessings All,

Cianaodh

 

References:

Starhawk On Forgiving – Thank you Vense for reminding me of this one.

Pagans Are People Too, See?

In the grande scheme of things Pagans aren’t that much different from everyone else. We may have different ways of viewing the world and different ways of interacting with it but we’re prone to the same lapses in judgement, self doubts, personality traits and character strengths and weaknesses anyone else might be. There’s good and bad in everybody to some degree.

The following article was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on July 28th, 2013

We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love... and then we return home. Pagans.
We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.

During this past week I have been visiting several blogs and finding new ones to follow. I’ve commented on some great posts that I have read by others and in those comments the topic came up again of the fact that Pagans are people too. As people we all have our own individual styles, personalities and ways of doing things. It’s not like there is just one big universal Pagan religion and we all adhere strictly to it’s path and teaching. Paganism is sort of the Linux of the religion world (for those into the techy side of things you might get the analogy). We all bring our own inherited wisdom and customs to the equations, piece it together and roll our own so to speak. Sure, there are various traditions within Paganism which have a more designed view of things and people will come together and work within a system that works for them. It’s a little more complicated than the myriad of denominations to be found within Christianity though. Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. all have different views, ritual styles, teachings about their “One True God” but they all call him by the same name and they all have variations of one sort or another of the same book. In Paganism the drift is much farther from, say, Wiccans and Asatruar or even from one Wiccan coven and another. There isn’t a universally accepted “One True” deity or set of writings that all must adhere to. Also, I should note, if you meet an Asatruar please don’t call him or her a Pagan, call him or her a Heathen. There is a difference and they will tell you all about it. I use the term Pagan to universally cover all paths that are outside of monotheism because it’s simpler when speaking or writing to do that than to have to say Pagans, Heathens, Animists, Magi, Reconstructionists, Hellenists, Druids, Lord High Mucky Mucks, etc. ad nauseum, blah, blah, blah. Sorry, but at some point ya just gotta grab one word and go with it or you’ll be all out of breath.

But that illustrates my point. Pagans are People. People in all walks of life have different ways of looking at things so labels just don’t stick all that well anyway. You really have to get to know a person before you can understand how their spirituality inter-relates with them as a person. That’s also why it’s a beautiful thing that there are some of us out there sharing our points of view. It’s good that there are many Pagans who are bloggers, podcasters, coven, group and tradition leaders out there doing their thing their way. Some people will come to my blog and say, well that guy uses profanity and tells bad jokes too much and isn’t “spiritual enough” (Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.) for me but they might go on over to another blog and find exactly what they are looking for and that’s fine. It’s good that we have that diversity because people have their differences but want to find other people who are more like them to relate with either as a friend, teacher  / student, or to get together with for spiritual ritual. It’s nice to have a fluid network within a community to allow people to shop around for what works for them rather than see a few that don’t fit, decide the whole thing is a bunch of hooey then drop out all together. I have several friends on my various online social profiles who love the stuff I post and share and others I know have dropped me from their feed or even unfollowed me. I don’t take it personally. I post what I like and those who are like me will enjoy it. That way I am happier because I am not trying to be someone that I am not and those who enjoy my posts are happier because they see someone else who thinks like they do. That’s true whether the people are pagans or something else.

In the shop where I work during the week I am an electrician / Industrial Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator. The people I work with are all facilities mechanics of one sort or another, Plumbers, Millrights, Electronic Technicians, etc. There are many personalities within our work group but one thing is certain, mechanic humor is different from admin humor. The folks working in the cubicles and offices don’t find the same things funny that those of us working on the shop floor find funny. It’s just the nature of the world. People are people. Some people like Coca-Cola and others like Root Beer. Me, I like Guinness. 😉

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on long enough for this morning. I need to go mow the grass since we got all of that lovely rain last week and we have a double birthday party to go to later today. I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful week. Be good to each other out there and Hail The Gods! Whatever gods you believe in…

Damh the Bard – Pagan Ways live:

Quotational Quotes That Are Quotastic!

“Paganisms are not proselytizing religions.  We don’t have to proselytize.  Our job is to provide for ourselves a vibrant, flexible, and ongoing sustained pagan culture that is so beautiful, so rich with, and so sexy and so desirable that people will want to come to us because they see us and they say, ‘I want what they have.’”

– Steven Posch

– See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/2014/04/08/five-ritualists-id-like-to-invite-to-dinner-part-2-steven-posch/#sthash.rmIcXYpd.dpuf

Human Vanities - From the quotational Scott Cunningham
Human Vanities – From the quotational Scott Cunningham

“Perhaps it’s the greatest of all human vanities to assume that one’s religion is the only way to deity. Such beliefs have caused incalculable bloodshed and the rise of the hideous concept of holy wars.” – Cunningham – Wiccan Author

Those who read your book.
Those who read your book.

I promise I had not seen this picture before I wrote an article awhile back in which I referred to each person’s life story as “their book”. If I had, I most assuredly would have used it as the feature graphic for the article. But the day after writing it, this turned up in my news feed on the book of face. Who says the gods don’t speak to us each and every day?

image

If one dream should fall apart and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick up one of those pieces and begin again.

From Smart Witch on the book of face.

What’s Going On With DFW Pagan Pride Day?

As the year progresses and people are looking forward to September and October while many of us hope for cooler temperatures folks are thinking and wondering once again about Pagan Pride Day and because I have, in the past, served as a volunteer and one year as a Co-Coordinator of the event a few are asking if I know anything about it.

I asked Philosophy Cat what is up with DFW Pagan Pride Day but he doesn't know either.
I asked Philosophy Cat what is up with DFW Pagan Pride Day but he doesn’t know either.

Unfortunately, the answer is that I do not. Since I departed from the planning committee following the 2014 DFW Pagan Pride Day event I haven’t been in touch with the Local Coordinator or the Regional Coordinator for Pagan Pride Day. according to the international Pagan Pride Project page the Regional Coordinator for this area is still Virginia Darkelf as she was when I was serving on the volunteer staff for DFW Pagan Pride Day in 2013 and 2014. An email link is provided there for her. Perhaps she can answer folks’ questions about DFW PPD. I don’t see a listing at the page there for a Local Coordinator but as recently as last year it was Mr. Bryan Lankford. Whether he still holds the position or if it is open I do not know. As I said, I haven’t kept in touch with him so he would be the person to ask about his status with Pagan Pride Project. I do know that last year he posted the following to the DFW Pagan Pride Day Facebook Page:

Three years ago when I became the Local Coordinator of PPD I knew I was going to have several years of being really busy on the horizon. My plan was to get a good team together so everyone knew their job and could function without me needing to supervise. I succeeded in getting a great team together but unfortunately the year that I got too busy to devote a lot of time to PPD so did the rest of the team. This year I am working on my master’s degree, fostering three boys, working with two soccer teams and two Boy Scout Troops as well as now being Lead Teacher for my school and still performing magic shows. I have postponed making this announcement because I kept hoping I could squeeze in time to get PPD together but it’s really apparent that that’s not going to happen at this time. I really wanted to continue our run of successful PPD events and there were several people who volunteered to help, which I appreciate. However, I can’t devote the time to training new people this year so I’m sorry but we are going to have to call it for this year. We might be able to get something together next year if life slows down a bit. I will miss the event this year but I just don’t have the time to put it together.

Bryan

He and I have both been very busy pursuing our own lives and taking care of things we need to do and neither he nor I have made an effort to stay in touch with one another so other than what has been posted publicly I am just as in the dark as any of you on the matter. My tradition was asked to host a ritual at the alternative event DFW Pagan Unity fest last year and this year which was put together by a team of local volunteers spearheaded by Becca Shugart. I think part of her reason for holding Pagan Unity Fest in the spring this year was specifically not to draw the attendance away from Pagan Pride Day in case it happened this year.

The DFW Pagan Pride Day website is still up at http://dfwpaganpride.org/.  I know because I pay the hosting fees and domain renewal to keep it there. I set that up in 2013 while I was the Promotional Coordinator for the event and I stated when I departed that I had no problem with continuing to host the website and offer any technical assistance needed by anyone who would be taking over the running and promotion of DFW Pagan Pride Day. It doesn’t cost me much to keep it online and I have no problem doing it. If anyone who is officially with Pagan Pride Project would like for me to do anything with the website I would be happy to do so but so far no one has asked me to update any information on the page, transfer the domain elsewhere or anything along those lines so it sits pretty much as it did at the end of DFW Pagan Pride Day 2014.

I have no problem working with anyone who has a desire to put on a DFW Pagan Pride Day event. Admittedly, like anyone else, there are people who I like personally better than others. But I am willing to set aside any differences for the better of the community and work with whoever may take up the ball and run with it. I am still too busy to be a Local Coordinator or anything as demanding as that but, maybe next year? We will see.

The Gods, A Question From The Mailbox

The gods can be perceived as different things to different people.

Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions... The gods too.
Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions…

I received this question from a wonderful person who has been attending some of our temple events in recent months and I answered it as best I could then got to thinking, others might also benefit from this conversation. So, with no names involved to protect privacy, here is an excerpt from the discussion…

Another thing I’ve been trying to figure out is how exactly to see the gods. I have a hard time seeing them as literal beings. I can see how they could be archetypes that represent a certain energy force that can manipulate or be manipulated, but I’ve felt more in the last few months when meditating and praying then I ever did from anything else I have ever tried before.

Hang on, I need to explain something so this will make more sense.
So before I started researching paganism I was an atheist. This spring I took a couple of philosophy classes and I started thinking about how I have been trying to improve as a person. I realized since some shitty things had happened with *my ex* my personal growth had been shifting toward intellectual, academic growth while virtually ignoring any emotional or spiritual growth. I had become incredibly analytical and skeptical about everything. So I decided to shift my focus and try to work on the other side of things. I started googling stuff, ended up finding some stuff about paganism, and here we are.
The point of all that is I suppose is to point out that I tend to have a hard time letting go of that skepticism sometimes. Even when I see signs, I have to stop myself from trying to logic them away.

For 22 years of my own life I considered myself to be an agnostic so I can relate with where you are coming from in some ways making the journey from an atheist’s perspective. Understand, there are some folks who consider themselves Humanistic and even Atheist Pagans so it’s not unheard of to come to this conclusion in your relationship with the divine. I, began my journey after having a vision which convinced me that YES there is something besides just me, my fellow humans and other living beings, etc. A Goddess actually spoke to me as far as I’m concerned and no, it wasn’t like you and I might speak to one another in person. It was something like a lucid dream but so much more. I can’t really describe it in terms that I feel do it justice other than to say I felt a presence and that presence did not feel like it came from myself or within my own mind. So, I have spent years since meditating on it, connecting in whatever ways I find and trying to wrap my own head around what the nature of that presence might be. I too, explored the concepts of Jungian archetypes and because they fit into my (at the time) more scientific and academic view on things that model worked for me for a long time but after awhile it just didn’t “feel” right anymore. By this time I was beginning my formal study as an Alexandrian Wiccan and my mentor was teaching me of the duo-theistic nature of the divine, the Lord and Lady, God and Goddess. This made much more sense to me at the time. I liked the idea of balance and that just as there are masculine and feminine energies at work in nature, so it would be in the world of the divine. The diamond concept of the divine seemed sensible too, that all gods and all goddesses are facets of the same divine source. I subscribed to this model for several years. Then eventually I began studying ADF Druidry. Druids teach that all gods and all goddesses are their own individual entities upon themselves. I struggled with this concept for quite some time before finally accepting it and ultimately, I do feel that these divine beings do have their own autonomy from one another, their own personalities and spheres of influence. But it seems to me that they are also, still, quite interconnected with one another in some way that I haven’t quite conceived yet and am not sure if I ever will.

These are the legs of my personal journey so far but it’s by no means complete. But the answer to your question is, I can not tell you how exactly to see the gods. The gods are a concept that we all have theories on and, much like the blind men and the elephant, I think we all may well have a piece of the truth but none of us can really see the entire, big picture. Your journey will be your journey just as mine is mine. How you see and interact with your gods will be a very personal matter between you and them. This is why most pagan religions focus on orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy. In other words, what we do is more important than what we believe. We all may have a ritual together or have some other spiritual experience together but we will each take something different away from the experience. While I might see a shimmering ball of light descend from the heavens, you might see a warrior goddess riding on a horse. We see what we need to see and we take that vision to lead us on our journey.

But, that being said, I too, find meditation to be the most effective way to prepare my mind and spirit for connection with the divine. It is the vehicle I prefer to use and I recommend it highly to others. I know, some use other methods and those are reported to be highly effective to. But I am happy with where meditation has taken me and I feel it deepens my connection with the gods, whatever they may be.

Prayer In School – Yours Or Mine?

image

So, this meme is making the rounds these days. It’s troubling in many ways and I am going to attempt to address them all in this post. First, I am assuming they are talking about the taxpayer funded, public school system here which is staffed by employees who work for the government. Therein lies the problem for me. I am, always have been and always will be an advocate for the separation of the powers of church and state. I believe history has shown again and again that it is disastrous to combine the powers of religion and government and therefore that religion should stick to the religion business and government should stick to the governing business. Now, if a Christian child wants to say a prayer or even join a group of friends in prayer before or after classes, sporting events, or even have after school bible study I see no problem whatsoever in that. They should be allowed to do so as long as they are not disrupting the course of study (reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, art, etc.) which is scheduled to be undertaken. That goes for children of any other religion who attend the public schools as far as I am concerned. But when the school itself puts up biblical verses or an official of the school leads prayer of a particular type to the exclusion of all other religions then the state has established a preference for one religious school of thought to the exclusion of all others and that is wrong in my opinion.

The public schools are funded, at least where I live, by property taxes raised by home and land owners throughout their region. Those taxes are raised whether you have children in the school system or not and I am okay with that because a well educated populace is beneficial to us all. But it is raised from you whether your family is Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Wiccan, Atheist, or any other religious tradition or non-religious one. To take money from me for the public schools and then have me send my children to said schools and be instructed that their religion isn’t “good enough” to be represented on the walls of the classroom, or their prayers aren’t supported by the state is a form of indoctrination. That is really what it comes down to. It is an attempt by the majority religion to take advantage of the position of power and authority in the institution set up to mold young minds and leverage that to force their religious beliefs on others. In your homes, not problem, in your churches, no problem, out in the streets, go for it, but in the schools? Hands off of my kids or make me exempt from paying taxes to support your school. It’s as simple as that. What you are advocating is a misuse of power and funds and it’s wrong.

Now, let’s address some of these other claims. The Pledge Of Allegiance. I love America. I love what America was founded to represent and stand for. I love the opportunities of freedom and to pursue life, liberty and happiness for all. That is the ideal I believe all Americans should strive for. But the thing about the pledge of allegiance that seems to get glossed over in most history classes is that the original did not contain that phrase “UNDER GOD” which I have seen emblazoned in big letters like that on bumper stickers, stenciled onto the back windows of pickup trucks and on signs in store fronts. Why do you suppose that is? Because from 1956 on the Pledge of Allegiance has been converted to a prayer to a monotheistic God with a capital G. All other gods, goddesses, etc. need not apply. This was done during the height of the McCarthy era in response to the rise of hysteria over “godless communisim”. But the original, as it was penned in August of 1892 by a social minister named Francis Bellamy looked like this:

Pledge Of Allegiance
Pledge Of Allegiance

Dominionists don’t like that version. They want all the kids saying the other version so they can make all of the other kids who do not subscribe to the view that there is only one supreme being feel left out and awkward during the saying of the pledge. Basic peer pressure.

Reading from the bible? Do we really need to go into this again? State employees? Why not the Torah? Why not the Vedas? Once again, only one religion represented and given superiority status by the state. Read the bible in Christian private schools, home and in church all you want. Heck, as I said earlier, let the Christian kids have bible study after school in the public schools even if it isn’t disrupting anything. But led by the school staff? What do you suppose the reason for wanting that is again? Yes, misuse of power and funds again. Indoctrination again. Not right, again.

The Ten Commandments?  As a historical reference maybe. Alongside similar documents such as Hammurabi’s Code, Brehon Laws, the Wiccan Rede maybe. But once again, cherry picking from one religious text in a school that is not supposed to prefer one religion over all others. Not acceptable in my opinion.

Now, let’s move up to the original claim about not remembering any school shootings when they were a kid. For me, the earliest school shooting I could remember was Kent State in 1970. But I went in search of other school shootings and found many of them dating as far back as 1764. Unfortunately that earliest one was one which Lenape American Indian’s perpetrated against colonists. I have long supported Native American’s causes and feel that what they have historically endured has been atrocious. So sharing that bit of history is troubling to me but in order to truly understand history we have to look at all of it, not just the parts we like. We can’t gloss over the ugly parts and act like they didn’t happen if we’re going to be honest with ourselves and our descendants and if we are going to work to build a better world going forward. So, we have to recognize that there were terrible things done by both the Natives and the Settlers. There were also good things done by both sides. Anyway, for a more complete list of school shootings throughout U.S. history, take a look at this:

http://www.k12academics.com/school-shootings/history-school-shootings-united-states#.Vc12-XUViko

America Is A Christian Nation? There are those who claim it’s okay to do these things because America is a Christian Nation and they are only trying to preserve that heritage. While, certainly it is true that the majority of (but not all) Americans have always subscribed to one denomination or another of Christian thought, this nation was not founded as a theocracy and should not become one. Back when the United States was founded there were still many first nation tribes living on the land and practicing their native religions. There were Jewish settlers, Deists and some even who did not subscribe to a religious belief at all. The Declaration of Independence does not refer to Jesus one time but does make three references to “GOD” and in it he is called Nature’s God which can be interpreted many different ways by many different religions. The United States Constitution does not make one single reference to any deity whatsoever. Indeed, Thomas Paine said “As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious protesters thereof, and I know of no other business government has to do therewith. ” ~~ Common Sense, 1776. Thomas Jefferson professed “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” ~~ Notes on the State of Virginia , 1781 – 1785 and “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion.” 1797, The Treaty of Tripoli, initiated by President Washington, signed by President John Adams, and approved by the Senate of the United States among other quotes by the founders of this nation. Majority Christian yes, but founded as a Christian Theocracy? I beg to differ.

Besides, ask yourself this. If your god needs government enforcement to back him up, what does that say about your faith in him?

image

Practicing Or Preaching? Orthopraxy!

Practicing our beliefs is a far greater path to awareness than speaking about them.

Everything in the universe has a rhythm... practicing my dance moves.
Everything in the universe has a rhythm… practicing my dance moves.

I have long subscribed to the school of thought that Pagan religions tend to lean more towards orthopraxy than orthodoxy. In other words, what we do is of greater significance than what we believe. In that light, our tradition, still being a new one, is currently in the process of laying out the framework for what we would like to see from those in our clergy training program as they progress up the degrees. The other elders and I have kicked around ideas together and picked subjects which, to us at least, seemed sensible. But some questions came up at my temple’s recent esbat meeting that makes us wonder if perhaps our focus might be a bit too narrow.

Now, keep in mind that I am but one elder in our tradition so the opinions and vision I might express here are my own but might not necessarily reflect the views of Spirit Of the Sycamore tradition as a whole. My vision for where I would like to see our tradition position itself is eclectic enough to be welcoming to people from a wide swath of Pagan thoughts and philosophies. Admittedly, that’s a very wide and deep cross section of the community to shoot for. At the same time, I would like for our folks to draw upon a foundation of as much factual information as we currently have available on subjects such as the beliefs and practices of the ancient Pagans of our ancestry, knowledge of the natural world, plants, animals, the cycles of the earth, life and the stars. Not too much delving into romantic fantasy about these things but acknowledgment of where we do utilize more modern inventions in ritual and practice that these are indeed things we do just because it feels right to us or we just like it that way without trying to gloss them over as having unverifiable ancient origins.

As for beliefs about the divine? I prefer to leave such things open to individual interpretation. I feel that a person’s relationship with deity is a very personal matter and should be something that they develop as individuals while they travel their spiritual path with us. I have long been a fan of Thomas Jefferson’s quote,

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

in his Notes on Virginia written in 1782. I bring this philosophy with me in my practice of Pagan spirituality. So, one of the things that came out in our esbat meeting were the concepts of naturalistic, humanistic and atheistic paganism. Admittedly, when considering ideas for clergy training I thought about concepts from duotheism, polytheism and even monotheism. I had considered earth centered Pagan ideas and Heathen based ideas. But I hadn’t considered non-theistic concepts. Nor had any of the other elders. So, we’ve been reading up on these concepts and forming our own opinions on how or if we might recognize these philosophies in our clergy training program. Some of the research comes from blogs I have been subscribed to for quite some time and whose authors have written other articles I have enjoyed but I wasn’t previously aware of their thoughts on the existence of deity.

I have to say, I like the tool John Halstead has constructed in his article The Three (or more?) “Centers” of Paganism at his blog The Allergic Pagan. It makes sense to consider earth based, self based and deity based as common centers of Pagan thought with the Heathen, community or folk based as a possible fourth. It is true that different people tend to base their spirituality around one or more of these centers with possible overlap between all of them. To what degree there is overlap varies from individual to individual and from group to group.

I also enjoyed reading Rhett Aultman’s Care And Feeding Of Your Atheist Pagan in which he explains how a non-theist Pagan’s approach to group ritual and interaction is very much beneficial to them and those within their group even if their views on the divine are different from us theists.

I return now to my original thoughts on practicing being of greater importance than believing and to what Thomas Jefferson said about it not mattering how many gods my neighbor believes in or even no god at all. When I am in ritual and we light that candle for the divine feminine, the goddess candle, it doesn’t matter to me if my brothers and sisters in circle see that as a representation of many goddesses, one Goddess or simply as the feminine divine within themselves. What matters is that we are doing this together and honoring that force in whatever way we conceive of it. The same for the god candle, the same for the elements. People can witness the same event, come away from the same experience and have totally different perceptions of what they saw and experienced. What is important though, is having the experience and having it together.

So yeah, practicing or preaching? I’d have to go with practicing. Explore your path and learn from it. Believe what your inner self chooses to believe about it. Seek your own truth.