August 7, 2021
There was a time in the distant past (that would be around the early 90's) that I worried about the correct way to follow my spiritual path, whatever that path may have been. That path at one time was a conservative Christian path and making sure that I was doing things exactly as I had been taught was an important part of who I was. The sermons, the teachings, the books, the videos and fellow congregants all reinforced what that correct way was and if you strayed they were there to make sure you got back on the one true path that would lead to heaven. It was also a constant way of reinforcing the beliefs of those in the church to make sure that no "worldly ideas" were able to breach the minds of those who might be using their intellect to actually think about what they were being taught. And by "worldly ideas" I mean anything contrary to the doctrine or the dogma that they were constantly being taught. I stand as a testament of what happens when you begin to think about what you are being taught and then seek out alternative explanations regardless of whether those explanations line up with church doctrine or not.
I think that the church is terrified by the very thought of those members that they have held captive through their insidious programming with church doctrine ever since they were children would begin to wake up to the truth and leave the church in droves seeking their own truths on spiritual paths other than the Christian one. Back in the early 90's it didn't take much to nudge me off the conservative path I was on into a search for a spiritual path that made more sense to my progressive thinking about society and my concern for what we were doing to this planet that we live on. Actually it was very ironic that the catalyst for this new adventure of discovery was inspired by a single article in a magazine that I read.
I've been a solitary all these years since I first set foot on this path and I don't regret the time I've spent finding my own way and learning at my own speed. I've never felt the need to try to justify what I do or don't do based on any particular tradition or system of practice. I'm sure I share many characteristics with others who also walk this path but I've never felt the need to alter what I do or align myself with another path simply because my ways don't match the practices of others who feel that they speak for the community at large. I left the rigid doctrinal systems of the conservative church and I have never felt the need to bring that same rigidity to my practices along my current path. TWPT was something I created along the way and I hope that I have brought new information to seekers of this newer generation who also want to leave behind the beliefs that no longer make sense to them and start to follow a path that speaks to their hearts and stimulates their minds while allowing people to work for social justice and to work towards saving this planet within the structure of their spiritual path.
January 1, 2021
A New Year is Upon Us
Welcome to 2021. Iíve never been so happy to say goodbye to a year than I have with 2020. It was a year of suffering. It was a year of stress. It was a year of mourning. It was a draining year that continually pulled away our energy so that we were unable to do anything other than hunker down and stay in survival mode. The only bright spots in the entire year were the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our new President and Vice President beginning on January 20 and the development of a vaccine for the covid19 virus which has been a thorn in our side for most of 2020.
I understand that 2021 will not be a perfect year because of the lingering effects of the pandemic but I do have hope that we will see an improving situation as we move through this year. Iíd also like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers of The Wiccan/Pagan Times who have been with us over the last 21 years as we have worked to bring you information that you can use in your own journey along this path. As always, we are happy to hear from our readers and encourage you to send us links that pertain to the Wiccan/Pagan path that you think others might find interesting. We also encourage readers to share their suggestions and ideas for the betterment of TWPT with us as well. If you are a Wiccan/Witch/Pagan writer that would like to share their work through TWPT please contact me and letís discuss what you have in mind.
TWPT has been only slightly active for the last year and probably for some years before that. Iíd like to see that change in 2021 and take it from the sedentary life it has been leading into a more active role in the coming year(s). Check out the links pages and if you run a W/P website and it's not listed please submit it to me and Iíll get it put up there. If you run across an artist or a writer that deserves more exposure in the community then by all means send me a website and Iíll be sure to check it out for inclusion on TWPT. Of course, that includes yourself if you are a writer or an artist whose work could use more exposure too. Donít be shy. The only way to find new readers or viewers is to make sure your work is known and often that takes some work.
We are in the heart of the winter now but we have been slowly gaining some light since Yule. Only a few minutes right now but the light will return soon. Imbolc is only a few weeks away and we can start dreaming about the life that is stirring beneath the snow or just below the surface of the cold ground. Use this time to rest and to regain your strength after the year weíve all just been through and to make some plans for what needs to be done in 2021. Order your seeds. Plan your garden even if itís just a few containers in the backyard.
Soon enough weíll be welcoming back the warmth of the spring and a whole new season of growth both spiritually and physically. Spend these cold months looking inside and healing the scars that 2020 has inflicted on us all. Read some books. Meditate. Burn some incense. Listen to some soothing music. Know that things will get better and that the darkness and the cold that have settled on us throughout this year will break into a new dawn. So mote it be.
October 9, 2016
I sometimes sit on Sunday morning listening to the music that has shaped my life since the early 90ís when I first discovered it and I reflect upon the spiritual journey that I have been on for the last 26 years. It has been an enlightening time for me and I am happy that I made the trip and explored the many side streets that have presented themselves to me during this time. From the early days of having to order books that would help me discover this path at my local bookstore because there was no online world, to the plethora of titles that exist on the internet now, my journey has been one forged in the printed words which inspired and sparked my spirit to seek out a path that I could truly call my own. Having had a front row seat to the Wiccan/Pagan growth over the past 17 years through my website The Wiccan/Pagan Times which came online back in 1999 it has been a dizzying ride from the few scattered voices on the internet at the beginning of the 1990ís to the large chorus of voices expressing a wide range of spiritual thoughts in the 21st century here in 2016.
Yet my thoughts as I sit here contemplating the journey is not so much about the myriad of voices that now speak in the name of the Wiccan/Pagan movement but the quiet voice that emanates from my spirit and whispers in my ear. The voice has always been there but the pace of life and the daily grind to go out and make a living so that we have the basic necessities of life forced the voice deeper inside so that the whisper was like the sound of a breeze that blows through leaves of the trees. We hear it but only in a subconscious way that sometimes will stir us to stop for just a second and feel it as it passes by. It is a momentary event and soon other things call our attention away from the sound and it is lost to us again amid the hustle and bustle of our daily routine. The voice of our inner spirit is much the same as the wind that blows through the tree tops and is gone. If we do not stop and listen and try to discern the message it will disappear as quickly as it came leaving us feeling empty like we missed an important message that we should have been paying attention to.
The lesson my own inner voice has been trying to teach me all these years is that my spiritual path has always been my own and no one elseís. My head nods and agreement is usually acquiesced about that last point but at times it is difficult to separate what is being whispered in your ear by your inner spirit from all of the information that pours into us from books, magazines, videos, news outlets and generally accepted wisdom about every aspect of the Wiccan/Pagan movement over the past few decades. What I have discovered is that age has allowed me to still the many voices that have echoed in my mind for most of my journey and given me the focus to listen intently to the inner voice of my spirit and hear the message that it has been trying to make known to me for many years now.
There are many out there on the Wiccan/Pagan path that think in terms of absolutes about what this spiritual path means, how it should be traveled and the dogma that must be adhered to to make your journey on this path legitimate. This was brought into sharp focus when I was ďcorrectedĒ as to the proper name for a seasonal celebration that I had been using since the 90ís. The correction was a minor irritation but it made me listen to that inner voice again. My journey is my own. My journey is not your journey. There may be some similarities but just because you donít do it the same way I do does not mean mine is wrong or that yours is wrong. They are different ways of saying or doing the same thing. If there was one thing I did learn as I left the conservative life of long ago behind it is that everyoneís journey is valid no matter the path they may take. Live and let live.
So Sunday mornings are a reflective time for me. It is a time to think about where I have been and to think about the road ahead. I started this path as a solitary and Iím sure that I will depart this life as a solitary. My inner voice has shown me to respect the choices that others have made and in return I only ask that you respect the choices that I have made for myself. Unless my choices somehow infringe on your rights or cause harm to others my choices should be viewed as part of my spiritual path and totally mine to make. I will never try to force you to follow my path or adhere to my choices but I expect the same from those who walk paths that are parallel to mine. We are all fellow travelers on a journey of enlightenment about who we are and our place in this universe. May your journey be fruitful and may your own inner voice be a steadfast guide to you until the end.
March 13, 2016
TWPT filled a need in the Wiccan/Pagan online world of 1998 by providing a place where interested parties could come and learn about their favorite authors and/or their favorite artists at a time before Facebook and Twitter and even before many authors/artists had figured out that they needed an "online" presence at all to help sell their books or pieces of original art. Things went along pretty smoothly for awhile and the internet became a tool for promoting your works and garnering new attention and new customers. But then something happened. The average internet speed started to climb which made many things possible that at slower speeds would never have worked.
While the U.S. is still way behind the rest of the world in terms of internet speeds but they still offered enough bandwidth that it woke the sleeping dragon from sleep and it awoke with a vengeance. Suddenly people were able to trade MP3 files through a service called Napster and after that...well we all know what has happened to the music industry ever since. As I was beginning to refresh the links that appear on the TWPT links pages I noticed that many of the links from the early days of TWPT online were dead links that no longer pointed to the authors/artist's home pages because they were no longer there. We used to think that the problems that had been heaped on the music industry would somehow never touch the written word or the art world with the same ferocity that it had visited upon musicians and composers. That was where everyone was wrong. Music might have been the first phase of this digital war but it certainly was not the only phase. The Kindle from Amazon was introduced in November of 2007 and promptly sold out in about 5 1/2 hours which was the first shot in the next phase of the digital war. Up until this point the analog book had to be purchased to be read or you had to spend some time at your local library. With the advent of Kindle, books were now files (mobi, epub, pdf) that could be spread far and wide over the internet.
The authors that had actually made a little bit of their living off of the sale of their books were now finding that their books could be found all over the internet for free on pirate websites that had no qualms about giving them away to the whole world. Sending out DMCA takedown notices was suddenly a full time job for authors and that still didn't even begin to stop the hemorrhaging of free copies that were still spewing out at other sites as fast as they could get them taken down off the sites that they knew of. And of course it was bad enough that free copies of their books could be had for a couple of minutes of someone's time but then there were also fans of the authors who had no concept of what copyright laws mean or perhaps they didn't care as they extensively quoted or published whole chapters on their websites as lesson material for their readers. All of this without a thought about the damage they were doing to their favorite author and their ability to continue to write more books. The idea that you can download files from a website seems to give the whole process a legitimacy as if they wouldn't be there if they weren't legit copies of the author's work. The new digital native gives little thought to the whole concept of copyright and how an artist/author/musician is supposed to make a living off of their art if everyone feels they are entitled to a free copy of that art.
TWPT was/is a promoter of the work of artists as well but the encroachment has even taken its toll on the world of canvases and sketchbooks too. For whatever reason many citizens of the net seem to think that nothing is "owned" that can be digitized and posted on a website or as a file to be downloaded from a server. The horrible thing is that I have heard this concept spewed directly from a generation Y's (18-34) mouth first hand and they believe every word of it. I have heard stories of people finding images (copyrighted images from known artists) on the internet and then using them on items that they are selling but with no compensation or even credit to the artist who created the work in the first place. Worse yet often they will put their own name on the work in question and pass it off as their own without a second thought about the morality of what they are doing. I'm thinking that the guiding principle of "An it harm none..." has no place in these professed follower's lives. Though the harm may seem distant and not really applicable to what they are doing by taking someone else's artwork and calling it their own it is very real and the consequences strike home all the time.
So as I looked at the links that were going nowhere I was wondering to myself how many of these artists or those authors were victims of a world that has no respect for the rights of those content creators to make a living off of their talents and their words. I wondered how you can follow a path that for the most part believes in the concept of "An it harm none..." and yet still pirate, steal and cause immeasurable harm to those artists who spent months or years to create what they casually take in a matter of a few seconds. I also wondered what was to become of the artistic world in general when authors and artists could no longer afford to birth new works into this world. How much poorer the next generation will be if the streams of creativity dry up and the oceans of intellectual pursuits are parched and cracked because no one can afford to add their unique ideas to community anymore. I personally know some authors who have thrown their hands up and said enough is enough and gone on to other means to make money for them and their families. And there have been some artists who have seen their work showing up all over the internet while not making a penny for their efforts and not even being given credit for having created the image in the first place. They too have called it quits and given up the art that has brought joy to the hearts of those who appreciated the images. I hope this is not the future for the arts because it is a dismal one indeed.
If you want to see the wonderful artwork continue and read authorís opinions of subjects that you care about buy their work because otherwise the words will go away and the art wonít happen because no one can afford to live on a constant promise of exposure but then no one ever buys their work. Just remember what you would say if someone wanted you to ďdonateĒ your skills instead of being paid each week but they promised that your skills would give you great exposure of what you are capable of. Or if you were a baker who made delicious cakes and pastries but each night someone came in and took all of your baked goods and handed them out to all of their friends. It wouldn't be long before you closed up your doors and called it quits. No more delicious cakes and patries because no one can be in business and give away their products and survive. Your landlord doesnít care about exposure, the grocery store doesnít care about exposure and the utility companies donít care about exposure either. They deal in cash for services rendered. Books and pieces of art are services rendered and if you want them you should buy them from the artist or writer. As Will Wheaton would say, Don't be a dick.
July 19, 2011
Change...Blowin' in the Wind
I was reading in a book this morning called If the Church Were Christian and came across the following thought that illustrates the kinds of changes that are taking place in many spiritual paths these days. "...they have served to confirm my hunch that any religion whose goal is the exclusion of others is bound to fail, if only because it cannot ignite our imaginations and sustain our spirits." The author is Philip Gulley and the book has many provocative ideas that will surely grate on the nerves of fundamentalist types whose beliefs are set in stone and won't bend with the changing times. With news networks like Fox always pushing the ultra conservative right wing types and newspapers (what's left of them) picking up the juicy controversial stories about the extreme people of the right wing spectrum we tend to lose sight of the fact that there are changes swirling around most spiritual paths these days as they begin to realize that the next generation of believers may not see things the same way that the aging leadership has seen it for most of their lives.
I think many spiritual paths will see the same thing in the coming years as new minds and spirits begin to think about and address what it means to be a follower of a particular path. The more repressive and controlling a path has been the more dramatic the changes will be when the time comes that the old ways no longer meet the needs of the next generation. With information flowing like a flooded river bursting its banks it is naive to think that change will not follow. Even the most insulated spiritual followers will be exposed to information that challenges their beliefs over time and they will have to examine the new ideas reevaluating their own in light of this new information. Of course I'm sure there are those who are members of groups that will restrict that information for them and at that point I'd have to wonder if they are actually a part of a cult environment in which case I'd be concerned that there are dangers far more pressing for those seekers than a lack of information about their path.
I think that we as followers of our spiritual paths need to always be open to the winds of change that blow around us because if nothing else is certain in this world the idea that change is constant seems to permeate everything these days. If you have any doubts just look to the innovations in technology over the past 30 years and you will find that we have jumped light years from where we were back in the early 80's. I can't even begin to say where the world will be in another 30 years from now but I do know that massive change will have taken place. Do I know what that change will be? Not a clue. I just know that the rate of change has been increasing over the past few decades and I expect that rate of change to continue on into the future. I think that since the time that I first started this journey of spiritual discovery my boundaries have become very elastic and flexible as compared to what I was before. I still find change unsettling at times but I have become open to the idea that no matter how comfortable I am in what I believe and where I am at I can't really expect to stay there if I want to continue to grow.
I know some who are very resistant to change and fight it whenever it rears its head in their lives. The fundamentalist seekers definitely fall into this category and that would be fundamentalists of all spiritual paths not just the ones you read about all the time. Those who think that truth is a static concept that once discovered never changes are always shocked when faced with new scholarship or new thinking that shows the need to modify the truths that had once been sacred to them. Some will even refuse the changes because they think their truth represents the golden age of their path and the change is simply a compromise with a corrupt world. I feel sorry for them because eventually they too will see that change is coming whether they want it to or not and by resisting they are just making their lives harder until they reach the point that change over takes them.
Spiritual truth eventually bubbles to the surface regardless of how deeply you bury it so the wise person listens with their spirit and their intellect to what is going on around them and incorporates the changes into their beliefs learning to flow with the currents of spiritual truth that swirl around them. The Taoist proverb says it best, "To bend like the reed in the wind, that is the real strength". The only alternative is to stand rigid against the wind and risk snapping like a tree branch when the force of the wind becomes too much to bear. Being a follower of a nature respecting path I know what happens to those who attempt to thwart nature or stand against the force that lies behind the elements. Never a good outcome for those who are that foolish. And so will it be for those who stand against the spiritual changes that always come to us eventually. Ride the wave or be dragged under by the crashing wave. See ya next time.
July 18, 2011
Spiritually speaking I would hate for everyone to be the same as me in regards to the path that they follow to connect with deity. What a bland monochromatic world that would be. I'm sure we all share some similarities in our approaches to our spirituality and how we practice our faith and yet I would start to wonder about the order of the universe if everyone believed the exact same thing as I did because it is simply not a natural occurrence. People are as unique as the fingerprints on their hands so it stands to reason that their viewpoints and beliefs will be just as unique. So when I state that I feel a certain way about my spiritual path I would expect that some will say I agree with you, some will say I have a slightly different way of looking at that than you and some will say I vehemently disagree with you and point out that I have it completely wrong. That is the natural order of things to me and it is something that I expect to happen with just about any point of view that I might have. The Internet has intensified this exponentially so that now theoretically my opinions are broadcast to the world and so I have a world of people looking at my opinions and drawing their individual conclusions as to whether I'm crazy or not.
The Internet is a vast system that could do marvelous things in regards to bringing people together so that their spiritual ideas and beliefs could be shared and discussed by people all over the world. It has the potential to house literature and information about any spiritual tradition or spiritual path regardless of where it might be found in the world so that at the click of a mouse button you could discover new spiritual truths about a tradition that is practiced thousands of miles away on another continent. The Internet allows near instantaneous communication with other spiritual seekers so that virtual groups can form with participants from any point on the globe that has an Internet connection and a computer just to talk about how beliefs differ from here to there. The fly in the ointment for all of this sharing and open discussing is that some people out there do not have a clue about approaching other people's ideas with even a shred of respect. Unfortunately this means that if you post your opinion out on the web in a forum or comment on a blog somewhere you can count on someone coming along who wants nothing more than to trash your statement and discredit any idea you may put forth.
I used to think that talking to spiritual people about spiritual topics meant that I was somewhat protected from the harsh intrusion of dissent and bad manners that seems to be standard operating procedure all over the web these days. I was wrong. I rarely read comments on news stories anymore because even if the comments start out sincere it only takes a few more comments before it descends into name calling and shouting down those who don't agree with your point of view. Doesn't matter what the topic and it doesn't matter where you post a comment anymore because these people who behave this way appear to be just about everywhere on the Internet. The signal to noise ratio has grown very imbalanced as of late and it is difficult to discern the signal from the noise anymore. I will grant you that there are places out in this wild frontier that have respectful readers who carry on discussions in a civil manner but they are getting really hard to find. It's like the blight of spam or malware that seems to be ever present on the net because there are those whose only goal in life is to disrupt others who only want to use the Internet for constructive discussions or educating themselves using the almost limitless amount of information that can be obtained online.
But should we expect a higher standard of accountability and behavior from those who claim to be seeking spiritual truth and want to enter into discussions with those travelers who are further along this same path? I personally think that we should. I'm not even talking about those that might call themselves elders, I'm talking about your average everyday seekers who want to get out on the Internet and start interacting with the spiritual community at large. My spiritual views have been expanding over the years since I first started back in the early 90's and I continue to grow as I absorb new ideas and integrate them into the beliefs that I already hold. I am finding the more I understand the more that I feel a kinship with any spiritual tradition, with any individual seeker that is open minded and searching for the truth regardless of where that truth might be lead them. I was looking for more truth than what my fundamentalist beginnings gave to me so I ended up here. I don't think for a minute that where I am now is the ultimate end to my spiritual quest.
This doesn't mean that I am a spiritual chameleon who jumps from one set of beliefs to another on a whim because that is not the case. When my mind and spirit reach a critical point in their evolution it natural moves me to a new plane where I will grow and learn until such a time as I evolve again. The thing about growth is that just like a plant sends out many roots to make sure that the proper nutriments are obtained to keep the plant alive so in the same way have I sent out many roots that seek nourishment from various spiritual traditions. No one has a monopoly on spiritual truth regardless of who says it. I am finding that the liberal factions of many orthodox religions are not that far off from what I believe now. I have read some books by liberal Christian authors that makes me believe that change and evolution is possible for that faith as well. You won't find it in the fundamentalist teachings of TV ministers but there are those who are seeking to reconcile their beliefs with the reality of the 21st century world and to them I say, more power to you.
Perhaps retreating behind our beliefs and locking ourselves away from actually interacting with the liberal elements of these spiritual traditions is not the correct path to follow at all. Maybe it is time to find those who really want to talk and who are really open to new approaches to spirituality and sit down to discover our common spiritual ground. It's obvious that there are those out there who are more than ready to condemn you at the drop of a hat for your spiritual beliefs but we don't have to talk to them do we? Discussion is a two way street and I must be open to new ideas as much as the other person I am talking to is open. That is the only way it will ever work. See ya next time.
July 17, 2011
Peace, love and understanding? Not hardly.
I read the news these days and I find it unbelievable how much spiritual arrogance and hatred there is in the world and how far people will go to show that they are right in the path they follow and about the things they believe. I remember the days when I was a self righteous fundamentalist who loved telling other people that the path they were on would lead only to destruction and eternal death while my path, the correct path, was the one true way to eternal happiness. It seems so foolish to me now looking back on those days that I presumed
to pronounce my opinions as God given truth. There was a certain feeling of superiority when people gave me that look that told me that they didn't believe a word that I was saying because I knew that they would be punished for their insolence to God.
That was my attitude back in the mid 70's through somewhere into the mid 80's but by the start of the 90's things had changed in my life and I was on a path that no longer judged anyone by what they believed or how they practiced their beliefs. You would think that during the ensuing two decades that the world might have learned that the path of hatred and conflict was not a spiritual path at all but a human path that has left a bloody trail through all of recorded history. And yet as of this writing in July of 2011 only a little progress has been made when it comes to bringing real spiritual truth into the world and allowing that to be our guide as to how we treat one another. The thing that puzzles me most is that many of the spiritual paths that are out there have love as one of their primary tenets of belief. Love your neighbor, love yourself, and as we know from the Beatle's song, All You Need is Love. So where is all the love that most every spiritual path talks about? I surely don't see it in the world at large and or in practice by the churches. Instead what stands out the most, and maybe this is CNN's fault, is the crazy church that shows up to protest at soldier's funerals. Rarely do I see acts of love directed at those whose opinions about spiritual truth are different from the mainstream. Instead what we see is condemnation and threats of eternal punishment.
I have found in my own spiritual walk that my social ideals began to evolve about the same time as I started to understand the concept of love and how it was intimately tied to the practice of a person's spirituality. To me spirituality is the point where I moved beyond the confines of preconceived ideas and notions of what this world should be and began to look at it through the eyes of transcendence so that I finally saw what the world actually is. If every church, ever faith and every spiritual path or tradition in the world practiced the ideas of love that are taught in their holy documents or writings it would alter the reality of existence on this earth and bring about a golden age of peace and harmony. That was what I finally understood when I moved beyond the flawed fundamentalist path I was on and opened my mind and spirit to the true nature of this world. I don't hold out much hope for this golden age since mankind has had thousands of years to change and bring this about and as of yet...not here. But still it is a nice dream to hold in my heart as I read the news of the day or listen to yet another round of bickering politicians all bent on having their own way.
My spiritual experience is my own. Your spiritual experience is your own. If we find we have common ground we can share ideas about what works and what doesn't. If we find that we have no common ground we can respect each other's paths and continue on our way. To be in a spiritual state is to rise above the pettiness of treating anyone with any less respect than what we would like for ourselves from others. Holy texts have been used for just about every atrocity that can be imagined but very rarely are they used to offer unconditional love to someone simply because we are fellow human beings on a journey of discovery upon this earth. I find that an attitude of confrontation seems to be the order of the day and many would rather argue a point to exhaustion rather than accept that both points of view are valid.
My spiritual nature tells me that I am part of the whole and the whole is a part of me. To attack the whole or another part of the whole is simply an attack on another part of myself. If I allow it to influence me my spiritual side does not separate me from others but gives me something in common with most other human beings. It gives me a platform to stand on at an equal level with others so that I can see that we are all similar in so many ways. Many would have us believe that the differences that separate us are too great and that we have nothing in common. That is simply not true. Of course I am referring to those who are enlightened enough to see the same thing because there are many who refuse to be enlightened and would rather die fighting anything that would challenge their beliefs. We all know those types. I am referring to those whose mind and spirit is open to understanding that we are all more alike than we have been led to believe. I think those who think like that have a good chance of changing the world simply by refusing to follow the status quo that has been handed down to us through generations of closed minded people. Spiritually speaking I hope that others will see this truth and join me in a conversation that knows no boundaries in terms of the paths that we are on. Instead we should approach the spirituality of all concerned with an attitude of love and acceptance. See ya next time.
July 15, 2011
How is Your Daily Spiritual Life?
Life has a certain quality to it in which I can feel the ebbs and tides of my daily existence. There are days that I feel absolutely connected to the spiritual aspects of my life and then there are other days that I am devoid of any such feelings. I end up walking through my day like a boat without a compass that is drifting on the sea aimlessly without a course or destination to be had. Its not so much that spirituality is a destination that I am headed towards such as those who canít wait to leave the earth for heavenly spiritual realms but there is an intangible element that it brings to my life and the absence of that feeling can leave me adrift like I am incomplete or empty. If you want an analogy that many of you will remember then think of Star Trek the original series episode where Kirk is split in two by a transporter malfunction and his aggressive dark side is yanked out of him and given a separate existence. While they are apart Kirk is not completely who he normally is because the aggressive side plays an important part of making Kirk himself. Though we donít always think about the wholeness that spirituality brings to us it is there nevertheless.
My spirituality is not like a dark side per se but it is a part of who I am and when it is absent in the course of my day to day life I am left feeling less enthusiastic as I go about my business. It is hard to believe that something so difficult to express or explain to someone else can have an effect on how my day progresses but it does. When it is missing oftentimes I will find my life to be lacking something even if at times it is difficult to put into words what that something is. I guess you could say life is sort of bland and tasteless when you go through it without an awareness of your spiritual roots and your ties to things beyond the physical plane. It doesnít stop me from going through my daily activities and taking care of all the little things that need to be done but there is a definite lack of connectedness to the grand scheme of things. There now doesnít that make everything quite clear?
I didnít think so. Itís not so much that I set out on any given day to ignore my spiritual side or to not see the spiritual aspects of my life it usually just happens because life gets in the way. Sort of ironic that life needs to have a spiritual component to be whole and yet life itself can get in the way of us giving voice to the spiritual component. I think it is because I donít necessarily think of my spirituality as something that is going to help me in the coming day. Iíve got a job to go to (pretending like Iíve still got one for the sake of argument), Iíve got errands to run, Iíve got yard work to take care of and on and on. When you look at your day like that and start thinking of everything that needs to be done you prioritize and sometimes spirituality gets prioritized right to the bottom of the list because it is something that doesnít have to be done. One of those situations where you are trying to figure out what has to be done and what you would like to do and the the ďwould like to doĒ ends up at the bottom of the list or pushed aside completely.
Being unemployed is teaching me a few things about what has been neglected in my life over the last few years. My spirituality was one of those things that ended up pushed aside and the irony of that is that it is also the very thing that would have helped me get through my hectic schedules a little bit easier. It would have given me an internal anchor to hold on to as I faced the pressures of going to my job every day and putting up with a corporate culture that had very little concern for me as a human being but focused entirely on the financial bottom line and how that affected their investors. Spirituality is not a crutch as some would have you believe but it does tend to surface in your life when you have a chance to sit and contemplate it instead of pushing it away.
It arises when through sickness, unemployment or some other situation happens that you are forced to stop for a bit and sit still. The rat race comes to a screeching halt and once that happens your mind is able to focus on all the parts of you. Even the parts that have been ignored for awhile. Unemployment is giving me the opportunity to spend some time with myself instead of spending it in a tiny cubicle 9 or 10 hours a day trying to please a system that really doesnít care. My mornings are not a blur of rushing around getting ready to leave for work but instead I can actually watch the sun rise and truly think about what my life means to me. Spirituality rises naturally from solitude and contemplation so I am rediscovering who I am. Not who I partially was but who I fully am with my spiritual nature functioning as an integral part of me. So maybe in the mornings or in the evenings, whatever works for you, take a few minutes, close your eyes and think about who you are before you head out to face the world. Not about all the worldly things that make you who you are but about your connectedness to realms beyond the physical plane. The world is a place of concrete, schedules, jobs, responsibilities, meetings, doctor appointments, and the list goes on and on. Instead think about when it was you first set foot on your spiritual path and the excitement you felt at discovering something about your existence that had gone unnoticed until that moment. That will make your day easier to deal with. I know it makes mine a little easier to take. See ya next time.
July 14, 2011
Spiritual Ground Rules for this Blog
I wanted to clarify one thing as I start posting to this blog on a regular basis and that is the views and opinions I express are those that I hold and are not to be construed as representative of the community at large. The nice thing about opinion is that it is mine alone and if you donít agree with it you can simply move on from this blog and forget about it. Donít write to tell me how wrong I am because in my mind Iím not wrong and in your mind you arenít wrong so everyone is right. Discussions are welcome and if you happen to agree with my point of view then by all means let me know about it so that I know that there are others out there who hold the same kinds of opinions that I do. The key phrase in the last sentence is ďdiscussions are welcomeĒ but not arguments and certainly not telling me how wrong I am and that I should learn the truth of the situation. Too much of that attitude is already going on in the world and frankly I donít need anymore of that generated by topics that I choose to blog about.
If you really feel strongly about an issue and donít feel that it is getting enough discussion you really should be blogging yourself and gathering around yourself those who see the world the same as you do. The internet is a pretty free place for having some great discussions as long as you donít start a conversation by telling someone just how wrong they are youíll do fine. I start this blog with this kind of disclaimer because spirituality touches a lot of areas of our lives and influences many of the beliefs that a lot of us hold most dear. I know as well as the next person that discussions about religion (spirituality) and politics of any sort usually end up with both parties locked in mortal combat (kombat) and it is a duel until one side or the other can convince everyone that their position is the correct one. It does seem like the Mortal Kombat game which is why I made reference to it in the previous sentence.
Everyone seems to have the mindset of these fictional fighters from the video game series. This is a sad state of affairs because that means that nothing useful will ever be obtained through those kinds of discussions. Each fighter enters the pit with only one thought on their mind and that is to win the battle and prove their superiority over their opponent. Everyone comes prepared with combos and special moves and the ultimate game is to inflict a ďfatalityĒ on their opponent in the sense that your opponent is totally defeated and their opinions have been utterly refuted. You only have to look at the current state of politics or religion to see that there is no compromise anymore. Compromise is considered a sign of weakness so that is the last thing on anyoneís mind.
Maybe it is a pipe dream but I want to believe that people can still
discuss things without taking each others heads off. Iím like Fox Mulder
Spirituality shapes our views in many ways so Iím thinking that as I begin to focus this blog on modern spirituality the tendrils of my thoughts will reach out and touch quite a few of these controversial aspects of life and Iím absolutely certain that not everyone will agree with my thoughts and ideas. So letís get past this sticking point here and now. The whole purpose of sharing ideas is so that others can see where I stand and I can see where they stand. The purpose is not so that I can immediately begin to find a way to prove them wrong about their stance and change their views. I am entitled to live my life as I see fit as you are entitled to live your life the very same way. Living in a pluralistic society such as we find in the U.S. or even more so in the virtual realm means that you must accept your place in that society and recognize that everyone has these same rights the same as you do. Or I could say ďharm none and do what thou wiltĒ or ďdo unto others as you would have them do unto youĒ. The point being we need to reverse the damage that has been done to the idea that truth is everywhere and does not live in one path, one system or one tradition. Hope you can join me in a spirit of open mindedness and acceptance. See ya next time.
July 13, 2011
Down the technology rabbit hole
I think that modern life is taking a toll on people and many of them don't even realize what is happening to them. It's like being immersed in water and the temperature is ever increasing but in such little increments that most of us don't feel it until we have reached the boiling point. I started to feel the temperature begin to increase about the time that cell phones became small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and had coverage just about everywhere you'd ever want to be. The temperature went up a few degrees when smartphones became available and people started to conduct an even wider range of activities from their Blackberrys or the latest Android phone. It began to get really warm by the time that the new generation of portable computing pads arrived as they were like mini computers that can go where you go and keep you really connected to the rest of the world. Don't get me wrong. I'm pretty geeky when it comes to tech myself but I think that we are stretching ourselves a little thin when it comes to living in the real world these days and at the rate that technology is advancing I doubt that this cycle is anywhere near being done.
I was reading an article today about a rock musician who gave up Twitter because it was consuming more and more of his time and it was having another side effect as well. He was finding that he was having difficulty writing songs and his thought patterns were changing to accommodate the short bursts of information that Twitter forces us to live by which is 140 characters. I have read other articles about the effect that the constant flow of information is having on our abilities for contemplation and concentration and unfortunately it is not good. We are being conditioned to constantly be in a mode to accept information from a variety of sources but very few of us actually have the time to think about what it all means. I find myself at times just skimming the headlines for information about the latest events in the world while spending very little time on the details of the events themselves. We read tweets, we get text updates to our phones, we chat, we surf, we skim and our attention spans are getting used to short bursts of information while our deeper contemplative skills are getting weaker. Just like unused muscles would get if we never moved out of the chairs in front of our computers (that's another blog topic).
All of these thoughts are aimed at those of use who at least used to be able to think "deep thoughts" before the information age came along. What about the next generation who is growing up with all of this technology firmly in place as they mature? No predictions here. Just wondering how it will all work out. The point of all this is that I have come a long way just since I started using computer based tech back in the early 90's and I can see some of these symptoms manifesting in how I digest and process information. I know more about much of the world around me from here to the other side of the earth but the knowledge is usually shallow and lacking the depth that I should have naturally obtained if I had spent more time reading about each event rather than skimming along so I could get to the next news item. I find myself echoing the question seen in the movie The Truman Show, How will it all end?
This is of critical importance for those of us who are dedicated to a spiritual path as well. You can't skim along a spiritual path and ever expect to get anything out of it. And yet we are being conditioned to do that with other areas of our lives so how long before that is the norm for our spirituality as well? If our attention spans have been reduced to headlines and 140 charcter tweets then how in the world are we ever going to sit still long enough to understand the mysteries of the universe? (Just kidding about understanding the universe but you get the point) The thing we need the most is the ability to contemplate the spiritual mysteries and apply our concentration for an extended period of time on a single topic so that when we finish we can truly say that we understand the subject. Truly some ideas to think about before we lose the ability to think at all. Go sit on the porch for awhile, have something cold to drink and just think about your spiritual path for a bit. See you next time.
June 16, 2011
Learning to Live Now
We are coming up on Midsummer next week and it is hard to believe that we have already reached the peak of the summer and that the next turn of the wheel will bring us to the first of the harvest festivals. At this point along the turning wheel though I really want to revel in the warmth of the sun, the lush green vegetation that covers the earth and I just want to be in this moment without a thought of what comes next. I think that is the key to having a fantastic life instead of one that seems stuck in a rut that stretches out in front of you as far as the eye can see. Being willing to exist in this moment is really all you have but people seem to ignore the here and now in favor of something that lies in the future. A better job. The perfect partner. A better situation. The list goes on and one. All the while as you think and dwell on things that may or may not come to pass these precious moments of time which will not come again are drifting by. The minutes and hours seem inconsequential as you see them counted off on the clock on the wall or on your computer but each one is unique and should not be cast aside without realizing that we only exist in the present moment.
We are able to learn from the past and we can hope and dream about the future but the only place where we can make a change or interact with loved ones or friends is the minute that you are in right now. I can look forward to Midsummer as a point in time along an ever turning wheel but it is very important to keep one's focus where you can actually make a difference. June 21 will be here soon enough but today will become history all too soon and you will lose the opportunity to be a part of your life if you let it slip by without being "mindful" of what you are doing or participating in your daily activities. Reminds me of what Yoda told Luke Skywalker as he was training him, "A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things."
Yoda wasn't saying that a Jedi didn't end up on an exciting and adventurous path in the end but that he got there by simply being present in their day to day life and not by daydreaming of what the future might be like. It is hard to become anything in this world if we do not dedicate ourselves to achieving it and living each day to its fullest potential. Our lives are constantly being molded not by what we do in the future but what we choose to do in the here and now. We can learn from the past but we can not changed choices that we made. We can live in regret of what we shoulda, coulda done but it will only waste more of the present time by dwelling on something that is history and can not be changed. As Doc Brown in the movie Back to the Future III once said, ""It means your future hasnít been written yet. No oneís has. Your future is whatever you make it so make it a good one"
Your future is written day by day as you make choices and live in the present moment. If you are not present in your life each day or make bad choices and decisions now you can bet that you will not like the future when you get there. You will once again be looking back at where you are now and wishing that you had decided to do something differently. The trick is be aware of the future from where you are now and work on trying to make it a great one by really living your life now and make decisions that will put you right where you want to be somewhere down the line. Back to the Future's message was simply we become what we decide to become as we live our lives in the here and now. Choose to shape your future starting right now and don't wait for that perfect time to appear because it probably never will.
Boudica and I will be celebrating 15 years of being together on June 21 and we are looking forward to another 15 years ahead of us but for now I am happy to have shared my path with a woman who knows me better than anyone else. My friend, my lover and my constant companion through the good times and the bad times. June 21, 1996 was the epitome for me of living in the moment with nothing behind me and nothing ahead of me. Just a few days of being nothing but alive. As you gather for your celebrations on June 21 give thanks for the time you have together and enjoy one another's company. Listen to those around you and celebrate your life and theirs at this particular moment in time. See ya next time.
Have a magickal Midsummer
November 9, 2010
Time is moving on
Where does the time go? Lammas, Mabon and Samhain have already zipped by and now we are headed toward Yule at full speed. Here in Ohio the temperatures have definitely headed south just like the flocks of birds I have been watching from my windows as they head towards warmer climates for the winter. To my friends in the Southern Hemisphere please disregard all this talk about colder weather as you are preparing for the heat of summer if it hasn't already arrived. Maybe we can share some of the cold that is to come and you can share some of the excess heat that you run across in the next few months. :)
I hope that many of you had the chance to properly celebrate the harvest festivals as they came and went over the past few months culminating in the final harvest festival which was Samhain. And as it is the end of the old year and the beginning of the new it would also be an appropriate time to take stock of how the previous year went and make plans for the upcoming year and how you would like to see it work out. The cold of winter and the isolation that the short days and the long nights of this time of year creates is a perfect time to explore the things that went right and the things that didn't work out as planned during the previous twelve months.
Here in Ohio the weather acts as a natural way to make sure that we have enough time at home to take care of planning for next year. Once that foot of snow falls overnight it is pretty much guaranteed that you won't be going anywhere the next day so you will have plenty of time for contemplation, reading and doing things indoors that require your attention. The days are filled with watching the wind blow and drift the snow in magickal ways and burning incense to bring the familiar scents of nature into the home while it is sealed up against the cold outside.
While Samhain is not the true beginning of cold in my neck of the woods it is a marker along the path of the ever turning Wheel of the Year that indicates it is not that far off. The spring and summer have been filled with exhausting outdoor work and beginning with Samhain the work changes from the outdoor physical type to the introspective spiritual work that will be done between now and Ostara when things truly begin to come back to life. I know a lot of you live for the outdoors but I invite you to get in touch with the parts of yourself that have been ignored during the warm months of the year when endless outdoor events and chores tend to crowd out the internal growth that we all need to cultivate if we are to grow as human beings.
Choose to take advantage of the the slower pace that this time of the year affords (as long as we leave off shopping for gifts that is) and recharge your batteries. Read that book that you had meant to read in June but could never carve out the time to even get started. Sit in front of a fire (highly recommended if you can) and sip a hot chocloate or tea and just feel the warmth of the fire soak all the way through to your bones (you'll appreciate this more as you get older). If you are a journaler like me then most definitely sit down and do some writing and hash out some of the issues that have been bouncing around in your mind for so long. You'd be surprised at how much this helps you to get a perspective on things as you take the time to express your thoughts in words. It is also a good time to spend time working on a relationship if that too has been ignored during the hustle and bustle of the warm weather months. So many things to do during these colder months and all we can think about some times is when will the spring get here.
Spring will come in due course as it always does. Wouldn't it be easier to head into spring if you knew what you wanted to do, had rested up and were ready to do it and had sorted out all the issues that had cropped up last year? I certainly think so. The harvest festivals are all about bringing in the crops that you worked so hard on since the seeds went into the ground in the spring and if you use this as analogy you can see that all the projects and plans that you put into motion during the last year are now coming to fruition or not if you embrace the idea that crops can fail but one way or another you are harvesting what you put your energy into during the past year. Take a hint from nature and use the time to rest. Sometimes I think the whole concept of rest has been lost on the modern world. See ya next time.
Happy Samhain and a wonderful Yule
July 30, 2010
Lammas is almost here
Amidst the sweltering heat (hottest month on record) that we have been subjected to on the east coast as of late it is easy to not be in a harvest state of mind when Lammas roles around on the 1st of August. We tend to associate harvest with the fall, cooler temperatures, colorful trees, corn crops being taken in by farmers and if you live in the city perhaps you associate it with full to overflowing fruit and vegetable stands at the local farmer's markets or wherever it is that you head to when you want the freshest food you can get. And yet Lammas is a celebration of the first harvest festival that will eventually lead to Samhain come October 31st as the end of the harvest with Mabon in between here and there.
Even though it still feels like summer as you watch the thermometer rise ever higher (in the northern hemisphere that is) as we begin to move though the dog days of this season it is actually the end of summer we are celebrating (or mourning as the case may be) and the beginning of fall. It is the time to bring in the first fruits and early harvests of the land and even though there are many harvests yet to come this signifies that the growing season is starting to wind down ever so slightly and that the energy of the land is just about spent for another season. Don't worry, there is still plenty of time to get outside and enjoy the heat, the beach or just plain lazing around on a summer afternoon but the wheel of the year is in continual motion and this is just a reminder of where we are heading along our path.
Boudica and I keep a little garden out front (we'd like to make it bigger next year) and our tomatoes which we have watched getting bigger through the previous months have now turned a nice red color and we have already had the first couple of early picks off the vines. The peppers who we planted are just about ready to be brought in and a lot of the tomatoes will start to come ready this upcoming weekend. Lettuce is ready to pick and some flowers and ferns are starting to show their age and have begun to die back for the year. Living out in the country and seeing the changes that happen at this time of the year and watching the farmers going about cutting their 2nd or 3rd crop of hay allows us to know not only intellectually what the season means to us but to experience it first hand through participation in the harvest ourselves.
I realize that it is not feasible for everyone to have a garden other than a few plants that will grow in the window in pots but even that allows you to share in the mysteries of birth, growth, harvest and death on a personal level as opposed to simply reading about it in a book. It might be good to make the effort to find a local farmer's market if you live in the city or drive around the countryside nearby just to see where the land is in terms of the first harvest. Look at how high the corn crops have grown. See the fields full of soy beans or rye or wheat that will soon be harvested. Sometimes it is just necessary to be observant of what is going on around you to connect yourself in a personal way with the land. As Boudica and I sit down to a meal consisting of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and Italian bread (bruschetta) we will be partaking in and thankful for the harvest in a very personal way as the tomatoes and basil we have grown in our garden along with the grain of the bread and the olives for the oil remind us of the bounty that the earth gives us and the cycle of life that we all live on this earth. Not to mention that it is a very yummy time of the year because fresh tomatoes are so much different than what you will find in most of the grocery stores that you shop year round.
Lammas simply allows us the time to get our spirits in alignment with the earth once again and to remind us that the wheel is always moving whether we stop to celebrate it or not. But seeing as how most of us claim some sort of earth based spiritual path it is essential that we keep ourselves attuned to these cycles not because we are farmers and have crops to harvest but because we are a part of this cycle ourselves as we are born, live, grow old and die only to live again. Lammas is but the first reminder that all things do have an ending but the end is not all there is. Comforting isn't it?
As you may have noticed The Wiccan/Pagan Times logo or banner looks a little different as it now commemorates the upcoming celebration of Lammas. I'd like to thank Mickie Mueller for the lovely rendition of our banner that now represents the first harvest season of Lammas. Mickie's artwork will grace each of the upcoming seasons with a banner made just for the season that we are celebrating. Next up will be Mabon and a new banner from Mickie will be debuted a few days prior to the Mabon holiday and run until it is time for Samhain. This will continue through Midsummer of 2011 and then the banners that Mickie has created for TWPT will begin to start over again. Mickie has been a friend of TWPT for many years now and we are thankful that she has used her talent to enhance TWPT's visual look and that her artwork continues to evolve through her paintings and through the tarot decks that she has designed and drawn. Be sure to check out her website at http://www.mickiemuellerart.com/ and let her know that you heard about her here on TWPT.
Happy Lammas to all the readers of TWPT
July 19, 2010
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.....
A few months ago as I was starting to clean up the pages of TWPT and bring them all into alignment with the newest pages being uploaded to the site I noticed that not all of the sections of TWPT had kept pace with the interviews, articles and celebrations pages that dominate most of the Wiccan/Pagan Times. Considering that TWPT will have been around 12 years in March of 2011 there are an awful lot of pages that are sitting on my servers at this point in time. Many of them were updated over these last few months because they no longer represented the style of what TWPT has become over the last decade.
And yet that is not quite the whole story. One of the sections has seen little action over the past few years and as I was updating the links, the photos and the information contained in that section I realized that it was not just out of date stylistically but it was also out of date in the amount of new content that had been added to it as well. It was after I had completed the update and run the link checker on the pages that I decided to bring this part of TWPT back to life. Many of you that were not around when I first started TWPT may not realize that the music pages were a very popular feature "back in the day" and offered our readers lots of choices when it came to choosing music to relax by, to do ritual by or just to meditate by.
It was so successful that it was spun off into its own separate website a decade ago (http://www.ambientvisions.com ) and has since had about half a million visitors all on its own and become a voice for the ambient/new age/world and misc genre niches during the intervening years. Of course the music section of TWPT was never quite the same after that and even though it has always been a part of TWPT it has not always been a vital section for the readers of TWPT to get their groove on to. I think that updating the pages stirred up some memories about the "glory days" and I just wanted to let everyone know that I have decided to begin work on overhauling the section and making it into what it once was. Brimming to overflowing with interesting music of both the pagan kind and of the kind that I think that pagans would like even though it was not specifically created for the pagan marketplace.
I think that people sometimes try to overly define what makes music pagan or not pagan but deep down inside when we hear something that stirs those spiritual feelings or the kinship with the earth or any number of things that we associate with our Wiccan/Pagan path we know instinctually that a certain piece of music is indeed pagan. Now there will be those songs that as soon as you hear the lyrics it will be confirmed that the song is pagan but just because you don't hear those lyrics doesn't mean that you should discard the song as not spiritual. Even as beauty is in the eye of the beholder the same can be said of the appreciation of the music that surrounds us.
I will take my statement above one step further by saying that pagan music is fluid, cultural and certainly a matter of taste and not easily classified by lyric content, artist's personal beliefs or any number of qualifiers that you might use to narrow down what pagan music is or isn't. Pagan music is what pagans listen to. While the artist lists on TWPT will certainly reflect my tastes they will not be set in stone as to what is or isn't pagan music and will change as new music is discovered. WP Beat is simply a broad stroke road map of the landscape. Upon closer examination there will be countless smaller roads leading off into whole new genres that will be little adventures unto themselves. Perhaps to some listening to Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel is tantamount to having an ecstatic spiritual experience and I say that is as legitimate as those who put on Goddess chants or even folk metal (talk about two terms I never thought I would see used together) to reach that same state of mind.
While I will apply some arbitrary boundaries on what will or won't be included in WP Beat just so it doesn't try to include every piece of music that has ever been released. On the other hand I want it to be flexible enough to step beyond those boundaries on a regular basis in search of music that has power even though it is not something you would normally expect to find in a TWPT music section. But that is the whole point of music....exploration. I've been exploring since the mid 60's and I'm happy to say that I haven't found the limits of what I personally enjoy listening to. To be honest I hope that I never do. People are complex emotional, intellectual and spiritual beings so it is no wonder that their tastes in music will be equally as complex. WP Beat will strive not to be simplistic in its approach to music but I do guarantee it will be filled with diversity and be very inclusive of any genre that meets the needs of the Wiccan/Pagan community.
And just to keep me honest I would like to invite the readers of TWPT to offer their ideas about what should be included in this section and if you are a writer perhaps you might even mull over the idea in writing as to what makes music pagan for you and what you look for in the music that you listen to when you want to move yourself into a spiritual state of mind. Please send me your ideas about who should be on the artist's links page who isn't already there. I would never be so presumptuous as to think that I am aware of every artist who should be on that page. Feel free to drop me an e-mail (editor at wicpagtimes.com Subject: Music addition ) with the artist's name, myspace page and their main website page if they have one and I would be happy to check them out and add them to the listing. Help me to grow this section into a reflection of what is really going on out there in the musical pagan community. See ya next time.
July 11, 2010
Where does the time go?
These days I am not a summer person as much as I used to be. The heat tends to be a little too hot for me and on the opposite end of the spectrum the cold seems a lot colder than it used to be. Perhaps that has as much to do with my changing body chemistry as it does with my fading memories of what true summers and the freedom that they afforded me was like. Over the years I have had a few summers that have stood out in my mind as times when the temporal concerns of life simply slowed down or were forgotten entirely which allowed me to completely enter into the spirit of freedom that summer bestows on those who are able to grab hold of it.
As children growing up summer had a whole different meaning to us that has been lost to most adults because summer is simply part of the continual flow of our lives with little to distinguish it from fall, winter or spring other than we complain not about the heat but about shoveling snow or raking leaves. The magick of the seasons has become lost on us as adults because we can no longer see them as mystickal points of change in our lives and the world around us. But that is another blog for another time for now we are talking about summer and what it means now and what it used to mean then.
Summer was the epitome of freedom for us as children. Three months of freedom from school, sleeping late in the mornings, hanging out with friends, riding our bikes all over the neighborhood, mowing lawns for some extra money and making sure we had some change in our pocket when we heard the ice cream truck coming around the block. Your experiences might have been different from mine depending on where and when you grew up but for the most part summer to us as kids represented a wondrous time of adventure and just plain fun. Of course we may not have thought about it quite like that back then but as you get older the longing for that kind of freedom becomes a tangible ache in your heart because we now recognize exactly what summer meant from this point in the timeline of our lives.
I think that most of us have experienced a few summers since then that have stood out in our minds and if you are truly extraordinary every summer is still a monument to freedom just as it used to be when we were children and teens. The world and responsibilities that are thrust upon us as we become adults has a way of dragging us kicking and screaming away from the world of freedom that we knew into a world where there is only pressure and stress. A world that every generation occupies as we become our parents and take over where they left off.
Wow that sounds so depressing doesn't it? I think as Wiccans and Pagans we have an opportunity to reverse a little of that conditioning and reclaim summer (and the other seasons too) as not just another stressful part of a stressful year but as something quite different. It is the mundane world at large that doesn't observe the changing of the seasons other than as new nuisances to be dealt with so we who follow an earth based spiritual path have a distinct advantage over those who just see the world as a hard place with no "magick" to be found anywhere. We have the advantage because our perception of the world is different to begin with. We see the world as multidimensional with planes of existence touching ours on all sides so the possibilities for our lives are as varied as we can imagine them to be.
Summer is a magickal time. Yes we still have to go to work and we still have to exist in the mundane world to make a living but our minds are free and we do get time off during the summer so that we are physically free as well. Summer vacations are not three months long anymore but they can still be a magickal time even for those who have responsibilities piled on us every other day of the year. I remember one summer vacation that changed my life entirely and it was only about a week long which is short by many vacation standards but it allowed me to see myself as something more than what I had been up to that point in my life.
It was a summer vacation back in 1996 and I had met some friends online in Pennsylvania and they were having a midsummer celebration on June 21 and I was invited along with others from around their local area and at least one person coming in from New York City. I felt it would be good for me to get out and meet some people along this path I was following so I scheduled my vacation for that week and looked forward to the time off. The drive was an 8 hour drive from where I was in Ohio so I set off early on the morning that I headed east and the summer vacation that was to change my life had begun. Time seemed to slow down for the entire week that I was there and it seemed much longer than a physical week but that was the magick at work. Summer has a magick about it that when you enter into it with the mind of a child flows around you like a mystickal river that carries you away to the most interesting places.
I was met at a local convenience store in PA called Wa Wa (had never heard of it before I got there) by a couple of those friends I mentioned earlier that I had met online who were going to lead me from there to their home outside of the city. The two who met me were Wildswan and Boudica. Yep, the same Boudica that I am still very much in love with to this day. Needless to say the time that was spent on this vacation moved very slowly and I remember lying in the grass in the sunshine, walking the streets of Philadelphia exploring the sights and sounds, dancing around a large fire circle on Midsummer's night and sitting with Boudica staring into the flames late into the night until we saw the light of the new day starting to lighten the sky. By the time my vacation was over Boudica and I were etched on each other's minds and hearts and would continue our journey together a little later that year but that summer was pure magick to me.
So as adults we may have become conditioned to not notice the ever changing magickal landscape around us but that doesn't mean we have to just accept that conditioning. Perhaps we Wiccans and Pagans are the fortunate ones as we can still see the magick inherent in this time of the year. And maybe we are still able to "slow" our perception of the flow of time during these special moments so that even though we are still moving within a 24 hour cycle it no longer appears to us that we are bound by those linear rules. Very much the concept that was explored by the character Anij in the Star Trek film Insurrection when time appeared to slow down while she and Picard were able to explore the moment completely. We are not able to slow time in that way but our perception of time can be altered so that we no longer let time fly away from us at warp speed and then wonder later where it all went. As many of us say when we open our circles that we are creating a place between the worlds outside of time and space so we are already familiar with the concept of altering our perceptions of the world around us. Now we just need to bring it to bear on the lives we lead outside of the circle. Enjoy the seasons, summer included, and find the magick that surrounds you each and every day.
July 6, 2010
As I've gotten older I've become more sensitive to the life that also shares this planet with us. The animals that roam this world doing what they have always done long before we humans started to multiply and encroach on the open land and forests. This sensitivity might also explain why over the past 10 years Boudica and I have adopted 8 cats who found their way into our lives by wandering across our paths as strays in search of a home. There are days that I find it difficult to go to a pet store anymore and stroll past the cats that are housed in the cages behind the glass. I look into their eyes and so much want to give them a home but with 8 cats already that is no longer a possibility. I usually walk away feeling sad for them because until someone actually wants them they will live their lives in a small cage waiting for someone to give them a home.
Inevitably I always end up thinking about the impact that we as humans have had on this world. As I drove to work this morning a cardinal tried to zoom across the road in front of my car and as I heard the sickening thump from under my car I knew that he didn't make it. I glanced back in my rearview mirror to confirm what I already knew about the cardinal. Seeing it lying there in the road dead just drove home the point to me about the changes that we humans have brought to this world. I think all of us that drive to and from our jobs each day are used to seeing the endless parade of dead animals that wind up in the middle of the road or in the ditches on either side of the roadway.
As a follower of an earth based spiritual path I see these deaths as fellow inhabitants of this world getting killed simply for being what they are and doing what their instincts tell them to do. What has changed is the amount of land that they have available to them in which to move freely in. Living in the country I do know that we are not the only dangers these animals face. As I have observed first hand nature can be very brutal at times but in my mind that is the way of things and it is survival of the fittest as it has always been. I think in many ways we have stepped away from the natural order of things as humans so when we enter an environment and begin to do what we do it is not really part of the survival of the fittest anymore. We tend to treat nature as something to be conquered and tamed not as something that we need to be cooperate with to make sure that all species can live together.
We have entered nature as an invading army bent on making nature bend to our will and give up its bounty so that we can live our lives as we desire. We strip mine for coal, we clear-cut forests for the wood that they yield to build our homes and fill them with expensive brands of furniture, we develop farmland for housing developments, we create mega farms to raise animals just for slaughter to feed everyone who can afford to buy the meat, and we spray pesticides on our crops so that we will have even more food on our tables. And if all of that doesn't make my point about what we do to an environment once we enter it all you have to do is look at the Gulf to see what one "accident" can do to the fragile balance of our environment.
Perhaps I imbue the animals with a little more understanding than they actually have but I see them being pushed out of what used to be their homes because the land is scheduled to become the latest shopping mall project or perhaps it is slated to become the next luxury condo complex for the rich and the famous. When I see the families of deer or the rabbits wandering across my property I always try to reach out to them to let them know that they are safe within the confines of my land. No guns, no cars. Just some green grass to munch on and a haven from the encroaching civilized world that lies out past the property lines of my land.
As Wiccans and Pagans we each should feel the earth as it cries out as the human race continues to inflict pain after pain upon this planet which sustains all of our lives including the plants and the animals. Who knows how much oil has been dumped into the gulf because we were trying to find more oil to power our cars instead of years ago seeking to convert our main mode of transportation to another form of energy. As for me I'm going to try and leave a smaller footprint on the earth in the years to come and I'm going to continue to send out energy to the animals of our area to let them know they have a sanctuary from the world on my property and that they can come hang out on any time they want. Till next time.
July 5, 2010
I was musing this morning on my way to work about writers and why it is that we care what they think and write about. Being a writer myself I also wondered why my opinion or my thoughts should matter to anyone other than myself and perhaps my immediate family. Is it because writers are more intelligent than everyone else that we are compelled to follow their writings on blogs and in books and in articles on news websites? No not really. Is it because they have keen insights into the world that surrounds us that ordinary people can not possibly have? I don't think so. Well maybe it's because they write with the eloquence of the great masters of literature like Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Melville, Crane or Twain. Not hardly.
I came to the conclusion that we enjoy certain writers not because they tower above us and write words from on high but rather because they are quite a bit like us and manage to express in their words the very things that we feel very strongly about but have never shared with that many people. Before a writer actually begins to write they have to have an understanding of the English language and how to put into words what lives within their minds and their spirits. But even more than that writers have to believe that they have something that is worth saying and that only they with their unique blend of skill, experience and circumstances qualifies them to be the one to write about this particular topic.
Yet that still doesn't explain why their voice or their writings should be any more important than anyone else's thoughts on the same subject matter. In all honesty they are no more important than anyone else's. When I write I write what is in my heart and I filter it through all the experiences that have made up my life and the resulting words are very much me. They reflect my feelings on a particular subject and are very personal in nature. My thoughts are filtered through all the spiritual events that have happened to me during the last thirty five years which makes the resulting words uniquely mine. And every other writer goes through this same process as they compose their novels, their articles, their non fiction books, their blogs or whatever they happen to be writing. No matter how hard we try it is very difficult to write objectively about most any topic.
Of course that is exactly what is expected from newspaper reporters and others who bring us our daily news in the form of the written word. You would think that one writer would be about as good as the next if what they are writing is objective news and yet we have our favorite writers and non fiction authors that we prefer to read over others who are probably just as good. So to me it seems that there is something more to a writer than just their technical proficiency with words and the construction of sentences and paragraphs. There is something intangible about why we like or dislike an author and why we prefer one reporter to another. It is the personality of the writer that comes through the words and again this personality is unique to the person writing the words because no one has lived exactly the same life as they have.
Ahhhh, now I begin to see the answer to my original question. Why does anyone care what I think or what I write or for that matter what any writer thinks or writes? Just like other skills in life some people have the gift of gab, some people are mechanically inclined, some people understand software and can make it sing and then there are those of us who feel more comfortable with words than with these other skills I just mentioned. Combine that skill with certain personal characteristics and suddenly it becomes clear as to why people read the words that writers put out there. It's because the writer has expressed through their own uniqueness thoughts and ideas that ring true with the readers who are not as skilled in putting into words what is within their own hearts.
It isn't because writer's ideas are better or loftier than the average reader but rather it is because the reader feels like someone else out there knows what they are feeling and has put into words what they had been unable to do for themselves. People don't like to feel completely alone and isolated in this world and it is always a ray of sunshine when a reader finds an author, or a poet or a songwriter who puts into words the very feelings or ideas that had long lived within their heart. It offers them validation and says to their spirit, "See there are others who think and feel just like you do." I'm sure that before the printing press and before any kind of mass communications people lived and died feeling very much alone in their beliefs with no way of reaching out to others without risking censure and persecution for being different.
As Wiccans and Pagans we seek out those authors and writers who can put into words that which is within our hearts and our spirits. We don't think that the writer's ideas are superior to ours but that the author has managed to put into words that which we have always known instinctually. Our ideas are not quite like the author's ideas because we haven't experienced life in exactly the same way as them but they are close enough that we can feel a kinship with them and be happy that we are not alone on this path that we follow. No one needs someone else to tell them that their beliefs are correct and yet don't you feel just a little better when you see that in this wide world there are others who follow a similar path? The world is a big place to be alone in. Don't be alone any more. See ya next time.
July 4, 2010
How's your YTQ? (youthful thinking quotient)
The inevitable passage of time is something that happens to each and every one of us who is currently alive on this earth. It ravages both mind, spirit and body with its relentless march into the future. Unless you had very extraordinary parents you watched them eventually reach a point in their lives where new ideas, new ways of doing things and new experiences were no longer things that they desired. And depending on how far along you are on your own personal life journey many of these same feelings may have been manifesting in your life as well. Oftentimes when we experience these "parental" moments in our lives we look on them as being something that is inevitable and something that should be accepted as the natural flow of a person's life. The thinking is that no one can be young forever and that those who try only look silly as they try to hold on to their youths by seeking out younger partners or through the stereotypical purchase of the little red sports car at a certain age when you are really feeling the press of age against your spirit.
But since we as Wiccans and Pagans rarely accept the standard thinking that permeates this world and we are always looking for unique and individual ways to express ourselves I put it to you, Is that how you want to end your life? After a lifetime lived raging against the mediocrity of this world do you want to reach a point in your life when your thinking no longer expands and no longer seeks to push the boundaries that you perceive as having been set around you? Personally I think that would be a terrible way to grow old. Let me make this clear though. I am not talking about acting like a young person or looking like a young person which to me are more outward superficial aspects of youth that change with each generation. What I am talking about is your approach to living your life and staying in touch with your inner child so that inside your mind and spirit you are always the innocent child seeking to understand the world around them and explore new things simply because they are there.
You can call this your YTQ (youthful thinking quotient) and basically it refers to how flexible and open to change you are within your life. In my own life my YTQ has manifested through my embrace of technology, my spirituality and my love of music. These areas of interest really show forth just how flexible that I continue to be in my approach to where my life has been and where I am going. I know that many folks I deal with at work and in the world in general who are my age have nothing in common with me whatsoever. I try to talk about the latest trends in computing or social networking or in creating and maintaining a website and I get looks of "I have no idea what you are talking about." Or I try to talk about the latest music releases from Trent Reznor or Green Day and the blank stare is the only thing I get. And of course there isn't even a reason to bring up alternative spiritual paths because that isn't even something that many people my age are even open to discussing. To them there is only the one true spiritual path and all others are from Satan. Not much room for discussion there.
Maintaining a high YTQ is important as you get older because buried deep down inside each of us is the response that has been burned into our consciousness by observation and by indoctrination which states that you are only young once and when it is gone you just have to accept that you can never approach the world in that youthful way again. That you have to move on and be an adult. Why do we think that to be an adult we have to leave our imaginations or our innocence behind? Is it because we have witnessed generation after generation of examples including our parent of how this process is supposed to work and we just fall lock step in behind them? Whatever of the reason I would recommend that you use the same spirit of searching for the truth that led you to be a Wiccan or Pagan or _____ (fill in the blank) and apply it to all other aspects of your life and continue to do so until the day that you die.
Embrace the changes that flow around you and find ways to look at them not from a frozen perspective of someone locked in the past but with the eyes of youth that allow you to see the changes not as a threat to what you knew but rather as a new adventure of exploration in a life that always seeks to follow the current to see where it might lead. Don't cling to the branch on the shore of the river of change trying to hold on to what is familiar but rather let go and see where you end up. Believe me, that is what I did when I set foot on this path and it is constantly showing me how limited my life would have been had I not let go of my fear of change and thrown myself into the progression of time.
If you are reading this and you are still young in years don't think for a moment that this has nothing to do with you. Although older folks tend to forget their youth and harden into specific points of view it can happen to you as well. Anyone whether young or old can find themselves with a mindset that no longer sees change as a good thing and resist seeing the world as a place of wonder. The world has a way of beating this out of you through endless repetition and through harsh lessons in reality regardless of your physical age. Always be on guard against that happening to you and cultivate that childlike awe and wonder that allows them to be captivated by petting animals at a petting zoo or picking wildflowers to give to their parents. Your YTQ is a valuable characteristic that you want to always be aware of and if you ever see it wearing down you should immediately set out to bring it back to full strength.
As Wiccans and Pagans our imaginations are important. Our ability to understand the workings of energy that swirl unseen around us depends on us opening our minds to concepts that the world at large haven't learned to accept as of yet. As we walk between the worlds and perform our rituals or stand outside under a full moon we are allowing this childlike sense of wonder to permeate us which in turn gives us vision to see that our actions reverberate through this world and into other worlds that touch ours. Do you really want to give all this up as you get older and settle back into an existence of mediocrity filled with sameness and uniformity? I didn't think so. Work on it. Happy 4th of July. See ya next time.
June 13, 2010
The Wiccan/Pagan Times just passed its 11th anniversary on the web earlier this year and even with this number in mind it seems like just yesterday that I was trying to figure out how to register a domain name and after that how to get the files from my computer to the server. I was updating the author interview pages with the new color scheme and trying to bring them out of the dark ages where some of them were created and it struck me that at the time I did many of the interviews a lot of the authors didn't even have websites as of yet. It just goes to show you how much can change in the short time span of a decade. One of the reasons for TWPT to come into existence in the first place was to be a source of information for those who were looking to find out about their favorite authors.
These days if an author doesn't have a web presence of some sort you look at them with that look on your face, you know the one, and say "You're not online????" I would imagine it would be the same look that you would have on your face if you were being told by your friend that they were a multiple alien abduction victim. (No offense to those out there who are alien abduction victims) Over the last decade or so the web has wound itself around us like those facehuggers from the Alien movies (In a nice way of course) and now we can barely imagine our lives without the ever present monitor screen before us pouring out the information that we are looking for.
And yet when TWPT entered the web this value had not quite manifested itself and we were still trying to see the value of being online. And lest we forget Amazon didn't even turn a profit until January of 2002 so jumping out onto the web back then was not the first thing on everyone's mind. But for Boudica and I the web and the community that it could provide became readily apparent and we forged ahead with The Bistro and with TWPT as well as building connections with those early adopters out on Prodigy and then mIRC. We had found an element that we moved in as easily as fish move through water or birds through the air. We were always surprised when we spoke with friends and aquaintances who did not immediately recognize the geeky terms we tossed around about being out in cyberspace.
In 2010 we are seeing just how "connected" the world can be with the advent of iPads, smartphones, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and blogs galore. (including this humble infrequently updated one. I do hope to fix that in the coming year though). So you would think that Boudica and I would retire to an old web folks home and spend our golden years talking about our glory days of those times when we had to go into our computers and clean off a virus in DOS mode manually without the help a virus program. Talking about Windows version 3.0 which we installed off of 10 3.5 inch floppy discs hoping that one of them did not have a bad sector that couldn't be read (that would be the equivalent of your grandparents saying that when they were kids they had to walk 2 miles to school in the winter barefoot) That's what you might think but......Nahhhhh. Things are just getting interesting out here in the wild wild west of cyberspace and Boudica and I are nowhere near ready to forsake all of this (arms spread wide to include both his monitor screens).
This is just fair warning that we are going to be around as long as we find the internet to be a fascinating entity worthy of surfing until our eyeballs fall out. (I am not just a pair of eyeballs for marketers and I've got the blockers to prove it). Well, we will probably stop short of our eyeballs falling out but you get the picture. If you really know Boudica and I personally then you are already aware that barring death we will probably be with you here to the very end. In the coming months we invite you to continue this journey with us here on TWPT as we begin post new material to the website and offer up more interviews from new first time authors as well as those authors that you have come to know and love over the past 11 years. As Bachman Turner Overdrive might say it, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" oh come on...what do you mean who is Bachman Turner Overdrive. Til next time.
September 5, 2009
I was just reading an article on CNN today about how many conservatives were "enraged" over the fact that President Obama wants to address the nation's children at school in a back-to-school speech brought into the classrooms. They are worried that President Obama will use the opportunity to push a political agenda on impressionable young minds. There are days that I think that the conservative right sees plots against their civil liberties in just about anything that the Obama Administration does and it seems like they enjoy using the word "socialist" in conjunction with his policies every chance they get. Or rather than work with the Obama Administration towards achieving a healthcare system that will benefit all Americans they are too busy spreading lies and propaganda trying to raise a level of fear based on nothing more than half truths and lies.
How long has the conservative right felt that it was their inalienable right to force prayer or religious beliefs on the rest of society because they felt that America should be a Christian nation? And they especially like the idea of teaching the children of our nations schools Christian beliefs every chance that they can or whenever they can get away with it. And yet they can still be "enraged" when the President of the United States wants to give a speech to the children of our country to encourage them to stay in school and study hard so that they will be prepared with an education that will make them competitive in a world that is becoming more complex day after day. I am just appalled at how things can be twisted in this country by those who understand how to use the media and their followers to spread whatever message they want to spread. The horrible thing is that most of those who adopt these beliefs as their own rarely do any research or try to see the issue from both sides. They are like those people on the internet who constantly forward spam e-mails to others because they couldn't take the time to go up to a side like snopes.com and verify whether the information is true or just another of the circulating lies that wander around the internet for years.
The double standard that exists within the conservative right that allows them to be "enraged" about something that they routinely do themselves points up the sad state of affairs among the rank and file followers of the right. Herd mentality rules and originality and independent thought are looked upon as a handicap to most. I think that as a Wiccan who prides himself on independent thought and looking at the various sides of an issue and choosing the logical side I just can not understand how anyone can surrender their ideas, their beliefs and their thoughts to whatever group they belong to. To be quite fair here I don't believe in surrendering my individuality to anyone be it politician or leader within the Wiccan/Pagan community. I will listen to the arguments and I will weigh the facts but in the end it will be my choice that decides what I will do as an individual and not someone who is pushing an agenda. I chose the Wiccan path because I wanted to think for myself, follow a path that I had a hand in creating and because I didn't want to just accept a belief system simply because that was the way that my parents believed and their parents before them.
As I read the news I am constantly surprised and astounded at the actions of people all over this country and around world. As I close the news site and go back to other more pleasant surfing I always leave those news pages wondering how in the world those people got that way in the first place and how they sleep at night knowing what they have done and what they continue to do. We have met the enemy and he is definitely us.
Technology and Wicca
Having been on this path for 18 years now and watching the march of
technology over the years it sometimes amazes me that when I first
started to explore Wicca was about the same time that the first web
browser was introduced. It was called Mosaic and was something that I
used very little since most of my web time was spent on closed systems
like Prodigy or AOL. A few years later though in March of 1995 Netscape
was born and that changed the lives of lots of people out there as they
began to find out just how much information was out on the web.
I've been on a spiritual path of one kind or another since my mid twenties and now that I have reached my mid fifties it seems that I am finally grasping some of the basic truths that anyone following a spiritual path long enough finally comes to grips with and that is why do we always seem to take spirituality from simplicity to complexity? Why is it that we feel compelled to take something that was meant to be easy enough for a child to follow and make it into something that only a scholar with a bachelors degree in theology or the equivalent degree of study along the pagan path can ever truly understand? Having started along this Wiccan path in 1990 after spending over a decade on my former spiritual path I can say that there are similarities that keep cropping up in the way that we tend to add layer upon layer to a rather simple framework until we are looking at the equivalent of a mansion when we started out with a cabin in the woods.
Now before everyone starts to jump all over me about this I don't have anything against living in a mansion if that is what you choose for your spiritual path. So if you need 3 degrees or 10 levels or all of the acoutrements of formalized high magick then please feel free to follow your heart in these matters. The whole purpose of spiritual paths such as Wicca is that many who find their way here had become disenchanted with their former paths and the rules and the regulations that went along with following those paths. They (We) went in search of something that would satisfy a simple urge within us and that was to commune with our deity and to understand our place in the universe and our relationship with the Earth and our fellow human beings. That sounds very complicated and I think this is the point at which folks feel that the answer to these "deep" questions needs to be complicated in order for it to do justice to the question. Now this is where I veer away from the main road and start travelling along the side roads.
As most of you know there are a variety of ways to get to any destination. You can travel by car on the interstate highways, you can take that same car and use the backroads and end up there as well. You can fly to your destination or you can take a bus. You can travel by train or boat and in the end no one would ever say that you couldn't reach your destination because you didn't take the same mode of transportation or follow the same route that I took in getting there. There are many of us who really do want to stick to the back roads and enjoy the scenery of the journey and to take our time in arriving. I'm in no hurry to get there because the journey is the thing and not so much the destination. Now you might be asking yourself how any of this has to do with spiritual simplicity and following any spiritual path. Read on.
When I started both of my spiritual paths everything felt new and exciting and I enjoyed every minute of my journey. That was the equivalent of driving the backroads heading towards my destination but in no hurry to arrive because I was having so much fun looking at all the neat stuff out my car window. If you make it past the initial couple of years or so you begin to notice that there are more rules to follow, more responsibilities, and the level of enjoyment that you experienced with your deity begins to become more routine and less exciting. I used the word "if" in that last sentence because many step onto a particular path with no understanding of their destination at all and end up hitting detours, dead ends or maybe road work and either get hopelessly tied up in that or get frustrated and just quit and head off looking for something else. It is hard to get anywhere at all unless you have some idea of where you are heading so those who jump into any particular spiritual path with no understanding of the path or where they are headed will most likely end up along the side of the road looking for an exit or just waiting for somone to come along and give them the answers they should have already found for themselves.
Back to the journey. The problem with many spiritual paths is that there is an ever increasing level of complexity and requirements to continue along the path. First degree, second degree, third degree and a host of other things that continue to add onto the cabin in the woods that you started with. Again this is not to say that any of these things is wrong but they are not for everyone. The problems begin to mount because the other more ambitious followers of the path see those who are content to stay at a simple relational level with deity as a lack of effort, growth and dedication to the path. Nothing could be further from the truth. A spiritual path is what you want it to be and at its most basic allows a two way communication between the follower and their deities. Everything beyond that is gravy so to speak and a matter of choice for the follower. Sometimes I think that is exactly why the solitary path has seen such growth. I think that spiritual seekers are looking for a simple path to deity that they can simply step into without years of training to learn the "secrets" of the Craft so that they can be "really" close to their Gods and Goddesses.
I think that inherently spiritual paths are simple from the start and it is only after the followers get done with it that the layers of complexity begin to be added. These days there are volumes and volumes dedicated to explaining Wicca, Paganism, Occult and High Magick paths to those who are seeking to know all the little details of following the path to get the most out of it. And to all those who feel compelled to absorb all these books and teachings into their paths I say good luck. Just don't look for me anywhere on those roads headed to complexity and to building multiple rooms onto my cabin in the woods. I will be the one sitting quietly by the side of the road looking at the landscape with a smile on my face and peace in my heart as I commune with my God and my Goddess without the benefit of a magick circle or ritual of any kind. This is a call to those who may feel guilty about not making all of the progress that is expected of them along a certain path or within a certain tradition and to you I say that if you have a relationship with your deities and you have an understanding of your place in the world then I say to you Blessed Be! To those others who are zooming along the path acquiring knowledge and progressing just like you should I say...Catch you later. I may not be running alongside of you but eventually I'll catch up and we can have a nice chat about what we learned along the way. See ya next time and if anyone is looking for me I'll be right here in the slow lane enjoying my journey through this world and reminding myself that spirituality was meant to be a simple thing so that all could find, follow and enjoy. It was never meant to be something that only scholars could ever truly understand and only after years of study and sacrifice. To each their own I guess.
Boudica and I have been publishing The Wiccan/Pagan Times for almost 10 years now. It was started back in Bucks County Pennsylvania and has been with us through all of the intervening years and is now published from our rural home in Ohio. We will be celebrating the 10 anniversary of The Wiccan/Pagan Times next March and as I was thinking about the journey to this point the thing that struck me about this path and many of the other paths that are available to a spiritual seeker is the diversity that exists within the ranks of those who call themselves Wiccan or Pagan.
Much of what defines and characterizes many of the mainstream spiritual paths that I have run across over the years is not how diverse they are but how much they are alike they are. The followers of these paths seem to take great comfort in the fact that they are around others who believe exactly like they do and follow the same rituals as they do in their worship and their daily lives. They even go to great lengths to hive themselves off into denominations and sub denominations until they are around the exact type of followers that they desire to be around. That is not to say that Wiccans and Pagans don't do something similar when they create new traditions and hive off from mother covens into news covens but usually they don't claim any kind of special status for this new group in terms of divine inspiration for the new coven doctrine or understanding of the purposes of deity on this earth. Such is not always the case when you are referring to many of the mainstream spiritual paths. There is very little or no room at all for personal interpretation of the path that you are on. Much of the interpretation of these paths is from the top down and followers are usually told in doctrinal statements made by the leaders as to exactly what the path they are on means and what their roles are along this path. Deviations are viewed as problems to be corrected or to be dealt with by expulsion from the group lest the errancy of these deviant followers should infect others in the group with their unorthodox ideas.
Many of us along the Wiccan/Pagan path have come from these types of restrictive spiritual backgrounds and we deliberately sought out something that would fit our individualistic needs. I never understood why so many find comfort in conformity to the point of submerging their own desires and their individuality within spiritual paths that offer nothing but rigid, strict doctrines that are not open for discussion. You accept these tenants of faith but you don't offer your views on them or your ideas on how they might be interpreted. We live in stressful and complicated times and perhaps this accounts for why followers seek out something less complicated when it comes to their spiritual path. They don't want to think about it, they don't want to study and understand the implications of the their spiritual choices but rather they want to be told what to believe and let it go at that. It is simple but very hollow for those of us who will never put our minds in neutral and follow the herd.
Wiccans and Pagans and to be sure many other variations of spiritual paths that fall under the umbrella of these two names don't seek conformity but rather swing to an opposite position on the scale of conformity. We are non conformists to the extreme on many occasions. There are some basic beliefs that tie us together loosely but that is the extent of our conformity. For those who have sought some sort of national structure for Paganism over the years it is this very lack of widespread common doctrine that has made organizing anything other than local level structures so difficult. The very thing that powerfully draws us to this spiritual path is the very thing that will probably keep us from every organizing into something akin to the mainstream religions. To organize to that extent much individuality would have to be sacrificed to reach a compromise that would be acceptable to a larger portion of the membership and that would allow every one to feel comfortable in becoming a member. And of course by doing this you would be working counter to the very reasons that you sought to become a Wiccan or Pagan in the first place.
Over the years I have found both comfort and discomfort with the spiritual path that I am on. The very fact that my beliefs are my own and formed in my own heart and mind as opposed to taking anything at face value is a great comfort to me. I don't know when it happened but at some point in my life I became more than what was poured into me by society and by my parents and other family members. I moved beyond all of the information that was poured into me and out of this chaotic societal soup I was formed. I'm sure it wasn't instantaneous but it was like a new life form being born and this new life form no longer resembled what it had been up to that point in its existence but was entirely new. Boudica used to joke with me about my being adopted because I bore no resemblance to the environment in which I had been raised. It was as if I had been formed somewhere other than Ohio and then dropped in here after I was fully formed. I still find this to be humorous but it really points up the fact that you can be an individual regardless of where you are from and regardless of what was poured into you during your childhood and adolescence. I think that a person's true nature will eventually triumph and dominate over any artificial nature that has been imposed on the individual from without.
We are a diverse group who really dislike conforming to what is expected of us and that is a good thing. Even though Wicca and Paganism can be chaotic at times because of all incredible variety of beliefs that exist out there I would much rather deal with this aspect of my path than have everyone become exactly the same and believe in an identical way about what this life is all about and where it leads when we leave here. The human race is incredibly diverse when it comes to their spiritual paths and it is only when one path tries to dominate the others that we have problems and conflicts. I would encourage each of you to understand your own path but also to read about the other paths that are out there so that you can appreciate how rich and unique our spiritual heritage is. Once you understand this then the idea that anyone should have to conform to anyone else's beliefs will become a repugnant thought that is rejected whenever it surfaces in your mind. We are diverse. We do not conform. Celebrate this diversity and allow everyone else to experience the joy that comes from knowing you are an individual walking a path that you have chosen to follow because it suits the person that you are and not because that is what you were told to do by society, our parents, our friends or our relatives. As Wiccans and Pagans may we walk along together but always as individuals.
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