Wednesday, December 23, 2009

*Ghosti

Some of you are probably looking at that title and wondering if my “world class spelling skills” are back. No that is a real word. *Ghosti is a reconstructed Proto Indo-European (PIE) word. The * denotes reconstruction. The word is where the terms host and guest both have evolved from. It deals with refers to the reciprocal relationships of hospitality.

This is an important concept. Many conflicts start where one half of this is ignored. People showing up expecting a gracious host, but forgetting that they themselves are expected to be good guests. Many Indo-European (IE) tales tell of misunderstandings that stem from this flaw. A host forgetting to make sure the guests are all well taken care of, and one of those guests is in fact a deity in disguise (D’OH). Or the “Heroes portion” being disputed.

If we take this to the real world. How often do we see people take umbrage that they were “ignored” by the host. Or that their guests were rude. I can personally admit I recently screwed up with*ghosti at an event. A guest decided to be less than good and bad mouthed the event. I in return publicly berated them. We both failed the *ghosti test.

So in this silly season (the holidays). Will you be a good guest and or a gracious host?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Myth of Power Scarcity

One of the things that becomes obvious the older or more mature (not always the same thing) you get is that there is no scarcity of power. You not having power, in this day and age, most often is a conscious decision. Be it you choosing not to educate yourself (and I am not talking about degrees here, some of the most educated people I know, have done it for themselves). You can choose not to let others have power over you most of the time. This of course discounts those wolves in society who would prey.

In the Neopagan community most arguments center around the “myth of power scarcity”. By this I mean they feel that there is only so much power to go around, and we need to horde it like dragons. How many of us have heard “So and so showed me no disrespect” or “Shop owner X lowered his/her prices just to screw me (Shop owner Y over”? I know I have. I’ve heard even more far-fetched ones.

The fact remains. Power scarcity is a myth. If there are only two Neopagans in an area. There is room for them both. If there is 100, there is room for all ideas, all views, more than one shop or coven or Grove etc.

But we return to the fact people fear loss of power. They see someone doing something they wish to do, meaning they can’t try. They see the success of others, as failure of their own dreams. I know that this has been a pattern I have followed for a long time. As I said the older I get, the less I care.

I recently started reading a rather interesting little book called “Meditations on Violence”. Now yes that is a rather macho title. It is in fact the opposite of Macho. It is a study in the myths of martial arts, and also the myths on self-defense. The author makes one very important observation early on. He is a corrections officer as well as a martial artist, and has a degree in Zoology. If you look at say a wolf pack. The adult male or female does not kill the Pups who get a little… over ambitious with their pl;ay fighting and bite the adult. Indeed they often romp with them. They seem to enjoy it. When adult wolves fight. They don’t fight to the death very often. He then goes onto describe the “monkey dance” which human males undergo.

Step one: What you lookin at?
Step two: I ain’t looking at nothing
Step three mutial self chest beating
Step for PUNCH
End

He said the best way to not playing in to this, (and by the Gods if I knew this years ago I would have had a less “interesting life” ) is to act bored.

Step one: What you lookin at?
Step Two: *Yawn* Nice day neighbor…looks away.
End (usually).

Power Struggles are like this. If you show boredom at the chest pounding. Show lack of concern for the situation (and by this I don’t mean for the other persons feelings, but that you don’t need their power) it will get diffused 9 times out of 10.

Now that tenth time? That is when the warrior needs to be awake, if appearing bored. I am often thinking to myself.

“Why are they doing this?” Understand where they are coming from
“What are their goals?” Are they really a threat, or are they socially inept, or perhaps just grumpy today?
“What can they do to me?” Seriously, will they physically, verbally, mentally, or spiritually attack me?
“If I back down, what do I loose?” Nothing usually. The wise warrior understands they should pick when, how, and how hard to fight. The last part is easy. Fight to win. You play fair in sparing, and competition. Real fights are to win. Second place is the looser. Know economy of force. If someone starts spreading a rumor to “take power” have evidence to combat this.

For example. “Hey Noinden likes to Tip Cows” is being spread. Responses that could be used “Cow tipping is a myth”, “Ahh so you were in the pasture with me?” “Yawn, sure is a nice day “. The first one leaves you open to the myth spreading. How do you know it’s a Myth? Trial and error? The middle one, is a funny come back, but is an escalation. Use it only if you have to fight, and follow it up with ten or so extra “strikes” do it to win, not for points, there is no gold medal. The last one? Well they will wonder what the hell happened?

Remember there is power for all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ego

  Pronunciation [ee-goh, eg-oh] Show IPA –noun, plural egos. 1.the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought. 2.Psychoanalysis. the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment. 3.egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes more unbearable each day. 4.self-esteem or self-image; feelings: Your criticism wounded his ego. 5.(often initial capital letter ) Philosophy. a.the enduring and conscious element that knows experience. b.Scholasticism. the complete person comprising both body and soul. 6.Ethnology. a person who serves as the central reference point in the study of organizational and kinship relationships.Origin: 1780–90; < L: I; psychoanalytic term is trans. of G (das) Ich (the) I Ego…. Such a dirty word in Neopagan circles. Almost with out a doubt the negative connotations (meanings 3 and 4 mainly) are all that people consider. This is somewhat understandable. It like the word honor has been used and misused by people for a long time. But is ego really that bad? Is having an ego a flaw?? Egotism surely is bad at times. Someone who has a self inflated self image, and forces that upon others, or takes decisions upon themselves with out taking the time to think “what will this do to those besides me?”. That is a bad example of ego. Recently someone said to me “you have to remove ego from the situation”. He was dead serious. He thought he was coming at it from an “eastern philosophical” point of view. He also tired to imply the warrior should be with out ego. That there is the crux of the argument; this is where I shall concentrate this post. I will concentrate on my friend’s comments first. He has a valid point of view for his own personal gnosis. A personal gnosis is an individual's spiritual insights (or gnosis). A gnosis comes from a greek word for knowledge and refers to insight into the infinite, divine and uncreated, rather than mundane knowledge. For my friend, a “warrior” is with out ego, for him the Neopagan society needs to be with out ego. With out divulging to much of his past, he’s seen egotistical actions destroy the local pagan community several times. Egotistical attacks on him have caused him great stress and pain. His idea of the “warrior” much like mine is of one who serves and protects the community. So in a sense he is correct, the role of a warrior is not a place for very much egotistical action. Similarly the community really could benefit from a lack of over sized egos walking around like Dragons eating up all the lesser creatures in their way. I differ from his point of view past this however. Lets start with the Warrior. I don’t follow an eastern philosophy. My “martial art” (Combatives) is something that does not lend itself to “Zen”. My ancestors (the Cymric and Gaelic tribes of Britain and Ireland) certainly did not appreciate unthinking unfeeling warriors. Even my Cymric Ancestors foes, the Roman Legionnaires did not go all “Zen” about being soldiers. My own personal gnosis tells me the warriors needs to embrace their ego. They need the self-confidence to stand against the enemy, to attempt the impossible. Lack of Ego, will mean failure, which is unacceptable. However at the same time, to be egotistical is bad. To not take into account your fellow warriors, your tribe, the people you do service to, that is equally as bad! My ancestors embrace individuality on the battlefield. Single combat was the name of the game, or fast and dirty raids, over large set piece battles. It honestly lost them any chance they may have had against the Roman Legions (who embraced a more hive mind approach to battle). But as a reconstructionst pagan I am behooved to try and understand the thought patterns of my ancestors. Moving on to being a Neopagan. I am unclear where the hatred of ego comes from. The first Neopagan faith (Gardnerian Witchcraft/Wicca) had a great deal of input from one Alistair Crowley. Yes the great beast himself! Gerald Gardner was given a license (or so it’s said) to take over the work Crowley had begun with the OTO. Ceremonial magic has no such fear of ego (as a concept or in action), though again egotism is a problem. So for the first decade or two, the idea of having ego was not a bad idea. The very act of magic is an act of ego. Forcing ones own will on something else, to enact change. This still should hold in Neopaganism, yet again egotism is a terrible idea. It’s one of the reasons the “rede” is so important to Wiccans and eclectic pagans. “Do as tho wilt, an it harm none” could translate to “do it, but don’t be a jerk about it”. Or as a Welsh friend once said “Don’t be a douche”. What about community? This is where my friend was talking about “ego” having no place. Again you need to have a little bit of ego. You need to be able to stand up and say “hey I can do that” or “Hey that is not ok”. Both are acts of ego. It is ok for a Warrior to have ego. It is ok for a Neopagan to have ego. Indeed my preferred definition of ego is the fifth one. A complete person has an ego. A machine, an android, a soulless creation has no ego. But a human being does. Neopagans should not shy away from this idea.

Monday, July 13, 2009

“Dear Weed....”



I’ve mentioned here, and else where, that Neopaganism’s greatest strength and weakness is it’s acceptance of differences. By both a strength and weakness I mean that, as a spiritual path, it is theoretically true that anyone will be accepted. That is great. You do not expect to get proselytized at, victimized, or see bigotry. Of course that is just the theory. That is another post for another day. As a weakness, more often than not the community will be afraid to deal with antisocial behavior.

This is where it gets murky. I mean by antisocial behavior, such things as use of elicit substances, allowing minors to partake in activity that is not appropriate to their development, allowing someone to be just a plain old jerk, because it’s not Kosher to tell them not to be like that etc. The acceptance also causes a lethargy in community when it realizes that they have to do something. Most Pagan groups are either lead by consensus OR by (sorry for this) dictatorship.

It is not however healthy for the community, and most non functioning communities, groups, Covens/Groves etc are bogged down from this antisocial behavior.

Now to be fair, many groups that I have seen have a way of dealing with this, that is both fair and equitable. Sadly some don’t. They either do not have a process for dealing with it, or the process is rather biased.

I will give an example:

One of the worst places to get an introduction to Neopaganism is an online group or forum. Yahoo, Usenet, and various Fora, come in two general varieties. Moderated, and Unmoderated. The worst by far are those with no moderation policy, these are the land of flame war, witch war, and abusive behavior. Some of us tend to reside there to provide some stability, but it’s like sticking your finger in a dyke to stop a leak, it never works for long. Moderated groups come in two general forms. Those with a well balanced team of moderators, and rules to try and prevent abuse, and those which have a clique in charge. If you get on the wrong side of that clique, you best be up to the abuse.

That is online interactions, and to be blunt (and this is funny from a blogger), online is not really real life.

In real life there are several ways you will interact with fellow Pagans.

Festivals. Here you will be able to shop, attend workshops, and do ritual. These are supposed to be “neutral ground” and any antagonism kept away. Usually this works. But it will depend on how good the event security is. By good I mean, impartial, effective, and sane.

Meetups, Pub Moots, lectures. Again these are in theory “neutral ground”. Any problem should be dealt too, after the event. Pub moots in particular are renowned for places to hear people speak ill of others. Alcohol is a great remover of social niceties. I say this after having worked Bar Security for many years as an undergraduate and early post graduate student.

Covens, Groves meetings, rituals etc. One would hope that any Coven or Grove (insert other name here for your faith) would have vetted their members early on. But the older and larger the group. The more likely there will be long standing issues. Here it is the job of the leader to retain control, unless it is a consensus driven group. I would note, that consensus driven groups have less issues, but also achieve less.

So lets get to the meat/tofu (for the Vegans who read) of the post.

The Weeds in the Garden.

Any group of more than 2 people (and then perhaps even 2) will have the potential for personality clashes. Add spirituality, and a power structure to this, and you shall see a much better chance of problems.

These problems are usually things that if every one asked “what do you mean by ….?”, “Hey did you really say…?” or “Could you clarify this?” then nothing would happen. But every now and again you get someone show up (or change into) a social nightmare.

In the case of public events, this nightmare could be as simple as someone smoking an illicit substance, or drinking (when it’s illegal) and getting militant that they don’t follow that law. It is why I specify in any Public event I’ve run, or helped run “No Alcohol or Drugs”. Weapons are a similar issue. In any of those cases, it would be a legal and PR nightmare if the Police showed up, and found something like this. It would be a disaster for that area’s Pagans, and father afield if the Media took hold of the story. The correct way to deal with this is to ask the peson to stop, if they will not, then they must go.

Another issue that may occur is socially unacceptable behavior will occur. One of the most common in Pagan circles is sadly older men and women, getting into relationships with younger persons. I personally have no tolerance for anyone “dating” anyone who is not the age of consent. Sadly Pagans tend to “turn a blind eye” and gossip about it. My local pagan scene has several people who have done this, and not a single reprimand, attempted intervention, or consequence has occurred. It is one of the reasons I am reluctant to interact with the community.

Sadly as Neopaganism (and heathenism) become more prevalent, we also attract people at the extreme fringes of society. Gangmembers, racists, convicts, etc. These are people who if they cause a problem, I call the weeds (hence the title of this blog entry). I’ve seen perfectly functional groups implode when you get any of these people.

Lets take the most destructive in my opinion. The racists and bigots. I’ve sadly encountered several of these creatures over the years.

My first introduction was back in 2002. I was helping run a Student Pagan Network. The Law Speaker (president) was a very liberal Asatruar. We had a woman show up claiming to be an Asatruar, and all seemed ok. Then one day we got on to the topic of politics. The new “Asatruar” when it came to her turn proudly proclaimed “I am a Third positionist” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Position) this is sadly a nice way saying they are right wing bigots. It is what many Neo-Nazi, racist, and bigoted groups hide themselves under. In the end we had to politely tell her we were not comfortable with her presence. We could not ban her (it was against the groups student charter), but she left. I later found out she was in fact a “Satanist” (unspecified allegiance to any group) who was looking for recruits.

In 2007 I helped run an alternative to Pagan Pride Day (which had been canceled, and has yet to happen again). We called it the “Gathering”. I will not go into the organizational issues, as they are not really relevant here. We did however get one person who ruined the whole event. He claimed again to be an Asatruar (I am not picking on this group for the record). He was dressed in a paramilitary manner (camouflage Jacket, black cargo pants, army boots, etc). Over the course of the day he proceeded to alienate every one. He began by trying to assert his superiority to all. He stalked a woman, to the point she asked several of us to be “escorts” when she had to do something. He encouraged some children to play dangerously with fire, and he began to preach sedition, uprising and a number of questionable ideas towards the government. I also caught glimpse of him having several non legal knives, and what appeared to be a hand gun under his jacket. I note this as Wisconsin does NOT allow concealed carry or open carry of hand guns. Later checking would show that this person had a non molestation order from a young woman he had stalked. He was also a school teacher.

What I found so disturbing about this gentleman was not so much he existed, or found us. No. Rather the response of the community leaders. The leader of a Pagan group for the area, was adamant that he could not be “banned” from attending. Despite all the evidence (stalking of a Pagan community member, anti social behavior, and apparent armed nature). The woman at the even he had stalked had been previously harassed/stalked by her ex husband. The community leader who was refusing to act, herself had had some very bad experiences. The gentleman showed up several more times at other events and businesses, yet still the community leadership would do nothing. Other than gossip, kibitz, and bemoan he was there.

The Gentleman was a weed.

He is not the sort of person a community wants. He was unstable, but not in the “if they stay on meds they are fine” type or the “they have good and bad times” type. He was the dangerously unstable type.

Another example, which made the media. Was of a woman in an area near where I live (Milwaukee) being arrested by police for several things. The story boils down to, she illegally burned various items including tires, and plastic, while listening to her iPod. The police arrested her, and her defense was it was a “Wiccan ritual” (burning plastic and tires? Really? Wow Wicca must have dropped the “respect mother earth” aspect since I last investigated the faith). She claimed it was religious persecution and her rights of religious freedom were violated.

I was at a Pub moot the day after his happened. A leader at the moot stood on the table, and proclaimed a number of things, all without the whole story. I remember putting a hand to my head and muttering how stupid this all was. Why defend a person obviously trying to play the bigotry card? My view probably would not have been to popular to be honest.

Ok what if YOU are the weed?

What?

Well I say this as it is very likely you will find a group that does not fit your needs, views, or whatever. Or you will become embroiled in an argument that can not be solved. I personally became a weed to one small community of late. My stance on lawfulness, responsibility along with many poor decisions of my own, made my presence disruptive. I made the choice to walk away. To “weed” myself out. I do not regret this. I unsubscribed from all the lists, I stopped attending events held in that area of town. I cut all contacts. I found I am much happier. I also hear that my absence has not changed the group what so ever. Thus I realize I made the right decision. I am no longer the agitator (by my presence) or the convenient scapegoat for them.


So what does this have to do with being a warrior?

Well firstly it emphasizes responsibility, duty, and honor. But secondly, you may find yourself in a place where you have to do the weeding!

Here is what I recommend.

(a) Be polite but forceful
(b) Don’t ever (EVER) antagonize them.
(c) Make sure you are acting in accordance to the wishes of others (if you are in a consensus based group) OR you have the authority to make this decision.

My last example I will use, is one I will be understandably vague about. In a group I belong too, it became known to us, a member was planning on coming to events and ritual illegally armed. This was against the laws of the group, and many states (where this person could appear) laws. Further this person had previously been an agitator in discussions, and had a terrible attitude to most others. The decision was taken to send the groups standard way of dealing with this a letter that is euphemistically called “Dear weed” and the use of the letter as "Weeding the Garden".

Slan

Noinden


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ritual etiquette? OR how not to be a Jerk

Ok this is a term that comes up quite often in pagan circles. What they are usually talking about is behaving yourself during ritual.It is not the main part of my blog today, however since it comes up so often, lets skim itTurn your cell phone off (and leave it outside circle) also don’t talk away during ritualDo not disturb the people running it to enforce YOUR wishes. If the ritual is not being run in your preferred style (and face it there are many styles which work and exist) do not come back, or politely discuss why it was done a certain way, AFTER the ritual.Do not walk in and out of circle (unless you are told you can).Be straight (in chemical dependency terms) so do not be drunk, stoned, high, smokes a cigarette.Find out the dress code before hand. By this I mean, if it does not explicitly state, “sky clad” do not come into circle naked and wonder why they are not happy.Don’t carry your atheme or similar ritual tool in a menacing manner.What happens in circle STAYS in circle. Unless otherwise stated.That is a quick and dirty run down of what is usually expected. Many variant forms exist, but the general rule is “do not be a jerk” and you will be fine.Ok my blog on ritual etiquette is actually about how I think you should act to other beings during a ritual.This post stems from a list post to a group I belong to. Some one who has a Ceremonial Magician friend was wondering about this Ceremonials shock that the group I belong too (the ADF) not having what he considered “appropriate countermeasures” for the beings we deal with.It simply is a difference in attitude and etiquette.How do you deal with the various beings in your rituals and occult life? This CAN be humans (and I will give examples) but also deities, land spirits, ancestors, demons, angles, power animals etc (note I don’t actually deal with all of these and shall limit my self to Land spirits deities, ancestors and “out dwellers” but feel free to work out how your various beings fit into this :)In any ritual I design, run, or have a say in. I tend to take the same approach to “mystical beings”. Which is, be respectful, but don’t grovel, and treat them as any other being. Again do not be a jerk.I never invoke or evoke a being in a manner, which seems to order them, command them, or tell them what to do. I invite them in.For example I will invite the deities of the ritual in by name, asking them to join us.Similarly I will ask the spirits of the land and ancestors of those taking part to be with us.No “I command you to appear”. To me the Gods and Ancestors are respected members of my tribe/clan/tuath. I would not want a kid in my family telling me to “come here now” and be rewarded with me doing just that. It is bad behavior. So why would I do that to my Gods? I show particular reverence to the Irish Deity known as the Morrigan. Anyone who has read the stories of her knows what pissing her off does. It is not a great way to live a long life.So I invite them in. If they choose to come. More power to me (and them). I also offer them hospitality (a drink and a bite to eat). It for me is the traditional and ethical way to honor a guest.So The Gods Spirits of the land and the Ancestors are each asked to attend. There is no command. It is a simple non RSVP invitation.Which brings the subject of what is to be considered a God, a Land Spirit and an Ancestor.I am using terminology, which the ADF calls the 3 kindreds. But the premise is, that there are three types of spiritual being which you might interact with.There are Ancestors. Most commonly these are blood relatives, recently passed, or long gone, but long remembered. It can also be heroes of your people (I would cite Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Peter Blake as two for me, being a New Zealander).Spirits of the Land. Various cultures give them names. They are the spirits that inhabit a piece of land. They are unique to the place. They may be primal or sophisticated.Deities. Ok this is where Pagans usually have the most difference of opinion. As a hard polythiest, I am of the opinion that every deity is unique, and real. Including the Abrahamic one. That being said. To me there is no supreme being, they are not omnipotent or onipresent. They are fallible. That being said. There are my “Gods of worship” and within those my Matron, the Morrigan. I develop a personal relationship with them, and her in particular.Other deities are still deities, just not MY deities. I am polite, but disinterested.Some pagans see all deities as a face of a whole (be it all goddess are an aspect of THE Goddess, and all gods are an aspect of THE God, or be it every deity is a piece of the whole).What about out dwellers and Outsiders?Ok So Outsiders I have touched up. Outsider Deities. Gods and Goddesses who I do not worship. Be they not part of the pantheon I follow, or be they something else (like the Abrahamic Deity).Outdwellers are beings at the edge, or beyond my cultural spiritual framework.Indo-European cultures had a caste based system. The intellectuals (Priests, Druids, Flamen, Brahman etc) the Nobles (the warrior elite) and the Producers (Farmers, artisans, etc). Each on some level had a fourth caste. Even if it was not formal. Thralls, those the Druids had removed rites of sacrifice (excommunication, but to the point of you having NO rights), the Hindu “unclean”. There was also the mad and crippled at the edge of society. Beyond the society there was the outsider, they had different rites in different groups at different times.Spiritually, there are beings like Angles and Demons, whom to me are Outdwellers. Not gods, but spiritual beings who are not part of my path. There are also beings like the Tuatha De Domman (Fomaire) Titans, They are antagonists to De Dannan. Also there are the Fir Bolg.You do not go out of your way to annoy them. Indeed I often make an offering before ritual for just them.So the first and most important rule is in many ways. Don’t be a jerk. Or more importantly. Be hospitaipal. Chances are they will be hospitaipal back.Now you are in ritual. Every one (human or spiritual being is behaving) and someone or something comes along and tries to mess with that. This could be the perennial “Sorry I am late can I jump in” pagan who is running on PST (pagan standard Time). Or it could be a nosey land spirit who was sleeping, a deity who crashes the party (I am looking at you Bacchus!) etc. The way to handle any of these is much the same.I prefer rituals with the warriors (or Dragons or some similar name for ritual security) on the outside (and able to come inside) prepared for this. You calmly explain to the being “You are late, if the preist/preistess want to let you in they will indicate that”. Generally people take this polite but firm “wait” with grace. If they do not, you call in back up. I’ve never encountered a spiritual being who did not wait. I have encountered humans who feel entitled to this.Similarly if you have a problem inside ritual. Chances are it is a human. I have seen rituals where someone spat (in disgust) at someone over a long standing (and childish) grudge. It was let pass at the time, and the person dealt with before the next time. But a Warrior could (if the person running it wants this) walk someone out of circle. It is again your job.Ok but what if a spiritual being acts up. Well personally the Gods have always been above reproach (this means they follow what the ritual is about, so if it is Beltane, the Dagda has been known to be frisky, Bacchus wants the grog, and Loki can play pranks, that might be a little cruel). The land spirits are similarly nice. Ancestors…. Those on the other hand might decided to chide a decendant. This is usually during Samhain (when they are in abundance).My advices… keep out of it. Help the person after, but don’t get involved in a “family domestic”.After the ritual is over. Don’t dismiss the beings. It’s again rude. They will stick around as long as they like anyway! Do not miss out on a chance to interact with them either. My best moments with the Morrigan are after ritual. I was chilling out, in the dark, alone. A raven settled near me and eyed me up. Then another, then a third. I shared my ritual bread with them, and felt at peace. It was quiet and deep.It returns to not being a jerk. Consider you ritual as a party (with a purpose) and the beings your guests. You should consider that some will hang around past when you are ready, and cope.For the Warrior, this means staying on guard. Know the local customs. One example I beat many Americans over the head with, is the First Nations peoples, in general, consider that the pouring of Alcohol on the ground, as poisoning the earth. I follow not doing it (I burn it like any good pyro). A person I know said when I stopped her “well they can get stuffed (actually they used an Anglo Saxon word) my ancestors did this”. While you can do it. Chances are YOUR ancestors did NOT do this in North America. They did it somewhere else, where it was seen as ok by the local Land Spirits (the way the alcohol is given to them in Germanic cultures was often pouring some on the land). Find out what you can, and develop a relationship with the spirits. Each is different than the other.After a ritual, watch to make sure people seem grounded. If they are not. Ask them if they need help. Or just listen, talk, be there. Clean up after every one (or ask them too help). This goes energetically as well.Before the ritual make sure every thing is in order. Fire permits, the authorities know you are there and why (if public land) or at least not to freak out. Every one is legally compliant (no weapons, drugs, etc). Ground yourself, and be ready.Etiquette is deeper than this, but this is a start. The beings are just as important as those humans taking part. Don’t be a jerk ;)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Finding your place in the world.

That’s not fair I never thought that would happen to me Why, what did I deserve to get this? Words we probably all have said at least once in our life, and likely will say many times more. Junk statistics and popular psychology tells us that “today’s youth has an unrealistic view of their future”. I think what they mean by this, is they are told they can do anything. Indeed you can do almost anything if you try. Try is the bit the youth forget. They assume a degree from a university guarantees them a high paid job. They assume they too can one day be president of the USA (or similar). What no one told them is that every dream requires work. Requires luck, and sometimes no matter how much we want that dram to be true, it cannot be obtained. We don’t prepare ourselves for failure. Indeed seldom do we have a back up plan. One of the best illustrations of this for me was when I was teaching undergraduate Chemistry. The freshman course, taught me how badly people want a dream but how poorly they chase it. In my University (University of Otago). The various professional health science careers (Pharmacy, Dentistry, and medical) along with law, have a cap of 200 entrants to the next year. Each freshman class is around 2000 students, and of those around 1900 of them think they are going to make it. Statistically, they have a 10% chance. What they also don’t know is it’s more like a 7% chance as the courses will also take graduates with degrees into them and show preference for that. But every year about 3 weeks out from the Chem 112 exam I would ask. “Who is going into Medical School/Dentistry/Pharmacy?” and then “So if you do not get in what will you do?” Every year the majority of these students had no back up plan. It was medical/dentistry/pharmacy school or else. OR the back up was one of the other professions. It’s not realistic if you do not have a back up plan. But we are taught to dream high. There is nothing wrong with that. But we don’t get the idea of “plan B” (and C and D). It is all about finding your path in the world. You should always strive, but you should also be prepared for the worst. One of the defining natures for a warrior should be how practical they are in a situation. By practical I mean being able to take action, and reduce or remove a problem with the minimum amount of fuss and bother. In the various Indo-European cultures there was the concept of “fate” or something similar. By fate, I do not mean the modern “it was destined to be and always was”. I mean the consequences of your actions and others actions is such that this is how you got here. To the Scandinavian and Germanic tribes there was Wyrd. To the Irish there was Dán. Many of us are familiar with the term wyrd. Sadly like many things the Neopagan subculture has latched on to it, and misuses it (appropriation anyone?). Dán (dawn) is very similar. It is about walking the path of your life, as you should. Your place in life is your Dlùth (dluck) is your true nature, the person you are meant to be. You walk a path to your Dán when you start becoming more and more like your Dlùth. Dán is something you have control over. Your actions bring you there; the actions of others too bring you here. But it is not set in stone. So a warrior when they find themselves in a situation, they should not spend too much time in moments of “how did it come to this” and “that is not fair”. The warrior knows life is not fair. Nor is it unfair. It just is. It is more important to deal with the here and now, than wonder how you could have stopped it. That is for after dealing with it. So a skill to learn is what is called “fast mapping”, where by you learn to deal with something as it occurs. Also observation is important too. Prevention is better than a cure they say, and the same goes for situations. If you prevent or reduce the problem before it occurs, you have one half the battle. In history wars are won with both those who adapt faster and better (fast mapping) and strategy (observation). Life is the same (and no I am not saying life is a war). We learn from our mistakes better than our successes. Similarly if we do not repeat mistakes, we are doing better as well. Finding a place in the world, and accepting that at this moment that is where you are will get you a lot further and make you a lot happier than denial.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sacrifice of Self

Sacrifice of the Self. One of the hardest parts of being a Warrior (at least in my eyes) is that through service there may need to be some self-sacrifice performed. In any functioning community, every member should be at least willing to do this. The self-sacrifice is the time and effort that is required to have a functioning community. However Neopaganism encourages individuality. That in turn can lead to an apparent dearth of people willing to actually do this. The warrior should be willing to do this and more for his or her community of choice. Be the first to volunteer. BE the first to offer to give something up to get the job done. I am reminded of the scene from “The 13th Warrior” where the old seer calls for 13 warriors to undertake the quest. Each of the first 12 responds, “I will be the 1st (or second or) man” with pride evident on their face. The warrior in the community should be the same. If a call goes out to set up tents and tables at a festival, any “warrior” in the community should be “I shall be there” and be there, early preferably and do the job. That is one example of sacrifice. Another is putting yourself into conflicts way. As I said Neopagans love their individual natures. This leads to flame wars on lists, which lead to Witch wars outside of lists, which in turn gives us long lasting grudges. A warrior should stand up to this sort of behavior, no matter the cost and ask for it to stop, if you have the power (list moderation, or venue security) then you should also remove the trouble makers, NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE! The warrior should question their leaders (fellow warriors and others) who also are acting wrongly. It’s your job. What if the community sees YOU (the warrior) as the problem? Examine their gripe. Were you too aggressive and authoritarian? Were you acting against their wishes? Are they not willing to play by the rules they said they would? Any of those scenarios should be a red flag to you. Did you over do it? Yes? No? How can I do better next time? Should there be a next time? Did you misunderstand their wishes? Should you have asked for clarification? Did they know what they were asking? They don’t want you there, because you make them play by the rules? Consider walking away. Don’t be meek and mild if it’s a situation that is against your ethics. Own up to YOUR mistakes. Don’t be shy. Also make sure others know what went on. But go. Leave. Do not look back. Make that sacrifice. No community is the totality of Paganism, even if they think they are. If you walk away. Take time to heal, take time to think. But do not play by their rules. Stay away. Stay strong. Find a new place to serve. Learn and grow. Make that sacrifice and hold your head high. Remove drama. Or remove a point of contention for you. Brendan Myers in his book “The other side of Virtue” talks of the heroes sacrifice as being one of the highest levels of virtue in the old warrior cultures. Lets return to the 13th Warrior as an example. Each of the 13 Warriors risks that. At the end, the dying chieftain lives up to his oath to protect the Village, knowing he was dying, but keeping his word. Learn by examples like this. They are throughout the various myths, legends and stories of our spiritual and perhaps actual ancestors. No many of us will not go into physical battle. But many of us will go into metaphorical battle. Live by our ethics. Live by our virtues. LIVE and be proud. It is that simple. To be a warrior means to be willing to sacrifice. Slan agat Noinden

Friday, April 3, 2009

Taking up the Challenge

For those of us who are Neopagan “warriors” chances are (I am assuming a lot I am sure) that we are aware of the idea that we shall face challenges, ordeals, and yes conflict. We hope we will not (again I am assuming a lot) have to do this too often, but we are willing to make sacrifices to save others from having to do this too much. At some point in our spiritual growth, we reach the point where we are willing to take up the challenge (as I will refer to this as). We may have trained for years in martial arts, and suddenly have to apply them. We may be come activists for the earth, first nations, or similar causes, spearheading the charge for change. We may even be so bold as to decided to work energy/cast spells to maintain some sort of peace. I will not judge any on those paths. But I would caution that I believe that to serve should be done with the consent of the community. But to take up the Challenge is a rite of passage. It should mean that we are steady in our ideas of what is morally and ethically right, it should mean that we are attuned to what others want, otherwise how can we claim to be taking “right action” and not dictating our own wishes? We should be skilled at the job ahead, not some thug out to prove a point. So in my case I “felt the call” about a decade ago. I had recently joined the ADF (http://www.adf.org/core/) as I had been searching for a Druidic organization, which fitted with my own belief structure. Once I joined I discovered the “guild system” within the organization (http://www.adf.org/groups/guilds/). I had for five or so years (it is a little murky how long) been identifying with the idea of the “warrior”. Early on, what this just was was a good question. But it called out to me. I discovered the Warriors guild (http://www.adfwarriors.org/) and this began to help me formulate a lot of the ideas, which I now have. The study program at the time was a little different than what I was after, but like all things in the Neopagan world, it has grown and changed over time, and I am proud to say I’ve even managed to put a little of my own influence in there. So if you feel called (or have felt called) you might understand exactly what I am talking about. But to try and put this into words. I felt the need to serve my community. My community at the time was the University of Otago Pagan Network (http://au.geocities.com/pagan_otago/ sadly this appears to have died out since I left :( ). I took upon myself (with the blessing of the group) dealing with an antagonistic Student president who had claimed, “We were all bloody heathens who should be burned at the stake”. My actions basically were to harass him, the student newspaper, and the Otago University Students Association (OUSA) until he apologized. I was not subtle, and I probably dragged this out for a few months longer than I would have today. But that was my calling. I was capable (mentally) of battling some affront. I personally was less offended than others, but was not about to let some small minded individual get away with bigotry. From there I realized I was not totally equipped to perform that role every time. If it had been a physical threat, chances are I’d be in trouble. Spiritually, I was not as educated as I wished, and did not want to miss speak too often. So I realized calling is all well and good. But that calling does not make me a warrior; it is just the first step. The road of the “warrior” should (again this is just my opinion) be one of continual learning and growth. Reassessing what we know and not assuming we are perfect. Basically we should neither be arrogant or meek. We should strive to improve. Mistakes are ok. Indeed we learn more from mistakes than we learn from successes. So what sort of skills do you need? Again this will depend on you. For me I’ve broken down the areas a warrior operates in to internal and external and within each of these are the Physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual realms. Physically I think we should try to strive to be “fighting fit”. This does not mean rippling muscles, it means having the ability to perform some physical activity for decent periods of time. I also think some level of skill in self defense is needed. Again I am not advocating having a black belt in several styles. I’m a “humble” phase one student of the Todd Group system of Close Quarter Combat (http://www.closecombatschool.com/) I’ve known others who have no training, and many who hold several belts in different systems. To me the fact remains, you should be able to at least know what to do in conflict. Even if know that you are out classed and to follow the example of Brave Brave Sir Robin (1) Mentally it’s similar. I think we should all learn some logic, some debating skills, and also how to defend ones own ideas through words. I also think we should always be learning history, tactics, and similar things. Spiritually. This one is hard. Many Neopagans will be going “Is he saying we need to learn to throw curses”. Ummm I guess you could. It is up to you. But I think you should cultivate a relationship with deities and other beings that are more militarily minded. I think you should also understand the mechanics of the more distasteful aspects of occult practice. Often in the community you will get someone who is just an ass. They will claim to throw curses, bindings, and similar ideas. In reality they are doing nothing except playing mind games. Recognizing this is a great way to disarm them, and even turn it back on them. Like I have said. All of this is a continual learning process. There is more than that but I should save some ideas for another post. So you “felt the calling” and trained a little or a lot. Good. You are a step or three ahead of your average armchair warrior. You probably did not spend time drooling over the nice shinny wall hanger swords, or know the mussel velocity of a Magnum 44 Supermag. If you did… it is ok every one needs a hobby! One day it will come to a point where there is a challenge. More often than not it will be INSIDE the community, but sometimes it will be outside of it. Here is when you have to decide to act. It is just that. Decide (a) Am I up to it and (b) How to act. The first part is the most imperative. If you are not up to the job (and I have said this before) call someone who is. Be that the police, or the high priest/priestess. Either way, don’t play hero. The second is harder. If you over do it, you will cause more problems (perhaps a law suit if it gets violent, or you say something stupid) if you under do it, you might get hurt. Sadly only experience teaches this level of response. But if you see something to act on. ACT. It’s what should separate you from the others. You are willing to act. You are willing to risk. You are willing to dare. You are also willing to fail. When acting in a role as warrior I do certain things. I ask the people running the festival or ritual or meeting “ok so what do you want from me and what do you NOT want from me?” If I cannot give them either. I turn the role down. It’s the ethical thing to do. I was once asked to “delay the cops” if they showed up. That was a stupid thing to do. So I walked away. Know your area of work. If you are to act as what reclaiming witchcraft calls “the Dragon” (a spiritual guardian role). Then know the order of ritual as well as you can. Look at the people participating as they enter. Do not over react. It is the best way to kill a ritual. Do not under react it is the best way to kill a ritual (yes it is a catch 22). But know your battlefield. At a festival know entrances and exits, know where the first aid kit is. Watch for people acting strangely. Does someone seem nervous and aggressive? Does some one seem upset? Is that “quietly intense conversation” giving mad energy off? Etc I added this one, after a Lughnasd ritual two years back. There had been some very bad blood in the community I live in, and well every one was on edge. I was asked to be “Dragon” for the second ritual running in a week. During the day. A young guy and myself I was training. Saw this guy come in to the festival. He seemed nervous. Probably his first. He annoyed some people. But not too bad. Then 30 minutes before ritual, he returned in garb. Ok cool. He was carrying his atheme (and we had banned all blade weapons) in a fist. Jimmy (the young guy) and I both saw it and both went running. It turned out to be a misunderstanding. But it had the potential to be bad! Luckily we did not over react. Calm people down. A few calm words help. Ok this is physical and mental. Now spiritual. During a ritual, if you feel aggressive energy. You hopefully will know how to ground and transform it. The ritual before the one I mentioned above (guy with knife) was a pub moot. Generally those have no energy. People are mellow, well fed, and the ritual is some nice bonding group theater. Not always but generally. Well this one was not. Like I said there was bad blood. I had been asked along with 3 young guys to act as Dragon here too. From the moment the circle was cast. I felt as if my skin was crawling with energy. I had been to several pub moots and I was lucky to notice the fire, let alone raised energy. So something was up. We spent the ritual grounding, channeling, making sure people were ok etc. It was out job to “take one” for every one. All except one of us got sick. The young guys sadly spent a lot of time trying to wipe spirits that showed an interest out. I had to split my energy on stopping them, and stopping the others stuff. I maintain it was real and so do about 30 others! Perhaps the beer had something in it? Ok some of you will be going “this was mellodramatic play acting” right? Possibly except as I said, I’d never felt energy at this Pub moot before, and many others never had. At other times during a ritual you will get what the ADF and Reconstructionist pagans call “outsider deities” show up. I’ve had Loki show up even before the Dagda and Lugh showed up, and I asked them. What to do? Again that is up to you. I don’t suggest trying to banish them however. Commanding them does not seem like a good idea either. I guess my last pieces of advice are also the most important. Be ready for the challenge. Try not to go looking for the challenge! Don’t escalate; don’t decide to go on a “cattle raid” into their territory (no matter how tempting). Treat your behavior as if you are the face of your community. Do not do anything that they would be embarrassed about. Oh and do not compromise your morals and ethics either. (1) “Run away! Run Away”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Responsibility

Yes I currently have a theme going on in my blog. Like I’ve hinted I’ve am going through a very turbulent time at the moment. It culminated a few days ago with an email from someone who should have been a friend. Someone who led me to believe I could rely on them no matter what. The email was in essence an attack at my ego. Each line was finely crafted, and toxic. Each attack was gauged to attack what was a perceived weak spot. This person calls himself or herself a warrior. This person claims to be above such things. But they like me are frail and human and prone to mistakes. Unlike me. They do not admit this. It is others not them. It failed. I did not fall in to despair. Rather it lit a fire in my brain. I took the criticism that was valid, and filtered the rest away. I was panning for gold. So after accountability. There comes responsibility. Those who tread the warrior’s path. Need to remember this word. A warrior out of control is not responsible. A warrior who does not repay a kindness is not responsible. Along with balance and accountability comes responsibility. It again is ok for a warrior to be human and make mistakes. Our gods are not perfect so how can we be? However it is still our responsibility to be responsible (sorry I was waiting to use that one). If someone helps you, and in turn needs help. Then you give it. Or if you cannot, you find someone who can. If you see someone in pain, you find a way to lessen it. If you make a pact with someone, you keep it. If you call someone friend, you act like one. If you act poorly, you admit it (accountability). It’s that simple. A warrior is not weapons, martial arts or mystic mumbo jumbo. No a warrior is someone who tries to live life in balance. Who owns up to mistakes, and lives up to obligations. When they fail. They admit it, and do better. If you make a mistake, and you admit it. NO ONE and I mean NO ONE is allowed to beat you up over it. If it is breaking the law. Then you pay a consequence. But you cannot be bullied, blackmailed or guilt tripped forever over it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Accountability. (YES THAT MEANS YOU)

My that is a rather large word. It has a lot of implications too. The path of the warrior (and this is simply me) relies on the person involved being accountable. Notice I say accountable. Not perfect. No one is perfect. But if you are accountable, you are being true. We all make mistakes. Trust me on this one. I’ve made some huge ones lately. Here comes the accountability part. I owned up. I took the consequences. I did not flinch. I am making the changes I have to make to not make them again. This is what it means to be a warrior. It is not being perfect. It is not about a cold heart. It’s not even about accepting the consequences. That is part of it. But learning is more part of it. Don’t make the mistake again, or at least try too. To blame others (voices in the head, the Devil also count as blaming others) is the path of the weak. That is self-delusion. Own up to what you did. Stand tall and admit it. I’ve done this enough times. The warrior will dust himself or herself off and move on. They don’t angst over it for weeks, months, and years. They do not say they are the victims when they willingly went to the situation. No that is not the Warrior. So a warrior holds themselves accountable. Even when they are wrong. Even when they screw up. I have a message for any one who cares. If you have any questions. Email me. Otherwise just keep reading
PS yes this post was pointed at some people (Fearn, Amanda *Wave*)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bullies

We probably all have been bullied in life. It’s part of the human condition. Or so they tell us. I personally was a great target as a kid. I was big, but pacifistic. It was my mother’s philosophy. Don’t fight, never fight. So for a time I listened. Then one day around 12 or 13. I was in the schoolyard, watching a game of “fives” (hand ball) and some charming older ape, decided to throttle me with my scarf. I am talking seriously throttle. I am told I was going blue. At some point something snapped in me. I lashed back. I got a solid connection with my back fist to the bastards nose. HE ran off to the teachers saying I had attacked him. What he did not get was the teachers lounge looked out over where this occurred. He and his parents were told that his badly broken nose was the consequence of his bullying. I learned three valuable lessons that day. (1) Do not over react to a situation. My level of force while appropriate could have gotten me in serious trouble. (2) Be aware of your surroundings. I never wear my scarf with the ends hanging behind me any more. I was in a sense “asking for it”. Being an easy target and not well liked by older students. (3) Only I allow others to bully me. So I actually went through much of the rest of my life, not allowing myself to be bullied. I appeared calm and intimidating in the face of threats, or I avoided the whole situation. To be honest it was not exactly healthy. Fast forward to almost 5 years ago. I moved to the USA. New culture. New rules. In New Zealand “staunch” was acceptable. It was attractive even. Staunch meaning “no worries nothing can touch me mate”. Here? It’s apparently arrogant and unacceptable. Vulnerable is the way to go I was told. I was a fool and listened. I allowed my first job to get to me. I lost 70lbs of muscle mass and allowed the CEO to bully me. I lost that job. I wonder if I was hard to get too, if he would have gone else where for his jollies> I allowed the local Pagan community to get to me too. Again I was an easy target. I was a male, with a view, and they hated that. If I had laughed at them. They would have gone elsewhere. But I allowed them to see me ruffled. That was a mistake. As a result. I have minimal contact with them now. What I do have is on my own terms. I’ve allowed family, loved ones, and even friends to bully me too. Guilt trips. The ultimate form of bullying. ‘ Here is the point. You notice at the start of each of the last few paragraphs I have written “I allowed” or some form there of. That is it. I, me, no one else. Allowed this. The warrior has to take responsibility for themselves. They cannot be a victim. They cannot play the blame game. While at the same time, they cannot allow others to be free of responsibility. It is a fine line. So when confronted with a situation. Ask yourself. Have I allowed this to happen? Or Should I allow this to happen? If you say yes. Then it is on you. If you say no, and the person doing it still does it. It’s a declaration of war. Don’t take it. Appropriate responses are allowed. Someone threatens you physically, or fucks with your mind, or even your spiritual self. Back them off. Learn the techniques. Take a martial art or self-defense class (both would be better). Learn to verbally get back at them. Learn to shield, learn to ground, and learn to redirect energy/spells. Don’t be a victim Also don’t allow others to be victims. Tell them to stand strong, yell at the person who is doing it that they are wrong. Be the balance between light and dark. See the shades of grey. He lives in the grey.