A poem from a few years ago

Weather-gauge

Will and fate are forces entwined,
And lay a binding on our lives.
Call one destiny, or the weight
Of history, what you will, it
Seems a whelming, greater power,
And we helpless before the flood.
But sailors ken the secrets of such
Implacable foes, of wind and tide-
Know when to run before the blow,
Or close-haul and tack, near to the
Power that would drive them elsewhere.
Though we may reef sails and fly
Before the Norns’ stormy breath at times,
We can also carve our lives’ courses
At bold tangent to it, even set
Our sights on the eye of the wind
That blows from the Moirae’s quarter,
If we are willing to take the longer,
Wearier path. We do not always command,
But we are not always commanded.
In the tension and the yielding, from sail
To line to hull to hand on the wheel,
And the knowledge and the choice we have,
Lies the lift and the life, lies the Tao.

5/21/2008

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Sympathy for the Devils, or Why I’m Going to Start Praying for the Damned Bigots

A Heathen viewpoint on compassion…

Kvasir Amongst the Gods

The puns in the title?  Every one of them was intended.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, before I go any further; I have no tolerance for racist agendas. My grandfather fought against the Nazis in World War II and my grandmother and great-grandmother both kept households free of racially motivated hatred or, indeed, hatred of any kind. Considering that they came from coal miner country and survived their during the great depression, that is a bit of an achievement. My father didn’t have the luck of being born into as tolerant of a house hold as my mother, but his perceptions on such issues ended up much the same due to the twists and turns his own life took.

The summary of this is that tolerance is, for me, a family tradition.  It is one that I follow with pride, and that is not going to change. …

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A Day in the Life

This was prompted by the editors of Gods Mouths ( a wonderful blog that I hope you check out), so there’s a fair chance it will be reblogged there… at least I hope so.  It’s hard to pick out a typical day for me, but I’ll do the best I can for a workday.

I wake up to the beep of the alarm (generally I’ve already gotten up at least once before this, or at least been woken up by Monster Alice (my spouse) getting up or by the fracas that our younger dog makes because he’s STARVING; sometimes I’m extra fortunate and get a monster kiss before I go back to sleep).  I’m usually groggy for a bit (especially in summer), but I lever myself out of bed (sometimes doing a little mental work to clear the cobwebs away) and do stretches, take my meds, feed the cats (my most important duty- just ask them).

Then I take a half-hour walk in the neighborhood.  Getting out and about like that really helps in many ways, if only to get the blood flowing, feel the breeze on my face.  On Mondays and Fridays I pray to the gods, spirits and ancestors during my walk; on Fridays I walk around the block, “beating the bounds” (and picking up trash).

After my walk, I do some more exercises, then shower and shave.  I try to work in some meditation time (though I’m not the best about that).  Then I put some token clothing on (some of the spirits that walk with me aren’t down with the “skyclad” thing) and do my morning spiritual setup, which is a combination of grounding, centering, protection, devotion, and intercessionary prayer.  Then I get dressed the rest of the way and head for work.

It’s a pleasant enough walk to the Metro, although the transition from residential street to busy avenue is kind of jarring at times.  I generally read my Kindle on the Metro (I read a lot– right now I’m reading the first in the series of historical novels that was a major inspiration for the Game of Thrones series, and an excellent translation of the Odyssey, amongst other things).

A shorter walk from the Metro gets me to the office.  I’m fortunate enough to work at a place whose mission I support wholeheartedly.  It’s good work, and I work with good people.  I’ve been there for nearly 25 years, which means something.  I work in a cube-sort-of-place, but I’m in the corner near windows, and my “geekosphere” includes some wards and devotional items.  I’ve been relatively out at work about being Pagan, though I don’t wave it around; I’ve never really felt like it’s a problem with anyone who knows.

My commute home is a reverse of my commute in, though I tend to be more awake.  Sometimes I remember to pick a few people and just send them blessings and love.  Sometimes I give money to a beggar at the crossroads.  If someone asks me for directions, I always take my time and do my best (and admit ignorance if I don’t know).

I come home to a tumultuous greeting from the dogs (and a more restrained and critical approach from the cats); my monster is usually either napping, at the computer, or doing something crafty.  After a bit, we eat- it’s almost always leftovers of some sort, especially during the summer- we rarely have time, energy or volition to cook more than once a week at the best of times, so the microwave is our friend).  I always give a food offering to the lares (no, not their Celtic equivalent; a classicist friend of ours gave us a replica of a Pompeii lararium as a housewarming gifts, so that is the form of house-spirit we have).

After dinner I take care of email, do other Internet things, a bit of reading, etc.  Sometimes I do some spiritual counseling, perform divinations for people, or correspond with others in my temple.  Then it’s time to feed the dogs (another fracas) and cats, perform our nightly ablutions, and go to bed.  Before sleep I do a personal “spiritual hygiene” ritual that is loosely based on the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram; it’s designed to put aside the cares of the day and clear space for me to sleep.  I curtain off the shrine for my head spirit (as he’s a private sort and I’ve been told it’s not best to sleep in the presence of some open shrines); I also close the door to one of my Brigid shrines (more as a goodnight and thank you gesture).

Pagan Spiritual Counseling in a Tribe-of-choice, part 2

There is a network of polyamorous relationships that threads through my tribe-of-choice, a vibrant one that has its good and bad sides.  Polyamory of the sort that is now becoming more common in the West is an almost entirely new and unique social development, much like modern Paganism.  As such, it has many aspects that are being learned and worked out, if not actually invented; there will be conflicts because of this, if for no other reason that polyamory is in many ways more complicated than monogamy (not to mention the monogamous bias of modern culture).

I’m not polyamorous; my wife and I have a committed and solid monogamous relationship.  This can be an advantage- I don’t have to worry about an even more complex level of role separation, and I can be clearly seen as a neutral party in disputes.  On the other hand, although I’m sympathetic to polyamory and support those who practice it, I have no experiential knowledge of it.  I’m necessarily kind of limited in how I deal with this limitation- I can educate myself and learn by observation, but that only goes so far.  Fortunately, I know several other ministers within the community who are polyamorous, and I can refer… assuming that they aren’t involved in the part of the network that is having problems in the first place.

My tribe-of-choice is, to put it mildly, religiously diverse.  There are Pagans and Heathens of many different varieties- Wiccans of various traditions and training, followers of various Norse paths, shamanic practitioners, and many more.  There are some members who I’ve dealt with as a minister who don’t even identify as Pagan at all- Thelemites, spiritual Christians, and people with strong but nearly unclassifiable spirituality.  Even my tradition has a wide range of belief and theological viewpoints.

Therefore, it behooves me to have at least some familiarity with a wide variety of traditions and spiritual paths.  I have to admit that I’ve been remiss about this in the past- I’m an introvert, and it is far too easy for me to stay in my own safe little world and not step out of it.  Some of this can be remedied by reading and education, of course, but that only goes so far.  I’ve been seeking to “get out more”; to experience different spiritual modes and paths.  Not only does this broaden my horizons, but it also forges bonds with others.  I try to give as much as I receive.

Given the diversity and maze-like connections inherent to my tribe-of-choice, it’s natural that there are several others in or attached to the community who have ministerial or priestly roles.  Some serve portions of the community, smaller and more well-defined groups; some serve larger and more complicated groups that strongly overlap this one; and one or two have a role equivalent to mine in the tribe-of-choice itself.  So far, this has been an advantage- if nothing else, it divides up the work load and it’s easier to consult a colleague.  However, it’s also necessary to avoid treading on someone else’s toes; I have to make sure to find out who else a (potential) counselee has been dealing with in the matter at hand, and make sure that I’m not overstepping any boundaries… including when I need counseling myself.

My tribe-of-choice is also geographically diverse.  Members are scattered up and down the Eastern seaboard, and even further.  True, a majority (or at least more than half) are concentrated in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, but that’s deceptive; with the nature of roads and traffic in that area, and the terrible public transport system, distances between people are better expressed in terms of time rather than mileage- and in many cases, the times are much longer than you might think.

The Internet has become a vital artery of connection in our community, even between those who live relatively close to one another.  Although electronic communication isn’t a perfect tool for counseling, it’s still important- if as a preface to face-to-face communication (if that turns out to be required).  I’ve also had cases where someone has approached me via email to ask for counseling, and in reply to my “what do you want to talk about?” answer, sends me a thorough and detailed description that is very revealing- the act of writing the email becomes a way of self-discovery and expression, in the way that a journal can work.

There’s also this blog (and in the past, my LiveJournal), where I can offer more generalized musings, essays, and poetry that (I humbly hope) may help those who read them.  So far, I’ve avoided Facebook (even though I get a bit of razzing about that), and will probably continue to do so.  It seems to be part of the gossip network, and I simply don’t have the time or inclination to fit it into my life.  Members of my tribe know how to find me when they need me.

The wide geographical range of my tribe, and the complex schedules that almost everyone in it has, means that much if not most of my counseling will be adjunct– conversations at pagan events, circle meetings, even parties.  I do a lot of my adjunct counseling via phone or email, even though those channels have their limitations.  But it’s very important for me to be aware of the possibility that a social situation may have the potential to change into a ministerial one, sometimes with very little warning.  I may not always be able to “put on my minister hat” in such cases, but I need to be able at least to find the right path to take- whether that takes me out of a fun party or a powerful ritual, or is simply making a commitment to talk to a person later.

This doesn’t exhaust the topic of pastoral counseling in my tribe-of-choice.  I have so much to learn- I feel I’ve barely begun, and I’m certain there are many other aspects, wrinkles and quirks that lie ahead of me, as yet undiscovered.  I know this process will continue over the rest of my life- that’s what marks true learning.