Blackfish: A Wake Up Call

blackfishI just finished watching the documentary Blackfish.  Following the life of one male Killer Whale, Tilikum, the documentary reveals a plethora of shocking information about Sea World and it’s practices.  I can say with absolute certainty that I will never visit Sea World nor will my family.

The first scene that made my heart bleed was the eyewitness testimony of John Crowe, a diver who took part in baby round ups of Killer Whales in the 1970′s.  These hunts took place with the express purpose of capturing baby whales for captivity and show.  Using a combination of speedboats, nets, bombs, and aircraft, wild pods of whales were basically herded and corralled into coves, surrounded by nets, and physically exhausted.  Once exhausted the baby whales are removed from the pod and shipped away.  John Crowe, when recounting his first experience of a hunt, expresses it’s emotional impact on him and the whales he was capturing:

Well I lost it.  And I just started crying.  I didn’t stop working, but I . . . you know I . . . just couldn’t handle it.  It’s like kidnapping a little kid away from it’s mother.  Everybody’s watching, what can you do?  It’s the worst thing I can think of, you know, I can’t think of anything worse than that.  Now this really sounds bad, but when the whole hunt was over there three dead whales in the net.  And uh . . . so they had Peter, and Brian, and I cut the whales open . . . fill ‘em with rocks, put anchors on their tale and sink ‘em.  Well . . . you know . . . really I didn’t even think about it being illegal at that point, I thought it was a PR thing.  I’ve been part of a revolution to change a president in Central and South America, and seen some things that’s hard to believe, but this is the worst thing that I’ve ever done, is hunt that whale.

And PR is exactly what Sea World excels at.  The whole movie is filled with story after story of Sea World covering up and distorting the truth about exactly what they have to do to whales to keep their show running and bringing in cash.

How sad it is that so often we will cast aside our compassionate common sense under the duress of monetary gain.  Not only has this movie made me certain that I will never visit a Sea World or it’s ilk ever in my life, it has also cast doubt over whether or not I will visit a zoo ever again either.  In fact, I felt ashamed, as a Druid who has committed himself to a better relationship with the other beings who share this planet with me, that I had not come to this conclusion on my own.

I urge you to watch this documentary and give it some serious thought.  If you are a pagan or a Druid it is simply a must see.  It is currently playing on Netflix “play instant”.

Mighty are the Peacemakers: In Memory of Father Alec Reid

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I heard through the grapevine today of the death of Father Alec Reid.  Alec Reid was an early example to me of the tremendoes bravery and courage it takes to be a peacemaker.  It is an unfortunate stereotype that those devoted to peace are naive hippies with no sense of the horrors of the “real world”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

father-alec-reidIn one of the most iconic images of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, Father Reid is pictured over the brutalized body of a British officer administering Last Rites.  The two British Corporals were killed by the Provisional IRA after they accidentally drove into a Republican funeral.  The two men were dragged from their car, beaten and shot.  Father Reid, disgusted by the killings, made a stand for sanity and compassion by publically praying over their bodies, and risking his life in the process.

Speaking of that moment he says:

I decided that I would go stand outside the gate. And when they brought them out, in the public , I was going to challenge, and if they tried to take them away I was going to insist that I go with them.  Because I knew people in the funeral, especially one; and if I could have got him, he would have rescued them. . . And I remember saying to myself, ‘This is not the way for us to be doing our business.’

A holy man, standing before his own people, advocating for compassion against their enemies is *not* the act of a naive man.  This was a public act that could very well have gotten him killed. It is, in fact, the act of a man imbued with a powerful blend of strength and innocence.  Men like Father Reid always make me smile when I hear fellow pagans or Druids mock Christians for “not walking their walk”.  The kind of courage that Father Reid exemplified is rare in any spiritual tradition.

Alec Reid acted secretly as an emisary between the republican movement and the SDLP, was one of the witnesses of the destruction of the weapons stockpile of the IRA, and even participated in talks with the Basque nationalists in Spain.  Father Reid lived a life devoted to the belief that peace, communication, and understanding are the only way forward.

I will be lighting a candle tonight for Father Reid, and even though I am inspired by a totally different religious tradition from his own country, I look upon him as an example of what it means to live the life a true Druid. God bless you Father Reid and all you did for so many people in pain.

For those of you interested in more information on Father Reid check out this excellent minitary on YouTube and the article by the BBC about his life and death:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-25051304
http://youtu.be/53ZuVw-FCRw

Introducing my new blog “The Druid and Reaper Dialogues”

After some reflection and thought I have decided to blog on my hospice experiences on a seperate blog.  I am hoping that this new blog will become a resource for the larger pagan community on end of life issues.  It will be dubbed “The Druid and Reaper Dialogues”.  This new blog will be fully searchable and indexed by topic, tags, and categories for ease of reference.  I will also serve as a more focused place to vent and process on hospice experiences for my own review as time goes on.  So for those interested the new blog is here:

http://druidreaperdialogues.wordpress.com

Hope to hear your thoughts and comments on this new topic!

Druid in Hospice

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As some of you may know I used to work at a local hospice and still volunteer there.  The majority of the time you interact with patients they are dying in their old age after a long life.  Sometimes, however, this is not the case.  Some patients end up haunting your thoughts long after they have died.  Lately one patient in particular is on my mind.

This particular patient was young, early 20′s to be exact.  On a trip with his father in Oklahoma they went to get a drink at a local bar.  There was an altercation in the bar and a group of people ended up leaving the bar during a fight.  A few minutes later the boy and his father left the bar themselves and walked straight into the continuing brawl.  A number of people were involved and the boy and his father were caught up in the melee, the boy suffered severe injuries to his skull.  I had never seen skull injuries like this before; almost half of his skull had caved in from the beating.  It left him alive but in a vegetative state and in a slow decline.

The images from this patient have been hard to get out of my head.  But the images that come to me now are not of the boy and his wounds but of his mother.  I have never seen such pain on another human beings face.  She stayed with him night and day, never leaving the room except to bathe and use the bathroom.  When we turned or cleaned him she was always right there with us using such sad and caring movements with her hands that . . . well it was the essence of the Mother.  Occasionally she would get dizzy and sit down in a chair next to the bed; not from physical exhuastion I suspect but from sheer emotion.

As a Druid I am taught that words hold power.  Words can convey meaning, care, and healing. But there were no words for these moments with her.  I have never felt so helpless to reach out and help another human being in pain.  I wanted to say something to make her feel better and ease her suffering, even a tiny bit.  But there was nothing to say.  When emotion hangs with that kind of weight in the air the only thing to do is help hold space.  Beyond holding space the next best thing I could do, I realized later on was touch.  When I did finally get up the courage, I gave her a hug.  These are one of those hugs that you never forget; the giant heart of a devastated mother inside the body of small sobbing woman.  I couldn’t comprehend her loss, nor did I ever want to; but a hug, silence, and gently caring for her son was all I could give.

It made me realize that words hold the most power when they refer to the wordless.  In moments of extreme emotion and/or suffering words often fail us, and they should.  Extreme or immediate grief doesn’t need chatting and platitudes, it needs silence, presence, (and when the time is right) touch.

I have been wondering lately how someone makes peace with extreme suffering like that, particularly the loss of a child.  The hardest thing to see in her was the look on her face that instantly communicated that she would never see her son grow up.  In these situations it seems best not to rob death of it’s ferocity and try to cover it over with the sugar coating of, “He is in a better place now”, death needs to be acknowledged for what it is, a cutting down.

I am wondering if any of you have any thoughts about this, or any personal situations that speak to these kinds of extreme suffering?  And if you do have any personal experiences like this, how did you deal with it?

Teo Bishop, Jesus, and Community

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As a Druid I am a lover of mystery.  I have had the good fortune of being amongst others in my life who share the same passion for mystery that I do.  My grove is bigger than my fellow Druids and even my fellow pagans.  I feel kinship with all of those who immerse themselves in the mystery of Being.  I have noticed through the years that the Druids and pagans that I connect with the most also have a passion for community.  There is a strong recognition of the sacred act of sitting together over a pint and just shooting the breeze.  As a younger pagan I focused on mystery to the point of obsession.  Along with that laser focus I admit to a certain contempt for other people who I distanced myself from with the de-humanizing word of “society”.  Frequent phrases from me included things like, “Society today just doesn’t care”, or “Society could care less”.  I realize now that these phrases held power and perspective.

What I was really saying is, “I fear others”.

Mystery is meant to serve, inform, and keep community honest.  Without community mystery becomes a hollow exercise that actually distances me from others and gives my life a feeling of increased isolation.  Community is one area where Christianity really gets it.  I, like many pagans, work around Christians who have a very active church life.  When I talk to them about their church life I admit to some envy.  Christians have a community of support in difficult times and most church communities perform some form of community service.

thCA16AT9EI say all of this partly because of Teo Bishop’s recent calling back to Christianity.  I have always enjoyed Teo’s intelligence, and sincerity.  Plus, he’s just sexy yah know? I had the good fortune of having a nice long chat with him at a Denver Pagan Pride Day a couple of years ago; glad I got in just under the pagan wire!  Wherever Teo ends up I am sure of two things, whatever path he takes it will be *his*, and that I will always condsider him a spiritual brother.  But I will defintely miss his pagan centered writing.  Our community will be a little poorer without him.

I remember a similar angst running through the pagan community when Deo of the “Deo’s Shadow” podcast gave up paganism and became a devoted atheist.  I was dissapointed to see such a great show end and to no longer hear such thoughtful commentary on pagan issues.  But life goes on and people take the road they need.

I wonder now if Teo may be feeling called to Christianity because of the lack of community in the pagan world?  Like Teo I am a fan of Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastrix in Denver. Founder of the “House for All Sinners and Saints” Nadia has a very refreshing approach to her Christianity that really speaks to people of many different backgrounds.  But the thing that impressed me the most about her was something she said in an interview on Krista Tippet’s excellent show “On Being“:

We’re anti-excellence and pro-participation.  We don’t do anything extremely well we just do it together.

What I admired about being “anti-excellence and pro-participation” is that it takes a lot of the possibilities for witch wars and ego trips out of the picture.  When we are forced to really engage with “the other”, face to face, heart to heart, we challange our basic assumptions about motivation.

Further in the podcast Nadia talks about her church’s commitment to “welcoming the stranger”.  Her experiences of this center largely around her church growing from a smaller group of mostly social outcasts to include “bankers wearing dockers”.  Ready to fight to keep her church “pure” Nadia called a fellow pastor who leveled with her:

You all are really good at welcoming the stranger when they’re a 16 year old transgender kid, but sometimes the stranger looks just like your Mom and Dad.

When it comes to “welcoming the stranger” the Druid in me perked up.  Hospitality is a conerstone virtue in celtic culture and Druidry.  In ancient times turning away a stranger at your door could literally mean death.  Unfortunately, because some pagans today feel ostrasized by our larger culture, pagan and Druid groups can be very unwelcoming.  This is unfortuate, if understandable, as it limits our ability to hear other perspectives and learn from the experiences of others.  Could it be that Teo and other pagans like him who have gone down the Christian (or other) path (whether they stay or not) may have felt that there was no pagan community to support them?

Teo, I wish you the absolute best in your journeys and I hope that you will continue to bolg, tweet, and give us your insights as you go.  Hope I am not out of line here but I suspect you will always have the heart of a Druid.

A Druid’s View of “Cloud Atlas”

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The Pythagorean doctrine prevails among the Gauls’ teaching that the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body.

A few days ago I had the pleasure of seeing “Cloud Atlas”.  It was such a complex, rich, and compelling story that is has taken me days just to digest it.  There is a lot for a Druid to get out of this film and it has sent my mind reeling down a hundred different paths at once.

To whet your appetite in case you haven’t seen it:

There are so many ways to view this story and that is one of the most brilliant aspects to the movie.  I am now dying to read the book, but I am sure that if I read it first I would have thought there was no way to encapsulate the story into one film and make it understandable.  Somehow, however, the directors pull it off.

The most compelling aspect to the movie for me was seeing what I am now calling, “the long development of the soul”.  Watching each character during the course of the movie wearing different clothes and faces, yet all with some essential element that is “them”.  You get to see the choices each one of them makes and the repercussions of each choice.  As each of the characters moves through each incarnation you see the tendencies of the choices they made in previous lives show in the current one.  In some characters like Adam Ewing (played by Jim Sturgess) these choices lead to greater virtue and liberation, in others like Lloyd Hooks (played by Hugh Grant) they end in selfish savagery.

What fascinates me about this portrayal is that is “feels” right.  Watching this movie was like some part of myself recognizing that choices I had made in past lives were still with me, shaping my tendencies and perceptions.  Every life gives us opportunities to radically alter our course and discover our uniqueness; our gift.  This movie tied in well with my work on the Book of the Weaver in that I could see the bindings present in all the characters and how some made choices that overcame them.

Zachary

Zachary

My favorite character was Zachary, played by Tom Hanks.  I could relate to the fear and doubt that plagued Zachary through his incarnations.  Evil, in my opinion, does not exist out there.  Evil is a story we tell ourselves, a story that twists our actions and makes us act out of fear.  I think we have all been there; the gods know I have.  But what I loved about Zachary was how his love for the people in his life shaped him and made him more and more true to himself.  All the while dealing with his own demons (externalized as Old Georgie, brilliantly played by Hugo Weaving), past tendencies, and fears.  Like in all great stories it is love that saves this character and propels him to new worlds.

Seeing the drama of each character and how each one of them developed really gave me a great excuse to sit down and think about my past, my bindings, and what choices are best for me.  Old Georgie is well known to me; and learning to live free of that influence is one of my highest hopes for this life.  I wonder sometimes if without Seership, Orion, Druidism, my Ancestors, and my Gods if I would even be aware that he was there?

I highly recommend this film to those who have not seen it.  Be prepared for a complex story, great acting, gorgeous music by M83 (one of my favorite bands), and weepy eyes.  It is so nice to see a movie that reminds me of the “long development of the soul”.

Suffering

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Blogging from my work tonight on my phone. Like so often happens here at hospice I am sitting with someone suffering. I am always amazed at how alike we all are when we suffer or have fear. I am always struck by my own privalage as well. Death presents us with truth, our own truth. I cannot imagine my life without my community, my family, my lovers, my friends. If any of you read this (and you know who you are) I hope you know how much I love and value you. You help me remember my essential, “me-ness”. How can I ever thank you enough for that?

I widened my circle of relations this year more than any in my life since college. Could a year get any better than that? Teo, Sister Who, Piper, Shelley, Angela and Angela, Monika, Heidi, Carmen, Dan, and especially Suzanne. Not to mention my family. All these amazing people packed into one brief life! Thank you!!!!!!

Great gods and goddesses, thank you for my life.

The First Binding: Soul Arrogance

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The first binding I am confronting for my Book of the Weaver I am terming as “soul arrogance”.  This is my own term, but it helps me wrap my mind quickly around the concept during meditation sessions and the normal course of the day.  The first binding posed by Orion is:

Humanity is the only being with a soul and there are forces out to steal it.

At first I really did not think this binding was a part of my everyday experience or perception.  And to be honest, in comparison to some people I know barely noticeable.  But as I thought further on this binding I realized it is a lot stronger than I first realized.

One of the first images I got on this during meditation was a scene from my childhood.  We had a detached garage behind out house where I grew up in the Old North End of Colorado Springs.  Behind the garage was a colony of black ants.  And I used to torture them.  I hate even thinking about it nowadays as it brings up tremendous feelings of shame and regret.  How I treated these ants stems directly from the point of view that only human beings have a soul.  The false notion that only human beings are endowed with “real” life.  This thought was doubly horrifying upon remembering that in Orion’s stream of the Faery teachings, ants are totemic of the power of the Underworld.

And although I am ashamed to admit it, upon further reflection my mistreatment of animals, plants, et cetera, does not stop with ants; nor is it relegated to my childhood.  This was a tough realization for a self proclaimed, “tree hugging dirt worshiper” to come to.

The second part of the binding speaks of the fear that there are forces out to “steal” the human soul.  This is, of course, one of the central teachings of Christianity, that Satan is out to steal the human soul.  Again, as a long time pagan, I usually scoff at this idea.  Again I was faced, on further reflection, that I carry this binding as well.

Wow.  Frustrating.

But I cannot tell you how many times I have gone out during the late hours of the night seeking spirit contact.  Hoping with every step that I was growing closer to the Otherworld.  But what has actually happened when I actually felt spirit contact, or the manifestation of something unseen nearby?  I bolt!  Panic sets in and some part of me convinces itself that “I am not ready for this” or “What if it is malevolent?”  Then I have returned home breathless feeling like a fool for being afraid of exactly what I am seeking!  This reaction has *always* puzzled me.  Perhaps this binding is giving me a glimpse into why?

I can only say that already I am feeling a closer connection with my own unconscious perspectives already.  It can be humbling to confront exactly where the Overculture has skewed your own thoughts and even deeply held convictions.  Where actions contradict ideals.  It is that liminal space between actions/ideals where the Weaver gives Her instruction.

Book of the Weaver

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The time from Samhain to the Winter Solstice is always a powerful time of year for me.  But a new project I am undertaking this year is making it even more so.  As some of you may know I have been studying Seership with Orion Foxwood now for a number of years.  I finally feel like I have reached the level where I can start my work with the Weaver goddess by starting my own Book of the Weaver.  Very exciting work for me!

One of the central concepts of Faery Seership is that the soul is often “blinded and bound”.  These bindings are usually self created and/or perpetuated.  The Seer goes to the Weaver goddess for aid in breaking these bonds of illusion; bonds that bind the natural wisdom of the soul.  So the Seer is presented with a series of questions that begin the process of confronting the Seer with his own “blinding binders”.  I have currently only gone through two of the eleven questions, but I can see why these questions are meant for later study; I know that I would not have been able to answer these questions honestly just a few years ago.

Orion talks about the binders in his book The Tree of Enchantment thus:

We inherited many of these illusions from our cultures, religious politics, social networks, family, and even the media.  We too often have accepted them as truth, even though our inner voices have tried to reveal these deceptions.  I ask my students to as themselves what binding spells they have cast upon themselves.  And what is the source and intention behind these charms of illusion?

The bindings presented to the Seer are as follows:

  • Humanity is the only being with a soul and there are forces out to steal it.
  • Humanity is inherently broken and flawed because it has free will.
  • The spirit world is demonic and out to harm us.
  • The original vision of the Creator is primarily closed to us because we have free will.
  • Humanity is seperate from the natural world and, thus, has the right to dominate it for its own purposes.
  • The world of flesh ans form is in direct opposition to spirit and truth.
  • Humanity’s science, religions, or other belief systems are immutable truths that determine whether something is real, good, or evil.
  • Only gifted people can perform what are seen as miracles, magic, or contact with the unseen world.
  • Humanity is the only species with intellectual and spiritual intelligence on a spiritual path and a quest or truth.
  • Humanity is alone on the path of spiritual awakening.
  • Physical substances, such as Earth and our bodies are absent of wisdom, intelligence, truth, and spiritual power.

When these bindings are presented the Seer he/she is asked to keep a journal of his/her reflections on these bindings (called the Book of the Weaver) and asked for each one:

  1. Have I internalized these bindings?
  2. In what ways have I done so?
  3. What is my way to resolve them?

I am still sorting through these bindings but one thing has surprised me.  I am often verbalized disgust with many of these perspectives/bindings, but upon serious reflection I have been humbled by realizing just how much I *have* internalized them.  Once I sort through some of the insights I have been having (and can turn them into more than just incoherent babble) I will be posting them here.

A Druid’s View of American Politics

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It’s election time here in the US and it tends to bring out the worst in people.  It also highlights the extreme dysfunction of American civil discourse, or uncivil discourse as the case may be.  Sadly, the media in this country has done an extremely good job at brainwashing Americans in to being at war with one another.  Turning “patriotic” Americans into rabid dogs convinced their fellow Americans are out to get them.  Fox news blames all the ills of the United States on government controlling, naive, and layabout “liberals”; while MSNBC blames all the ills of the United States on the greedy, mean-spirited, and corporate totalitarianism of the “conservatives”.

The election really brings out the hate and dogmatism in folks.  Dripping, venomous, irrational HATE.  Liberals over at the Daily Kos spew their sickening, bile filled venom, on Romney saying:

He is the epitome of suckage.  He is suckitude incarnate.  The man is a bad person and a shitty American, a lousy Governor, a sleazy businessman with little or no ethics, a cowardly bully, a thieving scumbag, and a compulsive liar with no shame.  He has no ideas, he lies whenever it suits him, he thinks he’s entitled to take whatever he wants from other people, and he has personally destroyed parts of the American economy and thrown families into poverty to benefit himself.  Patriotism, accountability, benevolent vision, and service to a cause greater than himself are completely alien to this singularly soulless viper of a pseudo-human being.

The attacks on the right tend to be more direct in the case of Obama.  Full of ignorant fear, paranoia, and bigotry:

Both expressions clearly come from a level of infantile thought.  Dichotomous thought.

One of the most profound insights that I gained from Druidism was their emphasis on Trinary Thought.  It is a simple but profoundly liberating teaching that basically says, “When confronted with a black and white argument, immediately summon your discernment.”  For me this leads to a place of compassion and liberated thought.  Dichotomous thinking can lead to all sorts of pain and problems for both sides of the argument.

It is when we refuse to listen to one another that governmental and corporate power win.  Mass mind control is really quite simple:

  1. Present a controversial issue, one that evokes emotion.
  2. Create two sides to the debate, and only two sides.
  3. Convince Democrats they are on one side and Republicans they are on the other.
  4. Make sure the debate is heated and portrayed in the most negative way possible.
  5. Sell lots of ads.
  6. Laugh all the way to the bank.

It has become a habit of mine around this time to make it very clear to people that if they want to talk politics with me that it must be with an open mind.  It has been my experience that people are looking to either rant or preach; neither approach works, unless you are just looking to increase anger and fear.

I respect Druidism’s emphasis on trinary thinking.  It has transformed the way I look at all sorts of arguments, but political arguments especially.  I am so through with looking at Republicans as the “enemy” when my everyday experience of many of them is delightful.  It is only when we start putting aside our dogmas that we will really be able to change the country for the better.  Until then you are either screaming at walls or preaching to the choir.

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