The point of the post is to point out some of the oddities that might throw someone who doesn't know me well for a loop. You've probably seen most of those things, and clearly you accept them, or else you'd have wandered away some time ago. Some aren't really that odd, but some might strike a certain audience as strange. So, read on and find out a bit more about me.
Oddity 1: I'm a Druid
Yes, you read that right. I'm a tree-huggin', dirt-worshippin', hippie-of-the-ancient-world Druid. If you knew me after about my junior year of high school, you probably heard this bit, but I wasn't particularly good at articulating what that meant at the time. Essentially, it means three primary things:
- I find nature to be divine and amazing, beautiful and terrible, and full of magic and meaning that has a quality beyond simply "natural." I understand that the Earth has a spirit, generally called the "Earth Mother," that I honor in rites of worship. This essentially means that to me, "Nature is good."
- I'm a polytheist: I understand the world is full of spirits, beings, and deities of both limited power and presence, and that these beings can help or hinder us, depending on our relationship. Which brings us to probably the biggest one:
- My religion is one of relationship and reciprocity, where blessings are received in return for offering, where gift calls for gift, and the many powers of the world grant favors (in the form of aid or a more generic "blessings") to those who are generous with their wealth and skill. I like to describe these relationships like "going to lunch with a friend:" if you do it long enough, no one keeps track of "whose turn" it is; you just pick up the tab as you are able to. One must do the work and make offerings if they expect to engage in reciprocity with these powers, but there's nothing wrong with "going it alone," either (though I obviously wouldn't recommend it). Additionally, this reciprocity leads to an understanding that we are not alone in the world, but are part of a community, and that means that the work I do should benefit the community around me, not just myself.
Oddity 2: I believe in magic
I do believe that there are some things beyond what current science can explain. This doesn't necessarily mean that those things are "supernatural," just that they're methods of doing things that get results. I'm not concerned with proving them, but I do take a reasonably scientific approach to them. Specifically: if thing A and thing B seem to cause thing C, I'll probably take note of that and, next time I want thing C, I'll do thing A and thing B again and see if it still works. Three interesting points about this are:
- Clarke wrote: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I agree with this general conclusion, and tend to think that there are things we humans can do that can't be explained yet. I also tend to think that there are things we can do that actually defy common sense, but if they work, then who cares? Science and cold reason don't trump everything in my approach to magic, but they do have a place there.
- I really do tend to think that most of the things I class as "magic" don't require explanation, because it's just not that important. I enjoy trying to find explanations (for instance, if you position your body in certain ways, you can induce certain similar experiences in a wide variety of people), but mostly because explanations are cool, not because they're required.
- To be clear, I'm not dumping "eye of newt" into cauldrons or things like that. I classify magic very broadly, and consider a wide variety of things to fall into the category of magic, including the act of "talking yourself up" before a big game or important meeting. It's not all about rhyme and exotic ingredients (though, let's be honest: those are fun, too!)
Oddity 3: I'm a Priest
Yeah, I'm a Priest. I have a local congregation that I work with and we've been at it now for about 10 years.
- I've been through a real, honest-to-goodness training course that took a total of 9 years (almost to the day) to get all the way through. It remains one of the best (if not the best) program in all of modern Paganism, and it's a bear. The point, though, is this: I didn't pay someone to put "Rev." in front of my name, and I didn't pick an internet church to send me a magical certificate that put it there. Yes, I earned this, and I worked for it. And that work shows in my skill.
- I have about 45 local folks who regularly call me their Priest, and the church I am part of (Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF)) has members on the other side of the world as well as right here. I work outside my local Grove (congregation), too, and provide services to people both inside and outside of the Pagan community. We do at least one ritual a year where we have over 300 attendees. I'm asked to do weddings and other life passages not just by others in ADF, but by a variety of people of various religious persuasions that don't typically identify themselves as "pagan."
- Sometimes, I struggle with "questions of faith" or other insecurities you might not expect from a priest (that is, if you didn't know any priests well), but I have found that I can rely on one thing to get me through: my practice. When my belief starts to shiver, I have learned that the best thing to do is to fall back on the actions of my piety, the rituals and the work that we all do as Druids, and that it will get me through. I understand that action can produce (and reinforce, and deepen) belief, and I often count on it. It has become a maxim of sorts to me to say, "When you feel least like praying, that is the time you probably need it most." The corollary is that, when life gets crazy, I tell folks, "Light a fire and pray." It's what I do, for every fire is a prayer unto the gods.
Oddity 4: I work where I graduated
Being a Priest doesn't pay all the bills (really, it hardly pays any of them). So, I work for my alma mater. I guess I just really loved the place and the connections I made here, and now, I get a great deal of joy from the work I do.
- I deal in software agreements, negotiating and fighting with companies over terms most people just click through when installing. I've gotten good enough at this, mostly through trial, error, and understanding the advantages available to me that people bring their contracts to me to look over before Legal does (this is fine, so long as they actually do go to Legal eventually). I've brought in millions of dollars in savings just in the past year. That feels good.
- I get a real sense of worth and joy from this work. Yes, reading license agreements is a pain, but the savings I pass on to the University and (as directly as possible) to the students who are educated here are beyond a simple joy. Doing these things makes me feel like I am actually making a difference for the folks who trust this institution to educate them, and I really do sometimes feel that I'm doing something that will eventually benefit all of us. That's the really nice thing about working for a university: you never know what future scientist, teacher, politician, or philosopher you might end up influencing in a small way.
- I get a lot of support here. It is amazing how much liking the people a pay-grade or two above you, a nice thank-you note from a worker in a different department, or a thankful student's smile when her software starts working again can really make you feel like you're worth something. There are plenty of aspects of my life where I just don't get that, and it's nice to get it at work. I really do enjoy what I'm doing, even if it's not glamorous or particularly awesome.
Oddity 5: I got married
This is probably the least odd thing on the list: that's what people eventually do. It's certainly not odd to me. Still, this is something definitely worth mentioning.
- I met my wife when she at the University's Pagan Student Association (now unfortunately defunct). She makes me incredibly happy, came with a wonderful family, and loves me deeply. We got married just under a year ago now. She's 4 years younger than me, and we've been together about 5 years.
- My best man was my best friend, and a girl (healing_coyote), which was awesome. tesinth, my brother red_sput, and creature_tamer stood up with me as well. The wedding was outside in one of my favorite parks. We weren't able to invite everyone we wanted to, and we took some flack for that (though, to be honest, we said when we started this shindig that if someone complained about not being invited to our wedding, we didn't want them to come, anyway, as those who loved us would understand perfectly). Our anniversary is October 2, and she was stunning. I wear a wedding ring that's bright and shiny and easy to see from about a mile away, and I like that.
- Yes, kids are on the horizon. She called that a "deal-breaker." :) I was just fine with that. Oh, by "on the horizon" I mean that we have other things to do first, but we're not big complainers if they show up early; in other words (for those reading too deeply into this post), it will be sometime more than 9 months from now, totally for sure.