Let Freedom Ring

200284960-001

This week has been a challenging one.  It seems that I have put on my counselor’s hat most every day.  Everyone I have talked to seems to be bound up…bound up by things that they can’t control.  It is like I have watched as people wrap themselves tighter and tighter in issues that they have either created or have let into the cracks of their lives and irritation resulted.

I talked to one woman who was consumed by jealousy.  When I asked her what her husband had done to build such jealousy and distrust in her, she answered that he had done nothing….that it was just the way she was.  She searched through his phone when he wasn’t looking, she followed him constantly (only to see him go exactly where he told her he was going), she questioned him and needled him every waking moment.  He had simply told her that he was tired.  She was so tightly wrapped up in her own mind, that she didn’t realize that she was exhausting the relationship.

A male friend I talked to this week, could do nothing but mourn the loss of a relationship that he had seven years ago.  He blamed all of his inadequacies on this person deserting him seven years ago and how this other person was ‘his heart.’  He kept going on about how I could never understand that kind of loss in my life. (Honestly, at this point, my eyes had rolled back into the back of my head in an ‘oh please’ type of reaction.)  No, I doubt that I could understand losing someone…never mind that I had dealt with the loss of a partner to AIDS.  As I sat there listening to him tell me how painful every day still was, I wondered why it was easier for him to wind himself up in the turmoil that he had created and not live his life a little more carefree.

As I listened more than talked this week…I think I realized something about people, in general.  People are afraid.  People are afraid that, without drama in their lives, they will be overlooked.  They are afraid that they will just blend in with everyone else.  As I talked to the jealous wife, I realized that her value didn’t come from her family or her relationship. It didn’t even come from who she was.  It came from being able to weave the tales of his betrayal…to be able to earn sympathy for something that her husband had given her no reason to believe.  When she told me that he hadn’t done anything and that jealousy was just a part of her nature…it told me all I needed.  Her nature was the damaged part of the relationship.

My male friend, even as he spoke about living with his heartbreak….in that same breath asked me why I don’t have any photos of Jim.  I told him that it wouldn’t be fair to my current partner and that was a part of life that was finished. There was no way that it could ever be what it was.  When I buried Jim,  I also had to bury that relationship.  I still carry the love and memories, but the love and memories don’t possess me.

Many may read this and feel that I am cold and heartless.  It isn’t that.  I just can’t imagine being bound by anything extra.  Life throws enough at you.  Why hold onto things that can make your life even crazier.  I have always been the type of person who believes that you live and you let live.  As long as you don’t hurt others or aren’t spewing vile…then I will peaceably live my life alongside of you.  Just like with my friend that is seven years out of a relationship….I asked him, “How often do you think he sits and thinks of you?”  Just like I asked the woman bound by jealousy, “Have you ever thought that if you let go of the jealousy that you could actually be with the love of your life, living your ‘Happily Ever After?”broken-chains

So many times, we concentrate on such tiny things….the things that rub like sandpaper.  If we were to just give a tug on those chains, we may just find that they are made out of paper.

My step-grandpa used to have cattle.  I watched as he trained an old bull not to tear down the fence.  My grandpa used an electric fence.  He would walk that bull up to that fence and right into it.  The bull would get shocked.  He did this many, many times until finally that old bull wouldn’t get anywhere near that fence.  While I don’t condone his methods, they were effective.  After that bull had it ingrained in his mind that the fence would shock him, my grandpa turned the electricity off to the fence.  In that bull’s mind though, that fence was still capable of shocking him if he went near it.

We have pretty much done the same thing.  We have confined ourselves based on past experiences.  The electricity has been off for years, but we don’t dare test it.  I guess I was always the stubborn child.  I would constantly go up to the fence, touching it to test it every time….not for fear of getting shocked, but in the hope that the next time I touched it, it would be powerless.

I have watched some witches become like Christian church.  I have always believed that whatever your path, faith is the primary part.  Faith puts feet to belief.  I can believe that the fence won’t shock me all I want, but until that moment I reach out and touch it, it is something only my brain has concocted.  The cunning men and women in the community were the ones that the townsfolk would come to for guidance, for magick, for something that everyday life couldn’t supply.  Isn’t it really time we lived up to that?

A friend of mine posted a photo today…I took it to heart.  Most might get offended, but it struck me as an epiphany.

fuck

Blessed Be!

Though the Sorrow May Last Through the Night…

Photo Jan 04, 7 57 50 PM

I have been hated for many things over the years.  I have been hated for things I have done….things I have said….my belief system….who I am.  Through all of the persecution, I have always tried to be the bigger man.  I have always tried to reason with my brain and respond with compassion and love.

For some reason, though, the events that have bombarded the United States and the world over the past few months have drowned my heart in sorrow.  I am referring to the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda and Russia….also this “Turn the Gay Away” bill that seems to be rearing its ugly head in so many states.men-holding-hands-3CROP

I am a tolerant man.  I try to respect and honor all faiths. I try to respect and honor all races.  I try to embrace the differences that make us all individuals and make this world a more interesting place to live.  I try to surround myself with people who have the same kind of heart.

For those of you who don’t know, I served as a pastor for two mainline denominations for over ten years.  In those ten or more years, I was only met with intolerance once.  In that instance, the pastor of the church told me that he suspected me to be gay.  At the time, I was not out of the closet or quite as sure of who I am as I am now.  He told me that I needed to have an HIV test done and have the results submitted to him and his wife.  I had never been so humiliated.  In that moment, I hated myself for who I was and tried to hide anything about me that would give me away.

Fortunately, after that incident, I was hired into a large church in Charlotte.  I was met at the door with open arms and a love for any uniqueness that made me…me.  In time, I became more confident in who I was and more secure in my sexuality.  I remember one day when I went into my lead pastor’s office.  I had requested a meeting so that I might talk to him about my being gay.  He sat thoughtfully in his chair with his glasses perched on the tip of his nose.  I mustered all of my courage and said, “Pastor, I am gay.”  No reaction.  I said, “Pastor, perhaps you didn’t hear me.  I am gay.”  No reaction.  He picked up his bible and started thumbing slowly through it.  All I could think was that I was about to be blasted with scripture.  Instead, he turned to me and smiled.  He said, “Did you grow an extra head or something?”  I said, “No.”  He looked at me and laughed and said, “You are still one of the best pastors I have been blessed enough to serve with.  Now get back to work.”  With that declaration, he pulled me in for a hug, then put his hand on my shoulder and sent me back to my office….feeling more loved than I ever have.

There was a song we did in that church….the lyrics still come to my mind as I type:

I’m trading my sorrow
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord

I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord

[Chorus:]
And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

I’m pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I’m blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy’s gonna be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

Thinking of these lyrics today reminded me….it is only in squeezing or crushing the grape, that the sweetness of the juice is released.

I know that there are those out there who would call themselves Christian who would rather spew out hate and vitriol than take the teachings of the biblical Christ to heart.  My days in the church were not spent studying a Christ who belittled and hated.  I spent hours in my office composing sermons of a Christ who sat and ate and drank with tax collectors and prostitutes (the vilest of the vile in his day).  I became acquainted with a Christ who, when told that a woman was caught in an act of sin and should be stoned, looked down at the ground and said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  He then looked at the woman with compassion and asked, “Where are your accusers?” She said, “There are none.” “Neither do I condemn you…go and sin no more.”004-jesus-washes-feet

My fondest memory of this Christ who receives the blame for so much of the hatred that spews from man….is the Christ who spent the night before his death washing the feet of his disciples.  He knew that one of them would betray him that very night….but he chose to take on the role of servant.  And again, I studied of this Christ….the one whom people blame for their right to picket soldiers funerals, and burn the sin out of people…this Christ returned from the grave to offer those who had denied him and spat on him and killed him, another chance for redemption.

So, if I have all of these wonderful memories of the church…all these wonderful remnants of who Christ was, buried inside me, why did I become a witch?  Because Christianity, to me, was limiting.  Why limit myself to one god….even if he was a three in one.  Gods and Goddesses encompass so much more than we are willing to give them credit for.  Humanity has always wanted to keep that which we don’t understand confined….if you don’t believe this, go to a zoo.

Caged_Freedom_v1

My trip to the woods this morning was a heavy-hearted trip.  As Friz and I settled in, Friz could tell there was something different about my spirit.  He quietly licked my face. He nuzzled me…he stayed close by.  I called on the elements, the directions…and this time I did not stop at the Lord and Lady I normally call upon.  I called upon the Christ that I had been acquainted with years ago.  We chatted about those who are using his name to hurt and harm and hate.  We also chatted about those followers of his who actually “get it.”

It doesn’t matter what faith you pursue or what you believe….there is never a place for hatred.  Hatred only destroys.  It turns the hater into a predator whose thirst for blood can never be sated.  It turns those who are hated into prey…constantly pursued and never able to rest.

As I lay back onto the earth this morning, I saw Mama Crow perched in the trees above.  She has only ever asked one thing of me….”Be true to myself.”  I have not been able to hide who I am in years, and I do not intend to start now.

I will stand tall with my sword at the ready…not fighting for the sake of the fight, but so that change may actually be affected.  I will love stronger than I have ever loved, and with every swing of the sword, I shall breathe compassion and healing over any who become part of the battle.  I will never go back into hiding. Witch or gay, my true self will always shine through.

As I lay there this morning, feeling Mother Earth pouring her magick into me and the Wild Man of the Woods pouring his stamina into  me,  I looked to my side to see a grouping of daffodils…not yet bloomed, but the color of yellow just barely peeking through.2014-02-22 15.13.15

Though the sorrow may last for the night
Joy comes with the morning!

Blessed Be!

You Better Work It…

tumblr_mvufz1yDPm1skrzgro1_500

I have been reading about the New Moon coming up on January 30th.  They call it the “Black Moon.”  It is the second New Moon in the month of January.  It is an omen of change and during this moon, hidden truths are brought to the surface.  It is in the midst of this “Black Moon” that I will be moving into another phase of my life.  I am leaving behind my work at the animal clinic and moving back into corporate work.

Am I sad in this transition?  Maybe I should be.  Am I?  No, not at all.  This is a time of celebration for me.  It is time to move past a time of oppression and stagnancy into a time of joy and forward movement.  This change has been a long time in coming.  I have done ritual after ritual devoted to this change…..friends have dedicated ritual after ritual to the same purpose.  It has not been an easy road, but finally I am able to see the manifestation of months and months of magick and hard work.

Work?  Yes, work.  Any real witch will tell you that magick takes work….and dedication….and purpose.  Most folks are used to seeing what is represented on television as far as the Craft goes.  While I love the fantasy that most of those shows represent….the Samantha Stevens, the Endoras, the Charmed Ones, and the newer Witches of East End….we all know that instant gratification is a rarity in the Craft.

I remember the first “spell” I ever cast….*note I used cast here and not ‘the first spell I ever worked.’  Being a new witchling, I stood in front of my altar and waved my hands like a fool and uttered something that I thought was magickal  and waited to see the puff of smoke and the explosion of glitter….or even the little ‘tinkle, tinkle’ sound I heard on “Bewitched” whenever a spell was cast.  Nothing.  I was devastated.  Of course, I had not studied under anyone or with anyone…I knew nothing about the elements, directions, herbs, intention….not one thing.  I only knew what I had seen on television.  All I could hear in my head was the sounds of large tongues blowing raspberries.

Now some folks would have probably given up after casting with no sparks, bells or whistles.  Not me.  I was determined to find out why it didn’t work.  I began to devour books on the Craft.  Some of the first ones I got my hands on were Scott Cunningham’s books.  I was transported to a world of magick I had no idea existed.  Then one day, when I was browsing in the ‘occult’ section at a local bookstore, I was invited to a local coven to take part in their program for initiates.  I enjoyed much of the teachings and the natural setting.  I settled in there for a time and then realized that the path they were on wasn’t the path calling to me.

tumblr_m4pd4rvkmA1qdoy3ao1_500

That was the one thing that I enjoyed so much about the Craft.  There was no one path for everyone.  There were so many directions one could pursue.  No matter which path I was interested in, I found that it still entailed work.  There were still so many things to learn….how to send energy without depleting your own energy stores…how to charge crystals, candles, etc…how to pour yourself into the workings of the magick and how to ground yourself before, during and after so that you didn’t become one big ole quivery jello witch.

The biggest things that I personally had to learn was how to listen to and utilize and trust my intuition  and how to purpose my own intent.  I compare it to a baby learning how to talk.  It surfaced on its own….at first it was clumsy and broken and hard to understand, but the more I practiced; the more I worked….it flowed better…it became second nature.  I still work and practice on a daily basis….there is no room for laziness.

As I continued to grow in the Craft, there were other adventures that were opened to me.  I had always heard other witches refer to spirit animals.  I thought that it was a wonderful thought….having the spirits of animals at your beck and call.  Again, I got every book I could find on the subject and read and re-read.  I talked to my grandma about the Native approach to spirit animals…then I began the work….the constant vigil of observation, the energy work.  I will never forget the day the first manifestation came.  I was lying in the dirt…my mind lost in thought about my spirit animal.  I closed my eyes and focused my energy.  It was in that moment that I heard that lovely, melodic scream of the crow.  I looked up and there she perched on an old fence post.  In that same week, wolf came to me in my dreams….again, after a time of focus and intent.   The work had been worth the end result.

2014-01-05 18.42.43

This morning, I went to the woods.  This morning, there was no little blue chihuahua to be seen…he was allowed to sleep in.  This morning, no calico kitten showed up.  In my backpack were the usual tools…my skulls, candles, incense, matches.  This morning, more offerings were carried than normal.  This morning was a morning of gratitude.  The directions were called upon….the elements invited…Mama Crow and Wolf took their places.  Candles were lit, incense was burned.  Notes of gratitude and adoration were written on flying paper to all involved in the magick that was manifested.  The notes were carefully twisted and set on fire.  I watched as they flew into the air and disintegrated into the breeze….the wind carrying the magick forth.  I cracked an egg onto the ground for the animal spirits to devour.  I poured milk, honey and wine into the earth in gratitude to elementals and any other spirits involved.  For the lady herself, a small bouquet of dried flowers….grain and corn rounded out the offerings for the Horned One.

Was the work finished?  Only for this phase of the magick….it continues every day.  I have found through my studies and experiences that magick is a living being.  It is constantly moving and changing…just as we should be.  So it is because of magick that a 47 year old witch is now embarking on a brand new adventure.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Blessed Be!

Having Been Erased….

1010845_2bac_625x1000

It was a unique day today.  I won’t say that I have felt melancholy today….more like I knew something was going to happen.  I got up as normal, showered, shaved, drove to work, mechanically did my appointed tasks…you know, all that ho hum, work-a-day stuff.  I was in no way prepared for what was looming around the corner at lunchtime.

Now, I have talked about most of my relationships…..but there is one that I have not even shared with my dearest friend or my partner.  It wasn’t that it was so painful…but it was..and it wasn’t…and it was confusing and I didn’t know what to do with myself.  This was my very first relationship…in my mind, I put it into a special compartment….where it existed on its own, apart from my other relationships….but also where it didn’t exist.

I was very young.  We had been dating for five years.  We met when I was sixteen.  It had happened by accident.  He was a sweet boy the same age as me.  We did everything together.  We went hiking, white water rafting.  We discussed poetry and languages and wondered to each other about where we would be when we were fifty.  We were in our fifth year together and making arrangements for me to move in with him.  His family didn’t like me and mine didn’t like him….all because being a couple made both sides face the truth of who we were and who we were becoming.

Then it happened.  I got a call from a friend who worked with the local VFW.  There had been a fire.  They had found him unconscious hanging halfway out of a large window.  I rushed to the hospital.  He was still unconscious.  The family let me into the room for ten minutes.  Then I was hurriedly ushered out.  From that point on, I was not allowed to go back into the room.  I was alerted a few weeks later that he was coming around.  He would recover physically, but one thing had happened.  His memory was gone.  He couldn’t remember much of anything but bits and pieces.  He had no clue who I was. 

His aunt was appointed his caretaker. She had gone into his home while he was in the hospital and removed all traces of me.  She had taken all photos, all gifts…anything that might stir any kind of memory.  In one puff of smoke….I had been erased from his life.  To him, I had never existed.

I was hurt…confused.  How could someone be so inconsequential that they could be wiped completely from someones memory.  Not one speck of me existed in any of the recesses of his mind.  It was as if someone had gone into that big whiteboard of his mind and wiped everything clean.  I had become Mr. Cellophane.

Most people would have crumbled under these circumstances…..I proved something to myself in those months.  I am stronger than any situation that can hit me.  I decided at the moment that I was “removed” from his life…that from then on, I would always be memorable. 

It was then that I continued my pursuit of acting and singing for a time.  It was then that I gathered the strength that I would need to eventually be a pastor to hundreds.  It was then that I pulled from what was buried deep inside of me to begin the study of the Craft.  It was then that I began my journey into what would become the Weathered Wiseman.

In the years that followed, I did all the things that would make me, me.  I don’t regret one thing.  Have I said some things I shouldn’t have?  Sure.  Have I done some things that I might have been able to live without doing?  Sure.  Have I lived a life instead of existing?  Definitely.  Have I lived a life erased or invisible?  Oh Hell No!!  I am stubborn, opinionated, funny, loving, wise, and all over awesome.  Not because I was erased from someones memory…but in spite of it. 

I have learned so many things over the course of this journey…..things that I may have never learned had things taken a different turn.  I think on it now….the element that I most identify with is Fire.  The element that changed my life the most…..Fire.

Many years later, I was working at a local retail store. He came in with his aunt (who didn’t realize I was working there).  He looked me in the eyes and smiled that smile that I had known so intimately.  His aunt politely said, “This is Dave.”  He looked at me quizzically.  “It’s so nice to meet you, Dave.”  Once again, he was hurriedly ushered out of my life.  I sighed. It hadn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.

Back to today….I had gone home for lunch like I always do to walk the dogs.  I spent a little extra time looking at the different plants and flowers poking their lazy little heads out from the dirt.  I had just finished walking the dogs and was rounding the courtyard.  My phone rang.  It was my mother.  She said, “David, I am off work today and the strangest message was on the answering machine when I got back from the grocery store.  It’s for you.  I don’t know who it is.  It’s just strange.”  She played the message into the phone.  It was very brief, but very powerful at the same time.  The words spoken were, “Dave, it’s me.  I don’t know if you are even still at this number.  I don’t know if you even still live around here.  I just wanted to let you know….I finally remembered you.”  Then I heard the dial tone.

All he did was confirm what I had already known.  I am not and will not be erased.  I am not Mr. Cellophane.  I am far too strong to ever be invisible.  I am content.  I hope he is.

InvisibleMan2

Walking Backwards

2013-03-30 19.35.34 HDR

Yesterday morning was overcast.  There was a bit of a drizzle of rain as Friz and I made our way to the pond.  I needed the pond yesterday.  This week has been a rough one all the way around.  Wrenches were thrown into everyday life, clients were more irate than usual…..I was yelled at more all week than I have been all year.

My mind, my body and my spirit were tired.  I felt more drained than I have in a long time.  It is a feeling that you have been beaten so much that you just don’t know if you can get back up.  My neck and shoulders hurt from carrying the stress of the week in them.

Friz could sense every bit of this on the walk.  He was more subdued than he has ever been.  He padded along softly beside me, knowing where we were headed.  When we got to the pond, we found a stump where one of the trees had been.  I know for a fact that the tree wasn’t dead, but the maintenance folks around here have been cutting down trees with a vengeance this week.  This just added to my tension.  I felt something welling up inside me and a muffled sob came to surface. 

I could feel so many thoughts rifling through my mind.  The first was that humans just don’t know how to leave things alone.  Everything has to fit into our way of thinking.  We have to squeeze and mash and tear and beat something until it fits into the box of a world that we have created.  We do it with everything….the environment, animals, and other people.

I have to watch myself….especially around my own animals.  Because I live in the city now, it is easy for me to forget that animals are animals.  I find myself sometimes expecting the dogs and cats to force themselves into a mold that I have created.  The dogs hear a noise, it’s natural for them to bark in response.  In my mind, they should know that we live in a condo (or glorified apartment) and that they should be quiet.  No barking for you….restrain your voice.  The cat knocks over a picture frame trying to look out the window, we scold him for knocking something down that we have placed a value on…not him.  We are the ones who have confined him (technically a wild animal) to the indoors with only a glimpse of the outside through a window. 

Animals are such wonderful spirits.  They can pick up on our moods…they offer their own type of empathic consolation.  They have adapted to the fishbowl that we have placed them in.  Our environment has had to learn the same.  We go ripping through forests with saws and bulldozers….all for the sake of progress.  God  and Goddess knows, Atlanta does not have enough empty office buildings or condominiums.  The tree that was cut down over the course of a day (even though there was nothing wrong with it) unfortunately was probably blocking someones view.  .

We humans have also become so completely intolerant of each other.  If someone elses lifestyle or belief system doesn’t fit with mine….I am going to tear them to shreds…beat them down until they can’t stand anymore.  We watch to see where their spot of vulnerability is and that is where we strike.

I have watched this week as the arguments for and against Marriage Equality have taken place.  I am so blessed….so fortunate to have surrounded myself with friends and family who feel that there should be no difference….that love is love.  But on the flip side, I have experienced co-workers who argue and spit comments about how “that’s not how God intended it to be” and if I hear the phrase about “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”  one more time, I may vomit.  Humans don’t like to feel like their little closed-in box of a world is threatened.

I have also witnessed the intolerance of religion all over Facebook this week.  So many witches getting their knickers in a knot because other witches want to celebrate Easter and Ostara.  I have so much fun with both.  I celebrate Ostara…my altar is adorned with flowers and eggs and rabbits and crystals. When Easter approaches…my altar is adorned with flowers and eggs and rabbits and crystals….Hmmmm.  Again, I feel like someone feels like their own little boxed in world is threatened.  Personally, it takes a little bit more than an Easter egg and fluffy chicks for me to feel threatened.  If someone wants to believe that Jesus rose from the dead…more power to them.  That is hope for them.  We as pagans have way more than enough Gods and Goddesses who are resurrected.

Trust me….I get it.  I have my own comfort zones.  But I sit back and watch as the world goes back to a survivalist mentality.  If it threatens me….I get rid of it.  I think that it is amazing that we put dogs down on a daily basis for acting the same way that humans do.  We have become the growlingest, snarlingest, teeth-baringest bunch of folks around.  We have decided that it is our job to back-stab, bitch-slap and bad-mouth anyone who doesn’t see eye to eye with us….hell, lately it is just as bad if someone looks at us cross-eyed. 

I am not, by far, High Priest “Stick Up His Ass” by any means.  I don’t care to be.  My tradition is my own, paired with teachings that I have received from those I trust and the Ancients.  I don’t really care if you don’t like it or not.  I am not you….nor do I ever care to be.  I am gay….I am a witch…I live a pretty regular life…I love my partner, my family, my animals, and my friends.  It isn’t your job to decide what is right or wrong in my life.  I am a grown man…I make those decisions.

Isn’t it time that we all leave the venom to those animals it is given naturally to?  Isn’t it time to not always have to fight about something? 

I have been beaten and mocked and made fun of for being gay.  I have been mocked and made fun of for being a witch.  I look forward to the day that both of those things are not shocking to others.

Blessed Be! 2013-03-30 19.32.52 HDR