You want a despot? This is how you get a Despot ….

There is a well known tale in Irish Mythology of King Bres (aka Eochaid). An unpopular individual. One who’s reign was unhappy and unjust, even if initially legitimate. In the ned he was disposed, and the rightful ruler (Nuada) was returned to leadership. Bres runs to his father (a Fomorian) to help regain his power, and is told he sort of earned this, by being a stingy sod. But his father suggests talking to another king of the Fomorians…. Balor of the Baleful eye. This ends in the second battle of Mag Tuired.

Now some of you might think I’m telling a tale, of some current world leaders? You would be wrong. This is a tale more applicable to Pagan communities. Most of these communities end up as small kingdoms, where a single individual, or a small group of individuals run the show.

Gods knows I’ve seen this story play out in several places.

  • Milwaukee, I’ve written about this in places, but there was a very feudal nature to how that community ran.
  • I left a small community, quite healthy. I returned to a city where it was again quite feudal, and woe to anyone who questioned the rulers.
  • Certain promenant pagans who can’t play nice with each other (look at you Salem)

What can you do about this? Well firstly it is not inherently bad, that a small group of people run things, it is probably a very efficient way of doing things, when it is done wrong. If you read the story I wrote in the first paragraph, there is no emancipation of the masses. Just the return of a just leader, over an unjust one. It also ended in a bloody, nasty, costly war.

 

Again this story holds a place in Pagan communities. Witch Wars, and similar skirmishes, are usually power struggles. Ones that never should happen, yet many of us can roll our eyes and go “oh no not again”

So again, what can one do?

Here are a few ideas

  1. Try to be responsible when appointing new leaders. Are they fit for the job? Do they seem a little too slick?
  2. You ignored (1) and you now have someone not quite how like you imagined in a position of power? Limit the power they have. Don’t allow all powerful individuals if you can possibly help it. You may as well stick you head in the lions mouth, and have a friend kick it in the nuts, that is more pleasant than the death by a thousand cuts having a “Bres” in your community will allow.
  3. Work out the best way to resist someone if (1) happens and (2) is worst case scenario. Over the years I’ve been the bull in the China Shop, I’ve been the sneaky bastard, I’ve been the wise ex leader. I’m best at the middle option to be honest. I can do the last. The first? Its going to be messy, and possibly make it even worse
  4. Do you even have to listen to that leader? Who gave them power? Sure others allow that power, but do you? Ignore them.

 

In the end you do not have to start a fight, to be a warrior. Standing up to despots, bullies, and arseholes, often destroys their power.

 

 

Looking inside, and seeing something look back ….

It has been a while since I’ve posted. A lot of that time has been spent in introspection of my own spiritual journey. That and a trip to the USA to introduce my son to my wife’s family.

 

The beauty of introspection, is that I was able to assess my own issues, and not frame them in the experiences of another organization and or individuals.

 

What this introspection (which included a fair amount of divination with my Ogam) showed me was that the problem I had with ADF (and other organizations) were mostly personal, though a few were systemic with ADF. Another post for another day.

 

While I was in ADF (which I technically still am) I always maintained (and it remains true) that the Warriors Guild was what attracted me to the organization. It has however been close to five years since I enjoyed the guild. I never regained my innate hope that I once held.
So I decided to talk with myself over what did I want from my spirituality?

 

  • I want to form a relationship with my tribe, be that kin, kith, or my Gods, spirits etc. The concept of *ghosti applies here. It always shall I think. That is near and dear to me.
  • Intellectual, emotional, and physical responsibility needs to be held. I am the keeper of my own actions (unless something horrible happens). This is ever more evident as I settle into being a parent. I once let myself forget this need to be responsible for myself. I almost lost my family, and I did lose my dog. Visiting her on the trip to the USA was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I cried every single day. In the end I feel she forgave me. But I’m never putting myself back in that place.
  • Being honest about my motives. Being honest with regards to the evidence. I’m a scientist, and I’ve at times alluded to the wish to be a Druid (I now don’t). If I can’t be honest, or the organization I belong to can’t be, I don’t belong. I reserve the right to exclude those I do not see as worthy of my presence or me of theirs

There are more requirements, which really don’t need to be spoken too (its between me and my Deities of worship).

 

So my membership lapses in December. I hold an office (Gael Kin Chief) which does not lapse for another year. I need to decide if I stay, to finish that term, OR if I go, and allow ADF to walk its own path, and me my own….

 

What I will say, is its been a while since I have looked into my own soul, and something looked back 🙂

Move along the bus ….

 

 

So I have put off 100% leaving ADF until my renewal is due (December 7). I’ve also given them 3 strikes (well it’s a US run international organization, they will not understand a cricket reference of 10 wickets) to convince me to stay. Currently they are at 2.5 strikes (yes I split strikes). I’m not going to get into how this has occurred, just that its been a bad week for ADF and my trust.

 

So where to from here? That really is the question. For the last 17 years I’ve walked a path already blazed by hundreds of other ADF members. Now I’m looking longingly to paths less trodden. My gut tells me that is where I need to go. That I can’t effect change in an organization that does not see that it needs to change. So where now?

 

Not everything from ADF will be left behind. I love the idea of *ghosti. The reconstructed Proto Indo-European word (hence the *), from where guest, host, and yes Ghost (it once meant stranger not a spirit) came from. But unlike the majority of ADF, I will not be just practicing reciprocity with my deities of worship, or the spirits of the land, or my ancestors. I plan to make this a part of how I live my day to day with people. Because in the end, that is how my ancestors would have lived.

 

For me, that is not a big paradigm change. I’ve tended to always live my life in a way, where I treat others as I’ve been treated. Rather than being nice to everyone, I am nice to those who treat me that way, and not so nice, to those who treat me not so nicely. I’m not afraid to be outspoken and aggressive, when the need seems to be there, just as I am not afraid to lurk at the edge of things, and just observe.

 

I feel called ever more strongly to the service of An Morrigan. This began in 2008 in Milwaukee, when I was at a dark period in my life, and every year seems to be a bigger focus of my life. It is something I could have applied in ADF, but I’m pretty sure that outside of ADF I will achieve more.

 

My warriorship is now just my own, and that of those I will now call tribe.

 

I think that is the hardest part. I am leaving a tribe. In essence I am going to probably become an outsider (using the ADF parlance). Currently I’ve made myself ever more an outdweller. A person at the edge of the tribe, who is becoming ever more unaligned with how the centre of the tribe wishes to be. So I’m going to be a solo traveller for a time, perhaps perfectly. I don’t fear this, I welcome it. Its been almost two decades sine I did this. I’m a vastly different person now, more dangerous in some ways (spirituall speaking) because I know who I am, and what I believe. But at the same time, I have habits from being part of a tribe for so long. Habits that may or may not need to be unlearned.

 

Where does this put me? I don’t know. Perhaps I will be convinced to stay? Any reading this are welcome to try and do that. I’m always open to discussion. But I’m my own man. Remember that. No longer am I willing to be loyal for the good of the Tribe. I serve my gods, my family, the ancestors, and the spirits of the land. Not an organization.

 

 

Moving along ones SlÍ….

 

Let me open this with the Statement: I have left ADF, I am unlikely to join again, and it feels that this is the correct path for me to walk.

Each person has a path (SlÍ) which they should walk, and I believe I am still on my path. We shall see.

 

Next let me lightly touch what set this off:

 

Many of you will have heard that ADF had a member recently arrested and subsequently convicted of a crime, involving pictures of children. He has blogged about his side of this at length (note his blog may disappear at some point, I’ve saved a screen shot copy of his story, just in case, I can provide these at request).  His initial statement of “I was tricked by a malicious torrent, when I was trying to download a movie” was believed by many. So when his conviction (via a plea deal, he was only charged with Disseminating an obscenity (a level 1 felony), ordered to undergo sex offender re-education, submit to warrantless searches of his electronic devices, but he avoided having to register as a sex offender (the crux of the plea deal)). He sold his conviction as “he was not convicted of anything major, and was the victim here”). ADF did not investigate further, and released a statement, that they did not expect him to run of a position of authority again (he had been a Protogrove leader, and assistant regional druid) but he was not excluded, nor was he under special observation.

 

Skip forward a fortnight, someone (no not me!) obtained the court transcripts. They tell a vastly different tale. The prosecutor states that he admitted to downloading over 300 pictures, for the purposes of self-gratification. These were pictures of pre-teen children, undressed, or provocatively clad and posed. When this information came to light. Scott Holbrook changed his story slightly to account for the discrepancy. He claims he was ambushed by the claim, and did not have a chance to refute these claims (he later has changed this to he did not feel he could refute it, least he loose his plea deal). A constant shifting of goal posts is a sign of a logical flaw in an argument. Take from this what you want. I certainly have.

 

Now here is the problem, the story which Scott has sold, is an improbable one. Torrents tend to only house malicious files like viruses, if there were indeed almost 400 picture files, you would notice, as movies tend to only have say 5 files associated with them (less if its one which does not have multiple subtitle or sound tracks). Not hundreds of files. Given Scott knew where to look for a movie to pirate (which is what he has admitted) one would assume he was nuanced enough in this sort of behaviour to check what he was getting. He probably also was smart enough to turn of the reseeding (essentially sharing) setting. This is what got him caught.  A more probable explanation, is that Scott wilfully downloaded a file (or files) containing these objectionable pictures, and for personal use. He may well have found them on a torrent site, which insists that members, seed to perpetuate the files.

 

So we have two possible explanations (there are more, but I am picking the extremes), one which is told by an admitted thief, and one which is told by the legal system. I know which one sits right in my brain.

 

When this discrepancy came to light, many of us in the Pagan community were aggrieved to say the least. Our main media out let (the wild Hunt) had allowed Scott to tell his side of the story, but had not investigated how factual that was. To be fair, since the management changed at TWH, this does not surprise me. What did surprise me, is that ADF has implemented a Risk Management strategy (which my wife and I initially (2010) had been involved in). The Mother Grove choose (in haste) not to follow this strategy. In a rush to wash their hands of the smelly incident, they did not follow due diligence. Now many of you may say “oh but is that a bad thing?”. The answer in this case is. Yes indeed, they made a mistake, which they then had to sit in an emergency session to rectify.

 

Stepping away from ADFs problems (they are not important here). What is important is, despite the new evidence, a sizable chunk of the vocal membership, defended “poor Scott”, and implied he had been set up, buy corrupt officials. Scott had already implied he took a plea deal due to being a Pagan, in a Pagan Unfriendly ™ Upland South. So any who questioned this, were a mob of “torch bearing, pitchfork wielding peasants” who were “out for blood” (I am quoting a prominent ADF member here). Those of us who questioned the story, received abuse. Indeed, I actually got an email, sent from an anon email service (I am good at IP tracking, and I recognized the service, it stopped resolving in Asia).

Abusive email from.

Thus, when I noted that ADF either did not care, or denied he was on record, and had not refuted being a paedophile. I questioned my membership of ADF. Clearly, I was in a minority. Indeed, I was one of the few to stand up and ask that he be reclassified, as per the ADF rules. When I got the abusive email, and a couple of messages in FB. I made my mind up, and I left. Its caused problems (I vacated my Gael Kin Chieftain position (sounds impressive, but I just administered the Kin).

 

My reasons were this.

 

  • I cannot be part of an organization, which allows a member to be dishonest, when dealing with a matter of sexual abuse. The fact I had to be in essence an antagonistic arse to get them to take the matter seriously, told me, they wanted to sweep it away.
  • If the membership, can’t be “excellent” when it critically reviews a clear cut document, it does not aspire to “excellent” and I question how many of them follow the virtues.
  • Speaking of Virtues, Scott claims to be a follower of the Morrigan, just like me, meaning that I can leverage our apparent shared cultural values. The Gaels had several measures of trustworthiness. Your “Face” (oineach), which is shown to the tribe. It is your honor, and you have an honor price (enech-lann). The fact Scott is a convicted felon, in a crime that involves children (it does)), means his enech is much reduced. On top of that, he has (apparently) been caught in a lie, meaning his honesty (indracus) is beyond being in question, it is non-existent. His reputation (clú) to the greater community is abysmal. This means that he would need truly extraordinary evidence to regain any of his credibility. Instead he writes weasel words, and has a small group of closely related individuals try to repeat the story enough, to make it appear to be true.
  • I had no way (within ADF rules) of replying to the abuse levelled towards me. I bear ADF very little ill will, and did not want to be the barbarian at the gates, throwing my sword on the scales because someone questioned the cost of settlement.

 

Thus I left. I do not regret it. I fondly remember much of my time in ADF, and have made friends who I treasure. Sadly many of them are also leaving because of this, and I value my indracus over my loyalty to an organization which would give *ghosti to a criminal, and not a long standing member (I refer to the members, not the organization as a whole).

 

Here is the thing, technically I won, Scott is not allowed to hold a position of authority (unless he can disprove his charges) and is hopefully a person non-grata at events with children, or at least a leper who is escorted EVERYWHERE. But I also lost, I saw the value I was ascribed, for doing the right thing (yet again). Time to go, and be happy.

NOTE

I have been asked to reconsider, but to do this , I will require a truly extraordinary reason to stay. I don’t mean a bribe, or compensation, or even the removal of Scott. But if I were to return or stay, I’m going to need to see something that makes me reconsider, not appeals to my ego. My ego is not fragile, I can’t be bribed.

 

What is next? I am not sure. I identify as a Gaelic Reconstructive Polytheist now, I never used the term Druid, so I will continue not to use that.

 

 

 

hÚath

When I do divination, I tend to work exclusively with the Ogam (or if you prefer modern Irish, the Ogham). Those of us who divine, usually have a member of our divination method, which is a regular visitor to our work.

For me this is the fid (letter) hÚath. To many this is an unsettling result. this would be because the keywords associated with this ogam are terror and despair. In the very least this is a herald of some bumps in the road ahead.

If one had this result “following them around” I imagine it could give some people, a bit of a feeling of persecution. However there is another way to interpret this. Fear (terror) can be used to our own advantage. Fear can protect us, fear warns us of things to be well fearful of (say a venomous creature that is being aggressive towards us, or someone threatening us with a weapon). To resist fear, we don’t act with out thought.

All of these are aspects of being a warrior. Resist fear, conquer despair, be prepared for problems.

 

 

I have been watching this, as a curious onlooker, as well this is not quite how I do my spirituality. There is nothing wrong with that, it is just not my bag, to use a commonwealth colloquialism 😉

 

First let me state, I am putting my natural scepticism, and cynicism aside, and assuming all what I am about to describe (next couple of paragraphs, prior to the divination of mine) is not an elaborate ruse, a method of control, or something else less than pure.

 

So what happened was a small group of individuals had what can only be called a shared gnosis, they have called it The Spirit of ADF, and much of the story is detailed here.

 

Now what is this story doing in my warrior blog? Well the story has set my “gut reaction” off, and how. People in ADF are sharing their divinations on this whole thing, I felt I would too. I use ogam, and I use the five feda cauldron and tree layout which Erryn Rowan Laurie has made popular amongst many of us who are Celtic Recons. (1) I do this to see if my “gut reaction” is reasonable, or if it is just my natural distrust of certain individuals.

 

Lets see where we go….

 

First I draw three feda, one each to represent the three Cauldrons of Posey. Coire Goriath,(the Cauldron of Warming, the physical manifestations of what is going on), Coire Ermai, (the Cauldron of Vocation or Motion, the emotions of the situation). Lastly Coire Sois, (the Cauldron of Knowledge or of Wisdom, the intellectual and spiritual things going on). These are linked through the world tree (the forth fid drawn), and the path forward is the fifth fid.

 

So without futher ado, my reading….

Coire Sois: huath                   The Path forward: Ruis

Coire Ermai: straif                 The World Tree:  Ngetal

Coire Goriath: Lus

 

Ogam

 

Now to interpret this, I will add that with all divination, subjectivity is hard. But I am going to try and edit myself out of what I see …. Yeah right J

 

The question is: What does this whole “Spirit of ADF” gnosis represent?

Coire Goriath: Deals with things in the physical world, this can also be called chthonic energy in this sense. It can also be seen as pertaining to the past in some instances. Lus is the ogam pulled, and for this position in the layout, it would indicate that something to do with food , sustenance, and the healing of animals.

Coire Ermai: Deals with the emotional world, and could be called oceanic energy. It might also be seen as the present in certain situations. Straif was drawn, and in this position it deals with alchemy, psychological, and spiritual things being in flux. It indicates change is happening or about to happen

Coire Sois: Deals with the spiritual world, this could be called Celestial energy, and might be seen to be dealing with things yet to come. I drew huath. Now before I continue, I have a long history with this ogam, it often appears in my divinations, and to many people it is an unfavourable thing to draw. Thankfully in this position it is not as harsh. In this position it deals with feelings of loneliness and abandonment.

The World Tree:  This is the fid which deals with the linking of the “three cauldrons” together. I drew Ngetal, it is most commonly associated with healing, in this case I associate it with the “health of ADF”.  Thus all the previous fid, deal with the health of my church.

 

Lastly; The Path forward: This is the crux of the matter, where is this leading us. I drew Ruis. This is a fid of passion, and for group situations this can imply that due to a fear of loss (of control), difficult interactions will happen.

 

Ok so that is a mixed bag. Welcome to divination 😉 This layout tells me a story, that in the past ADF (as an entity, dare I say animal …?) has needed to be feed to keep going, and that ADF is undergoing a time of change, things are in flux. What it represents for the future is that ADF may enter into a time of loneliness and abandonment for some. This entire situation is tied to the health of the “beast” (ADF being the beast). Where this leads is interesting. It appears (to me) that the spirit of ADF is tied to fear of loss of control. Now whom that fear is from is a good question. Is it the mother grove? Is it another group (I will call it a sect and be damned) with in ADF? Perhaps it is the membership of ADF as a whole? Not that you ever have control in that sort of position?

 

So to me, my gut feeling is somewhat borne out, something is going on, with the “Spirit of ADF”. It bears watching.

 

NOTE: Looking back, I wonder if the Huath fid was actually a portent of where I have come too in ADF. Its as if it was warning me that I was coming to a place where I (me, Gareth, Noinden) would feel alone, and abandoned with in ADF? It seems so. The Spirit of ADF for me was indeed bound, and they freed the wrong one!

  • Laurie, E. R. , Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom “Cauldron and Tree Layout”.

Going with the Gut Feeling

 

If you choose the warrior path (is that like the thug life? And it chooses you??), it can be rather dualistic. You sometimes have to do harm, to protect. You sacrifice thins of your own, for the good of community, and strangely enough, you need to be both intellectual (strategy, tactics) and intuitive (go with the gut) with your decisions.

 

If you talk to someone who is a soldier, LEO, or has worked security they will tell you that they spend time studying their objectives, but that they sometimes will also change plans on a hunch.  This is what going with the gut is all about. You get an itch, or a feeling, or a shiver, that something is not right. You can’t explain it, and a lot of the time, it does not matter, but every now and again, you avoid something, due to this niggling feeling.

 

So what is it? Ahh that could fill a philosophical dissertation, and not touch what it might be. So I shall only talk about what it is for me. I feel (thus this makes this a unverifiable personal gnosis, or UPG, and more on this later) that this is the Gods prodding you.

“Hey something is not right here nudge nudge”

 

I’ve experienced this, not in my “day job” science can’t function on gut. Oh your gut will tell you it’s not right, science requires proof.

 

But science is not every day life. It is very important, hell I feel I do a great deal of good, making the next generation of pharmaceuticals for clients. But come now who here needs to know how to deal with hundreds of litres of Hydrofluoric acid on a daily basis? No? Thought not J

 

But as I said, I have had those gut feelings. That someone is lying. Oh they are believable, credible, but my cut cries “liar”. I’ve been in parts of town is sizable urban areas, walking with my dog (at the time a sizable newfoundland/Boarder Collie cross) and decided to get out of where we were. Again another time, we were in a fairly rural dog park, and we both were “something is off”, we got out. There apparently was a bear just out of hibernation in the area. These are just a few mundane experiences, but it can be a spiritual “do not want” as well.

 

So for a warrior this is a skill that is invaluable. Despite my cerebral nature, I’ve cultivated that side, and listen to it.

 

So I mentioned UPG, and that I would talk to it. Here goes. Forgive the amateur linguistics…

 

Gnosis, it is a greek word. We get the term gnostic from this, but the words ignorant and agnostic  can be traced through this word as well, and slightly more indirectly Knowledge.

 

But what does it mean?

 

Gnosis  is a feminine Greek noun, which means personal (or spiritual) knowledge. There is a term for intellectual (learned) knowledge as well eidein (which the word idea may be traced from). So gnosis is a belief you have, eidein is something you can (hopefully) prove.

May pagans will throw around (like an insult for some reason) UPG: Unverifiable Personal Gnosis. Now there are shared gnoses,, there are possibly even verified ones (they are called confirmed gnoses, and they have been “confirmed” in lore. Now I also say “like and insult” which is a little unusual, as anything spiritual is a gnosis on some level. In all honesty I am wary of people who claim they are gnoses free, even atheists (they still cannot prove that there are no gods, and I say this as an ally to them). So saying “Oh that is UPG” is like saying to a scientist “oh that is just a rough draft of a paper” when it is unpublished 😉

 

So try going with your gut feeling, see what happens 🙂