Saturday, December 21, 2019

Longest Night and Returning Sun

As I've been meditating on what lesson this season brings, I find there are two ways this holiday teaches us about the world and about ourselves. Most of us polytheist folks use them in tandem, but when we do this, are we truly internalizing the fullness of the wisdom being offered?

The modern Solstice practice is based on a generalized retelling from the Norse/Germanic myth cycles. When the end of the world, Ragnarok, is upon us, it will begin with the Fibulwinter when the wolf eats the sun and she doesn't return on solstice morning. In the northernmost areas of Europe, the longest night was LONG--upwards of 16 hours, it seems. They would keep the fires lit in vigil throughout the night to ensure the sun could find her way back and stave off the beginning of the end for one more year. The darkness was feared and the sun was celebrated as a rebirth.

The first lesson in this tale is that of the longest night, the night when darkness is at her height. Comparative mythology tells us of Nyx, known to us commonly as the Hellenic Goddess of Night, but she is far more than that. Nyx appears as a shroud of dark mists that obscures the light of the heavens, Aither, who is notably her daughter. Aither is the daughter of Nyx and Erebos, the embodiment of Darkness. Their other daughter is Hemera, or Day. The shroud of the night coupled with complete darkness, in other words, gives rise to the light of the heavens and the day. The lesson of the Longest Night is to embrace the darkness like a lover. Get to know the inky blackness within. In the darkness, much like a babe in the womb, lies the creative power that brings new life and new light to be.

The lesson of the Returning Sun is first, a reminder not to wallow and despair in the darkness, but to look toward the first rays of illumination that shed light on that which would be created out of the chaos of night. Illumination, to continue the metaphor, does not exist without darkness to dispel. What in your life, then, can you find in the darkness to be reborn in the light? This is truly the gift of the Winter Solstice.

May you find inspiration in the darkest night that grows more each day to the fullness of the Summer Solstice.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Leadership Lesson Bonus Edition: The Art of Delegation

Leadership Expectation: Help Others to Grow

del-e-gate: “To entrust to another. To empower another person to act.”

Delegation is an art. When managed well, those who report to you, whether directly or indirectly, will be more productive and engaged. When handled poorly, they feel incompetent and lack motivation. Delegation is a means of investing in the development of someone else by showing trust and opening communication pathways for true teaching moments. 

There are common “Thinking Barriers” we all have that hold us back from delegating: 
“It is easier to do it myself.” 
“It takes too long to show someone else how to do it.” 
“I don’t trust them to do it right.” 
“People will think I can’t do it myself.”  

Here are some helpful tips to improve your effectiveness as a delegator:
  1. Have the right attitude about delegating. Do your best to ensure they do not feel as though your delegating to them is a burden to you.
  2. Consider the skills and interests of your people. Try to match tasks to the skills and interests of your people.
  3. Delegate the right things. Consider the advancement potential and personal career goals of your people and give them duties that will aid them in moving toward those goals.
  4. Be clear about what you want your employees to do. Make sure your instructions are clear and easy to understand.
  5. Set clear expectations. In addition to clear instructions, take the time to explain the purpose and intent of the task you’ve assigned to them, including due dates and audience.
  6. Give them the authority they need to get the job done. Ensure they are capable of what you’ve asked them to do, including IT permissions, etc.
  7. Be sure to keep an eye on things. After you delegate something, check in to see how things are going. This helps people feel supported and enables you to catch any problems as they arise.
  8. Always provide feedback. Frequent positive AND actionable feedback help others to grow.
  9. Provide guidance when necessary. Helpful tips, when given with good intentions and delivered with a thoughtful spirit, help people succeed and feel supported. 

Bonus Tip: Delegating the right tasks to the right people strengthens the whole team.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Prayer for Courage

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” ~Jack Canfield

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the paralyzer.
Fear holds us back.
Fear darkens our paths.

During this dark time, we light the single flame on our shrine,
Connecting us to all flames,
Reflecting the Fires in the heavens,
Uniting us as one.
We are not alone.

Kindreds, All, I call to you in the face of fear.
I call to Those Who’ve Gone Before to uphold me.
I call to Those Beside Me to stand with me.
I call to Those Above Me to shine upon me.
Kindreds, in solidarity, be with me now.

Aid me, my Gods, in finding within me
The power to lift up mine eyes to meet those of my fear
To weaken its hold on me.
Ancestors, guide me to take back my power
As I wave the banner of my fortitude
Held aloft by the pillar of my inner strength.
Let me be one with my purpose, strengthened in my resolve,
And moved to action despite the chains of my anxiety.
Kindreds, illuminate the way that I may take sure steps
Toward the future I desire.
So be it.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Characters of a Professional Helper

I was recently asked to comment on what some consider to be the seminal character traits of a professional helper: Congruence, Unconditional Positive Regard, Empathy, Humility, Patience, and Honesty. I have examined them through the lens of my service as a priest, but I share them here, because they are more a part of who I am than a product of my calling. I hope some of this resonates with you.

Congruence, Unconditional positive regard, and Empathy, or CUE, are what Carl Rogers refers to as the Core Conditions for listening. (Kollar, 2011, p. 142). His model is seminal to current works on how the pastor shows up in counseling space. Congruence is the way the body language matches the words the pastor speaks, unconditional positive regard is the ability to hold the client in high regard and with respect at all times, and empathy in a complete understanding of the client’s thoughts and feelings. These three core conditions must be met in the pastoral setting in order to build the trust necessary for the congregant to openly engage in the process. These core conditions speak to our personal character as well as our pastoral character.

Unconditional positive regard is a “thorough, caring acceptance of others” (Milne, 1999, p. 155). In a pastoral setting, the manner in which we receive what our congregants are telling us is as important, if not more so, because it is the unconditional positive regard that allows the pastor to refrain from judging the congregant and their issues. When the regard for others is based on conditions for acceptance, the pastor creates an environment in which they disagree with the feelings of the congregant and loses the ability to develop higher connection such as those experienced through empathy. Unconditional positivity ultimately leads the pastor to accept the congregant, just as they are, encouraging continued self-expression and earning trust. (Milne, 1999, p. 156). As Rev. Kevin Gardner (2009) puts it, unconditional positive regard means the pastor “respects the client unconditionally and genuinely cares about the client’s welfare and worth as a person” (p. 25).

Genuineness, or congruence, is the level to which the pastor’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors match what they say (Gardner, 2009, p.24). We speak far more when we are silent than we realize, but these nonverbal cues will not be lost on the congregant. Folks who are experiencing stress are often hyper-aware of their surroundings, which means they will pay close attention to our body postures and facial expressions as they are unfolding their tale. Congruence between our words and our nonverbal cues is proof to the congregant that they can trust us. If we speak words of affirmation yet fold our arms in front of ourselves, they will not believe our words to be true.

Empathy, or the ability to understand the situation, thoughts, and feelings of another as though they were our own, is the foundational principle of pastoral relationships (Gardner, 2009, p. 25). Empathy leads to both verbal and non-verbal cues that prove the congregant may place their trust in the pastor, fostering an environment where the congregant feels safe enough to share deeper, more intimate details that will aid the pastor in creating the space necessary for them to work through the root causes of their concerns. Empathy is the avenue through which the other characteristics are welcomed and recognized into the session.

Humility, patience, and honesty are the “big three” virtues we must strive to possess in all relationships, but especially in those where our folk have come to us to disclose personal information and seek assistance with difficult life choices. It is these virtues that will speak to our personal character.

Interestingly, humility is not listed in any of the resources for this course. In a pastoral setting, humility is best viewed through the lens of modesty and humbleness.  Modesty is the ability of the pastor to be unassuming in speech and behavior. A humble demeanor in which the pastor rests in a place of quiet reserve (without showing big emotion or strong reactions) invites the congregant to relax and share. After all, this is their meeting. The counselor who is arrogant and who knows all the answers will only serve to either push the congregant away or worse, to create a relationship in which the congregant is dependent upon the advice of the pastor.

Patience, as I like to tell my children, is waiting without getting mad. It is the ability of the pastor to hold space, even through cycles of repetition or silence, while the congregant parses out their situation and feelings. With the third-person perspective of someone outside of the situation, it is often easier for the pastor to see the road or decision that is most logical that may potentially lead to the best resolution. As situation-based counselors, we are not here to give people instructions on how to live their lives. We are here to create space, and wait in it with them, while they figure out what they want to do for themselves…without getting irritated.

My favorite definition of Honesty is “operating in the truth regardless of circumstances and political climate or consequences of the same” (Roberts, 2013, p. 13). To operate in the truth is to commit to speaking for the facts without harshness or criticism. In a time when our culture has grown so politically polarized, many of our decisions have been clouded by opinions and adherence to beliefs about right and wrong. Operating in the truth allows us to focus on the facts and help to open the perspective of the conversation to include them as more real than the beliefs and feelings of the congregant. The danger here is in framing or guiding the congregant to agree with us or to change their minds to what we think is best. Careful attention must be paid to focusing on the tangible parts of the situation when the time comes to approach a decision. Honesty, even in the face of someone else’s despair, must always be the policy.


Gardner, K. (2009). The pagan clergy’s guide for counseling, crisis intervention, and otherworldly transitions. New York, NY: Waning Moon Publications.

Kollar, C.A. (2011). Solution-focused pastoral counseling: An effective short-term approach for getting people back on track. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Milne, A. (1999). Teach yourself counseling. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC/Contemporary Publishing.

Roberts, Rabbi S.B. (2013). Professional spiritual & pastoral care: A practical clergy and chaplain’s handbook. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Choose Humanity, Choose Love

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” ~Jennifer Dukes Lee

As I sit before this flame,
Meditating on the world around me,
My heart grows heavy with sadness and loss.
So many lives left in shambles.
So many good people fighting another’s battle.
So many without their basic human needs met.
What happened to the freedom of life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness?
How can we achieve any of those when the odds are
stacked against us?

In a world where competition and control rule,
In a world where the one is more important than the many,
In a world where those without are shunned and ignored,
What can we do?
Right now, we can choose kindness. We can choose love.

Kindreds Three, soften our hearts.
Show us where our hands can do
the most for those around us.
Guide our mind’s eye to see where
our efforts will make a difference.
Shine your light on what we can do,
Each of us, in this moment,
To feed the good in our world,
To protect those in harm’s way, and
To be the change we want to see in this world.
Kindreds, All, help us to choose each other,
To choose community,
To choose humanity,
To choose love.
So say we all.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Leadership Lesson 6: Building Trust

Leadership Expectation: Be Accountable

Many of us have participated in some sort of “trust building” activity. We’ve done trust falls, ice breaker questions designed for us to show vulnerability, and even attended workshops and seminars on trust. There are countless lists of ways we can show up in a relationship to help build trust with our peers, coworkers, friends, congregants, and family members. I have found that most of them center on integrity and communication: accountability for our actions in speech and deed.

We extend trust to those we “deem worthy” as we observe their behaviors. Did they complete the task they were assigned/agreed to by the due date? Did they listen when concerns were raised about something they were working on? Did they answer questions with honesty to the best of their ability, including saying, “I don’t know” when they reached the limits of their knowledge? All of these are examples of opportunities to build or to tear down trust.

Here is a useful list of behaviors that aid in building trust with others:

  1. Recognize that building trust takes hard work. Trust is something we must earn, and earning trust is borne from an investment of time and effort. 
  2. Be honest and supportive. Especially when the answer is no, honesty is always the best policy. Learning to deliver bad news with a foundation of support, EVEN WHEN someone has made a mistake, builds trust quickly after the ego-moment fades. 
  3. Be quiet sometimes. Listening to truly understand is one of the best gifts we can give to someone confiding in us. Check back frequently to ensure you are understanding what the speaker wishes to convey by paraphrasing what you just heard them say.
  4. Be consistent. Show up the same until the same needs adjusted, and then show up better. Sounds easy, right? Now, show up the same with the person who made the mistake and the one who did not.
  5. Model the behavior you seek. “Nothing speaks more loudly about the culture of an organization than the leader’s behavior, which influences employee action and has the potential to drive results” (Grossman, 2019). Be the employee you want your employees to be, including the words you use to talk about those who are not present. Finish your tasks on time, give others the opportunity to speak, speak up with firm kindness when mistakes are made, and be a part of the solution. Only then will you see these behaviors in others.
  6. Build in accountability. Acknowledge your mistakes and work on correcting them yourself instead of leaving them for someone else to handle. 

As leaders, the shadow we cast is much larger than we think. It is what we do when we make a mistake that measures our success in building trust. It is easy to display integrity when everything is going well. What about when it is not? Addressing something that needs repaired is the most crucial moment in building trust.

Tip #3: Building trust is more about what you do with a mistake than what you do with perfection.

Grossman, D. (2019). Trust in the workplace: 6 steps to building trust with employees. The Grossman Group. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Musings on "Thoughts and Prayers"

“Magic” is simply the way humanity has always explained scientific phenomena we don’t yet understand, and what can be more magical than divine intervention (or retribution, depending upon whether we view the results as positive or negative)? This is an age-old question upon which the bulk of the pre-axial religions were formed. Early cosmotheological religions such as those practiced by the Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) were sacrifice-based systems operating in cyclical time. At the appointed times throughout the year, various sacrificial reenactments were performed in order to literally hold up the cosmos. Evidence of this still exists in the early Vedic works in the Rig Veda.

The scientific revolution has illustrated how much of what we previously held as evidence of divine intervention is fueled by naturally occurring and explainable phenomena. The more we have found the mechanisms to be reproduceable in our laboratories, the less we have allowed ourselves as a society to assume a divinity is involved. Once, a solar eclipse would send everyone scrambling to hide and find ways to appease whichever divinity was offended. Now, we all go outside and take photographs with special lenses on our lunch breaks at work.

In our modern sensibilities regarding religious beliefs, we have less evidence of divinity in the mundane in a tangible way. Prayers and offerings made on someone’s behalf can help soothe the wounded spirit, but they will not bring about direct change.  Instead, offering our prayers to those who are in need helps create a sense of hope and community in a time of helplessness and isolation. As a community, offering our prayers to others is a form of emotional support that creates the conditions for the disenfranchised to be empowered to take action. ADF’s role in larger-scale events such as fires, earthquakes, and floods, begins with statements of support and community. Formal intervention, in my opinion, must take the shape of humans finding the resources for those in need. Other churches pass the plate to take donations for their congregants in difficult situations and still call the collective pool of assistance divine aid. The spirit has moved the generosity of the congregation to come to the aid of one of their own. ADF must do the same, if we are to bask in the glow of community. Afterall, it is during trials and stressful times that our character as an organization will be shown to the outside world.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Autumnal Equinox and the Purposeful Pause

Recently at work, things have been wild, untamed. We've rearranged our care delivery model in all areas of the organization, we've reorganized our staff (including losing more than I'd like to count to early retirement and severance packages), and even faced the potential for a strike. We have been in GO mode for over a year, and I can tell you: We. Are. Tired.

I found myself meditating on the meaning and purpose of the Autumn Equinox preparing my key offerings. During this time of year, the Ancients held many of their annual meetings. Aligning this with the notion of three harvest, the third of which is at the end of October, I was left puzzled by the hosting of a large gathering in the middle of all that work. I mean, there was so much to do! How could they just stop? And then it hit me: sometimes, in order to finish strong, you have to stop and take a breath.  Sometimes, we need to pause for a moment in order to move on with deeper, renewed purpose.

Those of you who've heard me talk about leadership have likely heard me discuss this idea of the Purposeful Pause--a "purposeful" moment in which we stop, breathe, and find our centers amidst the stress and difficulties of our daily lives. During the hectic time of the second harvest, when everything is coming to fruition all at the same time and we're trying to get everything out of the fields before it turns and is no longer viable, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Burnout is real, and not just now. Burnout comes when anyone pushes themselves beyond when they need rest, whether mental, physical, or spiritual. It seems even the Ancients knew this great truth.

During this second harvest, may the blessings of plenty be with you, and may you find time to take a purposeful pause and reflect on the gifts around you. Sit a moment. Drink some water. Wash your face. Find your center. And get back to it from a place of strength.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Words for the Hunter's Moon

On this night, we honor the Hunter’s Moon, the sage that guides us to prepare and mark sacred that which we hunt. Though not a hunter myself, I have a healthy appreciation for the work and dedication it takes to engage in hunting. I am from a hunting place (adjacent to a hunting place anyway), and I understand the gravity of the taking of another being’s life for sustenance. But, what lesson does this hold for the non-hunter? How can we gather the magic of this moon and make it relevant to our lives?

The art of hunting is not specific to obtaining food, though there is sometimes a surrendering of life as we’ve known it. Hunting differs from searching in the sacrality and purposefulness of the journey. When we seek, we question, we solve a puzzle, we comparison shop. When we hunt, we deeply invest in that which is our prey. Searching is completed when we have obtained something, whether that be knowledge, a price we are willing to pay, or our keys. The act of hunting meets most of our need in and of itself. The need to hunt suggests there is a hunger, a strong desire for something. It suggests all our paths up to this moment have led us to where we are. Hunting begins when we feel the first pang of unrest. This unrest continues to grow until the determination to find what we seek jars us out of complacency and into preparatory action. It is in this moment that the hunt truly begins.

On this Full Moon night, we call out to you,
Sacred and Shining Moon,
Bright face of the starry night sky
Illuminating our paths through the unknown, and
Guiding us on our journeys.
Meet us in this place, Sacred Moon,
Show us the path to what we seek
And let the hunt begin.
Sacred Moon, we honor you!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Destruction of Hidden Anger

For the past several weeks, I've been working through the Daily Om class on Overcoming Self-Sabotage. This week, I completed Lesson 9: The Destruction of Hidden Rage....or I would like to say I have. Several of these short lessons (a reading and a meditation of approx. 9 minutes) have resonated with me and aided me in quieting some of my emotional cycles surrounding self-esteem and self-compassion, two things I often lack. I even confronted myself as a child and found the root of some pretty toxic thought patterns. But today, the author asked me to confront my rage. So far, I have cleaned the dining room, made breakfast, helped William in the kitchen, organized the assortment of chips from Costco, and cleaned my desk. While these are all noble tasks, they are clear evidence of my desire to avoid admitting it: I have suppressed my anger.

The author alludes to our Shadow Self, which contains all the painful feelings and suppressed parts of ourselves, and how this Shadow arises in sudden and damaging ways when unmanaged, "like a beach ball we've been trying to keep submerged underwater where no one will see it." We get tired trying to hold it under, and eventually, it pops up out of the water and smacks us in the face. Yeah, I feel that.

She discusses how easy it is to justify the behaviors we use to mask or to escape from our anger by comparing ourselves to others and noting that "at least we aren't as bad as them!" (ouch) We eat, we drink, we shop, binge-watch, we zone out, we deny, we blame. (more ouch) Is our rage really worth the cost we pay to keep it hidden? Does the behavior we exhibit trying to suppress our rage really preserve our relationships? Are we doing as much "good" as we think by burying these emotions? (even more ouch)

The discussion on fear earlier was easier to engage, because fear is an easier emotion for others to accept in us. When we admit we are afraid, others appreciate the moment of vulnerability, offer us encouragement and kindness, and congratulate us when we have faced our fear and accomplished our goal. When we admit we are angry, we are often met with judgment, tone-policing, defensiveness, and even combativeness. Fear brings us together. Anger further isolates us and tears us apart.

My task is to create a list of the people I am mad at. Then, I must write them each a letter to tell them why and burn them all to set my anger free. This actually sounds like a GREAT idea. It will help me to be a more patient, loving, and calm person, free from the chains that weigh me down.  So, I admit I have suppressed my anger. I admit that I practice harmful avoidance techniques. I admit that I have important work to do, and I write these words as my first step in this healing process. I will unearth and let go of my hidden rage.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Lego Minion's First Day of High School

For the past several days, I've been watching the back-to-school photos roll through my Facebook timeline. Many of my friends have children registering for kindergarten, a couple new middle-schoolers, and, like my youngest son, new high school freshman.

I took him to school for orientation myself this morning. He's at the age where I don't even put the van in park, just stopping long enough for him to gather his things and be on his way. It wasn't that long ago that I had to walk him into the building an hand him off directly to an adult. It seems like only yesterday that I worried about him running away while no one was looking, and here we are, getting dropped off at the curb.

He really has grown into capabilities far beyond what they projected for him when he was first diagnosed with autism. They told me he may not speak at all, nothing beyond movie quotes or sound bites from his favorite TV shows. They told me he may always be behind his peers academically, being so far behind socially that he was rendered incapable of catching up. They told me he would live with me forever (which may still be true, though it seems less likely), because he would never be able to function as an adult. They were so, so wrong.

Not only has he continued to exceed the limitations they put on him, he has THRIVED well beyond them in ways never expected. For example, his knack for visualizing things in space has led him to take electives in 3-D drawing and video production. So much for the idea he would never be able to hold a "real" job!

Still, the one area where it shows how much he still has to do, how much room he still has to grow, lies in his social relationships with others--typical for folks on the spectrum. Today, after he got out of the van, he walked toward a group of four students waiting outside. No one else was there yet. Just the five of them. The other four were all comparing their schedules to see if they shared any classes. Timmy walked toward them then veered left, walking around them in a circle. After a hesitation, he walked over to the edge of their circle and waited. I drove away hoping they would be kind to him, my weird kid who wants nothing more than to belong.

As the school fell out of view, I realized I think I can relate to how he may be feeling. I remember being a weird kid trying to fit into groups of my peers, to be included, to be part of the team, even friends. I remember what it felt like to walk up to people I didn't know or didn't know well with that hopeful grin hiding my fear of rejection. I remember how it hurt when I didn't make the right move, say the right thing, or know the inside jokes they shared, when I didn't understand why they were laughing. Timmy must be feeling something similar, though I am sure I will never understand the scale of it.

Timmy is special. Not in the way the education system labels him, but in the way he inspires those who take the time to get to know him. Timmy is one of those shining lights that leaves you more confident and sure things will be alright after you've spent time with him. His perspective is full of optimism, he expresses joy often in everything he does, and above all, he tells you the truth about how he feels when you know how to ask him. He softens the world by being a part of it.

Good luck, Timmy. May you be blessed with friendship, joy, honest laughter, and much, much success.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Anamnesis: The Art of Remembering

This weekend, I had the privilege of presenting at the fourth Mountain Ancestors Symposium. My session was a deep dive into the parts of a Rite of Passage and how we as the community can do a better job of interacting with them when our members experience life-changing events, planned and unplanned. Overall, it went very well, and I am so proud of our grove for the work we have done to offer such an event to the community!

While researching my topic, I happened upon this little gem: Plato's concept of "Anamnesis." Though modernity uses this term to refer to remembering the passion of the Christ, the roots of this term lie in Platonic Philosophy and loosely translates to "unforgetting." (Originally coined by Socrates, Plato further developed the concept in his Meno and Phaedo dialogues, if you'd like to review the source material.)

The truths of the universe are constant. The universe IS, and as a thing that IS, there is nothing about itself that is unknown to itself, though there is plenty unknown, or forgotten, by us in the course of our being born and living a human life. We may remember these Universal Truths, the Bones of what the Universe IS. Often, we have an "Aha!" moment of deep knowing that causes a myriad of other knowledge to fall into place around it.

We each have within us a core part of who we are, the "bones" of our being. No matter what happens to us or what changes we undergo, this part of who we are will always be there. The Threshold Moment in a Rite of Passage is a moment in our lives where the bones of who we are are exposed to the bones of the universe. From here, the process of anamnesis overcomes our spirits, and we truly become one with everything--all that was, all that is, and all that will be.

When we return from these journeys, like a Hero returning from an epic adventure, it is our duty to jog the memories of those around us that they, too, can unforget the truths of the universe, one story at a time.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Leadership Lesson 5: Stop, Challenge, Choose

Leadership Expectation: Show Up Positive

Difficult, high-stress situations arise often in our fast-paced, changing world. As leaders, expectations for emotional control are also high and can lead to the suppression of our own feelings, increasing our anxiety and level of burnout. As stress levels rise and the pressure for quick decisions grows, the Stop, Challenge, Choose method can aid us in keeping our emotions under control, achieving better outcomes, and having more mature interactions with our teams and coworkers.

Stop, Challenge, Choose is a method for engaging in more strategic thinking using rational thought. Strategic thinking is a decision-making tool that relies on objectivity as a means to seeing a situation from a more creative perspective. Rational thought, or the ability to consider relevant variables and arrive at a sound conclusion, diversifies our interpretations of events (because we stop relying on what we’ve always done before) and guides us to make better choices. Objectively understanding our surroundings helps us find the best way to solve a problem.

When presented with a difficult situation:

  • Stop. Before we respond to an event, situation, or question, it is useful to pause and reflect for a moment—especially when we are stressed or irritated (or afraid, or angry). Take a deep breath and find your center, the place at your core where you are most at peace with yourself. 
  • Challenge. Our immediate thoughts are not always the best ones, particularly when a situation triggers a memory that had a negative outcome in the past. Take note of your immediate response, weigh the validity of your emotions, and reexamine the facts in a more objective way. In other words: we must not let how we feel about a situation (or a person!) guide our decision-making.
  • Choose. Select the best response based on your objective interpretation of the facts. Choosing logic over emotion is usually the best course of action in both professional and personal settings—especially when tensions are high! 

Through this work we can add depth to our relationships and leverage our learning for more positive, successful outcomes.

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you are going to die tomorrow.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Tip #5: Stop before you react. Challenge immediate negative assumptions. Choose the best response. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Amor Fati: Love Thy Fate

Friedrich Nietzsche said, "My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it--all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity."

When I first heard this, it didn't make a lot of sense beyond the superficial. Rev. William, currently studying Stoicism, has a challenge coin with Amor Fati inscribed on it that he carries in his pocket from time to time. The notion of accepting my "fate," fate being "whatever life happens to throw at you," is a concept with which I am familiar. But, I think Nietzsche is saying much more than that.

Human greatness is the ability to not only accept our fate but to live beyond the longing for things to be different, no matter how much hindsight we may gain. Any change in our past will ultimately change where we are currently, and desiring a future other than what is in front of us will lead us to miss where we are headed. It is the ability to completely embrace the now of our lives, complete with the mistakes of our past actions and the potential consequences (or new mistakes!) ahead of us.

Idealism is not a basis for a life path. There are no ideal journeys. "Ideal" is only the beginning, the outline, of our planning. The rest is made up of finding ways to mitigate the risk of the more likely and less ideal circumstances we WILL encounter. For us to truly attain greatness, we must not only endure what is necessary, we must THRIVE in the face of it. Necessity drives us to kindle the Needfire that is only called upon to answer the greatest of our questions. It is in the face of necessity that we put the bow drill to work to create the spark of inspiration that we may build a blazing fire of becoming in the face of adversity.

Amor Fati. Desire nothing to be different in your past. Desire nothing to be other than it is right now. Desire nothing to be different moving forward. The world around us will continue to evolve, to ebb and to flow, carrying us with it through the vicissitudes of life. Focus on what is necessary and the rest will tend to itself.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Leadership Lesson 4: Turn Complaints into Ideas

Associated Leadership Expectation: Show Up Positive

Complaining is a behavior pattern that works against creating a cohesive team mentality. It divides our departments into “us and them” groups and dissolves trust. When someone comes to us as leaders with a complaint, there are two basic reactions: we either get sucked in or we take it personally. Instead, we need to turn those complaints into ideas.

Getting Sucked in: The “Misery Loves Company” attempt at connection

Sometimes, those we lead make Very Good Points™, and it is very difficult not to commiserate with them. It validates us when someone else has the same concerns we do and can help us feel less alone—a common issue among members of leadership. This is a dangerous practice that can lead to issues such as an oversharing across professional boundaries, the appearance of having a “favorite,” and worst of all, the undermining of the trust-respect relationship. As members of leadership, WE are the face of the inner workings of the organization. When we express our negativity, it is amplified in those further down the hierarchy.

Making it Personal: Defending, Diffusing, and Dismissing

Other times, we may take a complaint personally, causing us to feel defensive. To minimize the impact of the complaint, we may be dismissive and blow off their concerns. We may even complain about them to others for complaining, which does nothing short of increasing the us v. them mentality. It also breaks down trust. They may think, “If they talk about someone else like this when they aren’t around, what do they say about me?” We have more power than we think when it comes to culture, and though we cannot control what happens to us or in the greater organization, we can control how we react.

Instead: Turn Complaints into Ideas

These three easy steps can help turn those complaints into ideas:

  1. Acknowledge the complaint. *This doesn’t mean to agree with them! Recognize their concern and thank them for bringing this to your attention.
  2. Seek to Understand their complaint and Ask Them for a solution. Reframe their complaint in your own words to check for understanding. Ask them, “If this was in your power to fix, how would you handle this?” Then, empower and engage them as part of the solution.
  3. Publish Their Ideas and Share Them with others for feedback. Being loyal to the absent includes giving credit to others for their ideas. When they know they will be cited for their ideas, they are more likely to share them. 

What About Venting?

There are also times when someone is just mad about a situation and needs to get it out. It may be useful to begin a conversation with a question: “Do you want me to listen, or do you want me to do something?” People need safe spaces to vent their frustrations and providing this for them may deescalate a brewing situation.

Tip #4: Turn complaints into ideas by asking for solutions.

Durmaz, L. (2013). How to turn employee complaints into ideas.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

ADF Elections and The Wild Hunt article

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Sean McShee from The Wild Hunt in regards to the results of the recent ADF election. The article is a compilation of two interviews, one with me and one with the reelected Archdruid. The questions Sean asked me were centered on my perspective of women in ADF, specifically in leadership. We have been facing the same issues since I joined ADF ten years ago, and through the efforts of some of the most beautiful women I know, we have made a tremendous amount of progress, even gaining some important allies along the way.

I am proud of the work we have done toward gender equality in ADF, AND we have more work to do. Both of those things can exist at the same time. We can be moving in the right direction, we can hold a list of examples where we are getting it right, and we can still have more work to do. Our work isn't done. The work of the women in ADF is paving the way for all the other wonderful expressions of gender, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of this important work.

For transparency, here is the transcript of the interview I did with Sean. I stand by these words, and I am happy to discuss any of these points. Dialogue is the most effective instrument of change.

WH_ADFElect20190430 questions Ashton

Can you tell the readers of the Wild Hunt who are not ADF members a little about yourself?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Archdruid and The Clergy Curl

The ADF Clergy Training Program is comprised of three "circles" of study. After the completion of each circle, our Priests undergo a rite of passage that involves offering a lock of hair to the fire as a symbol of our deep connection and dedication to our clergy oath: to love the land, honor the gods, and serve the folk. Typically, we choose a small lock of hair behind an ear at the back of the hair line where it won't be noticeable as it grows out.

The first time I did this was during my initial Ordination in 2012. I braided a small lock so it would be easier to manage this part of the ceremony. As it grew back in, I began referring to it as my "clergy curl," because that short section of hair--which also turned out to be bigger than I intended!--curled up like a spring. I wouldn't exactly call my hair "curly." With hair half-way down my back, the weight of my hair pulls the curl out, typically. The clergy curl was fun and charming and served as a reminder of my oath. I found it comforting when things were hard in that first year, because the connection it represented is one we must tap into and allow to flow through us. The reminder was a source of strength and renewed purpose.

In preparation for my Consecration in 2018, I was looking forward to having that purposeful curl again. Each rite of passage leaves you with a new perspective on your work, and having this tangible and visible symbol of this work once again served me well. In Colorado, my hair tends to be more curly than it was in Ohio, so it wasn't as obvious to others. It was my own private reminder that I serve something far greater than myself. 

This year, I ran for Archdruid of ADF. The Archdruid is essentially our highest officer akin to a CEO. They also serve as the liaison between the folk and the board and as the chief officer of the Clergy Council. I completed my Masters Degree in Nonprofit Management specifically to serve ADF in an administrative role, so when I was nominated, it felt like my life path was on track. I had never considered running for Archdruid, honestly, but as soon as I was nominated, my sense of purpose buzzed with anticipation of doing the work I committed my life and thousands of dollars to do.

After I lost, I was dazed at first. During the election, I had so many great conversations, including a few meaningful discussions with previous ADF members who wanted to rejoin if I won. As the election was drawing to a close, I thought I might actually win, and I began planning to start doing the work I promised the folk I would do in my platform. I don't know if there were just too many of my supporters who weren't ADF members (and therefore couldn't vote) or if I had a skewed perspective of how I was doing based on the strong statements of support I was receiving, but I was a little surprised that I lost. Then, I was a lot more surprised. Then, I spiraled. The self-doubt and feelings of rejection came crushing down, and I felt lost. What the hell am I doing? Why did I think I would win?

A week after the election results were finalized, we held our Rites of the Dawn here at Mountain Ancestors Grove. This is a service I put together for a Summerland Unity Festival in 2009 and holding annually on Easter at dawn every year since then. I told myself this would be the last one, expecting no one to show up or even care that we were doing this. 

At 6:45am MDT, I had eleven people at my house. They brought several plates of food they had baked and prepared for the breakfast potluck to follow. They offered me greetings full of love and joy as they arrived, and even helped get more benches set up outside to accommodate them. I was the ritual leader for this service, as usual, and after the first few sentences left my lips, the familiar current of connection streamed through me. When I was preparing to do the final offering, I knelt before the fire pit. Just then, a pop in the fire sent a spark right onto my neck and shoulder. Rev. William noted my hair was on fire, and tapped it out for me. I had a bit of hair on my shawl that was no longer attached to my heard, so I offered it to the fire. 

After the rite, I went to assess the damage, put burn ointment on the one spot on my neck that was red, and see what I would need to do with my hair. Surprisingly little was out of place. The spark from the fire landed on a strand of hair behind my ear at the base of my hairline, leaving behind a curl of about two inches in length: the fire gave me a new clergy curl. 

I am a Priest of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, Inc. and Mountain Ancestors Grove. I am a member of the board for Fort Collins Pagan Pride. I hold a Masters Degree that has already helped many groups in the polytheist community to improve or legitimize their work. I am a voice for our faith, a servant of the people, and a beloved child of the Earth Mother and the Deities, who are many. Who I am and What I do are valuable. And if I doubt that, I have a curl to remind me. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Book Review: Ascendant: Modern Essays on Polytheism and Theology

Ascendant: Modern Essays on Polytheism and Theology
Edited by Michael Hardy
With Contributions by Edward P. Butler, Patrick Dunn, John Michael Greer, Brandon Hensley, Wayne Keysor, and Gwendolyn Reece

In my clergy training, I have recently been studying the notion of pagan theology, or Polytheology, as Michael Hardy prefers to call it. My readings have taken me from pre-axial paganism to post-axial philosophy, to monotheism, and beyond. I must say, this is one of the better resources I have happened upon in my meandering research.

This work unpacks a lot of the ideas that have been running around in my head since I first began questioning the idea that the cosmos was ruled by one all-knowing, all-seeing creator God. When I came to the understanding that deity, the divine, was not a singularity, my mind filled with questions like: how did our world and subsequently humanity come to be here? why does the world work the way it does (especially after that second college physics course!)? where do we go when we leave his world? --This book answered none of those questions. And yet, I found it to be comforting in the similarity of the authors' wondering.

A few of my favorite ponderings:

In his essay, "Approaching Theology Through the Divine Individual," author Brandon Hensley discusses the notions of hard and soft polytheism, a few generally accepted beliefs (yes, beliefs) held by polytheists, and the manner of our relationships to the divine entities. He states, "By not treating our own gods as more than just a sum of our personal experiences with them, we rid ourselves of the responsibility in treating other gods in their own context" (Hardy, 2019, p. 29). His overarching point is that it is impossible to know the gods out of context not only of their myths but also of their peers. Meeting our deities in a vacuum and diminishing them to our limited experience of them serves only to keep them small and us from growing. How can we truly understand anyone without understanding the context of them in other relationships and scenarios? I find this a valid point worth pondering in my own life.

John Michael Greer, as usual, blew my mind in his work on Neoplatonism in its original context prior to the Christian overtones, and I am seriously contemplating a deeper dive into this work.

Patrick Dunn writes that "every god's blessing can turn to a curse if we turn it that way through our hubris" (Hardy, 2019, p. 85). His notion that, in an orthopraxic religious path, we make offerings to turn ourselves toward the gods and avoid evil because it turns us away from the gods provides an excellent reference for a virtue-based practice. When we behave poorly, do we not turn away from any light that would shine upon our misdeeds? Our own actions ARE truly the center of our practice.

The highlight of the book, however, is the series of essays by Wayne Keysor, a fellow ADF-member with a masters degree in philosophy and religious studies, in which he systematically calls out the habits of we neopagans whose practices center primarily on our relationships to specific deities, our occasional inability to retain our own power in those relationships, and the ultimate quest we are already on: to continually seek the mystery in the divine. I came to some conclusions, but more importantly, I found some better questions through reading this work. I won't spoil it for you.

I highly recommend this book, whether you have dabbled in the exploration of a pagan theology or not. The introspection and contemplation of the way the world works is well worth the read!

Hardy, M. Ed. (2019). Ascendant: Modern essays on polytheism and theology. Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Leadership Lesson 3: Listening to Understand

Associated Leadership Expectation: Communicate Effectively

Managers are often chosen, particularly as we move up the ladder, for attributes that include things like “strong opinions, decisive action, and take-no-prisoners attitudes” (Stibitz, 2015). All of these are great traits to have as we lead our teams, particularly through times of change, but these are some of the same traits that make us poorer listeners.

There is a lag between our hearing words and our understanding their meaning, the length of which varies from person to person. It is during this time that we lose concentration and our understanding suffers. We can get lost in our own thoughts, preparing to respond rather than paying attention. We make assumptions and try to guess what they are getting at, causing us to Make Stuff Up (TM) and problem-solve before they have even finished speaking!

Here are a few tips to help us be more attentive and effective communicators:
  1. Put down your technology and make eye contact. It is too easy to become distracted by our phones and computers. When we are given an opportunity to engage face-to-face, we must discipline ourselves to take advantage of that time.
  2. Rephrase and check for your understanding. A common practice to help us ensure we are understanding is to simply ask. When a natural pause arises, we can say something like, “What I hear you saying is…” and then provide them with a short synopsis of our understanding. This way, they can feel confident that they have been heard.
  3. Look for nonverbal cues. Especially when a topic is difficult, or the individual is separated from you by several layers of rank, it is important to try to understand what they are not saying. Does the person have their arms crossed in front of them? Are they sitting on the edge of the seat? Do they keep looking at the door? All of these can help us understand their position more fully.
  4. Know yourself. When someone relates a story, our brains search our memory archives for any relevant or similar experiences in our own lives. Depending on the topic and our emotional connection to it, we may become so engrossed in remembering the details of our story that we stop listening altogether—and even interrupt them. Often, we engage in this behavior, because we think it helps to give them an example. Instead, we only serve to set up a dynamic where we are in charge of the narrative, even though this was not supposed to be about us.
Sometimes, we fail and miss the opportunity to make a real connection with someone, but we must reengage and try again to move toward more effective and authentic communication.

Tip #3: What does it look like to listen to someone without telling your story?

Stibitz, S. (2015). How to really listen to your employees. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Presenting at Pagan Fire Seminar: An Excerpt on Music and the Brain

I had the privilege of presenting two sessions at this year's Pagan Fire Seminar with Three Cranes Grove, ADF, in Columbus, Ohio. What a beautiful event! Good food, good topics, engaged attendees, what more could a presenter want? To give you an idea of the content from these presentations, I present you with the following excerpt:

The Brain’s Interpretation of Sound:
Physical, Chemical, and Psychological Elements of Listening and Participating in Music

The brain has fascinated scientists and researchers for hundreds of years of documented time relevant to our discussion. In 2019, we have a tremendous volume of research to help us understand why our brains and bodies respond the way they do to the world around us. I am oversimplifying and including only the relevant sections of this complicated body of research to help us understand those pieces that are most useful for our purposes.

Our work today will focus on the pathways for processing sound as it moves through the brain. I will include additional diagrams for your reference as we progress through this work, and you  may flip between them to promote understanding at your leisure.

How the Brain Hears a Sound

In order to hear a sound, sound waves must enter our ear and be translated from WAVE energy into an ELECTRONIC impulse in order for our brain to be able to interpret the sound.

The breakdown of sound processing in the ear:

  • Sound waves in the air enter the ear canal.
  • When they hit the ear drum, it vibrates according to the waves hitting it.
  • The tiny bones in the inner ear move in time with the ear drum like little levers.
  • The inner ear bones transfer the wave energy to the fluid inside the cochlea, which causes the hairs inside to move. 
  • The motion of these hairs is picked up by the auditory nerve, which translates the information electronically to the brain.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Leadership Lesson 2: The Bad Habit of Making Stuff Up

Associated Leadership Expectation: Act with Honesty and Integrity

We begin charting our mental maps at a very young age. Our experiences lay down the roads and byways that provide future avenues from an event to an explanation based on the past. This is a normal part of the developing mind. Our mental maps provide direction when we have new experiences by reminding us of similar situations from our past. They lead us to make assumptions to help us react and problem-solve in the here-and-now. When pieces of information are missing, our mental maps Make Stuff Up to fill in the blanks.

The problem is not that we Make Stuff Up. Inferences are part of our learning and help us to make logical sense of our world. The problem is that we treat our assumptions as fact without checking to see if they are accurate. Sometimes, we need to piece together information and attempt a narrative explanation without the benefit of the source. One of the best ways to preserve integrity in our communication is to preface the parts where we are Make Stuff Up with a phrase such as, “I make up that____.” Then, we can follow up on our conjectures for verification from the appropriate sources.

Acting with honesty and integrity is especially noticeable in our communication. Factual communication is key to helping us be loyal to the absent. Too often, when we Make Stuff Up, we are making assumptions about someone else’s intentions, about why they performed an action or made a decision. Providing candid feedback and opinions is an integral part of this leadership expectation—and that includes admitting when we don’t know.

Above all else, acting with honesty and integrity is the primary way we can build trust with our direct reports, peers, congregants, and coworkers/co-volunteers. As Steven Covey (1989) puts it, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” When we choose to Make Stuff Up and state it as fact, we risk destroying the trust we have worked so hard to build.

Tip #2: When you’re not sure of the facts, whether yours or someone else’s, don’t be afraid to question them. “Is that factual, or is that an assumption?”

Covey, S. (1989). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Making a Study of Virtue

In the first-level training of ADF, the Dedicant Path, we are asked to explore a set of nine virtues and explain them in our own words, including why these virtues may be useful in our lives. I finished my dedicant work a decade ago, and in the subsequent years, I have had many opportunities to revisit these virtues as I've begun teaching dedicant classes and serving as a mentor. It never ceases to amaze me how much more there is to learn or how relevant these lessons are to my current life. Every. Time. 

I am finishing up a revision of my Brain, Music, Ritual, and Magic workshop for Pagan Fires with Three Cranes Grove with divided attention as I find myself drawn to study and write about virtue and virtue ethics. As an orthopraxic polytheist, I truly believe the way we move through the world is one of the most important areas for self-reflection. In studying virtue, we open ourselves to examine our lives, the nuts and bolts of our decision-making, the way we logically make choices, and our methods of self-control. I am a dedicated fan of self-discovery and personality theories, as many of you know. I know my love language breakdown, my MBTI including my shadow type, and my Enneagram. All of these are tools for self-discovery, flawed in their own way, but still useful. Virtue, on the other hand, is a truly personalized, applicable vehicle for learning who we truly are and where our opportunities for improvement lie--as well as how to go about stepping into them!

In this most recent iteration of the virtues classes with Mountain Ancestors, I received a rush of inspiration regarding what my additional nine virtues are and how this practice echoes in other areas of polytheism, such as Hellenism and Asatru/Heathenry. Finally, I will be tying these all together with a short examination on virtue ethics. I am very excited about this work and how it frames how we show up as pagans in interfaith and ecumenical settings. 

For now, I focus on the magic of ritual and music and how those enrich our practices. I feel truly blessed with my current study topics. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Leadership Lesson 1: The Value of Inquiry

Associated Leadership Expectation: Communicate Effectively

In his work, Humble Inquiry, Edgar Schein discusses the three types of humility and how they apply to our ability to lead:

Basic Humility 
Basic Humility is the way we subconsciously defer to others based on our unspoken social rank in any group of people. When we outrank those around us socially, we have expectations for the way they treat us. These expectations arise from the modeling we received as impressionable young people. An example is the automatic deference we offer to “the popular kids” or “the attractive kids” or even “the wealthier kids.” This behavior becomes more complex as we mature.

Optional Humility
Optional Humility is the way we decide whether or not to defer to those around us and is based on achieved status, such as job role or educational degree. As we move through the world, we make choices concerning to whom we will express humility and from whom we expect deference. An example would be a new supervisor providing space to be mentored by one with more tenure.

Here-and-Now Humility
This type of humility is a conscious choice to express humility, often in the form of a question, based on what the author describes as a temporary dependence. For example, a director is often three levels of staffing ranks removed from the front line staff; therefore, they become dependent on the front line staff members to provide them with the answers to their questions about the way their jobs fit into the greater department. In our religious world, the highest ranking spiritual leaders, particularly of those organizations that have multiple local congregations, must rely on information from the local congregants to fully understand how any proposed changes will affect the organization overall.

Despite the unfortunate choice in terms, the notion that we as leaders require the feedback from the front line managers, supervisors, and staff is an important one. Without their knowledge, we cannot hope to lead in a manner that inspires them to follow us. The best way to find answers is to ask questions: the right questions, to the right people, at the right time, in the right way. Next time we need information from our staff, want to figure out how something works, or find inspiration for managing change in our areas, the success we experience may be more directly related to HOW we ask for the information we need than we realize.

Tip #1: The way we ask for information determines the quality of the information we receive. 

Schein, E.H. (2013). Humble inquiry: The gentle art of asking instead of telling. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Leadership Expectations

The Lab Executive Leadership Team has been exploring our expectations as leaders to help us and our teams to be successful. We brainstormed a list of traits, and since then, I have been providing a monthly on-page leadership lesson at our meetings. Each volume includes a catchy title for the lesson, the relevant expectation, and an associated leadership "tip" to apply to daily life. So far, my outline includes ten lessons, and I am looking forward to seeing how this work helps us to evolve as leaders and improves the dynamic between management and our teams. These short lessons are applicable to far more than just the business world, and so, dear reader, I have decided to share them with you. I hope you will find them as useful to you as they have been to me in creating them.

Leadership Expectations:
Act with Honesty and Integrity
Be Accountable
Promote Team Mentality
Lead with Courage
Show up Positive
Communicate Effectively
Be a Visionary
Support Professional Development

Any comments, questions, or suggestions are most welcome! 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

What is the Lore of Your Heart?

This prompt comes to me from the book I just finished, A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. The story takes place in Afghanistan and is told through the eyes of two amazing women. I listened to the audio version of this book, and hearing the pronunciation of the Afghan words really made this book far more impactful. Toward the end of the book, the author waxes poetically, and one phrase has stuck with me: the lore of your heart.

As a polytheist without a dogmatic tome to reference in times of strife and turmoil, the idea of the internalized lore is one with which I am familiar. Until now, I have been focusing on the thought and memory parts of the lore, how the academic knowledge can provide wisdom and guidance when my life path comes upon an obstacle. But what does it mean to have this lore, this internal moral compass and series of examples, in my heart instead?

Folx who read the runes will understand this concept, at least peripherally. When Odin took up the runes, it was not academic. He took them up screaming as they became a part of him in an initiatory rite of passage. After this point, he was never absent from their influence, and because of this, the rune lore has become infused with the tales of Odin directly.

In the Hellenic world, we see similar instances of mundane objects that are forever changed after being touched by their Lore. Consider the examples of the sacredness of fire, the importance of smoke, and the requirements for purification. All of these are concepts borne from the lore.

From a modern polytheistic perspective, I have been asking myself this question: What IS the lore of my heart? As an ADF scholar, I have studied a variety of Indo-European lore. I have studied the stories of other modern polytheists from Wiccan and ecelctic paths, contemporary mythology from peers and elders, and experiences of others and of my own that most would call UPG. All of this comes together into one body of lore, my lore, the lore that guides and aids me as I move through the world.

I have a tendency toward virtue that I have gleaned from the ancient world, taking examples of what to do and what not to do from the stories handed down to me. I have tendency toward service work as a basic practice in respecting humanity from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I have learned how to show up differently by learning from mistakes I've made on my own journey. All of these are what lie in my heart.

When you consider the lore that lies in your heart, you may ask yourself: what stories have impacted you enough to change your mind? What tales have changed your actions? What have you experienced that has moved you to speak or to do or to be different moving forward? These are the questions that will help you, as they have helped me, to uncover the lore of your heart. My challenge to you is to put those tales into stories in your journal and see how they manifest even further in the world.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Resolution of Sorts for 2019

Greetings, Dear Readers.

I don't typically write straight blog posts, preferring to share completed works with you such as the nine-day Brighid Novena I just shared. I tend to ramble, and out of respect for your time, I want to ensure that when you check-in with an update here that it is worth your while.

I write to you now for the sake of accountability. I have spent the last couple years going in and out of depression, and the thing that has suffered the most is my creativity. I just stopped writing. The Twelve Stages of the Heroes Journey was hard, but it was enough to remind me why I write in the first place.

I write because it helps me feel connected.
I write because it brings me healing.
I write because it leads to creativity in other areas of my life.
Mostly, I write because it is a part of who I am.

In 2019, I have set a goal for myself to write and post something here at least once a month. I would like to post once per week, but I know that may not be realistic with the other elements of my life moving into full swing as the planning meetings start having action items. I can certainly find one thing per month that is worth sharing.

I have been keeping a journal, working through The Woman's Book of Soul by Sue Patton Thoele. This book was a gift from Sassy Viking Mama in 2011, and I am grateful that I have it here now to aid me in breaking my writing silence. Thank you, Ris.

Upcoming topics include more music and the brain as I prepare to present at the 2019 Pagan Fire Seminar with Three Cranes Grove and a deep-dive into some of my musings on virtues which I may be presenting at the Mountain Ancestors Grove Symposium this year.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to seeing what comes in this year of writing.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Prayer to Brighid of Initiation and Prophecy

Holy Water, Sacred Flame,
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here.
Goddess of augury and initiation.
You whose seeing tube sees all, through time and space.
You whose poetic voice induces the trance change.
You whose fires fuel our awakening.
Brighid of Initiation and Prophecy, we honor you.
Turn our ignorance into intelligence
That we may teach those who wish to learn.
Turn our weakness into strength
That we may help others find courage.
Turn the paths behind us into stone
That we may lead others to the Flame.
Lady Brighid, we honor you.
Lady Brighid, grant us access to vision’s truth,
Open our mind’s eyes that we may see what is yet to come.
Bear us across the Threshold of the Inner Cosmos
That we may grow in heart and mind,
That we may prosper in spirit,  and
That we may walk with wisdom along the paths of the Elder Ways.
Brighid of Initiation and Prophecy, we honor you.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Prayer to Brighid of the Hearth Fire

Holy Water, Sacred Flame,
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here.
Keeper of the Flame, Enlightening One,
Goddess of  the Hearth Fire!
You whose presence turns house into home.
You whose flames bring forth the warmth of connection.
You whose protection holds the fire within the hearth.
Sacred Flame, we honor you.
Draw us near, that we may be warmed by your good fire.
Light our homes, that we may know not darkness within.
Transform our foods, that we may be nourished by your magic.
Brighid of the Hearth Fire, we honor you.
Brighid of the Hearth Fire, rest within our homes.
Bring your gifts of love and connection to all who dwell here,
That all who visit may share in these blessings
And all who depart may carry them forth into the world.
Brighid of the Hearth Fire, we honor you.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Prayer to Brighid of the Forge Fires

Holy Water, Sacred Flame,
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here.
Lady Brigantia, Keeper of the Forge!
You whose flames make the metals of earth malleable.
You whose fire burns away the dross.
You whose kiln turns our clay into fine, ceramic pottery.
Lady Brighid, we honor you.
Stoke the fires of transformation within us
That our fears may melt away.
Fan the flames surrounding us
That our courage may rise within.
Burn away the brush before us
That our path may be made clear.
Brighid of the Forge Fires, we honor you.
Brighid of the Forge Fires, ignite within us
The flames of transformation.
Drench us in the white-hot flames,
Clear away the impurities that rise to the surface,
And shape us anew that we may become better versions of ourselves.
Brighid of the Forge Fires, we honor you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Prayer to Brighid of the Harp and Quill

Holy Water, Sacred Flame,
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here.
Goddess of Creation’s Fire, Inspiration’s Muse,
Brighid of the Harp and Quill, we honor you.
You whose fire ignites the wick in our heads,
Lead us to inspired thought.
You who alights the music in our hearts,
Lead us to sacred song.
You who draws holy-awen’s breath into our lungs
That we may breathe out inspired words,
Lady Brighid, we honor you.
Lady Brighid, we ask for your blessings:
Bless our words that they may be gifts to those who hear them.
Bless our hands that their music may bring others to the fire.
Bless our hearts that we may receive your holy inspiration.
Brighid of the Harp and Quill, we honor you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Prayer to Brighid of the Healing Waters

Holy Water, Sacred Flame, 
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here. 
Lady of the Sacred Well, 
You whose waters invigorate our spirits.
You whose waters comfort our hearts.
You whose waters bring healing to our bones.
Guardian of the Sacred Well,
Brighid of Healing, we honor you.
Lady Brighid, purify our hearts.
Bathe us in the holy waters, kissed by your healing presence
That we be made pure enough to pass through the sacred.
Wash us in the purifying elixir of the well
That we be made sacred enough to attain the holy
Bring your holy cup to our lips that we may be blessed in all things.
Brighid of the Healing Waters, we honor you.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Prayer to Brighid of the Mantle

Holy Water, Sacred Flame, 
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here. 
Brighid of the Mantle, Lady of the Lambs, 
You who shields us within your cloak
You who protects us from harm.
Lady of the Spear, bearing the orb of victory,
War-crowned maiden, we honor you.
Defend us against those who wish to harm us
That we be not slain nor wounded.
Shelter us from weather and war
That we be not rent asunder.
Protect us from the flames of anger
That we be not burnt or broken.
Lady Brighid, we honor you.
Brighid of the Mantle, embrace us in your arms.
Keep us safe through the dark of night and raging storms, and 
Guide us to find safe harbor in the tumultuous seas 
That we may find our foundation and strength once more.
Brighid of the Mantle, we honor you.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Prayer to Brighid of the Cowless (Brig Ambue)

Holy Water, Sacred Flame,
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here.
Brig Ambue, Brighid of the Cowless,
With humility and grace, we call to you.
You, who dwell on the outskirts,
Holding those with nothing of their own to hold,
Bringing light into the darkness beyond our fires,
Purifying those who wish to return to the warmth of community.
Brig Ambue, we honor you.
Guide those of us with to give to those without
To fight against food and housing insecurity.
Bring us the enlightnenment of understanding
To accept those who are differently abled.
Strengthen our courage and resolve
To prepare us to stand against injustice.
Brig Ambue, we honor you.
Brig Ambue, purify our hearts and minds,
Soften our rigid ideals, and
Guide us to forgive others and ourselves,
As we walk the Elder Ways together,
Creating inclusive spaces where true healing may arise.
Brig Ambue, we honor you.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Prayer to Brighid, Foster Mother

Holy Water, Sacred Flame,
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here.
Foster Mother, caring parent to all,
You who comforts us in our sorrows,
You who shares in our laughter and joy
And feels pride in our successes.
Lady Brighid, we honor you.
Send your love to cover us
That we may blanket others with our love.
Bring us peace when we are alone
That we may bring companionship to others.
Fill us with the knowledge of our inherent worth
That we may recognize the worth in others.
Lady Brighid, we honor you.
Brighid, Foster Mother, love us as your own.
Teach us the peace of self-compassion,
Through your gentle, guiding hands and quiet strength,
That our sense of hope may be restored.
Brighid, Foster Mother, we honor you.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Prayer to Brighid, Sacred Midwife

Holy Water, Sacred Flame,
Lady Brighid, we seek your presence here.
Goddess of midwifery, toil, and strife.
You who champions the labor of our renewal.
You who moistens our brows
And guides us toward the light of new beginnings.
Lady Brighid, we honor you.
Turn our faces to the sun
That we may open as new blossoms in the spring.
Toil with us in our sacred work,
That we may bring our good deeds to fruition.
Aid us in letting go that we may begin again.
Lady Brighid, we honor you.
Brighid, Midwife, keep us strong and determined.
Help us to persevere and
Aid us in our unbearing
As we walk the Elder Ways together,
Bringing new life to the world around us.
Brighid, Midwife, we honor you.