Welcome to the new home of “Under the Ancient Oaks.” I’m John Beckett and I’m happy to be joining the Pagan Channel here at Patheos.
I want to start by thanking Star Foster, who first invited me to move to Patheos. We couldn’t get the arrangements made before she left. I want to thank Christine Kraemer, who reissued the invitation and who has been a pleasure to work with. And I want to thank Hillary and the other tech wizards at Patheos who set up this blog and transferred all the posts, pictures, and comments from my old blog.
I wear many religious hats. I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as Vice President of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
I’m a hard polytheist practicing within a framework of pantheism and mysticism. I am pledged to Cernunnos and Danu, but over the past two years or so I’ve been increasingly involved with Morrigan. Right now I’m working on our Imbolc ritual, which will be centered around Brighid. Every Summer Solstice I trade my Druid’s robes for an Egyptian tunic and serve as a priest to Osiris, Isis, Horus or whoever we’re honoring that year. I’m thankful that for the most part the old gods are not jealous gods.
I earn my keep as an engineer working at a corporate headquarters in the Dallas – Fort Worth area. Contrary to what the law says, corporations are not people, but they are made up of people and they reflect the values of the people who lead and work in them. This particular corporation isn’t bad: they don’t always do the right thing, but they never do the wrong thing. I never mention them by name or any other identifying characteristic: having your company associated with religion – any religion – can be bad for business (see Chick-fil-a, among others).
Being an engineer is more than just how I earn a living. It’s part of who and what I am: rational and skeptical. I suppose I should be an atheist, or at most an agnostic. But something inside me has always whispered that there’s more – more to Life than what can be measured. Not just things we don’t know yet, but things we can’t know because of the limitations of the human brain. It’s taken me many years to get comfortable with uncertainty and to learn that mythos is just as valuable as logos.
This blog is part of my spiritual journey. Sometimes I write about what’s going on in my life. Sometimes I write about what’s in the news or what’s abuzz on the Pagan internet. There are some recurring themes: the nature of the Universe, the origins of religion, developing relationships with the spirits of nature, with our ancestors, and with our gods and goddesses. Spiritual growth. Magic. Building vibrant religious communities. And perhaps most importantly, how to combine all that into a spiritual practice that builds a better world here and now.
Writing is a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest. Blogging adds discipline – I don’t write every day, but I know I have to write regularly to maintain the blog. Blogging also provides feedback. If I miss something – or if I’m totally off target – someone will let me know.
Paganism is a new religion. Or if you prefer, a collection of new religions. We’re very early in the process of figuring out what we’re going to be when we grow up. We have important stories but no sacred texts, we have key figures but no saints, we have leaders but no rulers. Paganism is growing organically. The future of our religion(s) is being determined in books and festivals and rituals and workshops and podcasts and blogs. There’s a historic conversation going on and I want to be a part of it.
It’s an exciting time to be a Pagan. Whether you followed me here from Blogger or you found me here on Patheos, I hope you’ll join me for our part of this Great Work.