Nine Things I Think

Nine Things I Think is an irregular feature whenever I have a list of things I want to talk about that aren’t long enough for their own individual posts.  Some may be expanded later, but most won’t.  There’s no theme, just nine things I want to bring to your attention.  Feel free to expand on any of these topics in the comments section.

1)  Concrescent Press bills itself as “the union of practice and scholarship.”  Its new volume Pathways in Modern Western Magic is just that.  It’s a collection of seventeen scholarly articles, some by university professors, some by independent scholars, but all by people who are actually doing modern Western magic.  There is some disagreement in the academic world about the objectivity of scholar-practitioners (based largely on the unstated assumption that only materialistic atheism is a truly objective viewpoint), but I like learning from writers who’ve been there and done that.

Editor Nevill Drury’s articles on the Golden Dawn and on Aleister Crowley’s sex magic were the most informative to me.  For all my varied reading and practicing, I’ve never done much with either of these topics, even though they’ve been very influential in the development of modern Paganism.  Don Webb’s article on the Temple of Set shed some light (pun intended) on an organization I heard about long ago but knew virtually nothing about.  And Dave Evans’ look at the origins of chaos magic confirmed what I thought:  the techniques are powerful but the philosophy isn’t well suited to me.

At $39.95 Pathways in Modern Western Magic isn’t cheap, but it costs an order of magnitude less than if you tried to buy the articles individually from scholarly publications.

2)  The engineer and mathematician in me is fascinated with ceremonial magic, but the more I learn about it, the more I’m convinced I’m on the right path as a Nature and Deity oriented Druid.  The idea of alchemy – of practicing magic to refine the soul – makes good sense, but it’s a very intellectual approach.  I don’t need any help being intellectual.  Nature and the gods speak directly to my soul – I need lots of help there.

3)  The plans for the Dallas – Fort Worth Pagan Pride Day are coming along nicely.  It will be Saturday, October 5 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake, the same location where we held our Egyptian Summer Solstice ritual in 2009.  There will be rituals, entertainment, workshops, vendors, and the opportunity to meet and talk with Pagans from around the North Texas community.  Admission is free, but everyone is encouraged to bring canned goods to support Soupmobile Charities and to participate in the blood drive.

I’ll be leading a new workshop titled “Nature Spirituality:  A Druid Approach.”  Denton CUUPS will be leading the Cernunnos Ritual at 4:00.  If you missed it earlier this month, here’s another chance to experience it.

The Pagan Pride season is already in progress – check the Pagan Pride Project website for the event nearest you.

4)  Football is violent, militaristic and exploitative, but gods I love it.  There is no other game that features strategy, power, athleticism, and sheer force of will in such a dramatic combination.  I never played it above the backyard level – I was too small, too slow, and too pain-averse.  But it was enough to grab my interest for life.

I keep up with the local baseball and basketball teams.  I love hockey in person but can’t stand it on TV.  I’ll watch soccer if one of the US National teams (men or women) is playing in the Olympics or the World Cup.  But football is the only sport where I’ll sit in front of the TV and watch entire games week after week.  NFL preseason games are lousy, but after a six month football fast I’m enjoying them and can’t wait for the regular season – and the colleges, and the high schools – to start.

5)  I’m now registered for Pantheacon 2014.  Pantheacon is the largest indoor Pagan gathering in the world, held every February in San Jose, California.  I’ve been wanting to go for years and have kept coming up with excuses not to goJason Mankey pushed me to attend next year – I decided it was time.  There are speakers and musicians I want to hear and rituals I want to participate in.  Mainly, though, there are friends I only know through the computer that I want to meet in person, some for the first time ever and some for the first time in a long time.

I still have to book a flight and find a hotel, but there’s plenty of time for that.  I’m registered and barring a last-minute emergency I’ll be there.

6)  I don’t have a lot of apps on my phone and I rarely download one I have to buy.  ShamanMagic is a notable exception.  It’s a drumming app – it plays five different drum beats, with eight optional background sounds (forest, rain, stream, waves, etc) that can be mixed in at the volume you desire.  It has a timer that will play for 10 minutes up to 4 hours.

The app is promoted as a tool for shamanic journeying.  That’s not one of my practices so I can’t offer an opinion on how well it works for journeying.  But I’ve used it for regular meditation:  it’s relaxing without putting you to sleep and it’s very helpful in blocking outside sounds and distracting thoughts.  And it’s far easier (and cheaper) to use for solo meditation than drumming CDs.

ShamanMagic is $2.99 and it’s available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod.  It’s not available for Android, though the developer says that will come “as time goes on.”

7)  I’m getting ready for my third trip to the OBOD East Coast Gathering next month.  I love my CUUPS group and I love the interaction with my on-line Pagan friends, but there is no substitute for spending a long weekend with my own tribe.  This year’s special guest is Damh the Bard.  Artist Cerri Lee and OBOD Tutor Coordinator Susan Jones will also be in attendance.

Last year’s gathering featured a Chosen Chief and an Archdruid – Lorraine figured attendance would drop this year.  But registration reached capacity in June and is now closed.  Druids (mainly OBOD, but some ADF and some AODA) have figured out what a great experience it is.

I’m not teaching this year, but I will be leading the Cernunnos Ritual on Friday night.  I’ll have a write-up on the camp when I get back.

8)  I would not want to live in Texas without air conditioning.  I grew up in Tennessee where the Summers are hot, but not as hot as here.  We didn’t have air conditioning until I was 9.  The days weren’t so bad – you got used to the heat.  But the nights were horrible – I can still remember lying awake at night, flipping the pillow over, trying to relax enough to get to sleep… and failing.

I occasionally come across environmentalists who claim air conditioning is immoral – since it’s not necessary it’s an unacceptable use of energy.  I suspect they don’t live in Texas or Arizona or most of the Southeast.  Dallas – Fort Worth averages eighteen 100 degree days each year.  In 2011, we had 71.  Most Summer days that don’t make 100 don’t miss it by much.  The average low in July and August is 77, meaning many nights it doesn’t get below 80, and that doesn’t happen till just before dawn – it’s still in the 90s when you’re trying to get to sleep.

The American South began growing with the spread of air conditioning in the second half of the 20th century.  If that air conditioning went away so would the people.  A few hearty souls would stick around, but most would head North, crowding the already densely populated cities… and burning fossil fuels to keep warm in the Winter.

Our house is well-insulated, we have two large live oak trees shading the front of the house and some beautiful vines shading the rear.  All the appliances are Energy Star certified and incandescent bulbs have been replaced with CFLs or LEDs as they’ve burned out.  But I like sleeping at night – I’m not turning off the air conditioner.

9)  And speaking of stretching fossil fuels out as long as we can, my Prius is back from the body shop for the second time.  I wasn’t joking about that heavy-duty warding spell.  As soon as I got it home I drew banishing pentagrams on all four sides using Full Moon water, then drew an awen on top.  So far so good… though I still get nervous when I see someone getting too close to my rear bumper.

Some people knock the Prius and Prius drivers for making a statement rather than making a change, but if driving is necessary (and if you live in all but a few cities it is – public transportation in most of this country is somewhere between lousy and non-existent) then drive the most efficient car you can afford.  And besides being efficient, my Prius has been extremely reliable – it’s almost seven years old and all I’ve replaced are two light bulbs and the 12 volt battery.  The hybrid battery shows no signs of degradation and while I can’t find any hard statistics, anecdotal evidence says it should last at least 150,000 miles and probably much longer.  It’s been a good choice for me.

That’s what I’m thinking right now – what about you?

About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.

  • Roi de Guerre

    My Prius (2005) reached 299,999 miles 2 months ago and the odometer stopped. It’s still going strong. It has seen lots of the US and run in temperatures from 120 down to -80 F. Best designed machine I have ever owned. I should follow your example of warding spells though. That’s a very good idea.

  • JasonMankey

    Another Pagan football fan? Should we start a PFL (Pagan Fantasy League)? I’ll have to bug you for your NFL picks when I roll out my NFL Preview column next week. (GO STEELERS!)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      I played fantasy football one year, came in 2nd, won some money and checked it off my list. I really like football, but playing FFL sucked up too much time.

  • Nathan Boutwell

    You are so right about air conditioning! I grew up in central Florida and we didn’t have air conditioning until I was 17. When Dad installed it that summer, we sat under the vents in our underwear and let it blow cold air on us. The drain pipe poured water for two weeks as it dried out the house and killed the mildew. Cured our perpetual sinus conditions, too. It’s for that reason that Florida’s favorite citizens were John Goree and Albert Carrier.

  • Tommy Elf

    Public transportation in the DFW area really does suck. For such a large metro area, you would think that there would be better coordination between the various services, much like there is in metro areas such as Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, we have a fiefdom system, where the various small cities that make up this MetroMess hold the keys to how public trans is handled. As someone who grew up overseas in Europe…I’m disappointed in nearly every US city in this particular area. However, one city is trying to understand its commuter base and utilize the public transportation system in a better manner to serve them — Denver, Colorado. Their system is by no means fantastic, but they have shown a lot of elasticity in running bus routes in conjunction with railway platform times. DFW could take some major lessons from what they are trying to accomplish – as well as the coordination that has taken place between the various metro cities in the Denver area.

    –T

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      Boston, New York and Chicago were designed for horses and people. The density that brought fit in well with streetcars and subways. Dallas – Fort Worth and most modern American cities were designed for the automobile. Public transportation can work here, but only with a regional commitment. What we have here is a combination of the fiefdoms you mentioned, plus a strong antipathy toward public transportation because it helps the “wrong kind of people.”

      • Tommy Elf

        (Again – my dislike for the lack of quoting in the Disqus system)

        >…”it helps the “wrong kind of people.”

        I know the point you’re making John – and its one of my biggest pet peeves. I have relatives in the Cincinnati area that make the same statement about the PubTrans system there. And it drives me completely over the edge when I hear them say it. When I left the Air Force and was struggling to find my way into civilian society…I was essentially classified as one of “those people”. I lived down in Duncanville and rode the city bus to and from work in downtown Dallas. When I bring this up with my cousins…they tend to look down their nose at me and tell me I need to go and live with “their kind” rather than “our kind”. That damn Us v. Them attitude makes me want to clock people in the back of the head… we’re all on the same ball of dirt, screaming its way through space…what happens to one group of us will happen to all groups of us. Ugh…yeah, that attitude touches a deep nerve in me. LOL Not going off on you here John (we’re actually in very tight agreement on this topic)…

        –T


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