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.  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) I’m really enjoying reading the accounts of Pagan Tea Time conversations.  There’s nothing quite like meeting someone in person, but Skype is a very useful – and affordable – substitute.  This is a good start to the kind of conversation and collaboration I had in mind for a Druid college.

Along these lines, Jason Mankey and I will be hosting a Pagan Tea Time Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5 from 7:00 PM till 8:30 PM CST (that’s an 8:00 PM start in the East and a 5:00 PM start on the West Coast).  We’ve already had a few responses – come hang out and talk Pagan stuff with us.

I’ve had a couple requests for one-on-one calls and I’d love to do more, but they’re going to have to wait till after Pantheacon.

2) And that’s because I’m in the middle of John’s 2014 Winter Pagan Intensive.  Last weekend I drove to Houston for the Melting POT – Pagans of Texas gathering.  This Saturday is Denton CUUPS’ Imbolc Circle, and Sunday I’m officiating a handfasting.  Next weekend I’m driving to Central Texas for the ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat where I’ll be leading two workshops.  The weekend of February 14 is my first trip to Pantheacon in San Jose, California.

At the same time, I’m leading a class in Magical Theory and Practice, facilitating a deeper practice group, and trying to maintain my own studies.  Plus keep up with this blog and my paying job.

If you’d like to do a Pagan Tea Time chat, contact me some time after February 18.

3) I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s Pan Druid Retreat, May 8 – 11 in Virginia.  I’m honored to be part of a panel discussion on Approaching the Sacred Through Ritual with fellow OBOD Druid Art Scarbrough, ADF Archdruid Kirk Thomas, and Ivo Dominguez Jr.  When I talked about Five Ritualists at Dinner, this is very close what I had in mind.

Ideas that were expressed symbolically are manifesting in our world – ah, magic!

4) Damh the Bard has a new single titled “The Wicker Man” inspired by his experience of Wicker Man camps, where huge wooden effigies are built and then burned in sacrifice.  There’s not enough talk – or enough action – in the modern Pagan community about sacrifice: what it is, what it isn’t, and why it’s necessary.  This song goes a long way toward correcting that.

“The Wicker Man” is, in my personal opinion, Damh’s best song since “The Cauldron Born” in 2008.  The video for it is pretty good too.

No uptight British police sergeants were harmed in the making of this video.

5) Australian musician Wendy Rule has a new album titled Black Snake.  On her website, Wendy says it’s

Wendy Rule

an album of transformation … of stripping back and letting go of everything that was holding me back, and of reaching a point of vulnerability that allows for true growth … Even though the 12 songs explore my own journey, they are really celebrating universal themes of death and rebirth, of descent and re-awakening. It’s your story, too! And it’s Mother Earth’s story.

Black Snake is clearly inspired by The Descent of Inanna, and not just the song “Ereshkigal.”  It sounds and feels like what I’ve come to expect from Wendy Rule:  spiritual, mystical, and ethereal.  If you like Wendy’s other music, you’ll like Black Snake.  If you haven’t heard Wendy before, go to her website or to YouTube and check her out.

6) The recent Pagan shouting match over the term “polytheist” and who gets to use it strikes me as unfortunate, even if it was perhaps inevitable.  I suspect that as various Pagans dive deeper into Divinity as they understand and experience it, increasingly precise language will be required.  Our challenge will be to develop language that is clear and meaningful without being confusing to newcomers.

I really like this piece by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, who says “I’m going to call myself a ‘devotional polytheist’ from now on.”  “Hard polytheism” – a term I have used to describe myself – is an arbitrary term setting up a binary opposition with “soft polytheism” (the belief that all Gods are aspects of one God).  But the Pagan world is far more diverse than hard or soft.  “Devotional polytheist” isn’t just a label, it’s also a fitting description of those who see the Gods as real, distinct, individual beings with agency.

Rather than trying to come up with some grand taxonomy of polytheism, I think it would be much more helpful for me to simply talk about what I’ve experienced, what I believe, what I do, and why.  Look for “Why I Am a Devotional Polytheist” in the near future.

7) In the social media world, Facebook is the 500 pound gorilla.  Under the Ancient Oaks gets far more traffic via Facebook than from any other source, and about 20x more than from Google+.  Unfortunately, Facebook is trying to use that influence like a 500 pound gorilla, throttling posts from everyone and choking off posts from organizational pages unless the page owners pay to “promote” them.

A simple way to make sure you get all the posts from Under the Ancient Oaks (and the other blogs on Patheos) is to subscribe by e-mail.  Simply enter your address in the box on the right of the screen.  You’ll get e-mail notifications when new posts go up, and you won’t be signing up for a boatload of spam.

8) The Winter Olympics begin next Friday in Sochi, Russia.  There has been controversy over Russia’s anti-gay laws and concerns about security, and there is always concern about the cost of the games.  This is particularly troublesome in host countries whose desire for national pride and international recognition is greatly exceeded by the need of their citizens.

Though I’m not a big winter sports fan, I’ll be watching at least some of the events.  While a few of the athletes are star performers making star money, most are ordinary people who have made immense sacrifices to train and compete.  We see them for a few minutes every four years – they live lives devoted to training, treatment, rest, and very little else.  Even if can’t relate to cross country skiing or speed skating or luge, I can admire the dedication of those who’ve reached the Olympic level.

And perhaps, learn something from them.

This is Alaska, not Russia. A) I’ve never been to Russia, and B) it’s a pretty cool picture anyway.

9) Finally, this Sunday is perhaps the highest of the High Holy Days of American culture, the Super Bowl.  Yes, I’ll be watching, and not just for the commercials.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love football, especially when I don’t have a team in the game and can enjoy it without screaming every time something bad happens.

I love the city of Seattle and I have no animosity toward the Seahawks, but I’ll be pulling for Denver.  I’ve been a Peyton Manning fan ever since he walked into Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee in 1994.  He’s a rare athlete with superior physical skills and superior intelligence and superior work habits.  I’d love for him to get a second Super Bowl ring… and maybe a third next year.

What I’m not loving is the location.  While I enjoy watching football played in bad weather, in a championship game I want to focus totally on the players.  Bad calls are a part of the game, but I don’t want to see the Super Bowl turn on a questionable holding penalty.  Likewise, I’d hate to see the outcome of the game influenced by cold or snow or especially by wind.  New York has a lot of clout in professional sports – no other cold weather city has ever hosted an outdoor Super Bowl.  Hopefully this will be the only one.

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

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About John Beckett

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 a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as 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.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Sadly, i don’t care about any of these issues, as i am allergic to rituals of any sort, if they include strangers.

  • JasonMankey

    At least the weather looks like it’s going to cooperate in New York this weekend. Manning lucked out two weeks ago with a 60 degree January day in Denver, and now it looks like game time temps of about 28 degrees on Sunday. I hope that’s the gods trying to bring about a Manning Super Bowl win. I will be drinking copious amounts of cider at my local pub and wearing my Manning Broncos jersey on Sunday!

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

      The forecast does look favorable, but still not as good as if they were playing in Miami, or San Diego, or in a dome. Hopefully the weather won’t be a factor… but I still don’t want another Super Bowl in New York.

      • JasonMankey

        The Colts/Bears Super Bowl in Miami was miserable, I think it was in the high 40′s with rain. That’s worse in some ways than 28 and clear. I’m actually with you, I don’t like the idea of cold weather Super Bowls in open-air stadiums, too many variables.

  • Ken

    I have been reading a bit here and there (here and there meaning wikipedia and blog posts) and I wonder what the difference between panentheism and soft polytheism are. If there isn’t a large one perhaps we could do away with soft and hard. We could say there is polytheism with a subset of panentheism, devotional polytheism, and archetypal polytheism. This way, no one’s polythiesm is THE polytheism.

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

      I’m not an expert on panentheism, but I think there’s not a lot of difference. Definitions will come organically – I think devotional polytheism has a good chance of sticking. I don’t know that there’s enough interest at a deep enough level for the other two to stick, but they might.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

      There is a big difference between panentheism and soft polytheism. Some liberal theologians would accept panentheism as a valid expression of monotheism, although classical theists might not.

      Panentheism is basically the idea that the divine is in all things AND ALSO transcends it. It’s a both/and kinda deal, which I am partial to. However, I think many polytheists would likely fall into the panentheist category.

      Straight up pantheism suggests that divinity is in all things, but usually doesn’t (as a philosophy) acknowledge the idea that divinity transcends all as its own entity as well.

      I suspect P Sufena Virius Lupus could school us all on the subtleties here!

  • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

    AH MAN I am excited about the Super Bowl, if only cause football!!! And I think my dad is rooting for Denver too, so I’ll probably be rooting for them as well. (Really, I’m just hoping for a good game…)

    I’ll probably try to stop in at the Pagan Tea Time Google Hangout, as long as I’m able!

  • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

    The Google hangout seems like it would be interesting (I’m an anti-Facebook–I’m not even on there–pro-G+ type). But I don’t even own a webcam or however people participate in those things because I’m shy about the idea of broadcasting my image online.

    • JasonMankey

      You don’t have to broadcast, you can simply watch. There’s a chat option too so you can participate via typing.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

    I will likely not be attending the group skype chat, as I will be parenting and cooking at 5pm PST. But I cannot wait to meet you in person at PCon!

    I will not be watching the Superbowl or the Olympics (we don’t have tv). If the awesome neighbors invite us over on Sunday I would watch.

    The current animosity around this silly term ‘polytheist’ is getting under my skin. I may write a post on it soon. I like devotional polytheist as a term and concept. I will check out P.’s post. He is also so thoughtful about stuff like this.

    And Facebook. Bah and sigh.

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

      I can’t wait to meet you and so many others at Pantheacon too. The weather is worrying me – it will likely be fine, but a day of ice in DFW could leave me stuck here.

      I would love to hear your thoughts on polytheism. We need to hear from dobro with your theological education.

  • LivvySidhe

    I always appreciate following your musical breadcrumbs, John, thank you for sharing.

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

      Always happy to help, Livvy!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Out of the blue, when Ireland was in the World Cup semi-finals with Spain while I lived there, I predicted the score would be “3-2 Spain, decided on penalties,” which I didn’t even really know what it meant, given that I am not a fan of sport generally. I was right…and if I had bet on that with 20 Euro, I’d probably not have had trouble affording food for the rest of that year. So, my prediction for Sunday (received in the same way) is “at halftime, Seattle 21, Denver 13,” and that Seattle would win, possibly with as much as 40, and Denver would end up having either 23 or 27. I have no reason for suggesting these numbers other than “it worked before,” and I do not in any way stake anything on them, but there you go.

    (Plus, if anyone heard I’d predicted other than a Seattle win in my territory, I’d likely lose my job and my life.)

    I’m glad you found my post useful! Thanks for linking to it!

    As for Pagan Tea-Time and PantheaCon: care to combine the two, for the benefit of those of us who are lacking in technology? PantheaCon is going to be very busy indeed for me (as you might have seen my blog post on Friday showing my schedule), but perhaps something could be arranged all the same, maybe even with a few of us (Jason? Niki?). I don’t know if you’re someone who enjoys purification-by-water-rituals in the morning, but if you’d like to join us for Inundation on Saturday morning at the pool area/hot tub (we decide which one we’d prefer based on the weather–colder, rainy, and/or misty means hot tub!), that could also be done, to take the beverage aspect out of the question entirely. ;)

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

      I’d love to sit down and talk with you at Pantheacon. I’m keeping my commitments light (although Sunday afternoon/evening is already full) and reminding myself that connecting with people is my main purpose for going. Let’s see what we can cook up.

      As for purification by water rituals – it depends on how much water is involved. I’ve had one full-immersion baptism – I don’t want another!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

      Yes! Let’s meet up! I believe I have one of your offerings on my ‘to-do’ list. I’d really like to experience one of your rituals. I’ll check out your schedule! I think we’re all going to be busy so maybe us Patheos bloggers can have a small gathering together – over drinks or dinner or lunch one day. I’ll see if I can put something together.

  • Tommy Elf

    1) Pagan Tea Time Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5

    Well, I would love to make that, but I am in my Information Access and Knowledge Inquiry class on that Wednesday night. Hopefully, ya’ll record it, so that those of us who miss it for whatever reason can listen/watch the replay.

    2) John’s 2014 Winter Pagan Intensive

    3) Pan Druid Retreat, May 8 – 11 in Virginia

    You need to get frequent traveler miles for all of that….just saying. Again, hopefully someone records this, so those that cannot make those events can hear/see them.

    4) Damh the Bard has a new single titled “The Wicker Man”
    5) Australian musician Wendy Rule has a new album titled Black Snake. On her website, Wendy says it’s

    Don’t have Damh’s song – so I will need to add that one. And you know what a fan-boy of Wendy’s music. Was absolutely thrilled to be a part of her Crowdfunding effort for this album – which I truly believe is the best album she has put out. Incredibly evocative lyrics.

    6) The recent Pagan shouting match over the term “polytheist”

    ::sigh:: Its been my experience that all the arguing, shouting…and unfortunately…name-calling over stuff like this is really not all that productive in the overall discussion. It certainly does spur some folks to take a deeper look at their personal beliefs (its done that for me)…and while that’s great, I truly believe that it would have been a lot more productive without all the angst and anger…but that’s just one Pagan’s opinion.

    7) Unfortunately, Facebook is trying to use that influence like a 500 pound gorilla, throttling posts from everyone and choking off posts from organizational pages unless the page owners pay to “promote” them.

    …and thus the reason I am starting to move even more deliberately over to Google+/ Added to that is the Hangout perspective…which I am only now starting to get into…

    8) The Winter Olympics begin next Friday

    Not a huge Olympics fan…I’ll likely not be watching. Have plenty of interesting books in my reading queue though….

    9) the Super Bowl

    …and you already know I am not huge on American football. Again, there’s always books…and Barclays Premier League matches….

    –T


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