Saturday, April 29, 2017

Winds of Change

So it has been almost 10 years since I first started writing here as WitchDoctorJoe, and almost five years since I archived the blog and walked away. It is interesting to look back and realize how different I am although I am still the same person; and how much my life has changed, yet stayed very much the same. Like taking a trip back to an old house or apartment that you used to live in years ago; familiar yet, strangely distorted by time.
So, here am I am, writing a new article for this old blog, from a new computer, on a new desk, in a different room of the same house. My kids are still my kids, but they’re not children anymore. They’re all growing up and going to college and I am already feeling the feelings of the emptying nest. My kids entering college as I have just finished. Since I have been gone I have completed my Bachelor of Science in Psychology and my Master of Arts in Counseling.
I am still very happily married to a spicy hot woman, but she’s not the same either. We have both continued to evolve, change and grow; and we have managed to grow together, rather than grow apart. But change is never easy, as the saying goes: “if you want to change you must be willing to be uncomfortable.” And along those same lines, undesired change is equally uncomfortable, arguably more so.
My personal spiritual practices are generally centered around the operative application of speculative tools for the purpose of my own edification. And that’s how this new chapter began, with the application of a tool. The tool represents a lesson, illustrates a piece of knowledge and contains a wisdom which can only be obtained through the experience of use. It’s an experiential process.
That process caused me to step back and look at my life at the time. To question everything I was doing, and explore my personal motivation for doing it. It was then that I realized that there was an extraordinary amount of things in my life I was doing for other people, for no other reason than my own false perception of obligation.  I realized that I was pouring a significant amount of my resources into doing things for other people. Resources like my time, my money, my energy when I was present, and my thoughts when I was absent. For people who were not family, were not really friends, and really shared no kinship with other than a shallow superficial relationship largely based on me doing something for them. This perception was verified when all these people wandered off after I stopped doing things for them.
Years later the phrase "False Kinship" would cause the hair on my body to raise from the skin. But that's a topic for a future post.
I realized that my resources are precious and that I was not placing the appropriate value on them, and therefore, neither was anyone else. Nor was I being prudent in choosing those with whom I shared my resources, most of all, my precious and limited time on this earth.  I realized that although my motivations where very altruistic, they were too altruistic. Foolishly so. 
I realized that while I spent money out of my own pocket to pay for gas to drive for miles to spend my days in a prison with complete strangers - my kids were growing up, building rockets and preparing for launch – and that was a mistake I would regret if I continued to make it.
So I stopped. I retired, “effective immediately,” from prison ministry and never regretted it. I loved the work I was doing, and I miss it, but I like missing it. A few weeks later I shut down Mill Creek Seminary; a brick and mortar 501c3 where I taught 13 month courses in my religious tradition and hosted open community rituals and provided pastoral care to my community for over eight years, all self-funded.
When you see the ball rolling towards the street, it’s not terribly difficult to project its trajectory, and in kind, it was only a matter of time before I closed my home as a Coven-stead and cocooned myself a closed circle of family; took a 2nd and 3rd job, and an onslaught of college courses geared at improving my station, for myself and those I have a responsibility to provide for.
And that’s when things really got interesting..

Monday, March 6, 2017


I had a lot of time to think as I drove to the hospital in Chico and back yesterday. Most of my days begin at 4 a.m., making breakfast for a client, packing his lunch and taking him to work. After that I usually Goruck three or four miles, hit the gym and make it back to the Nichterhof by 6:30.

But yesterday after dropping off my passenger I filled up the tank with gas and hit the highway. I like to drive with the radio off when I’m alone. I’ve found that there is a profound difference between Occupied and Unoccupied Awareness, and driving occupies my conscious awareness but not my cognitive thoughts. And, that difference, the space between them, is my sweet spot which I call the "cradle of intuition.”
Time plays an interesting role in our consciousness. Anticipation and anxiety are merely ghosts of the future, while gratitude and regret are born from the past. During the drive up state, I felt my emotions reach forward into the future, and then claw deeply at the past as I drove home.
Sitting in the Neuro-Trauma Intensive Care Unit and staring at the tangled life supporting tubes and wires, I realized that it is mostly pain that keeps my occupied awareness locked into the present moment more than anything else.
That’s why pain is such a great motivator. It commands our attention.
One day back in 2014, while driving down the highway with the radio off, I had a glimpse of the future; and it wasn’t a pleasant vision, but a painful one. That pain motivated me to make several changes which were necessary to steer the timeline towards a more desirable chronological destination.
Those changes began with my retiring from active Pagan Prison Chaplaincy, then closing Mill Creek Church, then the Seminary, eventually the Coven, and finally withdrawing from the Pagan community almost entirely.
I am still amazed at how difficult it was to change these things. I honestly had no Idea how deeply ingrained into my life, and into my identity they had become. So much so that I went through a moderate identity crisis. As a result, I don’t consider myself “Wiccan” anymore, and have not for some time now; which is an interesting subject that deserves its own post, but we'll get to that later.
It has been five years since I have written anything here. So much has happened, so much has changed, yet so much has remained the same. Like sliding back into bed with an old lover; I am writing from a new computer, on a new desk, in a different room, of the same old house. I still work the same job, but now I own the business. My wife and I are celebrating the twelfth year of our Happily Ever After, and the sex keeps getting better. Our kids are still our kids, but they’re not children, they’re legally adults now; helping out with the family business while they’re all primarily occupied with college (parenting win). And speaking of college, I'm shopping for a nice fancy frame for my new Master’s Degree.
But all those things faded away as I stood beside the bed in the Neuro-Trauma ICU, my eyes poured over his broken body. Riddled with scars and covered in tattoos.

Just like me.

But not like mine.

We are a so very much the same, yet we went in very different directions. We both went to prison many times, but for very different reasons. I was almost him, but I chose not to be.
In 1992, I had a glimpse of the future, and I didn’t like what I saw, so I altered that timeline and became who I have become. Many of us have tried to get him to alter his timeline for many years, and this last Thursday, he finally did, but we’re not happy with his choice of predestination.
He painfully reminds us how intricately our timelines are interwoven; that although we may be years and miles apart from one another, we are still tethered, and that through our actions we still tug at each other.
I have altered my timeline and I have arrived at my desired Predestination. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you, but it was necessary for a greater good.
In kind, I am willing to be inconvenienced by any positive changes you want to make to your timeline.

The question is... are you?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Age of Aquarius

I don't pretend to be knowledgeable in the subtle nuances of astrology, as I've always preferred astronomy. But as I understand it we are entering into the "Age of Aquarius," and I find that synchronicity quite fitting, on many levels.

I have neglected this space for some time now due to my primary obligations. I finally finished school, for the moment anyway. I've completed the requirements for my associates in religion from a baptist seminary and should receive my diploma in a week or so. And I will consider that a birthday present to myself, I'm an Aquarius, so begins my Age.

For those who don't know, I have Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and wanted a degree in religion to apply towards my prison ministry work. The VA requirements, mixed with my lifestyle settings limited my options a bit and I took advantage of what was available. Hence the Baptist seminary

As insane as it was at times, I still managed to learn quite a bit. There were even portions that I actually truly Loved, and over all I did benefit from the experience. That being said, I don't know if I'd do it again, ha.

I spent the whole time there wondering where I was going to obtain my bachelors, as the school I wanted to attend only offered graduate work, but I have other plans for that one too. Luckily the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology has become Sophia University and I will be in their first bachelors program next fall, fingers crossed.

I felt blessed by the synchronicity that they have made changes to their institution and curriculum, which not only suits my academic needs, but the timing could not be any more perfect. I actually need the spring and summer off from scholastic endeavors to focus on the huge changes in my career and employment.

For those that don't know, I moved back here to California almost eight years after getting out of the Army. I came back to take my turn serving the family business, we run care homes. I'm the fourth generation of care providers in my family. It's not a bad living, especially after almost ten years in the Army, and Iraq. It's a nice big house in a good neighborhood, and as opposed to being deployed all the time, I'm literally home all the time for my family. But that's the rub, I'm ALWAYS home. After a few weeks, months and years, ones stamina tends to dwindle.

For the first few years my friends in the Pagan community used to joke about "Joe's imaginary wife," because they never saw her, because she was always watching the house so I could go socialize. It was always one or the other, but never both of us together. Until a few years later when we finally found someone we trusted to work, so we could go out together. So many people were shocked that she was real.

So, after slaving away to my family for the past eight years we're finally moving up, we just bought the facility we've been working in all these years. My name was put on the license last month but tomorrow will be my last paycheck, and on Tuesday, January 1st, I change my business cards from "Administrator" to "Owner," and that's a pretty cool way to begin my Age. This first month will be all about getting my "owners balance," but being an Aquarius, I'm a system builder and already have it all in my head. I just need to a few weeks to work out the variables.

Work and School aside, I still have a lot going on. I'm presenting my work on Introspective Divination at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies this year. And will be presenting at Pantheacon this year for the first time. I co-founded the National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association and this will be our first annual meeting. Our own Mill Creek Seminary will begin teaching introductory classes and our Advenio (a year & a day) prerequisite course sometime in the spring, probably Beltane. And our correspondence courses and Community Portal Website are already under construction.

 Exciting times!

So with all of that, and the fact that I'm supposed to be writing for Witches & Pagans online, I'm not going to be doing much at all here. A few years ago I took a break from this blogging thing to write a book and commit my time to developing my craftwork. It took a little longer than expected, but met those goals and then some. I love this blog, and the whole experience, it's how I really got started in the community and how I got recruited to write for W&Ps. I've missed it lately, and I will continue to miss it, but its time for me to move on. This will probably be my last post on the RattleBone. I say probably, because never say never, but don't hold your breath haha.

I plan to post a few press releases here, but for the most part if you're interested in reading my writing you can check me out over at Witches & Pagans paganSquare or friend me of Facebook, or Like our Mill Creek Seminary Page! Keep in touch, remember to tip your waitress, so long and thanks for all the fish.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the Age of Aquarius, Blessed Be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

reCircling the Wagons

Every time I finish a blog post there is a certain sense of satisfaction. Sometimes that satisfaction comes too soon, and I later look back to see the horrible mistakes in grammar and spelling I have made. But last night I walked away from the keyboard with the same troubling feeling I had sat down with.

I ended my evening adoration with a humble request for introspective clarity and self understanding. And I awoke this morning with my prayers answered. What bothered me about Teo's post was his shame. His feelings and his perspective, as enlighten as they are, are his, not mine. And with that came the realization that I disagreed with someone whom I admire and respect. And that was what troubled me.

We can look at the context and circumstances of the situation and easily find fault with some aspect of the event, however the core issue seems to be about the circle creating an Inclusive/Exclusive boundary between those within the circle and those without. Last night I wrote that really wasn't the purpose of casting circles, but a byproduct, a result. But I also said that the sad truth is that the us and them already existed, and despite the best intentions they always will, with or without a circle being cast.

When I say "we" in the following statements I mean specifically those of our particular Tradition. We, are one of the most inclusive faith communities in the world. We openly invite and accept anyone and everyone to join us in our celebrations. We don't do this to recruit, proselytize or save anyone. We do it because at the core of our fundamental theology is the precept of Tela, interconnectedness.

You don't even have to be a Wiccan, Druid or even Pagan at all to be, and made to feel, welcome in our circles. Therefore I do not feel shame before those who choose not to do so. I had never even occurred to me until I read Teo's post. I feel that despite the grand dream unity in diversity, there are us's and them's. Those line exist in all social circles and no amount of accommodation will ever change that.

And most surprising of all my feelings is that we should not have to try and accommodate everyone. It's a virtuous dream, but an impossible task. Moreover, perhaps an impracticable one. We can be over accommodating to a fault. My Coven and our Traditions has an established liturgy, for our rituals, holidays, and rites of passage (that's why we call it a tradition). But if we would have made changes every time someone showed up and wanted to tweak things to meet their own personal, individual needs at that particular time, we would not remotely resemble our original form. We cannot make everyone happy within our Pagan community, let alone the onlookers, and I don't feel it's our responsibility to try.

We are sorry if our spiritual or liturgical practices are not to your liking, but we aren't changing our Tradition to suit your needs.We have a right to our boundaries.Without them we loose our ways, our Traditions and ourselves. As I mentioned in the previous post, my circles have a special meaning to them, there is a sense of comfort and security within my ritual space, like my Grandmother's arms, yes, it is my church. And I will never be ashamed of that, and I will never water it down in an attempt to appease the masses. I have my boundaries and some boundaries are healthy.

I think in the end, not casting a circle would change things for us, but not for them.

Wow, that felt good. I feel so much better now, thanks for reading my rant. But in closing I would like to reaffirm my closing statement form last nights post, I still believe Teo's post shoved a big mirror in the face of Pagan liturgy today and called into question one of our fundamental religious practices. I still think that requires some bravery, and I still applaud him for doing so.  He has caused us to reevaluate our most basic beliefs and practices, and we should consider that a public service.

After reevaluating my beliefs and practices, analyzing my feelings and expressing them, I leave my keyboard with that sense of satisfaction I was looking for. Thanks for giving me something worth thinking about Teo.

Thank you Lord & Lady for the Safe Circles, Blessed Be.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

R is for the Voice of Russia

Any time a member of the Pagan community is contacted by the Media there is a potential for problematic public relations issues, because by default, like it or not, when you speak as a Pagan you end up speaking for all of us.

Not by design, but by result.

Because of that fact, many of us are more than a bit suspicious and hesitant to speak to the media. Jason has written on the topic numerous times in the past and recently wrote an excellent article about how we [Pagan organizations] should best respond to good or bad news.

We have seen and read some real hatchet jobs by media doing an expose on the local Witches a week before Halloween, but having been in the local papers more than a few times, I have never been misused or misrepresented. This does not however, ease my suspicions when someone new comes along wanting to do an interview.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised when I received an email from a reporter for the Voice of Russia, who was interested in writing a piece including Witch-Doctor-Me. We had a great telephone conversation, I started out asking what the purpose, interest and intention of the article was and in listening to her talk I quickly got the feeling she was coming from a place of good intentions.

Her article was published online today, you can read it here.

Thank you Lord & Lady for all the Positive Press, Blessed Be.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Q is for Querent

For as long as we have occupied this planet with cognitive thought we have looked up at the sky and asked why. Why are we here? Where did we come from? And where are we going after this?

And those are great questions, but unfortunately the answers are oath-bound secrets. *Wink-wink*

That's what The Fool card always reminds me of, the way he tilts back his head, casting his gaze upwards without concern for what lies at his feet. That's why I keep a framed Fool on the wall in my home, to remind me that I am, we all are, Fools...

One of my favorite books, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, taught me to embrace The Fool in myself at a very young age. In the book, the Teacher questions the student and the conversation goes loosely, something like this...

Q: Where are you?
A: Here.
Q: Where is here?
A: Berkley.
Q:Where is Berkley?
A: In California.
Q: Where is California?
A: In the United States.
Q: Where are the United States?
A: On a continent in the western hemisphere of earth.
Q: And where is earth?
A: In our solar system.
Q: And where is our solar system?
A: In our galaxy.
Q: And where is our galaxy? 
A: Umm... I don't know...
Q: Then you don't actually know where you are do you? Admit it, you're lost. Just a fool.

I have always believed that all religions are just the most popular "Best Guesses," and that these best guesses are mostly about confidence and control. But the brutal trust is we just don't know for sure. Well I do, but most people don't believe me. *Wink-wink*

Being the Querent is a good thing, asking questions is always good, but asking the right questions is fundamental, and there is a difference. I submit that it's not so much about why, where and what's next, as it is about the here and now. Don't waste too much of your precious time here, looking up and asking the great unknowable about the great unknowables. Just be a The Fool and enjoy yourself as much as you can while your here.

Thank you Lord & Lady for getting me lost.

Blessed Be.