Thursday, July 6, 2017

Breaking Kinnish

Disclaimer: although I am an active member of a thriving Kindred, I do not speak on their behalf. Nor do my views or opinions necessarily reflect those of my Kindred members, individually or collectively. This is all me and only me.

During an interview, the famous American astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked to comment on the rumors regarding accusations that he was an atheist. In response Tyson said that he was not as concerned with the textbook definition of the word atheist as much as he was with the behavior of those who use the word atheist to describe themselves; because, he said, their behavior "becomes" the new definition for that word.

In much the same way that the behavior of people who called themselves Wiccan modified the overarching definition of Wicca in a way which I felt that I needed to distance myself from, so has the negative behavior of those who call themselves Folkish, modified that term. 

So much so that Folkish has now become irrevocably synonymous with the bigotry and racism, primarily by those who claim a European heritage, and who harbor an aversion  to Heathenry being practiced by those of non-European heritage. 

And again, I feel the need to distance myself.

The term Folkish has become lost to those of us who wish to communicate the Euro-tribal model to which we subscribe without an extended and nuanced explanation which includes denouncing non-inclusive Heathenry and proclaiming with you index finger raised to the sky, that you “are not a racist.”

New words and phrases like “Tribal-Folkish” and “Euro-tribal model” are now being invented mid-sentence of those explanations because Heathens seem to be experiencing an identity crisis, or perhaps a terminology crisis. This issue was discussed ad nauseam until my daughter stated quite flatly “we just need to invent a new word.”

Challenge Accepted.

The last time I attended Pantheacon I sat in on a Heathen discussion panel which was aimed at addressing the issue of racism and discrimination in the Heathen community. 

In the forum, I made an unpopular point about how I, as a Wiccan, openly discriminated against certain people who expressed an interest in joining my Coven. I doubled down, that it was my right as leader and high priest of that coven to exercise my powers of discrimination as I saw fit.

While there is a broad and robust spectrum of membership criterion for various covens, such as female only, gay men only, etc.; and while I did not discriminate based on race, gender, sexual preference or identity race; I did discriminate based on one simple but profound personality trait.

Are you an asshole?

It didn’t matter if you were Black, White, Asian, Hispanic or anything else. It didn’t matter if you were male or female, or if you identified as some 3rd or 4th gender. It didn’t matter if you like girls or boys or both. It didn’t matter of you deviated from your birth sex in any way, shape, or form.

The only thing that mattered was: are you a nice person? Can we get along? Do you complement the existing group dynamic, or do you complicate things and compromise the structural integrity of our group? Are you a threat to us? Cause we had a big problem with assholes, we really didn’t like them, and we sure as hel didn’t want them in our group.

My point was that other groups have different priorities about the criteria for membership. Some people don’t want homosexuals, people who are transgender or some other minority in their group. I think that’s fucked up. I disagree with it. I think those people are assholes. 

But as much as I disagree with them (which is a lot), they have a right to be assholes, and they have the right to deny membership to whoever they don’t want into the group, for whatever bat shit crazy reason they decide. I don’t like it.

But not liking it is not going to change anything.

Because I know they don’t give a fuck about what I think.

But just the same, they also harbor great distain for what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and who we're doing it with. They don’t like it, but not liking changes nothing, because I don’t give a fuck what they think. 

The world is a difficult and dangerous place full of injustices and assholes, I do what I can to oppose bigotry and racism,but I am but a mere mortal, a limited being, with power, limited range, and limited time on this limited plane of existence.

And I am on a fuck budget. 

I have limited fucks to give. And all the woes of the world far exceed the limits of that budget. The only thing I can do is stay within my fuck budget and use my limited fuck bucks wisely. I only spend my fuck bucks inside my "yard," my Innangard; and I only give my fucks to those who deserve it, such as my family, my friends, my tribe, my Kin.

This is the essence of Kinnish.

Part Universalist, in the sense that anyone can go practice any form of Heathenry, any damn way they please. Because it’s none of my business. I don’t give a fuck, because I’m Kinnish. You do you. 

Part Folkish, in the sense of being non-inclusive in a different way, in being a close knit, private and tribal society. One in which criterion for membership does not include genderality, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. 

The primary qualifying criterion is simply a matter of compatibility. Are you an asshole? Cause if you are, we don’t take kindly to your kind 'round here.

I have absolutely zero fucks to give for the Greater Heathen Community outside my Innangard. Please do not mistake my zero fucks given as being aggressive or adversarial. It’s not. It's calm polite indifference. Anything more would require fucks to be given, and I can't afford it.

More to the point, I’m simply not concerned with the goings on of the latest drama, the newest controversy over whatever, whoever posted on Facebook about that other group.    

Life is short, resources are limited, I have priorities, if you’re not Kin, then you and your shit did not make the list.

First, Kinnish is really, really, really, really, really, really, extremely Kin-centric.

But foremost, Ancestry and Sexuality are not determining criterion for Kinship.

But I'm not finished, there's more to being Kinnish than the conditions of Kinship.

So much more to come..

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Almost Heathen

It was nearly 20 years ago that I was completely engrossed in a Tony Hillerman novel. I don’t remember which one, I was stationed overseas while serving in the military and was binge reading the entire series on my off time. I just remember that the key to the plot of that particular book was centered around the Kennewick Man, which was the name given to a prehistoric skeleton discovered on the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington.

This first struck a chord with me because only a few years earlier I had lived in that region, not too far from the area where the story was taking place. What struck me next was the antagonists of the story. Heathens. More specifically, Asatru, were described as a “tribe” of white people claiming an indigenous European heritage and practicing the indigenous pre-Christian religious traditions of their European ancestors.

The very thought of this bristled the hairs on the back of my neck and arms.

Being one of the millions of Caucasians who grew up being told they were part Native American, I followed that path reverently for more than 15 years, despite the repeated prejudice and bigotry I experienced. I made every effort to fit in; I learned the language(s), I was a ceremonial singer, dancer, and pipe-carrier; but I was not Indian. And no amount of piety was enough for the larger part of the community to accept me. Not even being married to a Lakota woman was enough to spared me from being sentenced to the Wannabe Tribe.
The internet was just starting to explode at the time and people were just beginning to realize its potential. Yahoo had just come out and we were just beginning to utilize the search engine as a means of exploring our interests. And that’s where I was headed when I put the book down, the internet cafĂ©.

I Yahooed "Asatru" and my hair bristled again when the results came up. But when I clicked on the first site, images most associated with white supremacy filled the screen. I frantically clicked in a panic, trying to remove the images before someone behind me saw what I was looking at and assumed the worst about me.

I relocated to the computer in the corner and resumed my search, but every site I found included uncomfortable imagery. Which was terribly heartbreaking, because although I had read a few gems that really resonated with me, racism was an unconditional deal breaker. So I abandoned my search then and there, and with it any hope I had for an indigenous European path.

Years Later as a Pagan prison chaplain I would find myself facilitating religious accommodations for incarcerated Heathens which only served to confirm my concerns about racism in Heathenry. At least until the identity crisis prodded me into sabbatical and I picked up a book on Runes.

That book led to another, and another, and still another until I began to realize how deeply Heathenry resonated with me, and I began to think for the first time that I could embrace and practice Heathenry and still avoid the issue of racism.

After almost two years of solitary study and practice I dipped my toe in the water at an open to the public Heathen ritual held in a local park by someone I knew from my prison chaplaincy days. This led to another meetup, then another, and still another until I found myself being invited to join a Kindred.

It seemed as though the very moment I accepted that invitation whatever god is in charge of fucking with me said “here, hold my beer...” and a whole new cycle of Folkish vs. Universalist Racial conflict irrupted within the greater Heathen community. And there I was with a Mexican wife and son, and my Black Lesbian Jewish daughter, a member of a Folkish Kindred...  

However, in much the same way that I once explained that I was “Wiccan… but not like them” I was in a Kindred that said “yes, we’re Folkish… but we’re not racist.” Back when I was invited to join that Kindred I asked, most directly, if there was anything that Mexican wife and son, or my Black Lesbian Jewish daughter could not attend or would be made to feel unwelcome at. The answer was a firm and resounding “NO.”

The problem in terminology of however, still remains...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Identity Crisis

When I first came to Wicca, I instantly fell in love with it. Or so I had incorrectly believed for over 12 years of my life. What I later realized was that - what I fell in love with was “the idea of Wicca.” But actual Wicca, or all that was being peddled as Wicca really sucked ass.

So I began developing my own unique system, liturgy and theological framework which eventually evolved into a formal tradition. All the while I was constantly interrogated, attacked and criticized the Grand Poohbahs of Sacred Twinkies, who insisted that I wasn’t a “Real Wiccan.”

As it turns out, they were right.

Historically, I had always rejected anyone’s ability or authority to define what does or does not constitute Wicca. I have always said that one of the greatest strengths and benefits of Wicca is that it allows practitioners’ the freedom to tailor taxis and praxis to best suit their needs, and, that the greatest weakness and error of Wicca is that it allows practitioners’ the freedom to tailor taxis and praxis to best suit their needs .

While I reserved the right to be completely judgmental about what you say and do, under the banner of Wicca, I was never so entitled as to suppose I could define and legislate what is or isn’t Wicca for anyone else, or tell anyone they were not a real Wiccan, no matter how stupid I thought they were.

*Please note that one of the benefits of founding your own tradition is that it gives you the ability and authority to define what does and does not constitute your specific tradition, and what qualifies a practitioner for membership* But as time went on, I began to see the need to make the distinctions between my Wicca and all others.

“I’m Wiccan… but not like them..”

So the need for a modifier became painfully obvious. We became “Veritas Wiccans,” which came from my motto and theme. Then later “Mill Creek” became another distinctive identifying tag. More and more I felt myself pulling away from the words and identity associated with “Wicca,” until I left Wicca and the Pagan community completely.

I never really gave up my core beliefs and practices, I just stopped trying to frame them within a Wiccan theme.

But I did take a well-deserved sabbatical after I retired from active prison and community ministry, closed the Seminary and Coventry.  For the first time in a very, very long time, I had time for me.

So, I decided to make good and productive use of it. In addition to my advanced academic goals, I began exploring and pursuing studies that would contribute to my own personal spiritual edification.

One of the most significant things I did was finally commit the time to take up a serious study of Runes. And, as anyone who studies runes is aware, you cannot lean runes without learning Germanic culture, and off I went.
More than two years later I received an invitation to submit an abstract and again return to the Conference on Current Pagan Studies as a presenter. Having spent my ample and productive time in my cocoon, I decided to submit an abstract and participate in the conference.
My acceptance notification also requested a current promotional biography for the event itinerary and program guide.So I pulled up the last draft of Bio I had used, and upon review came to realize that it only gave an accurate description of who I was, and what I had done, past tense. It no longer reflected who I had become or what I was doing.
The ensuing identity crisis only lasted a day or two. But more importantly, it prompted honest introspective analysis, reflection and contemplation.
I was again exploring new landscape with an inaccurate and outdated map, and that there were no words or phrases presently in use within the current collective vernacular that could articulately frame, sum up and communicate my particular state of being.
“I’m Heathen… but not like them..”
So there I found myself, again, looking to find the proper vocabulary to intelligently articulate and communicate my spiritual identity.
And That’s when I became *Kinnish*

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.