Monday, May 25, 2009

The Echos of Cadence

When I finally got into serious trouble in my days as an "at risk youth" I ended up in front of the same judge as my father; which gave me an odd sense of pride at the time, he told me I could join the military or join Job Corps. My hair nearly touched my belt and there was no way I was cutting it for the Army, so whats this Job Corps thing? I was so vain.

I learned my lesson sitting in Jail waiting for my ship date, I turned my life around, graduated from Timber Lake Job Corps with a new outlook on life and for the first time I had realistic and obtainable goals. Looking back I recognize Job Corps as prep school for the military.

The military strips you of vanity as we know it...as civilians. Later it pops up in a more healthy form. Pride. Military vanity is an extra coat of polish on your boots or extra starch in your uniform. I learned that stubble can be very attractive if you can shape it correctly. I spent every morning of my military career swearing that my last day in service would be the last day I cut my hair ever again, but I never minded the shave.

In the native traditions, one cuts their hair as a sign of grief and mourning. I think about that every two weeks when I'm in the chair getting my high fade flat top cleaned up and sharpened. I've never told anyone until now, but I do it for them, and I think about them. I stare at the television but I see something else, and I wounder if it's still in there. If its still in me.

Tomorrow I will be an Honor Guard for the Order of the Pentacle, acting an a memorial service for a Pagan soldier who was killed in Iraq. It was very strange to piece my Class A uniform back together, I haven't worn one since before I was in Iraq. Fear. Getting all my medals and ribbons, the brass and the wings. Seeing my jump boots shine. Pride. I had to get a new Beret, shave it, soak it, mold it. Putting it all on was almost like being back in the saddle again. But looking in the mirror there was just one thing out of place...

When I was done I splashed a little aftershave. The familiar burn was like that first drink of soda after you've gone weeks without it.When I put it all back on and went back to the mirror I saw him. When I looked him in the eyes I heard the echos of cadence. I realized it was still in me and always will be.

Remember your troops, you have no idea what they have done for you...

...and if you can't stand behind them, I invite you to stand in front of them...

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Big Fat Green Thumb

I received an email from someone who watched my Fresno State lecture on YouTube. The author made light of the term"Minority Faith" in reference to a more colorful meaning, and asked some clarification questions about what I do at the Prison, and more exactly what I do at the Prison, so here's more on that...

First of all, on "Minority Faiths". I have had people tell me that Wicca and/or Paganism IS NOT A MINORITY FAITH!!! Well, with all due respect I disagree. Twice. Speaking as a proud Wiccan who believes that Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the world today I disagree. Moving up a notch into the umbrella of Paganism I am inclined to believe it's even larger and growing faster but again I disagree. I do think We as Pagans are still a minority faith, which is actually beside the point.

My second count of the disagreement is based on the origin of the term itself. In the great state of California, the Prison system only hires Chaplains for five faiths. (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim & Native American) So these five are the majority faiths, and if your a resident at one of our lovely state facilities and your not one of these faiths, guess what you are? That's right a "Minority Faith".

Now to answer some great questions. Yes, I am literally the Chaplain for everyone else. How I do that is simply a case by case basis. What I do is a lot. LOL. But seriously I provide a variety of services. So lets start there, with services. Basically I run religious ceremonies that function as an "Interfaith ritual". There are groups that run their own rituals, but can't do it without supervision. So for them I simply bring a few items they cannot have and participate in what they are doing, I like to call this facilitation.

Last week was a great week. I helped with a RLUIPA project. The prison I work with does not have religious grounds established for Pagans but has recently started making plans to do so. I was honored to advise and assist this the planning of the Pagan religious grounds and am looking forward to holding services there by Samhain. Friday I responded to requests for interviews by inmates, these are always challenging because you never know what your going to get yourself into. Sometimes inmates want one-on-one spiritual counseling and sometimes you are the complaint department.

Friday I was both. I love a challenge. While I must keep the subjects of the sessions privileged, I will say that one of those calls resulted in a new program for the Asatru inmates to include use of a mead horn. Am I qualified to conduct Asatru religious services? No, I am not, but that's not what I am doing. What I am doing is working in cooperation with Asatru & Norse Pagan groups, doing my homework on the needs of the inmates, the requirement of the faith and the policy of the prison; I create a middle ground for religious accommodation. Once I find that middle ground I bless it and plant seeds...

I can't wait to go back, I've got so much watering to do.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pagan Memorial Day

In September of last year I posted about the Order of the Pentacle, of which I am a very proud member. This Memorial Day I will have the Honor and Privilege of representing the Order in a ritual in remembrance of our fallen soldiers.

This Memorial Day, Monday May 25th the Pagan Alliance and the Order of the Pentacle will assemble at the War Memorial near the Lafayette BART station we will remember our Pagan Brothers and Sisters who who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We will dedicate a new Pentacle for Sergeant Jason A. Schumann of Hawley, Minnesota. Sgt. Schumann was killed by an Improvised Explosive Devise in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq. I myself have survived several trips through Diwaniyah, and will proudly carry his Pentacle.

All members of the Pagan community as well as other religious communities are being asked to join us in support of our troops. Because if you can't stand behind our troops, I invite you to stand in front of them.

Blessed Be & Air Assault!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mama Always Said...

I have often said that I have "Forrest Gump-ed" my way through life. Some things I consciously decide to do, or not. But life is what happens to you anyway. Things happen for a reason, and for those of you who disagree, things happen to me for a reason.

A big part of our craft teaches the proper expression of will, like Neo we recreate our own Matrix as we see fit. A magnificent obstacle told me I was not "qualified" to do what do and that I had to stop, I of course disagreed and took the attack as a personal challenge in more than one way.

Using our ritual technology, I "properly expressed" myself in order to make adjustments to my world. And it worked. I took this picture of our state capital on Thursday, it would later be the scene of a candlelight vigil for the law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty this past year.

I as a Chaplain participated and assisted in four separate memorial ceremonies, went on a Police ride-along, and on Friday I shook hands with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger then I and the rest of the Chaplains had our photo taken with with him.

A friend once asked me why I do the rituals that I do. I had said because they're mine, the result of years of hard work and development of hereditary knowledge. I failed to point out another very important reason, which is quite simply because they work. I will soon have my copy of a picture which I will submit as exhibit "A".

Once I started my training I realize that the magnificent obstacle was right, I wasn't qualified, WE weren't qualified! There are some serious academics required to be a Chaplain and I have already acquired the minimum of those qualifications, and am well on my way to getting the rest. Someday I will be teaching them to other Pagans, we need to be qualified.

The training brought up many issues. Issues that I need to address, issues that need to be addressed by a great many for a great many, but for now that's all I have to say about that...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Thin Blue Line

Like many, our Shield holds deep meaningful symbolism. One of those its the pillar of white between to black sides symbolizes the strength of wisdom and the division of ignorance. The pillar straight through the center of a crest also denotes a military strength similar to the Paladins. I always liked that one.

Thanks to some very special letters written by some very special people in the Department of Corrections, I am now in Sacramento receiving some very special training. Today I participated in two law enforcement memorial services paying tribute to the Police and Sheriffs Deputies who were killed in the line of duty, it was an extraordinary experience which I immediately related to my military background.

This afternoon I did a ride along with a Sacramento Police officer. We hit it off quite well, he was in the Army too, we were both stationed at Fort Campbell and had many personal things in common. In our time together we responded to four calls, the evening s events included lights, sirens and high speeds which I was strangely comfortable with. And I one point gun were drawn, air support was called in and I had to wait in the cruiser. I miss the Army.

Within our first ten minutes on the street in noticed how everyone reacted to our presence. Fear...fear...contempt....fear......people trying to be slick and put on their seat belts. People trying to look but not be seen. I saw this guy risk his life tonight, and I saw people fear and hate him just before and just after he did it. How often are we happy to see them? How lucky are we to have them. Tonight I witnessed a disgraceful imbalance, tonight I learned that there is only a thin blue line separating us from mortal dangers.