Imbolc 2022 – Part Two

Imbolc is the time for observation on the winter in passing, and preparation for the coming spring. With this post, I am sowing the earliest of seeds for the coming season, and stepping into the sunlight with what I hope to grow. This is a message for family, friends, or any interested, to whom I have not yet shared this part of my journey:

Part One is here.

In 2018, a partner introduced me to the book, The Four Agreements. I read it end to end on a cross-country flight. I was skeptical. There are many parts of the book I took issue with or held in disbelief, and I still do. However, the essential philosophy of the book is sound:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

The central idea is a key to greater happiness is living a more honest and authentic life with yourself, then the people around you.

With time, I found I had already been resolving conflicts based on previous expectations of others around me in my life. I had left Christianity, and reset those expectations with my family. I had been through challenges with marriage, and had begun working through those with my wife, albeit not in the best way. I had missed the time in nature from my childhood, and spending more time in places where I felt more connected to the greater world expanded my connection with myself and others.

As I explored these concepts from a spiritual perspective, I began reading about Toltec shamanism and the history of shamanism as a whole. I expanded on meditation techniques I had learned as early as second grade, and explored journey states over the next year.

This culminated in processing a traumatic event from my teenage years related to how I dealt with anger and other emotions. Released from this trauma, I found I had developed tools to aid me in processing trauma and experiencing a broader range of the emotional spectrum.

I also no longer felt spiritually inert. I felt connected to a greater universe, to people, to nature, to the earth, in ways I hadn’t experienced before.

There was also more to do. There were ways I wanted to develop, more trauma to address, and new ways to discover of learning how to experience and live in the world. I’ve always been concerned about climate change, the environment, and our impact on nature. Since my grandmother’s death when I was 5, I’ve thought deeply about death, how we process it, and how people address (or don’t address) the impact of loss.

Yet, various forms of indigenous shamanism weren’t suitable for this, and were in multiple ways problematic for me. This isn’t to reject the notion of it as a valid path for many others, but it didn’t connect with me wholly in the way I needed to develop more useful experiences. There’s also the aspect I am in no way indigenous or connected to most of the traditions I was reading about.

The search for a further framework of spiritual exploration began in the fall of 2019, and didn’t take very long. Decades before, I met a student of Druidry and we discussed his practice. He was introspective, intelligent, and seemed very peaceful on his own path. I respected him and what he was doing, although my own spirituality was vastly different at the time.

I began reading about Druidry, its history and philosophies. I learned about reconstruction and revival Druidry, and explored the different groups practicing today locally and internationally. I researched all I could about it before even talking with anyone, because if there was anything I didn’t like, I wanted to know about it early before I started exploring it further. I found some things I didn’t like. While I found some groups, and uniquely some people, who I didn’t agree with their ideas, I found many aspects of Druidry something I could connect with.

Further, Druidry worked with my own personal heritage. While not a requirement aside from a few more dogmatic groups and individuals, Druidry would allow me to learn more about the history of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Britain.

I attended a local Druid ritual in late 2019. I met people practicing Druidry, discussed some current issues and differences among various groups, and learned more about my potential path. In December 2019, I joined the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, commonly called OBOD, a revival Druidry order based in the United Kingdom.

OBOD is a popular introduction to Druidry for many because of its remote correspondence course, created by prior Chosen Chief Philip Carr-Gomm, on prompting from the order’s founder, Ross Nichols. This course is mailed to students over the course of the initiate’s first year, and guides students through the Bardic Grade, studying, among other things, Druidry history and philosophy, lore, cosmology, poetry, and inspiration.

None of this is like the pop culture version of Druids we have in America, influenced in part by games like Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft. Druidry is a nature-based spiritual path, but depending on your type of practice, it can range from a philosophy focusing on art and creativity with practitioners from many religions including Christianity, to a complete polytheistic religion focused on various pantheons of gods and goddesses. If you wish to read more about it, please check out OBOD’s page on Druid Beliefs.

I began the course in January 2020, initially keeping pace with the weekly structure of the lessons. 2020, however, was a notably difficult year. When the pandemic struck, and later the forest fires here in California, I was both stuck inside and away from the places in nature I had connected to. Like many others, I experienced depression, weight gain, and other symptoms of the trauma we were collectively experiencing. I paused working with the lessons in July 2020, but kept what I had learned with me in meditation and recognizing the Wheel of the Year.

Druidry was not my only means of self-exploration and care through this time. I also sought professional counseling for what I experienced, and was diagnosed with ADHD. This became a process of reviewing my life and unexplained behaviors since childhood, along with the tools I had found on my own to mitigate them. I also helped build an online community of local polyamorous people who supported each other through the pandemic, which still exists and is growing. In person, I was in a bubble with my wife, son, and partner, and it went a long way in strengthening our own connections.

Social justice issues came to the forefront in 2020, and OBOD took a firm supportive stance. I wrote a post for OBOD’s Druids for Justice section titled An American Person of Color in a British Druidic Order.

In April 2021 I was ready to begin again. I reviewed all the lessons I had covered in 2020, and the journal entries I had written. I picked back up, yet took my time, and the lessons unfolded naturally with the progression of the year. I found new places in nature to connect, including small, unexpected ones in urban areas. I don’t think I would have learned how if the places I had access to before had been available.

I finished the Bardic Grade in January 2022, taking two years to complete. It has been a moving, transformative experience, and I feel I have walked further down the path I set out on with this journey.

However, I have done this silently. Aside from my wife, partner, and a few friends, no one outside of Druidry has known about it. I have challenged myself to live openly and transparently, which has come at great cost, but to greater benefit. The next stages of this path mean walking more openly.

Along with writing a book, which is based on some of the Welsh mythology and lore I have studied in Druidry, I have enrolled in a course on End of Life celebrancy. My vision is to help Druid and pagan families to process loss and grief from death, and to serve them and the deceased by hosting funeral services. This comes from my own experiences with death and grief, and I believe I can effectively serve the community in this way.

I am also helping smaller Druid environmental action groups with organizing and communications, like The Order of the Oak. We hope to make a larger impact on creating action to properly address climate change.

The other next step in this path is moving forward to the Ovate Grade, which will begin in the coming months. Along with the other changes I’ve initiated in life, I look forward to the next stages in the journey.

For some, I know this may be a shock. I have lived as a Christian, and lived as an atheist. I will talk about in the future where I stand in beliefs now, but the important thing to know is the essence of who I am, a person wanting to learn, to help others, and to live a good life, has not changed.

With Peace, Harmony, and Balance,


Imbolc 2022 – Part One

I have a long history with religion.

I was Christened in the Methodist church in the late 70s. My baby pictures show the sepia tones of sunlight shining through stained glass windows on my family and little me at a beautiful ceremony.

My grandfather’s brother was a Baptist minister. I remember running around his church with my cousins, singing with the other kids, and starting to read an old Bible handed to me by one of the women of the church.

For a while, my mother was my Sunday School teacher at my grandfather’s Methodist church. It was one of the most consistent bonding moments of that part of my childhood, after my grandmother’s death. I grew to love Bible stories, and was a voracious reader. My young mind craved the concepts of good and evil, right and wrong, and the unconditional love of an omnipotent God.

When I was 11, we started going to a Southern Baptist Church. I was re-baptized by immersion, and through my teenage years was taught the Bible was a literal and direct message from God himself, homosexuality was a sin, along with a list of many others.

In college, I was on the Baptist Student Council. At one point, one of my ideas in response to a campus minister who angered half the campus by calling them names was to stand in the campus square and hand out Valentines from Jesus for Valentines Day. Yeah, if you were at Eastern Kentucky University in Spring 1998, that was me. I was also part of a ministry group, singing and acting at churches in the area.

I considered seminary, and was given the opportunity to speak at a very rural church in Eastern Kentucky. Before going, our campus minister prepared me; King James Version of the Bible only, men and women sit on different sides of the building, and they were likely all white. I spoke passionately, and seemed to be welcome, although I was likely the first black man to have spoken at that pulpit.

After college, I saw the rise of the megachurches and the strengthening of the bond of politics, money, and Christianity through the preaching of prosperity gospel and the war on terrorism. I was a voracious listener of conservative radio, and a frequent viewer of Fox News. I read Hannity, Savage, and O’Reilly, among others. I was surrounded by right wing ideology.

Over time, I lived in different cities, and saw how this affected me and the people I met, many who were on the fringes of the society I thought existed from my rural, small town. I always had confidence in the scientific method. I had found tenuous excuses to allow both conservative Christianity and scientific knowledge to co-exist.

Eventually, the cracks in my worldview began widening. I had never personally been homophobic, but I had seen how homosexuals were talked about and treated by fellow Christians throughout my life. I felt a kinship as a Person of Color, because for every Christian space I was in where LGBTQ+ people weren’t welcome, I knew not ten or twenty years before, I wouldn’t have been.

In 2007, I found myself trying to bridge the relationship of a fellow Christian coworker with several others, and I got to really look at our views from their perspective. Over the next few years, I noticed more of the hate, the anger, and the inconsistency of the modern Christianity I was a part of, and I tired of it.

At first, I thought, I would always hang on to Jesus. I thought even if the rest of the dogma, the conservative media, and the inconsistencies of words to action weren’t a part of my life, Jesus would always be.

A few years later, that thread too was gone, not by sin or denial, just no longer needed. I felt better. I felt free of the anger and mistrust of others and the world. I felt free from the dogma and expectations of a religion which seemed to have grown more out of touch with what I was experiencing.

I began to consider myself an atheist somewhere around 2010. For years I described myself as “spiritually inert”, and I embraced the world of engineering and knowledge around me. I found ethics which fit my already existing beliefs of equality, harmony, and peace through Humanism. I encountered a binary world of 1s and 0s, and made sense of it with what was available to me at the time. I got into a comfort zone, and I didn’t need to consider an intuitive, spiritual, or more complex universe than the material one I could see.

In 2016, I learned I had survived a heart condition which could have killed me at any moment my entire life. I’ve lived through being shocked with paddles in an emergency room. I’ve survived being awake while cardiologists burned extraneous electrical pathways on my heart.

In 2017, my son was born. The first week, I saw every family member I had loved in him. I felt them again, many for the first time in decades.

Processing these experiences I began to feel there was more than I was getting from my life the last few years. I had achieved success, money, and notoriety in my field. I found myself increasingly unhappy.

In 2018, many people already know my wife and I opened our marriage, dating separately, and I started practicing polyamory. About that time, I also became vegetarian, and began spending more time in nature, hiking, camping, and spending weekly time in the woods. These were the external changes.

It’s time to tell the story of what occurred internally and privately the last four years.

Part 2 is now up and here.