To Carry a Pipe

It’s been about two years since I was gifted a personal prayer pipe.  And in all that time I’ve had a pretty healthy fear of it’s power.

Well, at least I thought it was a healthy fear.

As someone who can’t document my Native American ancestry, some may consider my want to carry a pipe as sacrilege.  And others may say that even though I’m native, because I didn’t grow up within the native culture that I am disrespecting the pipe by even owning it.

This is something that I have fought against for a great deal of my life, and I know I’ve spoken of it here many times before.  Growing up, when I would find new information on my spiritual heritage I became very excited.  A new book, contact through friends with tribal elders, a new nugget of wisdom to ponder and treasure was something that comforted me.  But continued searching would most inevitably lead me to others within the native community who would bash what I had found; claiming either that the teachings were watered down or not true teachings at all.  I went round and round like this, until early in the 1990s when I finally just gave up and tried another spiritual path. But the native ancestry always called me back, even though for many years I was afraid to answer the call.

Fast forward to several years ago when the pipe came into my life.  Here is where I thought I would finally get somewhere; that I would finally be able to fit the pieces of what I learned so long ago into my current practices.  Here, I thought, through working with the pipe I would find more about my ancestry and how I could become a part of it. The naysayers and limited information still remained, however, the root cause of that problem changed.  When I thought it was the naysayers that still held me back, it was something different.  It wasn’t because they judged me as unworthy.  I was judging me as unworthy.    I didn’t find myself native ‘enough,’ or worthy and strong enough to hold such a valued item.  All of the talk from those that I looked up to years and years ago stuck with me, and not in a positive way.

I didn’t realize this problem until this past evening, while on a phone call with a friend who is dealing with the same issues.  My friend is someone who I trusted, and who gave me advice about the pipe before.  So when I asked him more specifics about how he worked with his pipe, I think he realized what it was I was dealing with, and therefore he opened up to me more than he had in the past.  He told me about his own fears; that in the past he never felt like he was ‘enough’ of the blood for his pipe.  He spoke about his fears of being judged by peers in the community, or his fear of being called insensitive and unworthy outright.

When I heard about these fears, I was shocked.  This is a man who is respected in our local native community, someone whose mother is full blood, and here he is telling me he didn’t feel like HE was enough?  I have seen many things that this man has done for the native community.  I have seen this man rescue older pipes that have fallen into hands who did not know what they had.  I have seen him lead spirit fires.  Yet here he was, saying he felt like he wasn’t enough to hold a pipe.  How could this be?  Even now, after the conversation I’m still in a bit of shock.  But now I understand why he and I have felt this way for so long.

The whole issue that repeats itself for many people like me (and for him), who are called to do the work of a pipe or to walk the ‘red road’.  We become afraid of doing so because in some form or fashion we have been told that we do not carry the proper paperwork that we are told we need to allow us to walk within Native spirituality.  Or we are told that we can walk some of the road, but we will never be allowed behind the ‘buckskin curtain’ to know the true ways that we seek so desperately in our hearts.

I am not saying what full blooded Native Americans do is wrong.  What I am suggesting is that there is more malice towards some of us that are mixed than perhaps there should be. Those who love their traditions dearly and want to see them continue just as they are may not be looking at the full picture of the world becoming a global community.  Or perhaps instead of wanting to embrace that global community, they feel that they need to protect the purity of the teachings to ensure they are kept alive.   And while I fully understand some teachings are only meant for specific people, some teachings can be shared – NEED to be shared – for the good of the global community.  This means that those who have pressed for so long to keep these teachings under wraps and only available to a select few may need to reevaluate some of the things that they hold as secret.  And perhaps, in their zeal for keeping things secret, they may be doing more harm than good, as they have done in the past with me, and with my native friend.

I am going to say again, I don’t feel like going to the other end of the spectrum would be of any benefit.  Opening up ALL of the teachings is also not the solution here.  Already we have seen people use even small pieces of the teachings for personal gain, something that I doubt the elders and spirits ever wanted to happen.  And worse, others have used the teachings to invoke power over others.  The teachings must be protected from this just as much as other people must be protected from this abuse.

Another point to consider – the ceremonies of the pipe are very sacred.  The knowledge needs to be treated with the same respect that the pipe itself is treated with.  Flooding the world with this knowledge would not be respecting either one, and would only make the entire ceremony and pipe useless.   And with as dire need as the world has right now, by putting these things out there for everyone to see is to remove some of the sacred from this world.  We would also lose another very important tool of community, healing and strength. The pipe goes to they that treat it with respect, and those who are willing to stretch themselves to do good in the world.  This I understand now.

My native friend talked to me about his own fears for a long time.  Then he told me how he how there was a reason why I was called, just like there was a reason I was having the conversation with him.  There are reasons for why things are as they are.  It didn’t matter whether or not I was full blooded, or even if I didn’t have any native blood.  The reasons for the pipes coming out into the world can only really be guessed at.  But they ARE coming out. That is the truth of the matter.

And he went deeper with this truth:  The pipe came to ME.  The call was there, and I answered it.  And because the call was there, and this pipe came to me, I was meant to carry it. And as long as I give it the proper respect and do my best to continue the tasks I have been charged with, that is what truly matters.  And that was what I was not doing before we had the conversation.   I THOUGHT I was giving it proper respect, But further introspection made me realize that the ‘respect’ that I was giving was actually fear.  For too long I had confused ‘fear of’ with ‘respect for’ the pipe.  So instead of respect empowering me to utilize what I had been given, I was frozen in fear of the pipe and its powers.

Regarding the entire situation, with mixed Natives and full blood Natives, I don’t know the way forward.   I am not in any place to suggest any path for the tribes to follow.  But I do think that we have to learn to understand situations where Native teachings are being given on a case per case basis. We need to learn to stop condemning that which we come to learn about in a respectful manner.   But more importantly, and for me personally, we need to learn to look inside ourselves and undo the damage that was done.  It doesn’t matter if the damage was done 20-30 years ago or just yesterday.  If we feel called to learn to carry the pipe, we must consider that pull seriously, no matter what lineage we have in our DNA.  And we must not be deterred from that duty should we choose to follow our hearts.  To carry a pipe is to bring hope to people, to bring blessings and to bring a powerful vehicle of prayer and intersession.  We cannot turn away this call lightly.

After the phone call with my friend, I felt compelled to journey.  So after the appropriate measures were taken, I journeyed to meet my Gods and to discuss with them what it was that I had learned.  I discussed my fears, my hopes, and their expectations for me.  I was given cleansings and some appropriate trials.   Finally, I was allowed to be a part of a pipe ceremony where I was spiritually given the pipe whose physical form laid beside me as I was doing my journey.  I was also given more instruction on the pipe ceremony itself and how I was to utilize that ceremony.  Today, the fear has subsided some, but I know that I may still have work ahead in order to deal with it better.

Moving forward, I have been given plans on when I am to keep ceremony, and how to work with the pipe outside of ceremony.  And most importantly, I have accepted it much more deeply into my life than I had before.  Now my hope is that someone else may read my words and get some solace out of what it is that I have gone through.

Picture from Deviant Art

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Feeling Connections

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

~ Howard Thurman

 

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Over the year that I have been working with Loki, Sigyn and Odin, I have found a happiness that I never thought was possible within religion.  In all of my years as a practicing Christian, I never felt the Christian God the way I feel the ones that I am working with now.  Yes, the Christian God felt alive to me, but I didn’t “feel” like one of “his” children.  Even when I was doing other pagan and Wiccan practices, I never felt so close to the Gods as I do now.  The more devotional things I do for Odin, Sigyn and Loki, the more I feel and hear them.

I wonder if in today’s constant strife regarding the role of religion if this is something that we are lacking.  We see a lot of posts about how and what people think about their Gods, their practice and what other people should or shouldn’t do, but we aren’t seeing many posts about how we FEEL about our Gods.  Perhaps if we looked at how we feel about our Gods, and in turn how they feel about us, we wouldn’t have as much argument.  It doesn’t matter how we find our own ways to get there, but in the end, if you are content with your practice and feel the connections to the Gods, then that connection can be a starting point to reach out to other religions.

My connections to my Gods make me feel alive.  They soothe my soul and make me feel whole.  Odin helps me to understand that I do not know everything, and that I have a long road to get to the level of understanding that I want to be at.  He recognizes that I have value in who I am and in what I do, and that I’m not afraid of going outside that which I know in order to get something done, especially in his honor.

My connection to Loki is one that is very hard to describe.  I feel his passion and fire within me, and that has gotten me through rough times, especially when I am having a hard time with my chronic pain.  Loki also helps me learn to accept all of myself.  This includes those pieces of me that I feel are less than desirable.  I’m allowed to be angry, I’m allowed to dislike things.  But I am also allowed to recognize those feelings but that I don’t have to DO anything about them.  I can let things go as they may; I don’t have to make everything right for everyone, or even for myself.  And while I am not constantly on the lookout for the rug to be pulled out from under me in some aspect of my life, I recognize that it may happen.  And when it does, I am enough to do whatever it is that is needed to make the best out of the situation.

Sigyn is a much deeper lady than anyone gives her credit for.  To know her is to know that there are other aspects of her that she does not show to many.  She is the consoler, but she also does not let people shirk their duties because of their pain.  She asks of you to do what it is you can, to find the limit and work to it, then to recognize that that is enough.  Some days those limits are higher than others.  Sometimes they are much lower.  Either way, that is OK.  She also teaches that once you have met the limit, Rest for your body and for your soul is always necessary.   She is the champion of us who have chronic illness, a lady of quiet wisdom and strength, and a child of wonder and awe.  She is someone you must sit with for a time as she must know you before she opens herself to you.

Some readers may also remember that I am the holder of a medicine pipe of Native American traditions.  This relationship too has been solidified over the year.  I am not as afraid as I once was of the power that likes within the sumac and pipestone.  Instead, I recognize that its purpose is to help heal and teach those who are within its influence.  Ceremonies with the pipe are not things that happen often, but when they do, they will need to be done very carefully and purposefully.  And even when the pipe is in its bags, proper respect is still expected.  I find myself still giving offerings to it whenever I feel it is necessary.  Finally, the pipe doesn’t have to be out to speak.  It will speak to whomever it needs to, whenever the time is right.

A year ago I made pacts with these Gods that I would renew within a year and a day so long as they still wanted me, and I still felt comfortable with them.  Now I recognize that the connections that I have made with them will last much, much longer.  And I am absolutely OK with this.  It feels so nice to finally find a home.  It just took me throwing out some of the things that others taught and feeling my way through my own truth.

Perhaps speaking about these connections will help others speak about their own feelings regarding their relationships with the Gods.  Perhaps they will think on how they feel, and recognize that we all have a common starting point; the joy and comfort the Gods bring as well as the continuous lessons that we receive on a day to day basis.  I don’t expect this post to change all that.  But it might get some people thinking at least about expressing their own connections to divinity.  And even if it doesn’t, I’m still happy at the fact that I can express the relationships that I have had a hand in making for myself.

Photo from Deviant Art.

A Story About A Choice

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I want to tell a story about something that happened to me today.  this event was very profound, as nothing like this had ever happened, especially when I was at work.

I am lucky to work for a company that has a mile nature trail on its campus.  Many associates take advantage of this trail.  Some do it for the exercise, or just to take a break from the daily grind.  I do it for that, but I also realize that there are a significant number of spirits in the woods and in the stream near the trails.  So i frequently also send a mental ‘shout out’ to them as I walk by.  There have also been many times that I have had conversations with the ones that choose to speak to me, and from those conversations, I’ve learned a lot about the path that I am currently on.

Today however, things were very different.  I took the path at a fast clip, as there was another associate who was also walking, and my introverted self didn’t really want to walk near the associate and try to facilitate small talk.  He, recognizing that I had much longer legs than he did and was walking much faster, allowed me to pass, and off I went into the first leg of the wooded part of the trail.

And I immediately spotted a large brown and white feather right in the middle of the trail.

Without thinking, I scooped the feather up mid-stride, and never broke my pace.  The feather reminded me of one of a red tailed hawk, a predatory bird that is frequently seen where I live.  However I knew that it was not.  It also seemed beaten up, much like if the bird had lost it in a fight.  I knew that my seeing the feather was a sign of something, as there is very rarely any feathers on this trail that I walk on a frequent basis.

That’s why the second feather was so surprising when I saw it.

This one was all black, like it had come from a blackbird, raven or crow.  Again, all three have been seen around the area, so I really had no way of knowing.  However, this one, unlike the brown and white one, was perfectly formed and surprisingly longer than most.

When I first saw the feather, I walked by it.  After the third step I felt like I had to turn around and get it, to which I did.  The associate I passed was still in range, and watched me walk back to get the second feather.  I quickly took up my fast pace in order to not have any questions asked of me, and overtook a second group of associates walking the trail to get some distance.

As I was carrying the feathers, I took a trail not rarely used (it was full of mud – I didn’t care) in order to double back and make sure a proper ‘thank you’ was said for the feathers.  As I said, they are very rare on these trails, so I had thought that I was very fortunate to find two on the same day, not 20 feet from each other.

When I doubled back, I found that I was the last associate to utilize the trails for that lunch hour.  So I had it all to myself.  And after a proper ‘thank you’, I was off.

As I continued to the farthest part of the trail, I realized that these feathers were more significant than I had originally thought.  While I wasn’t told specifically what each feather meant, I was told that one of the feathers would have to go back to the trail, and with it, a choice was to be made in my spiritual practices.

The beat up one seemed to symbolize my past.  It symbolized the abuse, it symbolized how hard I had pushed through to heal from everything, but it also symbolized all of the strength that I had gained and the spiritual allies that came to my aid.  At least that is what I sort of ‘assumed’.  I was never able to get a straight answer.

The black feather I think symbolized the unknown.  And from it I could sense that there was a hint of a gateway to transform into something that I was not yet able to become.  In the metaphysical sense, I could tell this feather contained no darkness, but yet it contained no light.  The only thing that I could truly comprehend from the energy was that it contained the beginnings of something new.

At this point I was coming to the second trail, which has a bridge over a fast flowing stream.  I was told that I could not keep both feathers; that one had to be dropped into that stream.  And if I chose not to drop one of the feathers, there would be some sort of consequence that I would be choosing to face.

Now I was still at work, and even though I am allowed to take a longer lunch hour, I knew I had to get back to my desk as I was expected for meetings.  It was only within a matter of moments that I was going to get to the bridge and cross it.  And even though it was a short distance, I was surprised at how much dread, pain and longing I felt.  Even though the meanings of the feathers were never truly clear, I knew they had some significant importance, and I didn’t have any time to study or understand that importance.

So onto the bridge I went, and as requested, one of the feathers went into the water.  I watched as it spiraled down and the current carried it under the bridge and down the stream.  For a moment, I thought about going down and trying to grab it as I saw it head toward the bank, but thought better of it.  Instead, I quickly walked away before I could see if it would get stuck.

The second feather now sits on my desk, next to a feather I had found on another walk, and three stones I used for focus and meditation during the day.  the feather sits in the middle of the three stones, much like a small altar in between my two monitors.

I am unsure of all of the intricacies of what it is I have chosen.  All I know and believe is that I have chosen to step away from that which I know and into the unknowns of a new path, one that will hopefully lead me to becoming someone who knows myself well, and can utilize what I know I am for the good of myself and those around me.

 

 

 

My Personal Spirituality

(OK, in full disclosure here, this is a rant, a bit of a journal entry, and a statement.  I am writing this to do my best to put things together in my head and to finally come out with statements I still am scared to make.  I offer it here for further discussion and because it was ‘suggested’ that I do so)

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Lone candles are not diminished flames.  The fire is not lessened by shining alone. Photo from Deviant Art

As a child I was aware of my Native heritage.  However, it wasn’t something that was talked about much in my family (unfortunately I got a lot of ‘we don’t talk about that’ when I’d bring it up).  I knew I had family on a reservation – somewhere – and remember seeing pictures once.  I’d get the occasional snippet of a story about someone going to visit them, or my father would discuss how it was brought up at such and such family gathering after I got older.  But because of how I look, and because I had no documentation about it, I could never get behind the so-called ‘buckskin curtain’.  I had no contacts until more recently, so everything I learned was from books that I could buy and hide from my parents (e.g., any paperbacks that could fit in a purse).  So I practiced what I could that ‘felt’ right, which meant a lot of what was called “shaman” at the time – spiritual journeying, energy work, and working with the land, sea and sky spirits that made their presence known to me.

In High School and College, when I first started studying Wicca, one of the things that really struck me was how my then-teacher talked about how personal it was.  He made me realize how Wicca could be a foundation for a religious practice that would fit whatever pantheon you were interested in following.  This meant my Celtic heritage could shine through.

Later, when I was involved in both traditional and eclectic Wiccan groups, I saw this for myself, and realized that it was going way beyond my Celtic ancestry.  For example, one women’s group I was in held a circle working with Roman Goddesses.  The leaders built the ritual around it – all the way down to the garb that was donned.  The next circle was working with Hawaiian deities, and the feel was totally different.  It fit for the group and the traditional (a.k.a. lineaged) Witches that ran it.  But those changes, although it worked for them, didn’t fit me anymore.  It became too diverse and even too structured at times.  This was also around the time of the “traditional vs non-traditional” infighting, and having been a part of both I didn’t want to take sides.  The final straw was after I was accepted into a group because of my lineage, and then being told my lineage didn’t matter anymore.  And because my lineage didn’t matter I was not allowed to be a part of certain rituals I had originally been told that I would be allowed to attend.  That was enough to get me to finally leave the title of “wiccan” behind.

Years later, after dabbling in Reiki and working with my intuitive gifts and still trying to find a path, I got a reading from a Northern Tradition Shaman which blew my mind.  I didn’t realize how much my German Ancestry was tied with the Norse Pantheon.  (I know – it’s pretty much a common fact, but yet my mind didn’t grasp it until just after the reading) But at the same time, after everything else I had done in my life I just didn’t feel like being full blown Heathen fit either.  Then when I started seeing some of the same infighting that I saw in Wicca (this time between re-constructionist and UPG vs Trad/Non-Trad) I wanted nothing to do with it.

So why the heck am I again retelling my past?  I’m doing it because I know there are a significant amount of people who have had the same experiences as I have; and are either disenfranchised with the people they are working with or have quit trying to work with a group all together because they feel like they can’t give their fullest into it anymore.

All of this in my mind is relevant to what is going on in the pagan community today.  There has been a push in the blogs that I have seen to classify things (again, like I have talked about before) into Pantheist, Animist, Polytheist, etc., etc., etc.  And this has itself caused more infighting.  An atheist cannot be pagan.  Heathens cannot call anything truly holy.  Heathens cannot be classified Heathen if they are not Reconstructionist.  Polytheist does not include anyone who does not believe different deities are complete and separate entities.

And here are some I haven’t talked about, but have affected me deeply.  These may not be pagan, but in many ways fit into the same infighting that I was just talking about.  And these are the ones that have hurt me personally:

  • “Shaman” is not a politically correct term, and is an affront to Native Americans.
  • Don’t call yourself a “Pipe Carrier” or use the term “peace pipe” because they were both coined by the whites.
  • Only a true Elder can teach tribal knowledge.
  • Even if you feel you have ‘native blood’, you will never be able to get any get true wisdom because only those who are a card carrier and can document blood quantum are the true brothers and sisters. It is only those affiliated with a tribe that are entitled to the wisdom of Native ancestors.
  • (and the doozy) Anyone who tries to walk the path of a Native without being documented as such and being trained by a true Elder is only causing disgrace to the true Native American Nations.

Arguing and more arguing.  Classifications and dogma.  Everywhere I turn in a pagan or Native community it is there in some shape or fashion.  And I’m downright tired of it.  I’m tired of being scared by it.  I’m tired of being afraid of doing something ‘wrong’ and having something, someone or some group mad at me.  And that’s why I have to write this all out.  Because I’ve touched on how I feel this isn’t right before, but I’ve never done anything about it.  I’ve always still stayed afraid, and lived in my own personal world, but still haven’t truly put anything out there for anyone else to see, even though I ‘prepped the stage’ to do so by making this blog.

(Sorry guys, this isn’t all out of my system yet.  But I’m getting there.)

We are not ready to be called a community yet.  We are not a unified voice, and the efforts by people to try to make us one fail regularly.  We don’t need to be a nationwide community, and probably will never be one.  We don’t need to try to come together and put more dogma around any of our our current religious practices under the umbrella of any term.  We as a group cannot respect our differences so how the hell can we respect any unification?

It doesn’t matter how general you try to be with these labels.  Even just trying to divide the community into “Pagan”, “Wiccan”, “Heathen” and other titles doesn’t work; they are always going to have different meanings for different people.

And that is how it should be.  At least for now.

We need to focus on our smaller groups if we want to have a group at all.  There will never be a unifying voice for ALL Wiccans, ALL heathens or ALL pagans.  We need to stop pretending that there can be.  But there can be smaller voices; smaller groups that unite in time.  And those smaller voices and groups can have their own guidelines.  And those guidelines will only be valid for that group.  They cannot be pressed onto the rest of us.

Definitions, labels, whatever you want to use – they are not all inclusive.  Period.  End of Story.  What one person calls a polytheist may not be the same thing as what someone else means when they use the term.  I don’t care if you call out a definition in a dictionary.  That might be great for writing a term paper or thesis, but it may not fit how people think and feel.  People are allowed to have different interpretations of a definition.  We are allowed to exist and have our own opinions.

Does this mean that someone who has a different definition of, say the term, “heathen” should have a right to force themselves into a “heathen” group that has a different definition or set of guidelines?  Absolutely not.  But the group also does not have the rights to say what a Heathen is and is not for everyone who chooses that term.

When I see statements like, “we also have to fight against the incursion of elements hostile to polytheistic belief…: Atheists, humanist-pagans, new-agers and those unwilling to in any way accommodate polytheism but more than happy to demand polytheism accommodate them.”  (from Galena Krasskova’s post on Secular Polytheism) It really bothers me.  No wonder we are still having this fighting.  No wonder we cannot come together at all.  We cannot even agree on the definition of the term holy between people, much less between different systems of beliefs.

So now it’s time for me to step up to the plate and finally say something about it further than ‘it’s not right’.  It’s time for me to stop looking at how other people do things, and do them the way I feel is right for me.  If that means I am doing a ceremony differently and mixing tribal tradition (ouch), then if that is what feels right in my heart, I need to do it.  If that means I am going to worship Odin and Loki differently than Asatru or the Northern Traditionalists do because it feels right in my heart and gut to do so (yikes), then I need to.  If that means that I blend some of the Shaman and Wiccan tools that I have into my worship, So Mote it be.  No one has the right to tell me what I am and what I am not, nor should they be telling me how to worship.  If I make a mistake, I’m absolutely certain that either Karma or the Gods (or both) will most certainly do the necessary kicking of my ass.

So why the hell this is so freaking scary for me to say, I don’t know.  Why it needed a huge 1700+ rambling essay to say, I don’t know that either.  But what I am going to try to do now is to follow this up with posts about MY work, MY rituals and MY ceremony.  If I write it down and post it, there is no denying it came from me.

“It’s about time” I hear in my head.

Questions, queries, thoughts and theories always welcome.

Blessings

Reclaiming my ancestry…ALL of it.

I had thought that 2016 was going to be all about Odin, Loki and the other Northern teachings that I had to learn.    I knew some of those teachings were going to take me out of  my comfort zones, strip me bare and remold me into the shape of a person that was more true to my ancestry and more of a reflection of my spirit.

Little did I know that the focus was to include my ancestry as a native to Turtle Island as well.

Last year I was gifted an (unawakened) Native American Sacred Pipe.  It is meant to be a personal one, made with an elbow bowl.  I have been repeatedly told by a Native friend that the pipe needs to be awakened. Today I received another message that the pipe requires awakening, but this time it was in the form of a rune reading done by a Northern Tradition Shaman.  A rune reading….seriously?

Ok, I’ll take the hint before it becomes a clue-by-four to the forehead.

I was planning on waiting until I knew everything about that pipe I could know.   I wanted the ceremony for it to go like clockwork; everything spelled out and memorized, rehearsed and the moon to be in the right position.  And instead, I am putting things together on the fly to be ready the next new moon, when the pipe will be ready.

I just don’t know if I will be.

A personal pipe is a sacred and its care should not be taken lightly.  It is a responsibility you take on for life.  I know this, and I do not want to disrespect this in any shape or fashion.  But like the last post about Odin, I recognize now that I have let these responsibilities being offered to me scare me to the point of inaction.  It is time for me to trust the spirit within myself, the knowledge that I have gained over the years and my instinct.  My intention is good, and because of this I need to move on even though I might cause some disrespect from my ignorance.  If I do, I apologize and learn from it.

I believe now that Odin has a piece of this to play.  Maybe not in the ceremony for the pipe, but I believe him to be expecting me to pick up my responsibilities and move forward with them.  Perhaps this means that this year will be full of situations where I get to practice that which I had forgotten and learn new skills based upon those foundations.  I cannot say that I am not scared by this.  But if that is what I am to expect I will do my best to not run, nor to freeze with fear.  I am more than what I have become and it is time to take up that mantle, no matter how scary.  If this is truly the will of the Gods, So Shall it be.