Who is Graybeard Dances?
Greybeard gives the sign of approval to Starlight, the official photographer :)
If you make it through the following bit of expository text, you'll be able to better understand the above question.
I am a 6'1" 35-year old pagan of Swiss-German-Irish stock. For those who are interested in such things, my family seal is shown below (brought to this country in 1741).
My nome de pais came to me naturally soon after I first met my true love and soulmate Starlight. She insisted on calling me Pan, but I thought I needed a slightly less conspicuous "magickal" name. I had already decided to take her magickal surname (Dances), and I thought since my hair and beard were prematurely streaked with gray, that Graybeard suited me nicely.
I suppose my interest in paganism came naturally (no pun intended). Although there is a witch legend in my family genealogy, I was raised by scientists. Other than the standard growing up Bible character studies, my parents thought it wise to leave the spiritual paths of their children up to each of us. So in a sense, I am a life long pagan -- at least, a life-long non-Christian. Maybe that was a good thing, maybe it was not. At least I'm not like so many pagans that I meet - a "recovering something-or-other."
My interests growing up were reading, being outside, music and making stuff up. I started all three things pretty early. In second grade I was reading at a 6th grade level, at 6th grade I was reading sophomore college level. And I had a wealth of material to choose from: histories of the world and its cultures, detective stories, science fiction, westerns. As I got older, I started questioning why exactly I didn't seem to fit into the societal structure around me, and got turned onto metaphysical writings of many cultures. I really was interested in Buddhism for a while, although always fascinated by "Western Magic." I remember vividly coming across a reference to Agrippa when I was 16 and searching frantically for a copy of "The Three Books of Occult Wisdom." Finally, 15 years later, I have found a copy. I suppose ultimately the search in life is for unconditional love (from family, friends, society, etc.). When that search is unsuccessful (as it ultimately must be, unless that unconditional love comes from within), one turns to the search for unconditional power. Fortunately, I think my experiments with Blake's "road of excess" convinced me that search was also pointless.
Another thing that saved me was music. Growing up, my siblings and I were given instruction in piano, a wind instrument and a stringed instrument. Mine were clarinet and violin, although I also played the guitar and switched in junior high from violin to string bass and then, by a stroke of luck (the jazz band director couldn't hear me), to electric bass. Every holiday the entire extended family would gather at grandma's house and pick up an instrument and play together. That gave me an early lesson in universals -- it was obvious that there was something about music that transcended age, income bracket, generation and intelligence. I started writing songs at age 9 (and I've kept going, with now about 500 songs in almost any genre you can name). And musicians? Well, they just seemed COOLER than other people anyway. So I started forming and joining bands. It was obvious that I could lose my little problems in the magic of making the music. I definitely understood bands like the Dead and the Allmann Brothers (although much later in my development -- my cousin's early introduction of the Beatles to me changed my world forever). At 26, I went back to school. Berklee College of Music was generous enough to give me a voice scholarship. So I sang, recorded, and basically partied myself into a stupor and out of my lease and onto the streets. Met a lot of really great people, did many illegal things, and talked a lot of quantum physics and psychology.
During this time I started writing poetry and prose again...I'd written all through high school, but mostly a lot of depressing, self-abasing and down-trodden sarcasm things...my influences were now Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary. I think it was at 28 (the age, incidentally, that Miller started writing), that my life came to focus. I moved to Memphis, home of my musical roots (Stax, Sun, Hi-Lo records) and started expanding my philosophical/religious worldview. It was during this time that my father passed. That was hard. We hadn't really reconciled or seen each other in two years, and although we had our major disagreements and fights (and at one time, I thought death to him or me was the solution), he managed to teach me one thing -- what integrity was, and how important it was to have it. He also resisted my now born-again brothers' attempts at conversion, which just picturing makes me smile.
Don't get me wrong -- I tried Christianity. I really tried. Exploring my paternal grandparents' roots, I hooked up with the Mennonites. I like their anti-war position. Later, exploring my maternal grandparents' roots, I discovered the Celts and Druids. I liked their trees.
Fast forward...fast forward through leaving Memphis, getting married, moving to Seattle, moving back to my childhood home (a farm in Ohio), getting divorced. Drinking a lot. Quitting drinking. Quitting smoking. Starting smoking again. In 1999 I decided a major life change was in order. My options were limited in small-town Ohio. So I decided on New Orleans. I'd always been fascinated by its almost "non-America" feel, and there was the music, man, the music. So in preparation for my advance on the Crescent City, I placed a number of internet ads, looking for contacts, for love, for adventure. One of those ads read "Artist in Search of His Muse."
That's where Starlight comes into the picture. She and I met on-line, and conducted an extended dialog of jokes, links, poems and conversations prior to my arrival in New Orleans. She helped me find a place to live. I think she probably saved my life. And she was, and most definitely still is for me, the definitive "swamp witch." I think within two months (probably less, if you ask her) of on-line exchange we both knew this was it. No questions. The real thing. When I pulled that U-Haul truck up in front of her house and she materialized first on the lawn and then somehow magically was in my arms and kissing me, I knew I was where I belonged. And I knew that I was definitely pagan. Starlight, you are my world. Thou art goddess. Best friend, lover, companion and soulmate. In short, the "la la la."
And the journey, filled with mirth, music, love, laughter and much impertinence, continues. When the worlds of an earth-loving musician, bard, singer, songwriter, playwright, poet and philosopher and an earth-loving artist, dancer, tree-hugger, mother, writer, nurturer and healer met and are entwined in such rapturous unity, anything is possible.
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This site last updated: 21 Aug 2003 12:05 PM -0500