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Bishop In The Grove needs to go on a temporary hiatus.

These are the words that popped into my head yesterday. As soon as I heard them, I knew they were true.

Blame it on the New Moon.

I’ve had the feeling for a little while that something needed to give. I’m a decent juggler (3 oranges, no more), but the message was clear:

DO LESS.

My schedule has been quite full lately. Between my contributions to The Wild Hunt, my seasonal entries to HuffPost, my work for the Solitary Druid Fellowship, and the small pile of books that have come my way via Witches and Pagans to review (not to mention Thorn’s book that we’re tweeting about on a daily basis), I’ve been stretched pretty thin.

Then yesterday hits. I take a meeting, and during the meeting I realize that a dream project is staring me straight in the face. A quiet voice inside says,

This opportunity is yours, if you’re willing to do the work.

And I’m willing. I knew that instantly. I want to do this. I’m uniquely qualified for the work, and excited at the challenge.

So, the blog needs a break because I need to be less divided.

The Morrigan’s presence in my life continues to reveal itself.

(What will you fight for? When will you take up your sword? When will you lay it down?) 

I’m not giving up everything, though. That doesn’t feel right to do.

Here’s what I’m imagining:

  • I give myself as long a break as I need from writing on BITG. During this time, when I feel the impulse to write about my thoughts on practice, Paganism, or anything that might fit naturally in the archive, I’ll write about it in a document entitled, “Book.”
  • I keep writing liturgies and devotionals for the Solitary Druid Fellowship. The next will be up in a week or so. Doing service work is soul food, really.
  • I continue as a contributor to The Wild Hunt and HuffPost.
  • I read books when they move me, and not accept any more for review. It’s so hard to turn down a book, but I need to get better at it.
  • I love on my family, celebrate my soon-to-be 18 year old kid, and spend time doing things that make us feel strong and happy.
  • I make music happen.

As plans go, I think this is a good one.

While I’m away, make sure you’re following the Bishop In The Grove feed. If you choose to get your posts by email, you’ll receive my next post directly in your inbox. I highly recommend doing that.

And please know how much I appreciate you. This community of readers has helped me gain clarity in so many ways. I look forward to more conversations with you.

See you real soon.

Teo

P.S. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Sometimes I post pictures of me in kilts. You won’t want to miss that.

 

Photo by Markus Lütkemeyer

As many of you know, I have two names. There is the name you know me by, Teo Bishop; a name which I chose for myself several years back, and one that I took as my legal name last year. There is also the name which I’ve performed under for most of my life, Matt Morris.

I wrote the following post on my Matt Morris fan page a few days before New Year’s:

Matt Morris in Austin

This year, I got to write with Sarah McLachlanGreyson ChanceMichael Franti, Joe King, & a whole host of amazing producers. Mary J. Blige cut one of my songs, and so did Cher.

All in all, I’d say that makes for a pretty good year of songwriting.

But being in [Ryan] Tedder’s studio did something to me. There was a moment today when I could see myself writing and recording for *me* again. It was the first time that’s happened in while.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions in any strict sense. But I do think that music – my music – may end up playing a more central role in my life in 2013.

This was a revelation. I’m going to do music in 2013, I realized.

Honestly, just writing these words makes my stomach knot up a bit.

Making music was all I did for the longest time. All of my 20’s were devoted to it. Only in the past few years have I allowed myself to explore another creative avenue, blogging, and that has led to wonderful growth and exploration in my personal life.

For one, I managed to get the Solitary Druid Fellowship up and running, and that project is moving forward wonderfully. I’m writing liturgies, crafting prayers and devotionals (which will be up on the site very soon), and I’m living out the kind of ministry that I wrote about so long ago:

Fire, in my imagination, resides primarily in the heart.

Ministry, as I understand it, is the act of nurturing that fire, both in yourself and in others. One who ministers is one who keeps the fire burning, or who teaches others the skills needed for this internal fire tending.

This blog has also been a commitment to my spiritual growth. Bishop In The Grove started out in 2010 as the blog of a student, and it continues to be that on a much bigger scale. Now my religious tradition, my life experience, and my readership are my teachers.

These spiritual projects mean so much to me, and I see them continuing to grow and evolve throughout 2013.

But music? How will making music – my music – fit into that picture? Should it be a “spiritual project” as well?

I’m not totally sure how to answer that question.

The Path, by Cornelia Kopp

The Path, by Cornelia Kopp

Someone suggested I make “Pagan music.” I tried that last year, and I’m not sure it’s the right way for me to go. I never felt right about making “Christian music” when I was a Christian, after all. I think it’s because I think of music, when it’s done well, as a vehicle for uniting people. It’s bigger than any one tradition, any one religion. And (pointing to my own proclivity for Universalism), I respond to music that approches something true about the human condition.

The music I make, or perhaps the music I’d like to make, is music that can be listened to by people of many different backgrounds. I’d like to write – to sing – beyond the boundaries of my current identity, my chosen tradition. I’d like to be bigger than I think I’m capable, and by doing so expand the reach of the sound into new, unexpected corners of the world.

(I haven’t thought these kinds of thoughts in a long time.)

I’m also thinking that I’d like to have my music be simpler than it’s been in the past. I’d like to make it accessible, and beautiful. I’d like it to be singable, and memorable. I’d like to write songs that I enjoy singing, that are comfortable and also challenging.

And, I should probably find a way to incorporate this music making into my daily practice. (Hmm… *twirls mustache*)

I’ve learned a lot about my readership over the past few years, but we haven’t talked much about music. Perhaps that should change.

As I look at being Matt Morris again, I wonder:

What does music mean to you? How is it a part of your life? Are you a connoisseur, or an occasional listener? Do you create music yourself, or have you always wanted to?

Is music a part of your spiritual practice? If so, how?

Tell me —

How do you do music?

Make a plan, the gods say.

I dare you.

Photo by Fuschia Foot, on Flickr

Ok, ready? You’re me:

You put on your denim kilt, blue button up shirt, and patchwork hat. Your beard is tidy and trim, and your socks pulled up. You load up the car with your husband, a tupperware container of crayons, and a bag of chocolates.

Drive.

After a half hour, you’re at a little Unitarian Universalist church near the foothills.

You unload, begin to arrange chairs in a big, circular meeting room, and you wait. When you can’t wait any longer, you step outside. If you’re going to be nervous, you might as well do so in private.

While outside, you write down your plan (that one I dared you to make) another couple times to make sure you remember it. Your plan isn’t a script; it’s an outline. The plan involves no more than 5 steps, and now you’re beginning to wonder if you can make 5 steps stretch into an hour and a half.

That damn cricket won’t stop chirping.

Your husband comes out, gives you a pep-talk, and you realize you’ve got to go to the bathroom. Of course you do.

You make a dash for the john, then check your watch.

It’s time.

The workshop begins when you step in front of the group. It isn’t ceremonious. You’ve chosen not to be introduced. The first thing you do is invite the group of grownups to make abstract representations of themselves using crayons and glitter paint.

Right way they’re giggling, and drawing, and a couple look very serious about their coloring.

You’re coloring, too. You’re a big tree.

Stragglers come in. (Not according to plan.) You catch them up to speed and check your watch.

You tell everyone to write a word — one word — on their page which represents themselves.

Brows furrow, and people write.

More stragglers enter.

You collect the papers, and start to wonder if everyone thinks you’re crazy.

Once collected, you redistribute the artwork in a different order so that everyone has someone else’s drawing.

Then, introductions. You ask everyone to introduce themselves by describing the picture in front of them. You show them,

“I am a swirly, complicated movement of energy, that is both soft on the edges and pointy in some spots.”

You then tell everyone how creativity is a part of your life, and you invite everyone to do the same.

It’s about that time you realize how much you’re sweating.

It’s also around this time that you realize that people are saying some really interesting things. They’re bringing to the space ideas and concerns that you didn’t anticipate. They’re lighting up the room in ways that had nothing to do with your plan.

It gets back to you, and you freeze for a second.

Plan…plan…what was that damn plan…

You stumble through a story about a Druid festival, and then you invite people to sing.

Then something changes.

You think to yourself,

Singing. Music. That’s right. That’s what I do. That’s what this is about.

Then, you chuck the plan. You start to talk from your heart. When you do, you remember that the whole point of the night was to connect people to that creative fire — that fire in their heart. This seems possible now, because you’ve connected with yours.

Time has flown. People have shared their limitations, their creative outlets, and their doubts. They’ve laughed, and they’ve even given a collective “Hmm” once or twice.

With your heart open, and the fire lit, you lead people to the creation of a song.

The one man with a drum begins to play. You start to sing, and people join you. It’s call and response.

“We are…”

“We are…”

“We are…”

“We are…”

“Eclectic…”

“Eclectic…” 

“Steady…”

“Steady…”

You work your way through all of the words, changing the melody up with each one. People are singing. The drum is playing. You’ve created a song out of people’s words, and they’re singing it back to you.

You realize that this has all been a kind of ritual, one which began with child-like chaos and ended with a group song. You created something from nothing, and got everyone to sing.

It worked.

Today I’ll submit the workshop to Pantheacon. I’ll call it: The Songcrafting Workshop: Creating Ritual Song.

It will likely be quite different at the conference. There will be different activities, different people, and of course…

…a new plan.

The internet runs on an interesting mixture of transparency and secrecy. Some of us tell all, and others build identities behind which to hide.

Some of us do a little of both.

I began writing under the name Teo Bishop in 2009 in order to provide me with the safe space to explore my evolving religious identity. My given name was wrapped up in other things, like this:

And this:

And even this:

 

Before I was a blogger named Teo Bishop, I was an artist named Matt Morris.

I’ve been doing music since I was a little kid, been a pro since I was a teenager, and up until the last year or two, I’ve done little else. Music has been my mainstay, my bread and butter, my life-long career.

But then I discover through writing this blog, and through all of the work I’ve done in dialogue about matters of religion, faith, and practice, that there are many means for being expressive outside of music. My non-musical work fulfills me in ways that the business of music never has. I love writing for Patheos and HuffPost Religion, and I’m developing new ideas about how I might be able to contribute to the betterment of the Pagan Community at large, and my religious community of ADF in particular.

I also love to write songs. When my blog goes quiet for a few weeks, that’s usually what I’m doing. My Indiegogo Campaign, which closed this last week, was an attempt to reintroduce and re-prioritize music in my life, and while it may not have succeeded in raising the funds, it was certainly successful in reminding me how important a role music plays in my life.

At some point, we must all come out. We must all be honest about how we’ve compartmentalized to excess, how we’ve created new masks — either out of fear or in an attempt to approximate privacy in a increasingly non-private society. We must recognize when it is time to integrate all of our disparate parts (T. Thorn Coyle might say that it is always time to integrate).

While my situation may look rather extreme — my relative fame in the music world necessitating a new name, a new series of URL’s and social network profiles in order to grow in my religious practice — I don’t think I’m the only one who has gone to such measures in order to explore the subtleties and complexities of their identity. We’re living in a rather strange time; one in which many, if not all of us are negotiating our identities for public consumption. Every status update is a mini-press release; every tweet a soundbite. Some of us apply a kind of close-scrutiny about what messages we broadcast to the world in a way that was once reserved only for major public figures and celebrities.

It’s all very bizarre, when you take a moment to think about it.

But my coming out is not simply an act of confession about another online identity. I’m choosing transparency at this time because I believe doing so may be the only way I can move forward in both my music and my writing. I was never two people — I was always, only one. There’s no sense in pretending otherwise. My nom de plum has become my legal name, and my given name a stage name, but the person beneath has remained throughout the process.

Teo Bishop has always been Matt Morris, and Matt Morris has always been Teo Bishop.

I offer this up to you, my loyal, inquisitive, insightful readership. I share these heretofore hidden parts of myself, trusting that you’ll likely google up a good bit more (it’s all there on the interwebs, after all). I trust that the act of being honest with you is worth whatever risk comes with it.

And I leave you with the song I’m perhaps most proud of, Eternity; a song which affirms that I am — we are — all of the identities that have ever been, that are ever being, and that ever will be. From the song:

“I’m telling you / with sincerity / that what you do / and what you be / is go’n follow you / like it follow me / and be with you for / eternity.”

 

In modern times, a Bard is one who sees their creativity as an innate spiritual ability, and who chooses to nurture that ability partly or wholly with Druidism.

– From Druidy.org, OBOD

For well over a year my voice has been heard by my readership only as text. You’ve come to know me by reading me, by engaging in dialogue in the comments, by reaching out with encouragement, insight, and support. This has been an amazing journey for me, and I’m grateful to have shared it with you.

Today, I offer up another voice of mine; a voice used in ritual to invoke, to inspire, to conjure up emotion and passion.

This is the voice I used before I had language, or before I was fascinated by religion. This is the voice that preceded my Pagan identity (or any identity for that matter), and this is the voice which has come to inform so much of who I am. This is the voice of my soul, and I share it with you when the Moon is most full.

Here, friends, is the voice of me singing in the Sacred Electric Grove.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMGw-Vyy9_8[/youtube]

The Sacred Electric Grove EP will be a collection of songs with themes that speak to contemporary Pagans, or to anyone who ponders the imminent presence of the Divine, who connects to the land for inspiration, or who simply loves to dance.

– from my Indiegogo Campaign Page

 

 

A lyric from my song, “Offering“:

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/47325058″ iframe=”true” /]

 

 

 

There is a place that I go to dance.

Rough draft of EP cover

It is dark and there is no sound.

Nothing but the Moon shining in the sky

Giving life to the Spirits of the Land…

 

These are the days to find the light,

Kiss the sun, draw down the moon.

Hold your heart like an offering…

Hold your heart like an offering of love.

You’re heart is an offering

To the heavens above.

 

I ask for your support today, because I believe that there is a place in the world for this music. I believe, after lifting up my voice in ritual–both at Pantheacon and during a High Day celebration at my local grove–that there is a connection between the creative work I do on Bishop In The Grove and the creative work yet to be done through this music.

If I ever felt a calling, I feel it now.

This is not a time to throw our money away, clearly, but it can still be a time to invest in something that stirs our heart. If your heart has been moved by the words on this blog, or if you listen to these sounds and they stir something in you, please consider contributing to my Indiegogo Campaign.

There are incentives, which include:

  • The Music (download or hard-copy), available at every giving level over $10
  • Custom blended ritual oil
  • Custom blended incense, made under the guidance of Karen Harrison, Weiser Books author of the best-selling book, Herbal Alchemists Handbook.
  • Long distance tarot readings
  • Live performances —  online or in person

The goal is to raise this money in one moon cycle: the campaign runs from full moon, to full moon.

I’m feeling a bit like The Fool. I’m taking a leap into something new; something unknown. I’m bridging worlds in a way I never expected I would, and I’m sharing my voice — my truest voice — with the people who have supported the growth of my literary, contemplative voice. I’m baring more than I have before, and it feels like the only right thing to do.

So please give. Please share this post, the YouTube video, the Indiegogo Campaign page, the Soundcloud clip — ALL of it! Share them on Facebook, on Twitter, Google+, or any of your social sites.

And then, join me in the Sacred Electric Grove!