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Vision and Astral Travel

If there is anything that I’ve noticed about humans, it’s that we use our eyes to get a lot of stuff done. Throw most of us in a dark room and we’ll find every single piece of furniture with our big toe because we are pretty useless without our eyes to guide us. This can get “fun” when it comes to astral travel or working with the Unseen because many times your vision is jacked up, weird or completely non-existent. So for this post, I thought I’d discuss some things I’ve learned about vision on non-physical planes.

1. Vision on the astral is not static or uniform

The first thing I like to warn people about vision on the Unseen is that it’s not static. Your vision can shift and change, and likely will shift and change each time you go there (or even during one visit while there). Sometimes you’ll show up and your vision is all first person view, and it looks very much like how it might while you’re here on earth. But then other times you’ll notice that your vision is third person view, closer to what you’d expect in a video game.

And then sometimes you’ll go over there and find that you’re stuck in between first and third person view. I don’t know how that works, but trust me it can and does happen and it can make you disoriented and possibly even nauseous. But if you show up and find that your vision has changed, or that things look different than the last time you were there- don’t freak out. Vision can shift and change depending on the circumstances (such as health, the plane you’re in, etc).

2. People may not see the same things as you do

And this goes for humans who are traveling to the Unseen and with other entities that live on the Unseen. The things I see are not the same things that other people seem to see. Because my vision is pretty horrible, my brain has to fill in a lot of the gaps in order to make any sort of picture or coherency to my surroundings. And in those gaps, sometimes my brain puts in the wrong stuff. Or inaccurate stuff.

Additionally, a lot of my vision is filled with symbolism. That is to say, instead of showing me exactly what I’m looking at (such as a water globe filled with glitter and a scene from a particular city), my brain will show me what the item represents (so the water globe may look like a key because it’s the “key” to whatever I need). I have no clue if this is common for a lot of people, but it is important to remember that sometimes our vision is more symbolic than 110% literal. Once I figured out that all of these similar items I was grabbing looked similar because my brain was trying to show me what they represented, it made it much easier to decode what was actually going on.

And it also helped me to figure out why my astral family didn’t see the same things that I did.

3. Vision can occur in layers

In my experience, most of the Unseen has layers to begin with. You may be living on the most physical portion of the plane, but there exist several other layers beneath it- such as an energetic layer, perhaps a layer that is showing something that occurred 5000000 years ago, and maybe something like an emotional layer (just to throw out basic examples). And sometimes when you’re sitting on the astral, you’ll be viewing the physical layer, and other times you may be looking at energetic layers instead. This can cause some of the problems listed above, as well. If you’re not looking (or interacting with) the same layer as everyone else in your household, it can cause some difficulty in discussing things or with interacting with others.

The key to this is to learn how to navigate different layers in a plane. Learning how to pull yourself up a couple of layers, or drop down a few layers in order to be in the same place as everyone else can be beneficial for many things. A lot of the healing that I do is not on the physical layer, but occurs a couple of layers down, on a more energetic level.

And of course, learning how to decipher the different things you see on different layers is also helpful for ensuring the health of yourself and others, and for figuring out what exactly you’re interacting with.

4. You are bigger than your body

As humans, our vision really only comes from one place and one place only- our eyes. However, non-physical bodies don’t really work that way. You may have eyes (or things similar to eyes) on the astral, but your vision may or may not actually derive from said eyes (side note: I often question if eyes are sometimes only there for decoration and to make humans more comfortable). When it comes to non-physical bodies, you are more than your basic form. In the same way that many people believe human bodies to have auras or energetic fields, I’ve found that many bodies in the Unseen may manifest into a physical form, but actually are much larger than that. This means that you can technically fill an entire room with your ‘essence’, if you will, and that can cause your vision to warp and shift as well.

If you happen to be bonded to another entity, or particularly close with another entity, you also might have the ability to look through their “eyes” as well. There are many times when I have been able to remote view things that my menz are doing because our bonds allow for a sort of shared viewing or consciousness. Don’t let your form limit what you are capable of seeing.

Understanding that vision doesn’t necessarily come from your eyes can be beneficial in some situations. Does someone have you blind folded? No big deal. Try looking beyond your form instead. Or drop down a few layers on the plane you’re in, and see if you can gain information about what is in the room through those means instead.

5. Your senses are likely different in the astral

I think that a lot of people expect to navigate the Unseen in the same ways you might here in the physical, or expect their vision and senses to work the same way as they do here, and that simply isn’t the case.

Because our vision often overrides our other senses (such as smell, touch, hearing, etc), I think we often forget how to view things or gain data without the use of our eyes. However, my experiences have shown me that vision in the Unseen can and often does take a back seat to other senses. So if you go onto the astral and find that your vision is lacking, but your sense of smell or touch is heightened, try working with those things instead of trying to force your vision to become your dominant sense. Learning how to work with what you’ve got can make your experiences on the astral more enriching and you may find that there are perks to having other senses that are stronger than your vision. Sometimes your astral ‘species’ have different stats when it comes to senses because your body has evolved to survive in certain planes or to perform certain tasks that your human body isn’t made for. In the same way that many animals no longer have eyes because their surroundings are pitch black (and therefore eyes are pointless), you too may lack in eyesight because it’s not necessary wherever you come from.

As with all things in the Unseen, take the time to learn yourself and your body because your astral body is not your human body. Figure out what works best for you, and then exploit those assets to your advantage. While learning to get around without consistent eyesight can be a real pain, there are certainly many benefits to figuring out why your vision operates how it does. Remember that many people have many different ways of viewing things in the Unseen, and your eyesight is specific to you. There is no wrong way to see things on the astral, its more about learning to figure out how to make your specific situation work best for you.

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The Art of Co-Discovery

When it comes to a lot of people in the Pagan community, it seems that a lot of folks believe that you can shame someone into doing something. If I find that you’re being appropriative or fluffy or even just unknowingly ignorant, the obvious solution is to call you out on it, raise a big stink over it, and get mad at you. And in return, you’ll feel stupid and embarrassed and never make such a dumb mistake again.

Right? Because that works so well for everything else?

It’s recently been noted that fat shaming doesn’t actually motivate people to lose weight, and anyone with any sort of social anxiety knows that being shamed doesn’t fix anything, it just makes it worse. Why so many people in the Pagan sphere think copping an attitude and typing in all caps fixes everything is beyond me. Because I’ve not met but a handful of people in my entire life that actually respond well to negativity as a means to change their behaviour. It’s just not how we’re hard wired.

As it turns out, this is a problem in the dental industry, too.

I don’t mean in the sense that dentists yell at their patients and call them stupid, but in the sense that dentists have a hard time connecting to patients and motivating them to do what is in their best interests (which would be fixing your teeth, in this case). Luckily, as it turns out, there is a tool that we use in the dental field that is called “Co-Discovery”, and it has useful applications in Paganism, too.

“Magnifying Glass” by Derek Bridges via Flickr

What is Co-Discovery?

In order to understand what Co-Discovery is and how it works, you have to have a general understanding of how a dental office works and the challenges a lot of dentists face. You see, dental offices live and die by their ability to convince patients to accept dental treatment (such as fillings, crowns, etc). It sounds simple enough- patient comes in, needs their tooth fixed, which is why they are there, and so when the dentist says “You need a crown”, the patient obviously says yes, right?

Wrong.

Many patients believe that dentists are out to screw them over so that they can make more money. Many patients don’t believe that their dental health is important, and so they don’t see the value in getting their teeth fixed. And of course, many dentists aren’t very good at helping people to understand why it’s important to keep their teeth healthy, and everything degrades quickly. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has experienced this at some point in time: you get your exam, and the dentist comes in and lectures you about how you need to brush your teeth better, and floss more, and do all of these things because you’re inadequate at what you do, and that’s why you now need a crown and that will be $700, please. Then the patient gets irritated at the dentist, the dentist feels completely inadequate and quits trying to help people out of a fear of rejection, the patient doesn’t get their teeth fixed so their health degrades, and the dentist doesn’t make any money to pay the bills.

It’s a horrible situation that many dentists deal with regularly (because they don’t teach you how to motivate people in dental school), and the solution to this problem is the art of Co-Discovery.

Co-Discovery is a learning tool that engages the patient and asks them to think for themselves. For example, instead of simply slapping an x-ray up on the computer screen, and telling the patient “you have a cavity that needs filled, please pay me”, the doctor sits down with the patient, places the x-ray up on the screen and asks the patient “what do you see here?”

Upon the patient responding (usually something to the accord of “that’s my tooth/teeth”) the doctor will point out that the tooth has a certain shape and color around it. But when there is decay, then the shape and color change. The dentist will then ask “Do you see any places on this x-ray that have discoloration?” The patient will look at the x-ray and usually spot the location where the cavity is.

And then suddenly, the patient will realize that the dentist isn’t swindling them. There is actually a cavity there that actually needs to be filled. The dentist didn’t tell the patient that they had a cavity, the dentist led the patient to discover the cavity themselves- hence the term “Co-Discovery”.

 Using Co-Discovery in the Pagan-sphere

Ever since I learned about Co-Discovery, I have always tried to keep it in mind when talking to others or helping to answer people’s questions. This can manifest in many ways, though it usually comes down to allowing people to draw their own conclusions and come up with their own ideas.

Instead of dictating what someone should or should not do in a situation, I will often present some ideas about how I do things, how other people do things, perhaps how people in antiquity did things, and then allow the person to figure out what works best for them. Sometimes I will simply list resources and let the person sift through them at their own speed.

At the end of the day, it’s all about letting people choose to take an active role in their practice and on their religious/spiritual path. Presenting information for others to consider, and then allowing people to be responsible adults and let them make their own choices and decisions on things. This is important because it shows a mutual respect between people, and won’t often scare people away if they’re making mistakes. I have found that by being objective and simply presenting information for people to look into, that they will often come to better conclusions than if I called them a moron and told them they were doing it wrong, which seems to be the norm.

This is largely because people who are being shamed will usually have a knee jerk reaction to the situation and respond with defensiveness and denial. However, by being concise, objective and non-judgmental in my response, this pitfall can be avoided and give us greater opportunities to discuss things at a greater depth with more openness and understanding.

While it is true that this won’t always be the case, as nothing ever has a 100% success rate (even for the dentists mentioned above), it seems to have been a relatively successful method for me in the past. I think this is because people do want to be treated respectfully as well as want to be treated like capable adults. Hopefully, by learning how to help other people figure out things for themselves, we’ll all be able to have better discussions in the future that don’t revolve around “well you’re a stupid poopy head”.

 Other Posts in the Boat Paddlers Arsenal:

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism

 

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Some Things Can’t Be Compartmentalized

com·part·men·tal·ize verb \kəm-ˌpärt-ˈmen-tə-ˌlīz, ˌkäm-\

: to separate (something) into sections or categories
: to separate (two or more things) from each other
: to put (something) in a place that is separate from other things

I remember sitting in a stress management workshop earlier this year. I am always interested in learning new ideas regarding stress management (especially in the workplace), so I was eager to see what this presenter had to say. One of the most interesting points that she brought up was the notion that you should not compartmentalize your personal life and your work life. According to her, there should be a sort of dove-tailing of the two. You should be able to celebrate aspects of your home life while at work, and work should integrate in other ways in your daily life.

I think the idea behind it was that you should be able to come together as more than coworkers and that we should help each other be successful both at work and at home. And that there is a place for home life in the work place (since one often influences the other). However, as she told us this, I couldn’t help but think “this is an awfully privileged way of looking at things”. And I still believe this to be true.

That being said, I am forced to live a very compartmentalized life.

My life outside of the workplace (home life) rarely touches anything else I do. My coworkers know only the bare minimum about me, and my family knows even less than my coworkers do. People know very little about my Kemetic work, people know very little about my partner. In many ways, people hardly know anything about how my mental health influences my behaviour, either. And I keep it that way on purpose, because compartmentalizing keeps me safe.

When we wrote about this topic for KRT a few months back, it seemed that many of us are forced to live our lives in segments for fear of persecution, job loss, or being ostracized. Many of us are forced to keep our relationships secret or our religions secret because if coworkers or family members found out, we might have problems. Many of us have to put up with sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia or body shaming in the office (or with our families) because if we bring up any concerns regarding these things, we are looking at the possibility of drama in the near future. Many of us are forced to keep ourselves hidden, because if we were honest about who we are, we’d be screwed over.

“Library Cabinet” by Lori Murga via Flickr

The problem with this is, it’s very difficult to live a compartmentalized life. And honestly, there are some things you simply can’t or shouldn’t compartmentalize away for the ease and comfort of others. Despite this, compartmentalization lives on because we don’t live in an ideal world.

I realized recently that compartmentalization also seems to be effecting parts of our religious community. In the same way that you might not want to talk about your homosexual relationship at work for fear of getting shunned, some people don’t want to talk about their god-spouse relationship with other Kemetics for fear that they’ll get kicked off of the island.

And I think that is a shame.

It starts off innocently enough- where a group will talk about generalized Kemeticism with other Kemetics. And while we may all start off with only talking about generic Kemeticism, as people become more comfortable with one another, or with the Kemetic community, eventually other things bleed through because there are just things you can’t compartmentalize. You see, in order to really be practicing Kemeticism, it should permeate a large portion, if not all of your life. To live in ma’at means to live in ma’at 24/7, not just when you’re sitting in shrine.

So when I begin to try and live in ma’at, and I’m faced with how ma’at looks for someone who has a mental disorder, or for someone who has physical limitations, or for someone who is a minority in our culture – my compartmentalization starts to fall away. Because on the inside, I am not a bunch of compartments. I am a whole person who is forced to keep parts hidden away for my safety.

And when this happens and I begin to discuss Kemeticism more in-depth with my peers, that bleed-through is going to show up. People are going to notice that my gender and my sexual orientation and my mental problems are going to influence my views on ma’at, the gods, and how I view the community and Kemeticism as a whole. Because I am a whole person whose religion permeates all aspects of life, I can’t compartmentalize that very readily when discussing Kemeticism with others.

Sometimes this lack of compartmentalization effects others. I saw an example of this recently, when a group of Kemetics within an organization wished to make a safe space for themselves to allow for safe discussion and solidarity. I was talking with someone about this, and they didn’t understand why these people felt the need to bring “non-religious things” into the religious forum. These people removing that barrier that is compartmentalization had made this person feel extremely uncomfortable.

The thing is, these people were not bringing in anything that wasn’t religious into a religious group. As with my example above, these are whole people who shouldn’t have to compartmentalize and hide intrinsic parts of themselves from Kemetic discussion (or discussion with other Kemetics). For these people, their lives are forever effected by a set of circumstances they can’t control; in much the same way that my life is effected because by my mental health issues. While I can try to hide that I have problems with my brain, at the end of the day, my entire existence is framed from this perspective. And when I talk about Kemeticism and community, I’m going to be operating from the same perspective.

I’m not bringing mental health issues into Kemeticism, or trying to derail Kemetic discussion with my health issues. I’m simply discussing from the perspective that I already know and trying to relay how one (mental health) can effect the other (Kemeticism/religion). And while people who don’t have mental health issues might not understand how one relates to the other, I think its important for us as a community to realize that we shouldn’t ask our community members to segment parts of themselves off for our comfort. If we truly are trying to understand one another and grow as a community, we need to understand that each of us has our own perspective, our own background, and that this perspective and background is going to effect every aspect of our religious experience. Instead of asking our community members to hide these aspects of themselves (whether openly or silently), we should be looking to understand their perspective and understand why they feel the way that they do. And in turn, learn from their experiences and broaden our own horizons in the process.

It’s bad enough that many of us have to segment off very important parts of our lives because our society has a very limited view of what is acceptable and “normal”, and I would hope that we wouldn’t want to bring this into our religious community as well. It is better when we try to reach out and understand our peers and their situations. We are able to lift all of us up simultaneously when discussion can be open, friendly and safe for our community members. And while it may take some time for all of our community members to feel safe enough to share their thoughts openly (and in the meantime, we create small groups where safe discussion can occur), it is my hope that we can slowly move forward in showing that we are accepting of the diversity that exists amongst our community members.

Because at the end of the say, Kemeticism should influence your entire existence and your entire self. And you shouldn’t have to compartmentalize or hide that stuff, especially with community members that are supposed to be a sort of support group. I can only hope in time that this will become a reality.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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KRT: Terminology & Language

via Wikimedia Commons

Terminology and language: how necessary is it? Is there a right or wrong way to use terminology and language in your practice?

When I think about terminology and language and how it applies to Kemetic practices, I feel like it can be applied in three ways:

  • The names of various NTR: Egyptian vs. Hellenized names
  • Egyptian words and terms in your practice (ma’at, isfet, sa, etc.)
  • Terminology as it applies to the community at large (priest, remetj, ritualist, etc.)

Because there are so many ways that terminology can influence your practice, I will be going through each of these points one by one below.

What You Call The Gods

I’ve seen many discussions about whether we should refer to NTR by their Egyptian-ish name, or by their Hellenized name. Some people believe that you shouldn’t use the Hellenized version, because it’s less effective or less “accurate”. However, the Hellenized names are not really all that far off for a lot of our deities: Horus-Heru, Wpwt-Ophois, Anup-Anubis, etc. And even if they are a bit off of the Egyptian names, I personally don’t think that using the Hellenized names is instantly going to land you in trouble. Not to mention that there is still a lot of debate about how some of the Egyptian names sound or should be pronounced and spelled for various NTRW. In addition to that, the ancients wouldn’t have necessarily called the gods by their “names” (such as Bast or Wadjet), but by their epithets. So really, there is nothing historically binding us to using Egyptian-based names.

At the end of the day, I think it’s most important to go off of what works best for you and your gods. If your deities have a preference, then listen to that. Otherwise, utilize what makes the most sense for you. I refer to Set by three or four different names (Set, Setekh, Big Red, Titit). And I refer to Osiris by his Hellenized name always (or I just call him “O”). So long as it works for you and your practice, that is what is most important.

What About All of This Lingo and Jargon?

Kemeticism has a lot of jargon. Because the religion is pretty much entirely foreign to modern Westerners (both in symbolism and in language), we pretty much have to learn a whole new set of words and lingo in order to communicate and discuss. But is it necessary?

The short answer, in my opinion, is yes and no.

I think that there are some terms that you really should have some working knowledge of. Generally speaking, these would be terms that are important to the practice and understanding of Kemeticism. Words such as ma’at, isfet, zep tepi, or Duat. This is because if you don’t know key components to the religion, it makes it very challenging to practice the religion effectively.

There are other words and symbols that you could probably live without knowing, though. Things like akhet, djed, sekhem, or tyet. However, I do believe that having a working knowledge of many Egyptian symbols and words can be very helpful. Understanding these things has added a lot of depth and layers to my practice. And it helps me to communicate with the gods more effectively because we’re speaking in similar terms and symbols. It makes it much simpler to try and pick apart various wingdings that the gods throw at me. It will also make it easier to discuss various aspects of the religion with other practitioners because, just like with the gods, you’re pulling from similar symbols and terminology.

However, I think that you can get by without an extensive knowledge of these words.

Community Terminology

I have written a bit about terminology and the community. In my post, I had mentioned that I felt that terminology for members of the community was important, and I still believe this to be true. A lot of people have questioned if having a variety of terms to describe your place in the community is absolutely necessary, and I still believe that even if it’s not 110% necessary, that it is very very helpful to have.

I personally believe that terminology that helps to define roles and places within the community is important because it allows people to find their place. Many Kemetics walk into our community thinking they can only be a priest or a layperson, and so many get discouraged because they feel they are inept at what they do, or because they feel that performing state rites every day is the Pinnacle of what a “Good Kemetic” should be. However, I think that having more terms and more labels can help people to feel more included within the community as well as boosting their confidence about their practice.

It’s kind of the same as realizing that there is a label for your “mental quirks” or gender identity or your sexual orientation. Labels can help people to understand themselves better as well as empower them to do more and be more. So I personally think that community terminology is important, even if it is underrated. However, unlike the types of terminology listed above, it will take a while for Kemetics to come up with terms that we all agree upon and share amongst different sections of the community.

At the end of the day, terminology and language is what you make it. Even though this is how I personally view this stuff, there are likely others who disagree or view it differently, and that’s okay. Figuring out how to juggle all of the various terms in Kemeticism can seem daunting at first, but try not to get discouraged. Remember that we all started somewhere.

To read other responses to this topic, check out the KRT Master List

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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We Reflect Nature, Nature Reflects Us

One of the main parts of practicing Shinto is to revere, honor and pay attention to the natural world around us. Many Japanese have received inspiration from observing the natural world around them, while also drawing strength and renewed vigor by taking a cue from nature.

Arizona isn’t noted for it’s seasonal changes. We really only have three seasons: room temperature, pits of hell and humid pits of hell, but there are still small changes in the natural world that I try and pay attention to and draw from. As I get older and pay more attention to my own rhythms and changes, the more I see similarities in the natural world in comparison to myself and other people I know. I don’t know if it matters to other people, but I honestly find that seeing that nature is a lot like us, and that we’re a lot like nature is kind of reassuring.

treeAn example of this can be seen with some recent weather in Arizona. We had a pretty heavy rainfall last week that brought down almost an entire year’s worth of rain (7 inches is standard for us) in a single night. The result was pretty intense. There was a fair amount of flooding and a lot of property damage. The water caused so many problems that most people couldn’t get to work the following day. Needless to say, we were pretty smashed up around here.

And yet, despite the strife caused by the storm, there is new growth everywhere you look. Trees are showing new growth. Seeds that got scattered on the wind have produced baby trees. The water soaked ground provided our birds with a bunch of yummy worms to eat.

Despite the destruction, growth is everywhere. And life can be that way, too. We talk about that with Set- who razes your building down to it’s foundations in order to make a bigger, better building. And that happens with nature, too. Humans and nature mirror one another with growth after destruction. It’s just that nature is less grumpy about it.

Another similarity I’ve noticed is cycles. We all have cycles- cycles of growth and cycles where we get nothing done. Periods of time where we flourish followed by periods of fallow. For those who live in more places where seasons follow the European “standard”, you’ll see that your period of decay and stagnation largely happens in winter. Everything freezes over and nothing grows- only to be hit by a new phase of growth and rebound come spring. For those of us in the desert, our seasons mirror that of Egypt where the stagnation and decay often happens in late spring when the sun burns everything to a crisp, which then shifts into new growth come fall.

I often see this occur in many places and many ways in my life. My ability to create art comes and goes. My desire to sew comes and goes. My spoon count comes and goes. Everything ebbs and flows (just like the moon and the tides, for another nature reference). This also shows up for many of us in our religious practice. I personally see this manifest as I try to balance myself between two deities. Set is known for being the predominant deity during the decay of summer, where as Osiris oversees the planting and growing periods of winter. And my religious practice mirrors this in a lot of ways, where I tend to be more Set oriented in the summer, and more Osiris focused in the winter.

And while sometimes when I’m in the thick of being more focused on one over the other (or finding myself unable to create anything worth a damn), I will fret about whether I’m doing a good enough job. But then I remind myself that everything has a cycle, everything has a season, and everything that slips away from me will likely come back to me in its own good time. I look out my window and remember that the hot hot summer will eventually give way to the cooler winter (and that the cooler winter will eventually end and bring back the hot hot summer). So too with life.

But not everything is all sunshine and daisies when I look outside at nature. I mentioned above that there is a lot of new growth from the seeds that were scattered in the storm. And while its true that there are lots of seeds taking off and growing, there are a number of seeds that are not, and will not ever form a tree. There is a lesson in this too, however. If you are the tree, and the seeds are endeavors to better yourself or the world around you- you’re going to not only have success, but also failure. However, despite some of these seeds not ever sprouting, that doesn’t stop the tree from producing them all the same. We have to remember that even when are we beset by failure, we must keep trying to move forward.

And I think that is one of the largest lessons I pull from nature. Despite how harsh the weather is down here in Arizona, nature keeps persisting to the best of it’s ability. Despite how much humans may try to control nature- where it can exist, how it looks and appears – nature continues to persist, despite our efforts. While this doesn’t give humanity a free pass to dick nature over, we all have to admit that nature is a persistent bugger that isn’t easily bested. And I take that lesson very close to heart. I remind myself that even when things are not looking up, or when life is rubbing me raw, I must do what I can to try and persist. We can see this mirrored in Egyptian mythology  by the company of gods and their persistent efforts to keep a/pep at bay. The balance between Order and isfet is very fragile and ongoing with no real end in sight. Life here is the same way – the sun cooks the ground into dust, and yet the plants still try to thrive. Nature tries to remind humans that we are tiny things that can’t control nature, and yet we try to anyways. Both sides continue to try and fight to live to see another day.

On days when I am not doing so well, I remind myself to look to nature, for I am a part of nature and a part of this planet. Despite the differences in appearance, humans and nature (or plants) are not all that different. Between our cycles of growth and decay and our ongoing struggle to survive, I am reminded that I am not the only one fighting to keep going. I draw some strength from the plants and animals working to survive in my own front yard and I remind myself that I am capable and will get through whatever I’m facing.

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Reconsidering the Witch’s Uniform

Alternate Title: Why cliched pointy hats and crooked noses have to go.

I would like to extend a special thank you to GLE and Warboar for educating me about this and providing resources to make this post possible.

Its normal for marginalized groups to try and reclaim things that have been used against them. You see this in countless cultures and subcultures such as the LGBTQ+ community reclaiming the word “queer” or pink triangles as a sign of pride, or using the term “tree hugger” by environmentalists, or the use of the word “bitch” by some women. This is not a new phenomenon by any means. It is something that is called reappropriation, and according to wikipedia it is:

the cultural process by which a group reclaims—re-appropriates—terms or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group

And I think that this reappropriation has occurred within the Pagan/polytheist scene, too. We’re a relatively marginalized group within the US culture and there have been attempts to carve out an acceptable and respectable space for ourselves. Even use of the term “Pagan” is reappropriative, as the term “pagan” wasn’t always used with happy connotations.

In addition to reappropriating the word Pagan, I believe that many of us have tried to reappropriate what a witch looks like. In most modern media, witches aren’t represented in a great light. I mean, look at the Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West is rendered as the villain and shown with green skin and less than ideal facial features. You’ve got Witchhazel in Donald Duck’s Trick or Treat, who doesn’t look much better. There is the witch in Snow White and Ursula is called a Sea Witch in the Little Mermaid.

witches

Each of these women have something in common- they are rendered as ugly, evil, wearing dark clothing, and in most cases- they are wearing the standardized “witch’s uniform” of dark robes, pointed hats, and hooked noses (with warts!). You know the one:

I think many of us in the pagan and witchcraft communities see these images, and want to try and recraft the standard “witch” into something that is accepted- warts and all. However, the problem with reappropriating this imagery is that it’s not ours to reappropriate.

These stereotypical images of what a witch looks like are not based off of modern Pagans, or even off of witches in antiquity. These images are largely based off of anti-Semitic propaganda from the Middle Ages that has persisted into the modern era. Because these images are not tied to pagan “culture” or witches (past and present), we really have no place touching them or reappropriating them into our modern Pagan culture. Because they don’t belong to us, when you dress up like this (or dress your kids up like this) you are, in fact, perpetuating anti-Semitism.

To give some perspective on this, Pagans trying to reclaim the witch’s getup would be the same as heterosexual people trying to reappropriate the pink triangles mentioned above. These triangles do not play a role in their history, and cisgendered people have no claim on the symbol, and therefore, no right in trying to reappropriate it. Same goes for modern Pagans and the witch’s uniform.

The History of the “Witch’s Uniform”

Please note: the sheer volume of information on how anti-Semitism got its start in the Medieval era is way more than I can cover in one blog post, so consider this a very very short walk through on some of the major points of history during this time. If you are interested in learning more, please check out the links below.

It can be difficult to track down exactly how or where the standard “iconic” witch came from. Based off of what I have seen, it appears as though things shifted gradually over time, and many small pieces added up together to make the standardized “iconic witch” mentioned above. To start piecing how all of this happened, you have to go back to the 1200’s to see when some of the first changes were enacted.

One of the initial things that the Jewish people underwent in Europe was the wearing of special garments to denote that they were, in fact, Jews. There were badges, belts, and hats that were implemented over the course of history. These hats became the basis for the witches hat that we all know today:

According to Robert Wistrich:

In fact, the literal understanding of horns in the Psalter inspired the horned hat (pileum cornutum) that Jews were forced to wear from the thirteenth century on. It too began to appear in art in the ninth century and is visually derived from late versions of the Magi’s hats and from the Phrygian caps worn be deniers of Christ in the Stuttgart Psalter. These hats vary in form but have one thing in common: a single point or hump which simultaneously covers and calls attention to the horn the Jew was believed to have. That these hats denote an identification with the devil is shown in thirteenth century illuminations in which there is no clear differentiation between a demon’s single horn and pointed hats. By revealing the horn the Jews skillfully hide, these pointed hats acted as a mark of Cain. (pg 55-56)

As well as:

While continuing their role as Christ’s torturers and deniers, from the thirteenth century on they also appear – identified by the Jew’s hat – as Apocalyptic riders, false prophets, worshipers of Antichrist, and companions of the heretics in Hell. In such works, Antichrist, demons, apocalyptic killers, heretics, and Jews often have hooked noses. This originally demonic feature became associated specifically with Jews by the thirteenth century, and has remained an accepted stereotype to this day. (pg 53)

During this time frame, there were many changes made to art and other religious iconography that were made to demonize and dehumanize Jewish people. This included adding horns to Jewish Biblical figures such as Moses and David.

Many of these dehumanizing actions came to a head during the Inquisition during the 1600’s and 1700’s. According to an excerpt from Stephen Haliczer:

During the fourteenth century, with the breakdown of the old toleration that had permitted Christian, Jew, and Moslem to live side by side in relative harmony, the Jew became more and more identified as the chief enemy of Christianity. By the time of the Cortes of Toro in 1371, the Jews were described as “rash and evil men, who sow corruption with impunity so that the greater part of our kingdom is ruined by them in contempt of Christians and the Catholic faith.”[5] [...]

By the 1380s the weakened condition of the Jewish communities and the relativistic philosophy then popular among Jewish intellectuals were producing numerous conversions.[6] After the rioting of 1391, Jews converted en masse, led by their rabbis, and from then on Spain’s Jewish communities became smaller and more impoverished while the converted Jews grew in numbers, wealth, and political importance. By the middle of the fifteenth century, however, resentment of the conversos was giving rise to a polemical literature that rejected the possibility of their true conversion to Christianity and blamed them for all the crimes normally attributed to Jews. The most interesting and important of these writings was the Fortalitium Fidei (Fortress of the Faith) by the Franciscan Alonso de Espina, first published in 1460. The work is divided into four volumes, each dedicated to describing the iniquity of one of the four chief enemies of the Catholic faith: heretics, Muslims, Jews, and demons. For Espina, Jews and converts did not exist as a separate category; there were only “public Jews and secret Jews.” Since conversos were secret Jews, they were naturally guilty of all the offenses traditionally attributed to Jews by European folk tradition, including profanation of Hosts and the murder of Christian children and the use of their blood or body parts in religious rituals. According to Espina, Jewish law, which is equally binding on both Jews and converts, commands the destruction of Christians and Christianity, which they actively strive to accomplish by starting fires, poisoning wells, and doing other evil deeds.[7]

It was left to the Spanish Inquisition, however, to officialize medieval demonological myths about Jews and apply them to Jewish converts to Christianity in such a way as to keep alive the flames of Spanish anti-Semitism long after the expulsion of the Jews themselves. This process began with the case of the so-called Holy Child (Santo Niño) of La Guardia when both Jews and converts were accused of working together to commit a crime of unimaginable horror which threatened the very existence of Christian Spain. So successful were the inquisitors in this that the La Guardia case served to create in the public imagination a kind of bogyman, a larger-than-life image of the Jew/converso who was at once child murderer, blood sucker, rebel, and demonic sorcerer who sought to reverse the divinely established order of things by destroying Christianity so that, according to Licenciado Vegas, the Holy Child’s first chronicler, the Jews “would become the absolute lords of the earth.”[8]

Just by examining these few texts alone, it is easy to see how everything comes together. The Jews were forced to wear different clothing, which mirrors the typical “witches clothing” that we envision now. The hooked nose became synonymous with Jewish people, and was utilized as a means to demean Jewish people. And the Jews were often cited as stealing and killing children, as well as poisoning people and performing witchcraft, which likely explains the green skin witches are “attested” to have.

All of these symbolic items were meant to demonize Jews, and they have persisted into the modern era, albeit detached (to an extent) from the original meaning behind these symbols.

What does this mean for Pagans?

There are plenty of posts out there that talk about eradicating things like racism, ableism and sexism in our community, however I have seen very little about eradicating anti-Semitism. From my perspective, the fact that the iconic witch is anti-Semitic should be reason enough to no longer utilize those items in any capacity, because to continue to ignore the anti-Semitic origins of the witch’s uniform would be the equivalent of continuing the oppression of a group of people.

However, there do seem to be certain groups of people who believe that Jews are somehow immune to things like oppression or bigotry. I would like to completely smash that idea to pieces, if possible, by reminding everyone who is reading this post that anti-Semitism is on the rise, and is a huge problem in multiple countries across the world. Anti-Semitism didn’t die with Hitler and the end of World War II. Anti-Semitism is not something of the past that no longer exists. It still exists in the here and now and is something we should be fighting to eradicate.

So, in other words, if something like this bothers you:

Then this should bother you, too:

Because both are perpetuating oppression of a group of people.

So how do we remedy this situation?

I think the first thing that we should do is to simply stop utilizing the stereotypical witch’s trope. Remember that it’s not ours to reclaim. Find other ways to express your witchiness, if that’s something you enjoy doing. Find other ways to express yourself and your practices that doesn’t rely on imagery that has been used to oppress people. Stopping the usage of pointy hats and crooked noses probably doesn’t seem like much, but its the small things that add up to larger things in the long run. And no longer utilizing these symbols is an easy step that we can all take.

From there, look into other ways to support the Jewish community. Raise awareness about anti-Semitism that occurs in our community, and remember not to speak for Jews, but instead to help their voices be heard. Remember that this isn’t about us as witches, but about Jewish people who have been experiencing oppression for centuries now.

If anyone has any other links relevant to this topic, please let me know so I can add them below.

Related Articles, Posts and Books:

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Rambles, Uncategorized

 

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Spirit Spouses: Something Old is New Again

I’ve noticed over the past year or so that god-spousing is becoming a more prominent thing in our community. For those who have never heard of this concept, the idea behind it is that a human person gets married (or some other similar ceremony) to a deity. The marriage ceremony can vary person to person and deity to deity – some have a large ceremony, others don’t. What this relationship can entail is going to vary from person to person as it would with any mortal marriage – some of the marriages are more romantic, some involve sex and some don’t, some are all astral based, and others are not – it’s all very “your mileage may vary”. And of course when anything “new” comes into the community, there are people in the community who dislike that thing, and god-spousing is no exception. Many think that this is totally stupid and often blames the resurgence (because it is a resurgence, this is not new) on things like Hiddleson or Tumblr. Despite that, the god-spouse community is starting to make some headway and gain some traction in the community at large, and I am happy to see that it’s starting to become more accepted.

There is another aspect to the god-spousing community that almost never gets talked about: spirit-spousing.

Spirit-spousing is a whole lot like god-spousing: a mortal person gets married to a spirit or other non-physical entity that isn’t identified as a deity. Just like god-spousing and mortal spouses, the nature of the relationship can vary, and the method of marriage can also vary. There are certainly a lot of different methods that can be done with spirit-spousing, and each culture that engaged in such things had their own way of doing things. However, despite there being a history of spirit-spousing, spirit-spouses almost never get any mention in posts, group discussions or in the community at large.

Because there is so very little on spirit-spousing, I wanted to spend some time talking about some of the historical things I’ve found on spirit-spousing and god-spousing as well as some of my own experiences.

History Repeats Itself

Although a lot of people seem to believe that marrying a non-physical entity (deity or otherwise) is new, it’s really not. There are plenty of examples that prove that this has been going on for a hot minute (see the relevant posts at the bottom for more information). I saw the first mention of spirit-spousing while reading The Catalpa Bow. The Catalpa Bow talks about spirit worker practices in Japan, and it turns out that there is a rather rich history of spirits engaging humans in all sorts of things- from sexual encounters, to tormenting people, to marriage.

Yep. Marriage.

There are a few common scenarios that Blacker lists in her book:

The first two groups of tales [...] are those known as shinkontan or divine marriage tales. These tell of a marriage between a human being and a god. In one group a human girl is visited by an unknown deity, who on investigation is discovered to be a snake. In the other group the goddess of the sea leaves her watery home to marry a human man, only to return to it in her true form of a snake when the man has violated a taboo.19
Both these types of tale are found associated with certain shrines, usually purporting to account for the semi-divine ancestry of the priestly family in whose hereditary charge they lie. The Miwa and Kamo shrines are the most celebrated examples, the Miwa shrine in particular having given its name to two sub-types of divine marriage legend, broadly known as hebi-no-mukoiri, or snake bridegroom. (pg. 93)

Blacker goes on to state that it’s possible that many of these marriages mirror rites of passage and rituals that spirit workers (which she refers to as shamans in this book) must go through in order to obtain their skills:

In both these types of divine marriage legend there can be discerned the vestige of an ancient shamanistic cult in which a woman is chosen to serve a water-serpent god. In the odamaki stories we see a girl seized and forced to act not only as the mouthpiece of a god, but also as his bride. She is thus ‘possessed’ in a double sense, both spiritually by an oracle and sexually by a lover.
We are at once reminded of the similarly sexual relationship which obtains in many Siberian tribes between the shaman and his tutelary deity. Here, however, the sexes are usually reversed and it is a male shaman who finds himself visited by a goddess. Among the Goldi on the Amur river, Sternberg quotes a shaman as saying that his tutelary goddess, a beautiful woman who taught him the secrets which enabled him to shamanise, was at the same time the wife with whom he slept. When he shamanised he was possessed by this goddess, as his body might be permeated by smoke or vapour, and it was she who spoke through his mouth and drank the offerings of pig’s blood. The Yakut shaman was also visited when asleep by a female spirit, and the Teleut shaman likewise had a celestial wife whom he visited in her abode in the seventh heaven.27
The odamaki stories suggest that a similar relationship, with the sexes reversed, was common between the early miko and her guardian snake. (pg. 96)

While Blacker uses god and deity to describe a lot of the marriages going on in these stories, the truth is that the Japanese word Kami is very difficult to translate into English. We often consider it to instantly mean “deity” or “god”, but Kami can come in all sorts of sizes- some of which are nothing more than regional spirits or entities. So when reading these excerpts, I would advise anyone to keep a relatively loose definition of what the word god or deity could entail.

And of course, at the end of the day, it shows that there is some historical context and history of marriages and unions occurring between the Seen and Unseen.

Communication: Like Talking to a Brick Wall

Communicating with the Unseen is a notorious pain. It can be challenging to render feelings and ideas and “woo” into something that is actually coherent. And while it can be challenging to figure out how to communicate with a god, I’ve found it to be even harder to communicate with spirits. With gods you’ve got at least some sort of resource material to pull from. There are books and websites dedicated to discussing various historical and modern information about gods and deities from across the globe, and if someone shows up looking like some particular culture from Earth, it becomes much easier to figure out who exactly is pestering you. However, there is likely no website with information on Jim the tree spirit that lives in your back yard or Sally the traveler from some non-physical plane we’ve never heard of. It’s this very same problem that makes identifying netjeri and other Duat critters difficult for Kemetics- there just isn’t any widely available information out there. You’re pretty much on your own for figuring out who or what this entity is, where it came from, and what to do with it.

I still suggest approaching non-deity communication the same way you might approach deity communication. Work on figuring out a system that works best for you. For some this may be a divination system, for others it might be better through feelings or sensations. It really just depends. If you’ve got a spirit showing up on your doorstep, I recommend feeding them regularly. You may be the only person who notices they’re alive, and so they may need more energy in order to communicate with you better. You can nourish a non-deity through a lot of the same methods that you would a deity- food offerings, energy offerings (dancing, music making, sex), having shrines or other things in your house that the entity can attach to and alight from, etc. I would urge anyone who is delving into spirit communication to let the spirit know that there could be hang ups, and to be patient. Remember that communication can be just as frustrating for the spirit/entity as it is for you.

Expectations Can Make an Ass Out of You and Me

This can be further complicated by the fact that sometimes the spirit you’re working with isn’t even from some sort of earthly plane. Most of my menz have not ever lived on earth, which means it’s even harder to figure out who they are or what they want.

On top of this, there are plenty of cultures who have taboos and rules for their spirit-spousing. Some spirits are against certain things, certain spirits might expect certain things from their spouse or have certain expectations for the nature of the relationship such as food and dietary restrictions or limitations on who you can associate with or even your daily schedule. Clashing of eras and cultures can make the relationship building process even more difficult and can cause all sorts of bumps and hiccups on your path.

This has occurred for me a few times. I had a past history with a few of my menz, and they had expectations that I had to promptly crush. One believed he could come in and convert me into being strictly monogamous with him – which I told him would not happen. I’ve also gotten to experience personality conflicts between a few of my menz that threw some relationships to a grinding halt for a while, as well as differing views on how the household should be run (which we still have some issues with).

The best advice I can give to anyone who might find themselves looking at a spirit who wants to be more than friends is to take it slow. And don’t be afraid to establish your boundaries and limitations with this entity. I have a strict rule for anyone (spirit, deity, or physical human) that is interested in dating me or being romantically involved with me- we do it my way, or not at all. That doesn’t mean that I won’t compromise on things, but there are certain caveats in the relationship that will never ever change. And anyone who is interested in being with me needs to respect those rules.

Once you’ve created ground rules for yourself, stick to them. However, be prepared for certain entities to push back and try to convince you to change your rules. And, of course, be prepared to potentially send this entity or spirit packing if they refuse to take your needs seriously.

But how did you know?

One of the biggest questions I’ve been asked throughout the years of talking about spirit-spousing is “how did you know that they wanted to be in that kind of relationship with you?” The short answer is- they had to spell it out for me, usually. I am incredibly dense and daft when it comes to emotions, and I default to “everyone is friends!” mindset (much to my detriment). For pretty much every single relationship I’m involved in (or have ever been involved in), it has usually taken the other person, entity, spirit or deity to tell me “hey, I want to be more than just friends”. The only exception to this rule has been with the menz I refer to as K-Pop, who more or less made it very very clear from day one that he and I were “gonna be a thing” no matter what.

cup

And that can and does happen- sometimes an entity shows up and refuses to take no for an answer. And it can be really challenging to figure out how to handle that. While he and I tangoed around this complete mess of feelings and emotional baggage, we pretty much spent 3 months making each other’s lives miserable. He made sure to antagonize anyone I was close to. We spent hours exchanging verbal barbs with one another while we completed tasks on the astral. We pretty much hated one another for quite a while.

It only began to progress to something better once he decided I was more important than whatever expectations he had brought to the table. It was a perfect example of having to stick to your guns. But it was a very big challenge to get to that point.

Almost none of my relationships have super romantic or amazing beginnings, and that is largely why I don’t discuss them. However, if you find that an entity (or a deity) shows up and develops a relationship with you- and then out of the blue one day decides that they want to be more than that with you- don’t feel too shocked. I certainly missed a lot of really obvious call signs with a lot of the people, spirits and entities that I have laid with. Again, communication isn’t always clear, and sometimes what is obvious to one person isn’t obvious to another.

Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being married (or similar) with non-physical entities. I’ve tried to cover some of the basics of being married to spirits as well as covering some historical information on the practice. If there are any other topics anyone would like to delve into in the future regarding spirit-spousing, hit me up in the comments section!

Relevant Posts:

 
11 Comments

Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Astral, Crack, Hypnosis & Inner Work, Rambles

 

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