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Offerings with Limitations

I love the idea of offerings. The notion of reciprocity between humans and gods. The idea of a cycle where they give to us, and we give to them, and through this exchange, Creation is propelled forward and maintained. I love offerings.

However, there was a time when I hated making offerings.

Yep. You read that right- the person who loves to talk about making offerings and why offerings are so awesome used to loath giving offerings.

The thing about most discussions regarding offerings is that most of the time, no one bothers to bring up situations where offerings are not possible, such as cases of dietary and living restrictions. What if you can’t eat gluten? What if you’re under the drinking age, or can’t drink (for whatever reason)? What if your household doesn’t allow for public displays of offerings? Or you don’t have any sort of location where you can leave offerings out?

Offerings in these kinds of situations can be a nightmare. They can be challenging and frustrating – and for some folks, they can stop your religious practice in its tracks. So how do we deal?

The short answer is- work within your capacities. No one is going to be judging you based off of what you offer or how you offer it. Although some people have tried to imply that the only offerings that amount to anything are the offerings that meet their arbitrary standards, the simple truth of the matter is- the only person whose standards matter are the very gods or spirits you are offering to. And usually when you have limitations, these entities understand. It only seems to be our human counterparts that don’t get it.

Limitations: Location, Location, Location

One of the most common offering questions I get is “how do I offer when I don’t have a formal space to offer in?” It can be a real pain to figure out how to do offerings when you’re trying hide the fact that you’re giving offerings at all. I had that issue when I lived with my parents a few years ago. I had my own room, but no privacy- as my parents didn’t seem to understand the concept of knocking (imagine your step-father walking in, and asking why you are leaving a plate of food in front of statues…). Their schedules and my schedule often conflicted, and there was never a guarantee that I’d have even 5 consecutive minutes without being interrupted.

Making offerings was a real pain.

The best work around I have found for this is to offer your meals. In the same way that Christians say grace over their food, you could also offer up each meal you eat or make to the gods before you eat it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I usually would mentally let them know that the food was there for them to consume, and to thank them for the food as I was bringing my plate to the table. I’d often concentrate on my cup, or the wall, or moving my food around before I ate it- to give me enough time to say what I wanted to say before I dug in. If anyone asked, I’d tell them I was spacing out and no one was the wiser to what I was doing.

Limitations: Gut Problems

If there is anything I understand, it’s having problems with eating. My stomach quit working on me about 4 years ago, and offerings have been a challenge ever since. When your stomach takes a nose dive into “hell no”, you end up having to do a lot of trial and error with your diet. I’ve taken just about everything you can imagine out of my diet over the past four years- yeast, eggs, potato, gluten, fructose – you name it. And because one of our “staple” offerings contains a well known allergen in it, it became increasingly difficult to figure out what to do. Not to mention that when you can’t even figure out what to feed yourself, figuring out what is acceptable to feed the gods becomes even more stressful.

I’ve also heard stories where people fear that the gods will be upset that they won’t offer things like alcohol or bread. Truthfully, I’ve never heard of a single situation where a deity came down and yelled at someone who is a recovering alcoholic for not offering them a beer. I’ve also never heard of a deity that came out to yell at someone with Celiac disease for not offering them enough bread. Again, I do believe it is only the humans that get upset over these things being missing from the offering plate.

For situations where your gut is saying “hell no” to a set of offerings, I can offer a few bits of advice.

One: offer what you can eat. Just because it’s not historically attested doesn’t make it a bad offering choice. Again, offerings are about reciprocity, about gods giving to us and us giving to gods and all of us maintaining ma’at and Creation. Offering things that are staples to your diet and staples in your life are good choices, even if they’re modern.

Two: offer things that are not food items. It’s an often overlooked notion that you can offer stuff that isn’t food. You can offer incense, you can offer jewelry and flowers, you can offer artwork, writing, dancing or drawings, you can offer actions. Don’t let your offerings be limited by food.

Three: offer heka-laced fake food. My use of Re-ment and food replicas was borne purely out of my stomach’s fickle nature. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t offer anything to the gods (because I wasn’t eating, either) that I decided this method was better than no method. Heka is an important aspect of our religion, and I think it’s certainly worth exploring the use of replica food in your practice if you’re having problems with obtaining edible food products (or other offerings) for the gods.

At the end of the day, do the best with what you’ve got. Limitations can be frustrating, but they needn’t put your practice in a standstill. Don’t be afraid to try new things and offer new and interesting stuff. I’m sure even the gods get tired of beer and bread, and smile when something new and different shows up on their offering plate.

And above all, don’t stop trying. Sometimes our greatest limitations can open us up to new experiences that teach us the most.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Kemeticism

 

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Let Them Eat Cake

As most Kemetics know, Wep Ronpet is coming up at the end of the month (for most of us). And while we have quite a few activities for Wep Ronpet itself, there isn’t a whole lot of discussion about what you can do during the intercalary days. I was thinking earlier this year about what I could do for the 5 birthdays that lead up to the grand finale that is Wep Ronpet, and I realized that I could easily pull something from my own culture and merge it with this holiday: birthday cake.

imagine giving this to Set

Yep, you read that right- birthday cake (or birthday cupcakes).

I don’t know how the practice started, but in the US, a birthday isn’t really a birthday without a cake involved, and I feel like it could easily make sense within a Kemetic structure, too.

First off is the cake. The making of cake could easily fall into a rite for Aset, who seems to have a thing for people baking for her. Mixing the ingredients together to make a nice balanced texture and flavor is an awful lot like doing magix and contemplating ma’at in my mind. Both of these elements can easily be entwined in the preparation of the cake that you wish to give the gods. And while I can’t attest that cakes were specifically offered in antiquity, bread items were quite the staple- and there is the likely possibility that sweet breads were offered, too.

Then you’ve got the frosting. The frosting is a good place to utilize symbolism both in color and in decoration. You could easily use colors that are tied to each NTR whose birthday you are celebrating. Greens and blacks for Osiris, blues and golds for Heru-Wer, reds and purples (UPG) for Set, golds and reds for Aset and blacks and blues (UPG) for Nebhet. And each deity does have symbols associated with them: djed pillars, eye symbols, gold/nebu symbols, etc. You can easily use frosting to make each cake tailored to the specific deity, and to lace the entire edible in heka.

And finally there is the candle. Who doesn’t love candles? They come in so many shapes and colors and styles. Plus, there is the added bonus of fire.

Fire plays a heavy role within Kemetic ritual. To quote Reidy:

As the striking of a fire pushes back the darkness, so the living deity manifesting as the solar Eye of Heru dispels and defeats the enemies of life and light. Next to sunlight itself a first ignited by a human being is the universal emblem of light dispelling the dangers of the dark. In ancient Egypt ritual we see that this simple action – and every ritual action without exception – repeat anew on the earthly plane divine acts that occur again and again on the spiritual and mythic planes. (Eternal Egypt, pg 6-7)

Wilkinson also discusses the importance of fire:

Fire appears to have a life of its own, it may represent life itself- as when the Egyptian king kindled a new flame in his sed or jubliee festival. Living fire was embodied in the sun and in its emblem the “fire-spitting” uraeus. … fire was also a natural symbol of protection. The hieroglyph appears in protective contexts, and apotropaic deities such as Taweret … may be shown bearing torches to repel evil. (Reading Egyptian Art, pg 161)

 

the gods /are/ pretty old, after all.

So lighting a fire on top of your cake is a good way to invoke protection and life into the upcoming new year, and possibly to serve as protection during the epagomenal days, which are said to be filled with chaos and are unpredictable in nature.

You could even add another layer of meaning into this by including the typical “Happy Birthday” song that most birthdays entail. Singing and music were a large part of Egyptian ritual, as both were said to placate and appease the gods. And almost every ritual included some amount of sistrum shaking and music making. So don’t be afraid to experiment with including these items into your Wep Ronpet plans and celebrations.

There is a symbol called “sema” that represents the trachea and the lungs. According to Wilkinson, this symbol represents union and unity, and is often related to uniting the Two Lands. When you blow out your candles and sing Happy Birthday to the gods, you’re utilizing your breath, your life force to celebrate the gods, to celebrate their existence. You bring yourself closer to them, and them closer to you. Through your actions and your breath you are creating a union between the Seen and Unseen. You are bridging the gap that exists between the two planes and bringing both closer together.

And that’s probably the best birthday gift you could ask for.

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Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Kemeticism

 

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KRT: Deity Communication

“Communication Breakdown” via Flickr

I have a love-hate with the topic of deity communication. I love it because I love reading about how the gods manifest and communicate with different people. Learning about how others go about communicating can certainly be enlightening. However, I rather dislike the topic because I feel like the pagan community at large spends way too much time focusing on the notion of the “god-phone“. Unfortunately, if you have a pretty clear communication style with the gods and the Unseen, there are going to be folks that judge you for it. People who have “god-phones” are often criticized for being egotistical or elitist by those who don’t. And people who don’t have “god-phones” often feel like they are a failure at their religion somehow.

And the truth of the matter is, neither of these is correct.

God-phones and Pedestals

Most of the people that I know that have a “god-phone” get frustrated with the thing. Having a hot line to the Unseen can have its rewards and its setbacks. It’s great because you can often go straight to the source as a means of clarifying things. I don’t necessarily have to rely on divination or other people to get the information I need from the gods I work with. However, even that has its pitfalls, as many deities seem to like to respond with very vague, unhelpful information. Or, what I lovingly refer to as “wingdings“. A lot of my early communication with the Unseen involved visions and other visual information that I simply couldn’t decipher. The gods may have handed me an answer, but it was so obscured by a language I couldn’t read (wingdings) that the answer was completely lost on me. It’s very maddening.

Additionally, having the hole in your head that often allows you to speak directly with the Unseen can have other consequences. Such as deities and entities giving you input on anything and everything and being a troll in general. It can be challenging to focus at work or in a conversation when you’ve got Unseen entities prattling in the background, vying for your attention.

Conversely, if you ever see anyone lording their “god-phone” over someone else, they are not worth your time. Anyone who places themselves up on a pedestal (as opposed to being placed there by other people) because of their ability to communicate with the Unseen doesn’t deserve to be there. Anyone who chastises or judges another based on their ability or inability to communicate with the gods is not worthy of a pedestal, plain and simple.

God-phones and Doing it Wrong

A lot of people also seem to think that if they don’t have a “god-phone” they are a failure as a Pagan/polytheist. But this is simply not the case. Generally speaking, hearing the gods, or finding really clear means of communication with the gods and the Unseen is very difficult and not very common. It may seem like something that everyone can do, but that’s really not the case. To give you a good example, take a look at your people you know in real life that are Christian. How many of them talk to their god (or to Jesus, or saints or whatever) regularly and actually hear back? I’m willing to bet that most don’t. And if you told them that your gods talked to you, they’d look at you like you grew a second head.

Not being able to sit down and have a clear-cut chat with unseen entities is no problem. And as stated above, if anyone makes it sound like it is a problem, they don’t deserve your time. For Kemeticism specifically, it is not a requirement to have a “god-phone”. You don’t need to have hour long conversations with the gods every day to show you’re a good Kemetic, and anyone that says otherwise is full of crap. Never feel pressured by your ability or inability to communicate with the gods. It’s something that everyone has to work out in their own time, and each of us has our own ways of working around various communication barriers. There is no correct way to talk with the Unseen, and if you’re not that good at it, that doesn’t make you a failure in any capacity.

The Nature of Communication

The truth of the matter is, communication can be very touch and go, both here and in the Unseen. The same way that one day you and the people in your life are able to convey thoughts quickly and easily through talking or emailing one another, and yet you end up sticking your foot in your mouth the next day and everything you end up saying blows up in your face. That’s how it goes with the Unseen, too. Many times the communication can ebb and flow depending on your mental state and how good of a connection you’ve got that day.

Additionally, communication can be so much more than simply swapping words back and forth with the Unseen. The same way that we often rely on subtle things here in the Seen- body language, eye movement, posture, etc. that can convey smaller details to us. The same goes for the Unseen: there is more to communication than simply hearing things in your head or relying on divination. Its just that most of us only focus on the obvious choices.

Figuring out the communication style that suits your needs and traits best can take a while to hammer out. The most important thing to remember with deity communication is that it takes time, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Take your time with it. Let it grow and develop in its own ways that are tailored to you and your needs. Don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing and focus on you and your practice. I know it can feel alienating and weird when you’re trying to figure all this stuff out- but each of us does things slightly differently. And there is beauty in that diversity (and is part of why KRT is even a thing).

So in short: if you have a god-phone, cool. Just don’t lord it over people. If you don’t have a god-phone, cool. Just don’t get angry at those who have them. Figuring out your communication style takes time, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have it all figured out yet. Remember that just like in the Seen, communication can be finicky, and that’s okay. Just keep doing what works for you.

The see other responses to this prompt, please check out the KRT Master List.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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Caring About Self-Care

Self-care was not always a big deal to me. In fact, I’d argue that for most of my life, self-care didn’t even exist. My body and mental health were merely roadblocks and hurdles that I needed to tame and overcome in order to do what I needed to do. Growing up, I was treated as though I didn’t have anything wrong with me, and I was expected to perform at the same levels as my “normal” peers, and so I simply kept pushing myself until I completely broke.

It is breaking that caused me to care about self-care. I had reached a point in my life where my body would no longer allow me to not care anymore. It forced my hand and forced me to change my habits; anything short of that meant I was unable to get out of bed or function without a ton of pain.

But even then my approach to self-care was wrong. You see, when my body broke, it started with my stomach. My stomach was suddenly moody and never wanted to eat anything (still doesn’t) and most any food I put into it made me feel worse (still does). Combined with my chronic pain and overwhelming anxiety that plagued me at the time, I pretty much viewed self-care as a way to placate my body just long enough so that it would allow me to continue to act as I had before. “If I do this one thing, then my body will go back to normal and I can continue living like I did before everything fell apart.” However, I had reached a level where that was no longer an option. To draw a parallel, when someone experiences trauma and the consequential PTSD that comes with it, the brain is rewired. At that point, there is no going back to the same mental wiring and processes that existed before. Instead, you have to adjust and learn to live with the new wiring in your brain. That is essentially what happened to me on a full-body (and probably mental as well) scale.

My body had changed, and my life and attitude towards my body had to change to reflect it. No matter how much I wanted it, there would never be any going back to surviving off of four hours of sleep at night while I fueled my body with Coke and Doritos.

It took me many years to figure this out, and in all honestly, I feel silly that I didn’t connect the dots sooner. I spent so much time trying to figure out how I could make things go back to the way it was before, only to find out that that was not even a viable solution for me anymore. I needed to reformat my life to accommodate what had happened to me. It is at this point that self-care actually began to take a hold in my life.

Throughout the bulk of this process (this process being: moving from my stomach crapping out on me to realizing things would never be the same again) I focused heavily on what I ate. I felt that most of my woes would be solved by eating the right things. However, due to the severe anxiety and stress (and probably depression) I was feeling at the time, I ended up shooting myself in the foot at nearly every meal. My attempts to help myself only served to exacerbate the problem. My self-care was failing hard.

Step One: I give myself permission.

So one of the first things I did regarding self-care was to stop caring so much about what I ate, because I hurt no matter what I ate, and beating myself up over it wasn’t changing anything. I gave myself permission to eat what sounded okay at the time, whether inside of my house or outside of my house (I used to eat out a lot). I allowed myself to fudge the rules because fudging the rules was better than stressing even more about what I was putting into my system. And since I didn’t know what was causing my stomach so much pain- better to eat and not stress than to not eat and still stress. You dig?

Giving yourself permission to do what you need to do to get by can be a very helpful step in moving forward. Berating yourself for things you can’t control or change benefits no one and ends up holding you back from making needed changes and actually moving forward. Going easy on yourself (and others) in times of need can make a huge difference.

Step Two: Address your schedule.

The second step towards helping myself was addressing where I lived. I used to drive about 45 minutes one way to work. That equates to about 2 hours in the car every day, and those two hours could be spent sleeping or relaxing. So with the permission of my SO, we moved to the other side of town where my job is located, and he took on the driving instead. This has had one of the most profound effects on my health. I’m able to sleep an additional hour every day (which makes more of a difference than even I can comprehend) and I walk to work every day. This benefit is twofold in that it gets my exercise in, and I have time to process thoughts and calm my mind while I walk. Of course, this has its downfalls- as it’s really hot in the summer. However, I think the benefits far outweigh the heat, and I’m grateful that I’ve been allowed this luxury of walking to work.

Walking to work also allowed me more control over my food intake. I am able to walk home during lunch (though I rarely do during the summer) and I’m able to make food that is better for my stomach because I have access to a full kitchen. Walking ended up benefiting me in more ways than I would have expected. The reduced stress and increased rest was enough that I began to eat better simply because I wasn’t stressing all the time. I found myself eating in more and eating things that bettered my stomach, and I think that heavily coincides with walking every day.

Step Three: Make your rest count.

It sounds weird- making your rest count, but I’ve found that not all types of rest are equal. My body is one of the kinds where it feels like no matter how much I rest, I still feel tired. I don’t know if this is a byproduct of something like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or possibly tied to poor breathing and allergies combating my system, or even maybe tied back again to my anxiety and stress wearing me out, but either way, for many years I felt like there was no point in resting because I’d wake up feeling just as tired. I felt it was more productive to just stay up and get work done.

However, through the walking to work experiment listed above, I found that resting at certain times actually makes a big difference for me. Before I moved, I used to sleep all the time. I’d nap under my desk at work. I’d come home and nap for another half hour or so, and then I’d go to bed at 9 because I was too tired to stay awake anymore. However, being able to sleep in the extra hour or so in the morning (combined, likely, with the reduced stress of walking to work), means I no longer need to nap at work, and I rarely nap when I get home anymore. I can even stay up later, sometimes as late as ten or eleven, without any extreme taxation on my body (just don’t ask me to wake up at 6 instead of 7, apparently). Figuring out how my body ticks and what gives me the most bang for my buck has made my self-care go that much further.

Step Four: Listen to your body.

I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that me and my body have often times been at odds. I feel like our society formats us to be that way- we’re often told that our bodies are a source of shame and dislike for a variety of reasons, and having a body that is slowly dieing can make it really hard to want to do anything for your body. “You’re making my life hell, so why should I even bother to help you out” was often my mentality. However, our bodies are not things that we can escape (if we want to stay alive, at least). We are stuck with ourselves and ignoring your body will not only likely shorten your life, but will make your life less enjoyable.

Learn from my mistakes and listen to your body’s needs before it breaks on you, because once it’s broken, there is very little you can do to fix it again. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my stomach is to urge people to try and take care of themselves and their specific needs before their body face plants them into the ground out of desperation. Bodies and minds are not things we can just will to move forward. Our quirks and illnesses and needs are not something you can steam roll out of existence, they are things that have to be worked with and cultivated if we are to make the most out of what we’ve got (or don’t got). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and working on self-care now while it’s still viewed as optional can make all the difference between having a body and mind that functions fairly well and being stuck with both being bombed out and not operational.

Figuring out what works best for your self-care can certainly be a challenge. Each person and each person’s needs are going to vary greatly, and what works for me may not be exactly what works for you. Taking the time to experiment with your needs can be time consuming, but it’s worth it to be in good health.

What things have you tried with your self-care? What has worked and what hasn’t? If you don’t partake in self-care, why is that? Do you think self-care is an important part of maintaining your health?

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Why Priesthood is Pointless

It seems like discussion about priesthood is an almost yearly thing. That at least during some point of the calendar year, we Kemetics feel obligated to discuss what on earth it means to be a priest, and how we can define it, how do we know who is a priest and who isn’t… and and and. And every year, we kick the idea around for a bit, realize we don’t really have any answers…. and we put it back up on a shelf to stare at until next year. I’m not sure what causes this revolving door to occur, but if you sit around long enough on various non-temple affiliated forums, you’ll find that it crops up almost like clock work.

The debates that arise from discussing what is necessary for priesthood can get pretty heavy. There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to clergy, and there are a lot of social and economical dynamics that you have to consider when you talk about priesthood. Many of us come from a Christian background, where the priesthood does a lot of stuff that Kemetic clergy wouldn’t had to have even considered in antiquity. Many of us also move into the Pagan/polytheist sphere through Wiccan information, which also promotes that everyone is a priest. Combine that with the very stark definitions of priesthood from antiquity, and you’ve got an organizational nightmare on your hands.

But this post is not about how we could tackle the priesthood topic (I’m working on that, still). This post is about why this isn’t a discussion that is really worth having right now.

There are a lot of reasons behind this, but the most important reason is resources, and whether we like it or not, priesthood, whether affiliated with a temple or not, requires a lot of resources that our community doesn’t really have. We don’t have many resources in just about every sense of the word. We lack people, the people we do have often lack time or money, and we also lack knowledge (in some cases) as well as structural support from our religious community. All of these things compound to make the discussion about priesthood (and many times, temples as well) very interesting, but pointless because priesthood at this stage of the game is the equivalent of putting the cart before the horse.

A Frame of Reference: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Back when I was in college, I was taking a writing class where we discussed how to make stories believable and how to flesh out character development. During this writing class, I was introduced to the concept of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those who don’t know about Maslow’s Hierarchy, it’s often represented with a triangle or pyramid (as seen above). Each level of the pyramid shows a person’s needs for survival. When a tier’s needs are met, the person is able to move forward to the next tier.

The tier on the bottom is considered the most basic and the most important. If you’re not eating, sleeping, or healthy, your concerns about other stuff become heavily diminished. You’ve no time for soul searching and ethical dilemmas if you’re not getting your basic health requirements, or so the theory goes (a relatively simple explanation of Maslow’s hierarchy can be found here).

When I see our community, I see something very similar to a Maslow’s triangle. I see that we have needs, we have stuff we need to accomplish if we want to be a viable community that lasts for a couple of generations, and priesthood is near the top of the pyramid. And much like the golden capstones that you’d find on real life pyramids and obelisks- if there is nothing beneath that capstone to support it, that capstone has nowhere to rest and ultimately falls to the ground.

Another way to frame this is that without a lay person base, without a community and all of its trappings, without these very precious resources, there is no priesthood. The capstone that would be the priesthood (not because priests are better than everyone, but because priests are a small percentage of the larger group) would be stuck on the ground, if not missing entirely. Much like the Egyptian kingship that folded in on itself at the end of the Old Kingdom due to overspending and lack of resources, we too will ultimately fail if we try to move too far too quickly. As it is said, you have to be able to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. Placing priesthood at the forefront of our concerns puts us at running before we’ve even really started taking our first steps.

First Steps First

I once wrote about the various considerations needed to make a temple or organization. When I view the community at large, I tend to look through the same lens as I did for that post. As mentioned above, we have needs. Our community needs things if it is to survive. Instead of talking about how we want priests to be around to help the community (because that’s what most people want modern priests to be- facilitators for our non-existent community), let’s talk about what the community can do to help start the formation of it’s own “Maslow’s Hierarchy”. If priesthood is, in fact, the end goal for some people, then we need to start re-framing the question by looking at what the community itself needs in order to build up to the priesthood pinnacle.

I often call what I do in the community “laying foundations” because from where I am standing, we need a good foundation to build off of before anything else within the community can become possible. Our community at large needs more foundations laid out in order to help facilitate the bigger and better things that everyone wants.

These foundations can come in many forms. Some examples would be:

  • People: We need people in order to actually be a thing. Compared to most other groups in the Pagan/polytheist community, Kemetics are pretty small in number; and when you take out the Kemetics who are already affiliated with a temple (where our priesthood discussion doesn’t apply), that number gets even smaller. Small numbers means small resources. As much as some folks like being niche and obscure, at the end of the day, more people = more ability to do things.
  • Religious Structures: When I say structure, I don’t mean buildings. I mean we need calendars and rituals. We need guidelines and methodologies that people can adopt. We need to actually have guides for “this is how we do things” so that others can come in and do those things.
  • Knowledge: This goes hand in hand with the last bullet point. We need to know enough information to be able to format that information into something we can actually use. Slowly, we are getting more useful information for religious practices, but it is a slow progress, and one that may need to progress a bit more before we actually have enough to work with.

The list for foundations could go on and on, but I think that these points sum up the most important parts, and they are the parts that I regularly focus on in my community building activities. If we want to make priesthood a viable thing in the future, this is where I think we need to start, and you will notice that most of these topics have little to nothing to do with priesthood on the surface. That’s probably why many people don’t want to focus on them: they are unglamorous and difficult to establish. However, these things are vital to our longevity. They are necessary in order to bridge the gap between here and where we want to be.

Much like with the logistics post above, when I see someone mention that a priest should help the community, I have to ask: what community? Where are these people that the priest will help? Or if someone mentions the requirements for rituals that a priest needs to perform, I have to ask: where will they get these rituals? When people mention priests helping with funerals, marriages, or counseling, I again have to return to: where will they learn all of this stuff? Where will they get the resources, the time? Our community is only starting to grow. We’re just barely establishing a presence in the larger communities, and we haven’t even crossed the threshold into having good printed resources that newcomers can utilize. We’ve just barely gotten started. And while I don’t necessarily disagree with a lot of ideas about where priesthood could go, or what it could be, but I just don’t see many people actually doing anything to get us from point A to point B.

It is my belief that until we start focusing on the foundations, on the basics of our religious community, and building those foundations up (much like a pyramid), the discussion of priesthood is pointless. And only once those things are somewhat in place will the concept of priesthood actually be able to take hold within our community (in whatever fashion it chooses to ultimately take). Perhaps instead of discussing everything that we’d like to see in the community, people can actually get out and start doing the leg work (or supporting others who are doing the leg work) and we can get from A to B even faster.

 How important do you feel having an active priesthood is for the community? What changes or improvements do you think the community needs to make in order to facilitate a future priesthood? Do you think a cohesive priesthood will ever be a “thing”?

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Kemeticism

 

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Ma’at Shines Through My Body

I often view bodies like cars. They are vehicles that allow our non-physical bits to participate in this thing called life on earth. They carry us around and let us do things with one another, and instead of pumping gasoline as a means to fuel the body, we instead nourish ourselves with food, sleep and other such things.

And if bodies are like cars, I’ve got a bit of a lemon.

I’ve got the kind of body that mimicks the car you probably had in college. The kind that you have to do a special wiggle dance with the key in order to get the door to unlock. The kind of car whose gas gauge isn’t reliable. The kind of car that makes weird noises when you accelerate and threatens to stop working when you come to a complete stop at a light.

That’s the kind of body I have. And I’m sure that there are many others out there who have similar (or worse) bodies to mine.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of having a fixer-upper body. The nature of having spoon based illnesses where you are constantly working to keep things together. Or hell, even the nature of just living in such a situation where nothing is ever stable. How do we cope with that? What is even the point if everything you build up is only to maintain some semblance of ‘breaking even’? Why bother if you’re never going to get ahead?

I remember breaking down one evening at Osiris’ place and crying the ugliest cry you ever saw as I poured my heart out about how I didn’t understand the point behind all of it. Why do you keep trying when you’re never going to get ahead?

And he reminded me that ma’at is much like that.

maat

Back in antiquity, it was believed that ma’at had to be established every day, because existence and creation always lived on the brink of annihilation. Every day the barque would travel across the sky, and the gods would look down upon the world below and watch its machinations. Every evening, the barque would slip into the underworld, the realm of the dead. And every night, Set would have to fight a/pep to keep everything safe. Every night Ra needs to rejoin with Osiris to recharge himself. Every day the gods fight against a/pep and isfet to maintain their existence and the existence of all of creation.

Every. Single. Day.

Without pause, without stop. All the time ma’at and isfet clash together, and it is only through sheer perseverance and dedication that ma’at triumphs as it currently does (generally speaking, I mean, we’re all still here at least). In many ways you might be able to argue that ma’at will never ‘get ahead’. There will always be isfet. There will always be trouble looming over the edge of the horizon. And yet the gods continue with it anyways.

I mulled on this for a couple of weeks. My initial response was that of utter desperation. If the gods could never get ahead, how the hell did I expect to find some peace of mind in this life, with this body of mine? But as I thought on it more and more, I actually felt that viewing my self-care as a means of establishing ma’at within myself made me want to do more self-care.

In a way, I am the center of my universe, which isn’t to be mistaken as being the center of the universe. But I am the center of my universe because everywhere you go, there you are. The scenery around me may change, but I am always there, at the center of my existence, because I can not escape myself. And if I were to treat my universe the way that the gods treat the Created universe, then I realized I would need to be more diligent in maintaining ma’at through my body and how I treat it.

This may involve a shift in how I perceive spending money on myself, spending money on treatment to keep myself healthy, or spending more time on helping my body keep its spoons. I don’t usually scowl when the gods ask me to get them something- I always look at it as a means to help our relationship stay stable, and as a means to help keep them in the world around me. And yet I’m ready and willing to scowl when I need to spend money on something that helps me to have a slightly better existence? It seems hypocritical (because it is). And looking through the lens of ma’at and my body being the center of my universe, I realize those mentalities need to change.

As much as I may wish to be a completely normal, healthy person with minimal health problems, I know that I will never be that. And as much as I wish I were made of money, I also know that that will not likely be the case (or at least, not for a long long while). This is the same as the gods realizing that they are stuck in a form of Creation that is what it is, and that their role within that Creation has to be what it is, lest the Creation cease to Be. It’s not ideal, but it’s what they have, and so they make it work.

As a new layer to my shadow work, I’m going to begin realizing that my body is a vehicle for ma’at. Not necessarily in the sense of writing for this blog, or doing things for others in life. But more in the sense that ma’at flows through my veins, makes up my muscles and tissues, and is bound up in the center that is my universe. And in understanding that, to start viewing the actions that I take to help support the center of my universe as a means of maintaining ma’at and keeping the balance that is the Creation that is me.

When I wrote about unconditional love, I stated that that included loving yourself. So too with ma’at. In order to bring ma’at out into the world, you have to first start with yourself. With the vehicle that is your body, the center of your universe. Your universe which, too, requires persistent dedication to uphold its own ma’at.

What role does self-care play in your practice, if at all? Do you view your body as a means of maintaining ma’at?

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Musings on the Ocean

The last time I went to the ocean, it was in the early part of December on the fourth day of the Mysteries. I remember it pretty distinctly because both the number four and the beach are symbols of death for me, and I mused at the irony of going to a place for death on a day of death during a holiday dedicated to exploring death.

It was a whole lot of death for me.

My time there was my typical beach going fare – it was bitter sweet. I spent a lot of my time being overly happy that I got to see the ocean, but those overwhelming feelings often led to complete and utter sadness, and I spent an equal amount of time brushing back tears as I looked for interesting “beach stuff” amidst the waves and tide pools.

The beach is just that way for me- incredibly moving and every trip almost always involves tears. I still can’t tell whether those tears are happy or sad, but they are always there.

The beach is equally important to me in the Unseen as well. Back when I was in the Interior, a type of prison, one of the only things to entertain myself with was staring out over the ocean. As my time in the Interior dragged on, I ended up learning that I could dive into the ocean as a means to calm my mind. Years before Osiris would show up and throw me under the waters of the river, I was learning that drowning myself in the arms of the ocean could ease the pain that I was living with. It was through the ritualized death that I learned to find shreds of peace.

Even in more recent years, the ocean serves an interesting purpose in my astral life. Whenever I am killed or kill myself during the course of a job (because sometimes you have to die in order to do the job properly), I wash up on the shore of some unknown ocean. It’s from the water that I come, and to the water that I return. Nothing is as calming as the cradle of water.

Last month, I got to go back to the beach. However, this trip to the beach was full of firsts for me. It was the first time going to Malibu. It was the first time that I didn’t spend the whole day beach combing, and the first time I actually had friends with me at the ocean. It was the first time I ever actually sat down in the sand and just was. And it was the first time I didn’t find myself crying while at the ocean.

I’m still mulling on why that is.

There were some things that were still the same. While at the beach in December, I did some knot magix with grass that I found at the ocean. I braided it together and tied it into a circlet. I talked and mused about how everything is all connected, about the symbolism of death and life and the ocean and myself. And when I was ready, I set the grass free in the tide. This time my magix was a little less heavy. I did some erasure magix and I recharged all of my recently acquired amulets with some sun and sand. The whole trip felt a lot less heavy and a lot more relaxed, like I could let go of some of the wounds that the ocean salt rubs and begin to be happy while making sand-dicks.

sand dick

I’ve made a lot of changes since last December. I finished a few cycles that had been ongoing for the previous year, I managed to find an astral location where I could hole up with relative safety, and I began to work on addressing my mental health and physical health issues with more seriousness than I have in the past. I don’t know if it’s these changes that have made it so that I can actually visit a beach and not be a mess of tears the whole time, or if I just happened to strike a lucky day where I was able to escape from my brain for a while.

As I move forward in both my life here and There, I find myself visiting the river and the ocean less and less. As I work on healing myself and those around me, I find that I don’t require the drowning as regularly, I don’t need to throw myself into a vat of water to calm my mind, and the vats of water are looking more and more like pools and tubs and less and less like rivers and oceans.

I’m not sure if this is what progress looks like, but I’ll certainly be interested to see where it leads me.

 

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