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All Souls 2014

Another year has come and gone, and yet again I participated in the All Souls Procession. For those who don’t know what the All Souls Procession is, it is a community driven event that occurs down in Tucson every year. The procession is tied to Dia de los Muertos, and is aimed at helping people find peace with death and honoring those who have gone before us. In many ways, the procession is about coming to terms with death, but is also an act of defiance against death and often features a lot of fire, dancing, and loud music.

This year’s theme dealt with liminality, which is close to my heart. I didn’t see a prayer form on the website this year, so I ended up making my own, and like last year, I gave people the option to submit petitions to be written onto the prayer form and thrown into the urn.

all souls petition

After I finished writing the petitions out, I placed them in front of the shrine to be blessed. This year I didn’t write a single thing on the prayer form for myself. I’m not sure why this is, but I suspect that the reason is two-fold. First, is that I don’t have any active shadow work open that needs to be finished. So I didn’t have any shadow work to place onto the prayer form. Second, Osiris has fully decided to take over this event as a sort of festival or holiday related to himself, and so I was acting more in the capacity as a officiant for others, as opposed to participating for myself.

I’m not sure if either of these is accurate, but either way, I didn’t feel compelled to write anything on the prayer form for myself.

The prayer form was submitted to Osiris with offerings of fancy soda and baked goods. I also made sure to include fire and incense. I kept everything dark and rich in color, as they both remind me of the dark silt of the Nile, and the dark ground that Osiris is tied to. I felt that evoking this dark soil would help to sew seeds for fertility and growth later on because from death comes new life.

all_souls_osiris

Like always, we walked with Odaiko Sonora, a local taiko group, and we performed the Tucson Ondo, which is styled after Japanese Obon dances. Odaiko Sonora got the honor of participating in the finale this year, so everyone was dressed up in special costumes for the finale.

all_souls_2014_taiko

Because of the finale, there was the addition of a chant to our procession this year. I didn’t think much of it, but it turns out that chanting while walking actually makes for a very different experience. I found that using my voice was more difficult than I anticipated, and I often found that I was running out of breath while chanting. Turns out that little additions can actually make a big difference.

all_souls_2014_chant

Although many aspects were the same, this year’s procession had some notable differences for me, though the differences are kinda difficult for me to pin down and describe. Like the previous two years of walking in the procession, I have to admit that I was not profoundly changed by the experience or anything like that. There was another person walking in our group for the first time that expressed sincere awe over the whole setup and event, but I must admit that I didn’t really feel anything overly special or spiritual about the experience. However, despite that, there were some things that did actually change.

First I noticed some parallels between the procession and traditional celebrations of the Mysteries. The Mysteries were often marked by a procession from Abydos to Osiris’ “tomb” up the hill nearby, and while I’m not necessarily walking to a tomb, I am walking from a starting point to a finishing point where a ritual (the burning of the urn) takes place. I also noticed that while I don’t travel for Set’s yearly execration, I do travel for Osiris’ procession – similarly to those who would have a pilgrimage to Abydos.

Before the procession starts, we often stand around at the starting point while we wait for everyone to show up. We do this because our group gets to walk right behind the urn, and if we aren’t there early to hold our spot behind the urn, we’d never be able to carve a space out for ourselves once everyone arrives. Unfortunately, waiting can be an hours long process, and sometimes it can get trialing dealing with everyone milling around to catch a glimpse at the urn.

I was getting frustrated by this, but then my mind turned to all of my work with Osiris, and one of the most common themes in his work is stillness. Before you can set forth in rebirthing or transforming, you must be still for a while. The process after death starts with stillness, and only after you have been still can you move forward with your transformation. And it was at this point that I realized I was beginning to create links between this procession and my Mysteries work.

Another thing that I noticed was that the first thing we do during the procession is walk through a small tunnel. Our MC that plays music at the starting point always talks about this tunnel, and reminds people not to rush in getting through the tunnel- that it can take time, like grains of sand passing through an hour glass, and that we must all be patient while going through the tunnel. For myself, the tunnel reminds me of going through a gateway- a common starting point for those traveling through the Duat, or through the various gates inside of Nut. And suddenly the tunnel became a sort of threshold that must be crossed before truly beginning this procession.

all_souls_2014_dj

all_souls_2014_002

All of these things swirled around in my mind as I stood and waited for the procession to begin. I realized that a year ago these connections would not have been made in my mind, and I remembered an old conversation I had with someone about what actually makes a mystery a Mystery. They noted that Mysteries are everywhere, but that the biggest difference is that the people who have been initiated into the Mystery actually see the symbolism and hidden messages that occur within festivals or rites at hand. Last year, Osiris had told me that I had finally been ‘initiated’ into whatever on earth I’m doing, and I’m wondering if the parallels I’m pulling this year are a reflection of that.

Or maybe it’s just a reflection of all of the reading I’ve done on him over the past year.

Either way, these parallels are very new to me, and have caused me to have a different relationship with the procession this year than I have in years past. While I still am walking away from the procession going “why do I want to drive two hours out of the way to stand around for several (literally) hours only to drive two hours home and wake up and be tired for work the next morning”, I am starting to find more and more meaning behind it, or at least meaning that ties it to my work for Osiris.

This year I did stick around to watch the finale and watch the urn burn. I really wanted to support my friends in Odaiko Sonora and see their performance at the end of the night.

all_souls_2014_sugar_skulls

While I am still a bit “meh” about my involvement with the procession (and have been every year prior), Osiris has more or less dictated that this event marks the beginning of his ‘season’, and so I imagine that I will be participating yearly from here on out. I will be interested to see how my attitude towards this event changes and grows over the years, and what other parallels I will discover as I return each year.

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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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KRT: Afterlife

For this KRT we are discussing various ideas regarding the afterlife both then and now. The Egyptian realm of the dead, often referred to as the Duat (and sometimes as the Dat or Dwat) was a complicated place filled with all sorts of weird beings. The biggest hurdle to really understanding the Duat is that, like many cultures or religions that span multiple centuries, the Egyptians had shifting views on what happened after you died – including where exactly you went after death, as well as death practices that changes over the centuries. So in order to tackle the concept of the afterlife, we must take a look at how views on the afterlife shifted over the centuries of Egyptian history and then see how that influences modern Kemetic ideas about the afterlife.

Please note: you could easily write books about Egyptian concepts of the afterlife (see resources at the bottom). This post is going to be a general overview of some ideas and concepts that were present throughout the history of Egypt and should not be considered an exhaustive discussion of Egyptian views of the afterlife.

The Afterlife: Then

“It should be pointed out that the Egyptians did not necessarily hold a single view of the next world at any one time, but… were quite capable of maintaining two or more conflicting opinions at once. This is already apparent in the Pyramid Texts, in which the views expressed concerning the afterlife of the king vary considerably in different spells, depending on whether they were early or more recent in origin.”

Death in Ancient Egypt by A.J. Spencer

We are not entirely sure what the earliest Egyptians believed in regards to the afterlife. Due to a lack of written records and minimal archeological records, it can be difficult to figure out what their exact religious beliefs were. We do know that early Egyptians did appear to have ritualized death practices that included specific burial methods and interring the dead with different amenities and provisions, likely for the afterlife. However, our knowledge of what they believed pretty much ends there.

The Old Kingdom is when we really start to see the Egyptians come into their own regarding funerary practices and beliefs. It was during this 500 year period that the Egyptians began to experiment with mud brick mastabas and then commissioning large scale building projects in the form of limestone lined pyramid and mortuary complexes. These complexes could be incredibly large, and it was not uncommon for the king to have two tombs- one in Upper Egypt and one in Lower Egypt. The process for mummification was still experimental at this point in time, and there was an emphasis on ka statues as opposed to mummies to help you achieve immortality in the underworld.

It seems to be generally regarded that during the OK, everything regarding the afterlife was centered around the king. Many Egyptologists posit the idea that the Egyptians wanted to be as close to the king as possible, because the best route to any sort of salvation was through him. This manifested in nobles wanting to place their tombs in close proximity to the king’s tomb/s, and that one of the only ways to really get a nice mortuary complex made for you was through receiving favor from the king. At this time, only the king had large mortuary complexes or had the ability to commission a pyramid or line the walls with various reliefs from the Pyramid Texts. That being said, there are some Egyptologists who have suggested that certain texts were available to nobles or high ranking Egyptians that worked for or with the king, or that perhaps there was more oral tradition amongst common people that we no longer have a record of. Unfortunately, we don’t really know at this time, and its generally regarded that funerary religious practices in the OK revolved pretty much around the king.

It is during the OK that the pyramid texts make their first appearance, and the general idea during this time was that the Duat resided in the sky or resided within Nut or the Celestial Cow (who goes by many names). Most of the texts talk about moving up into the sky and joining the imperishable stars. The imperishable stars were where akhu, or blessed dead were said to reside. These stars were in the northern sky, and were said to be imperishable because they never dipped below the horizon- they were always there, looking down upon Egypt. And that was where everyone wanted to end up- amongst the akhu in the sky.

As the centralized government fell apart and the Old Kingdom shifted into the First Intermediate Period, religious practices experienced what is often called the ‘democratization process’. That is to say that funerary practices quit being all about the king or only for the king. As nomarchs (regional rulers) got to experience their first taste of leadership and power, they decided that they would commission their own tombs with their own texts and inscriptions because there was no king or authority to stop them from doing so. Because of the decline in wealth for these nomarchs, as well as the newly given access to afterlife provisions to the common people, we also see a trend in having ornate coffins (as opposed to sarcophagi shoved into stone tombs) for your resting place. These coffins had their own texts written on them, which are commonly referred to as the “Coffin Texts” (because we’re really original with our naming).

It was by this time that the Osirian cult began to really gain a foothold in ancient Egypt, and this influenced the content of the inscriptions. Unlike the Pyramid Texts (PT) which focused largely on the Duat being in the sky, the Coffin Texts (CT) placed the Duat in the ground, as being a sort of subterranean existence. You can definitely see parallels between the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts, and it’s very obvious that one influenced the other.

This would inevitably influence the Middle Kingdom which saw intricate tombs for both the king and nobility alike, as well as a further democratization of funerary practices. It’s during this entire era (First Intermediate Period, Middle Kingdom, Second Intermediate Period) that you start to see the elements of the Egyptian afterlife that are the most well known to us. You begin to see descriptions of traveling through the Duat, elements of having your heart weighed in the Hall of Two Truths, and of course, Osiris being the supreme Overlord of the Duat.

The New Kingdom is, in my opinion, when funerary literature explodes all over the place. It is during the NK that we see all sorts of new texts created and distributed at all levels of Egyptian society. The most popular of these is, of course, the Book of the Dead. The Osirian cult becomes increasingly popular during this era, and by this point in time, salvation is possible for everyone, not just the king – provided you have access to the texts and cheat codes that will get you through the Duat safely. The initial ideas about traveling through the Duat, the weighing of the heart, and the various obstacles you could meet while traveling there have been fully fleshed out by the time, which is likely a reflection of the growing influence of Osiris’ cult.

Much like with the Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead (and other supporting texts of the era) often place the Duat in the ground, or some sort of subterranean location (which is sometimes said to be inside of Sokar). There is a sort of dichotomy during this era, though, because there are also texts that discuss traveling through Nut’s body as a means of renewal and rebirth- so in this era, the Duat could be seen as being inside of a cavernous location as well as inside of the sky. It is my personal opinion that the Duat has multiple levels of location, and could exist simultaneously in many places all at once.

The popular tomb-style for the New Kingdom is rock cut tombs, and the royal necropolis moves down to Deir el Medina, or the Vally of the Kings/Queens. Tombs become even bigger and grander than in previous generations as each king tries to out perform his predecessors. It has been noted that New Kingdom tomb reliefs are much more somber than previous eras, and that there is a sort of seriousness that is lacking in previous tombs. Some believe that this is a backlash to the Amarna Heresy, though there is no real way to prove it either way.

Because I rarely study anything about Egypt beyond the New Kingdom, I won’t attempt to give information about funerary practices for the later periods of Egypt.

The Afterlife: Now

If you ask 3 Kemetics what they think the afterlife is like, you’ll often get 5 responses back. Modern Kemetics are honestly not very unified in their approach or ideas about what the afterlife contains or could hold for us when we die. I think this is due to a number of reasons: conflicts due to our cultural upbringing (since none of us was likely born into Kemeticism via our parents) and having 3,000+ years of Egyptian history to pour through in order to create our own ideas about the afterlife. I think that there can be such a thing as too much information- and sometimes I think that having so much information about how the Egyptians viewed stuff can make it difficult to draw your own conclusions.

When I first got involved with Kemeticism, I never actually cared about funerary texts or the Duat. I remember trying to read the Book of the Dead before I had ever picked up a basic Egypt 101 book, and realizing that I didn’t really understand what was going on, and that I didn’t really care to understand what was going on. I always have taken the approach that I can’t change where I go when I die, and so I don’t really care about worrying about the Duat or funerary practices.

I still adhere to that, actually. The work I do with the Duat is more or less unrelated to “what happens when I die” and is more tied to “Osiris won’t leave me alone unless I do the thing”. I personally don’t see any point in fretting excessively about where we go when we die, because it’s largely (in my opinion) out of our control. And my current opinion on where we go when we die is simply “it depends”.

I think it can be based upon your religious beliefs when you were alive, combined with the rules of whatever afterlife you’d typically be admitted into, as well as your own preferences about where you go when you die. For example, if you really really like earth, I expect that you’d get to wherever your designated afterlife area is (in this case, the Duat) and you’d tell your deities that you want to come back here, and they’d get the paperwork in order to get you back on earth. Or if you’re like me, you may arrive at your afterlife of choice (Duat) and you’d tell your gods “I don’t want back on that rock again” and they’d try to figure out the paperwork to make it happen. Of course, if I don’t meet the criteria to even enter the Duat (and therefore would get eaten by Ammit), I may not get the option to do anything.

So I feel like there are lots of possibilities and options about where you go when you die, and the options that are present to you are largely going to depend upon your religion while alive, the rules of that plane, and your own personal preferences, etc. I don’t really believe in a static afterlife.

That being said, I’m not overly impressed with the Duat. I’ve gone there to do work for Osiris, as anyone who has been with this blog for any amount of time knows, and I really wouldn’t want to live there permanently. It’s not my cup of tea. However, I will say that having a general knowledge of what is contained inside of funerary texts, as well as an understanding of the basic geography of the Duat is useful if you intend on doing any work there while still alive. But like I said above, I don’t work in the Duat out of some concern regarding the afterlife. Beyond the fact that I am there all the time, the afterlife technically plays a very small role in my practice. Which seems very contradictory, but there it is. Generally speaking, I don’t worry about the afterlife because I feel there is very little I can do about it.

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

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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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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”.

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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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