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The Value of Being Passive

Alternative Title: Osiris Knows What’s Up

pas·sive  –  adjective
  1. accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.

Passivity is not a topic you see covered very often. Most every self-help article I’ve ever seen involves speaking up, grabbing your spine, or becoming more active in your life or your reactions to the things that happen in your life. Our society, and therefore much of Paganism as a whole, has put a stigma on being passive. If you’re passive, you’re likely an introvert (bad!) who often gets equated to doormats and wet mops.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

And it seems to be a common theme throughout all of US culture. We place assertive, outgoing attitudes and stubbornness on a pedestal, and you’re more likely to get praise if you’re constantly making waves as opposed to always going along for the ride (this doesn’t always apply if you are female, in which case you are to be confident, but not too confident). And while sometimes it is necessary to be a wave maker, at the same time, the sweet spot (like most things) likely lies in between the two extremes. That is, being passive sometimes and being more assertive at other times. But since so many articles already talk about how to become more assertive, I wanted to balance the scales by writing about some of the benefits of being passive.

It’s really no wonder that Set (and other hard nosed NTRW) gets a bad rap. He basically spends the majority of his time trying to get people out of ruts and moving into new territory. He is the force that comes in and removes everything that was familiar to you in the name of “change” and “growth”. He is, by his very nature, a very active, assertive deity. He comes in like a typhoon, rips your stuff apart, and then taps his foot while he waits for you to fix it.

And the thing about this type of change is that it forces you to yield. You can’t work with Set without learning how to yield. The idea of an unstoppable object running into an unmovable object results in a lot of pain for both ends. Truly learning to reap the benefits of his work requires you to learn how to be passive.

Despite knowing this, a lot of people seem to have a hard time with it. I mean, how many times have you looked at something that you know you need to do because it’s for your own good, and yet you still fight doing “the thing” with every fiber of your being? It seems that being stubborn is hard-wired into a lot of us.

This was further affirmed in some recent discussions that I had participated in regarding Shadow Work. Shadow Work seems to fall into two categories: the Shadow Work you initiate yourself, and the Shadow Work that gets initiated for you. However, no matter which category each person seemed to fall into, everyone seemed to want to fight it tooth and nail.

And I had to wonder- why is that? What causes us to push back so violently when we realize that the best way forward is to go with the flow?

via wikimedia commons

Pondering this, I looked to one of the most passive deities I know: Osiris. I think he must get it from his father, who is also noted for his passive ways. I’ve seen a lot of people heckle Osiris for being such a “wuss” of a king. For being a deity that doesn’t have the balls, nerve, or gumption to do whatever it is that non-passive entities do (maybe people think he should have strong armed his brother instead of being drowned? Or maybe that he should have been more active in his resurrection?). Again, people often believe that passive is a bad thing, and so Osiris often gets flack for being passive in his nature.

But isn’t that part of the point? He is passive. He has to undergo a transformation through his brother’s methods. And as I said before- the best way to really reap the benefits of Set’s methods is to become passive. No amount of fighting or flailing will actually save you in this case. Much like with quick sand, fighting will only suck you in faster. I, too, had learned this first hand back in 2011 when I was first being shoved under water by a deity – fighting didn’t benefit me in any capacity. If anything, it just made the process more traumatic.

Osiris knew what lay before him. He knew that it would suck. But he also knew that fighting it would only make it worse.

And over the years, I think I have begun to embody that in a lot of ways. With a lot of the work I’ve had to do Over There, I’ve seen that many times you have to roll with the punches and roll with what has been given to you. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my moments of digging my heels in the sand or moments where I wish everything would just work out for once, but at the same time, I have begun to learn when it’s more effective to hold on and fight, and when it’s more effective to let go.

I sometimes think that a lot of us fight everything in our paths because we are scared, or because we simply don’t know what else to do. And in those moments, I remind myself that letting go can be just as effective as holding on. I remind myself that I am capable, and that I can handle whatever is thrown at me, and that I will figure out a way to make it work.

And then I go with it. I let go and jump off of the cliff as so many people have metaphorically discussed over the years. I give into the unknown (fear and all) and I submit myself to whatever it has in store for me. Because just like with the river, the answers to the problems lie at the bottom, and I have to give into the water in order to reach said answers at the bottom. I have to be passive in order to get to the solution.

This is the value of being passive. Sometimes, being passive is the answer to getting through something with less damage.

Fighting just for the sake of fighting doesn’t necessarily make you strong. Being stubborn simply because you can be, fighting the things that would genuinely help you doesn’t necessarily make you a BAMF, it just makes you hard headed. And romanticizing this behavior isn’t beneficial to anyone. While it’s true that you can be too passive, the truth of the matter is, too much stubborness, too much Setian fire in your gut is not beneficial for you, either. Ma’at is all about being in balance, which balance is usually struck in the middle between the two extremes. Same goes for this. Too stubborn or too passive will likely render you in the same place: stuck.

Learning how to let go and trust in the process can make a huge difference in the experiences that you undergo. Although it is important to be assertive in many things, don’t forget that being passive has its merits, too. And in some situations, being passive is actually the better choice to make.

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Adventures in Anxiety, Pt 1

Disclaimer: this post discusses the legal usage of medical marijuana (MMJ). If you have any problems with this, please use your discretion in reading this post. All comments will be heavily moderated.

This whole adventure started with a Facebook post. It was late January and I was still bleeding my wounds from the Mysteries and I really really really needed a break. I was venting on my wall about how I really wanted to be able to find a way to zonk my brain out for a few weeks straight as a means to get my anxiety and depression under control. And out of the blue, my uncle posts on my wall that I should get some cannabis.

Yep. My 50 year old republican uncle had suggested I get myself some pot. I don’t even think he was talking about legally getting pot, either. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

But as it turns out, my state is a legal state for medical marijuana (MMJ) and after talking with a friend of mine who has an MMJ card, I figured I’d give it a shot. 18 years of having chronic pain in my shoulder was more than enough to get me a card, and I figured that it couldn’t hurt to see how it would effect not only my pain, but my mental health as well.

I decided to document some of the things I had learned about my anxiety while trying to address it through self-care and MMJ use, and post it for others to consider. It is my hope that some of my experiences may help others to better understand their own anxiety, and possibly find ways to ease the anxiety in their life. This will be an ongoing series as I move forward and learn more about my anxiety and depression.

Anxiety by Mariana Zanatta via Flickr

Lesson One: Anxiety is a Learned Pattern

The first night that I decided to try smoking I just so happened to decide to sit down and talk with Set and Osiris. It was one of my first discussions with them after having returned from the Mysteries, and I was dieing to get some answers out of them. We met in one of the larger halls at O’s place, and they sat there patiently while I tried to get my brain together. The conversation was less difficult than it had been in recent months. I was able to sit there calmly and listen to what they had to say and I wasn’t breaking down due to the words being exchanged. But part way through the conversation, a weird thing happened- someone had said something that would have normally caused an emotional response. And as soon as I heard what was said, I went to grab at my hair (a thing I do when stressed) and prepared to freak out and cry.

But then I realized nothing was happening.

My body was so used to having anxiety attacks that I instantly moved into that place without even thinking about it. It’s kinda like in cartoons when someone thinks they’re drowning, and they flail around only to find out they’re in about 3 feet of water? It’s kinda like that.

I felt incredibly stupid but I was incredibly surprised to find this out. It makes enough sense when you think about it- almost everything you do is a learned pattern- from how you get dressed to how you wash your hair. However, I never really thought about how my brain had dug these patterns into my skull in terms of anxiety- and what that might look like when the connection was interrupted.

Lesson Two: Anger is Quick to Follow

One of the first things I noticed after I began to work with MMJ (through smoking and edibles, in case you’re wondering) is that I was hella angry. Like o.m.g. angry. My MMJ friend had told me that pot makes her not care about things as much. In the sense that she doesn’t worry about things that don’t really matter. I found out, however, that addressing the anxiety meant I didn’t care…. about what anyone else thought. I noticed that my interactions became shorter online. I had phases where I literally wanted to scream at people in all caps and tell them how stupid they were/are. I wanted to tell everyone off and tell everyone where to shove it, and due to whatever I was doing to my brain chemistry- I didn’t care at all about the consequences of such an outburst.

It was not pretty.

I reached out to some people online to see what on earth could cause this. Another person who works in psychology told me that many times when you begin to work on things like depression and anxiety, one of the first emotions to come bubbling to the surface is anger. And upon re-reading Hyperbole and a Half’s depression post I realized that she, too, became angry upon working with her mental health.

So if you decide you want to work on your depression and/or anxiety, be prepared to be angry. Really angry. Be prepared to take a lot of time away from people and the internet, and be prepared to potentially stick your foot in your mouth a few times.

Lesson Three: Don’t Expect a Straight Line

The first few weeks that I was using MMJ, I felt soooooo much better mentally. I felt calmer. I felt like I wasn’t dieing all the time. I felt better.

But that didn’t last very long. Within a month I was in the anger streak I mentioned above, and I was so tired from all of the MMJ that I could barely bother to sit online and write anything. My ability to write blog posts plummeted and I plowed through my entire drafts bin during that time. I felt like I had gone from ‘on the mend’ to ‘completely fucked’. I lamented that I couldn’t function this way. I wouldn’t be able to do the Kemetic thing if I couldn’t keep up the pace with my writing. I worried that I’d become a failure and have to choose between having sanity and peace of mind or my community thing. I worried to the point that I went into another depressive state.

And it went like that off and on for quite a while. Depression still happened. Anxiety still happened. I had days that were good and I had days that were bad. However, the more I got used to the MMJ, the easier it was to function while under its influences. I found that my anger was less and less, and that I could slowly start to write more and more even while high. My pain was going down and my sleep was more restful. I found that there were some good things happening- I just couldn’t expect them to happen over night.

I would imagine this is the case for anyone who is working on, well, anything. Don’t expect a straight line. You’ll likely have ups and downs and set backs as you try to move forward. Don’t give up even if it seems pointless from time to time (which I had many of those moments over the past 6 months).

Lesson Four: Sometimes You Don’t Notice When You’re Getting Better

I have spent a lot of my time during this whole thing questioning if I was actually making any progress. There is a rather hefty financial requirement to use MMJ regularly, and I didn’t want to be wasting my money if it wasn’t actually improving anything. However, just because my brain still feels like it’s always messed up doesn’t mean that everyone else does.

One of the first indications I got that the MMJ was doing its job occurred when I was working at my company’s largest convention of the year. One of my coworkers that works out of the office asked if I was on sedatives. I was so de-stressed compared to normal (to him) that he thought I was on something that made me calm down (he was partially right).

I sometimes think it’s like losing weight. You see yourself every day, and you often times don’t think you’re actually losing the weight because the shift is so gradual that the daily looks in the mirror hide what is actually going on. However, people who don’t see you all the time certainly notice- and that seems to be how it is with this. I’m neck deep in my own thoughts and problems that I don’t even realize when I’m actually doing better day to day.

I even recently sat down with my SO to discuss whether the MMJ was posing any benefit for me, and he agreed that there were beneficial changes in me- I just don’t seem to see them yet. I’ve become calmer, easier to talk to, more open with my speech, and my meltdowns are less frequent and less potent in strength. To him, the change in attitude and demeanor has been significant, even if I don’t really see it yet.

Mind you, that is not to say that I haven’t seen at least some changes, but I guess I was hoping for night and day shifts and I think that’s probably unrealistic. So anyone out there that is looking to address their anxiety should probably find some other people they trust to help gauge their improvement. Find people who can be honest with you and tell you where you’re at. Having objective input can help you figure out if your methods are working or not. I also recommend keeping a journal of where you’re at mentally each day so that you can look back over time and notice any potential patterns. Being able to confirm that you are making progress can be the difference between sticking it out and succeeding, or giving up and failing.

Lesson Five: Recovery is a Full Package Deal

I think this has been the hardest lesson for me to learn, and I’m still struggling with it. I learned quickly that if I really wanted to work on my anxiety, I needed to be prepared to give up other things that were important to me, and to focus purely on myself. That meant giving up working on things all the time. That meant spending more time performing self-care. That mean doing Unseen work less often. That meant sometimes spending more time doing absolutely nothing in the name of healing.

I think it’s a challenge for us to let go and do nothing but rest for a while. I know that I often felt like a failure when I couldn’t bring myself to write or paint or do anything. However, it is a necessary part of the healing process. You can’t run full steam ahead all the time and expect to heal. You simply can’t. So anyone who is considering working on such things, be prepared to cut some stuff out of your life for a while until you get a better footing with your health.

I am only getting started with the healing process, and I imagine that there will still be more to learn and more to discover about what it takes to get a better handle on my mental health. Despite some of the setbacks I have experienced during this process, I think it has been well worth the effort, and look forward to seeing where it leads me in the future.

 
 

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KRT: Akhu 101

I struggled a lot with deciding on what I wanted to write for this topic because despite how much work I do with the dead on the astral, akhu play next to no role in my practice. I’m not overly close to my physical family, and I feel virtually no inclination to bother honoring them or venerating them in nearly any capacity. I suppose this could change once I lose more family members that are close to me, but all things considered, I don’t really think akhu is meant to be a large part of my practice.

What are akhu?

akhu

Akhu is the term that is often used to refer to blessed dead or your ancestors, which are often represented as stars (see left). Akhu is the plural form of akh. So, akhu would refer to all of your ancestors, while akh would refer to a specific ancestor. Akhu roughly translates into shining one or bright one, and this makes a lot of sense when you consider that the early Egyptians believed that their ancestors resided in the sky. Northern stars are often associated with the Duat and with the akhu, as these stars never left the sky at any point in time during the year. These were the imperishable stars, and everyone wanted to become bright and imperishable when they died. Everyone wished to become an akh.

Akhu were often venerated in antiquity because many people believed that the akhu had a better understanding of what it meant to be a human. Many people also believed that akhu could potentially petition a deity for you, and have more sway over a situation because they resided in the Duat. Alternatively, many Egyptians believed that not honoring your ancestors could result in angry akhu who would cause problems in your life. Both of these combined meant that akhu played a fairly important role in Egyptian religion in antiquity.

Do you have to honor your ancestors?

The truth of the matter is, despite many pagans and polytheists stating that ancestor veneration is a must for the modern recon-oriented practice, I’ve simply not found this to be the case. Much like how there are some people who do a lot of heka in their practice (and some who don’t), or maybe the people who are drawn to priesthood (and some who aren’t), or the folks who deal with kingship deities (while others run away from kingly deities) – I really believe that some people are meant to do things with their akhu and some aren’t. I believe that Kemetics can be somewhat niche in their practice and that that’s okay. Not everyone will be drawn to honoring their ancestors, and I don’t think your practice will really suffer if you don’t include your ancestors in the mix.

I personally focus heavily on working in the Duat as a means to help the akhu that are housed there. The Duat is the main plane where the Egyptian dead stay, and by helping to nurture the place that they live in (and the deity that oversees that plane) I feel like I am doing my share to help nourish them. I also think that by working on other parts of Kemeticism (such as leaving offerings to the gods or performing rites for the gods) we all begin to help rebuild the Duat and re-establish a firm connection between the Seen and the Unseen. This would also probably go for other ancestors whose religions are still flourishing, and so their afterlife planes flourish, too.

By helping to nourish and sustain the whole, we begin to help nourish those who are sustained by the whole.

So with that being said, if you’re not drawn to honoring your ancestors, don’t feel pressured into doing so. Focus on what you are good at and what you can do, and it’ll help build things up anyways. We don’t all need to focus on the same stuff to help build up the entire thing that is Kemeticism, or the Duat which contains many akhu within it.

How do you work with the akhu?

Honoring your akhu can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Many people will create shrines where they can focus their veneration in much the same way that people create shrines or altars for the deities in their life. Your shrine can be as complex or as simple as you need. For example, my grandmother (who is loosely Christian) keeps a whole collection of photos on her fridge to remind her of those who have gone before. To me, this could be a very simplified akhu shrine.

Most people like to include photos of their ancestors as well as items that their ancestors either possessed or liked while alive. Many people also like to keep libation bowls and candles on their shrines as well. In many ways, an akhu shrine is exactly the same as a deity shrine, the main difference being the focus of the veneration. One of the only things I’ve ever seen recommended about akhu shrines is not to include images of living people on them. So if possible, try to get images of just the people who are deceased. You don’t need to worry about getting images of every single deceased person or pet from your family on the shrine, either. Some people choose to honor specific akhu, while others try to honor any and all akhu – known and unknown.

Place your shrine wherever you feel most comfortable and wherever you’re able to perform rites for the akhu. Rites for the akhu can be as simple as leaving a libation of water at regular intervals. You could light incense for them, or leave offerings if you’d prefer. You could clean up a local graveyard if that’s more your style. It really just depends on your specific practice and situation. Some people are really involved and do things daily for their akhu while others only do things once or twice a year. There really is no right or wrong answer in this situation. Figuring out what your practice needs is what it really comes down to.

Figuring out how to set up an akhu based practice can be a little tricky at first. However, with some experimentation, it can be possible to develop a solid relationship with your ancestors.

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

 

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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Devo’s Burnination Celebration

A few weeks ago I had approached Set about handling a certain situation within our online communities. I had asked him if he could help with this situation, and he told me that he would if I would perform another formal execration in his name. However, unlike last time, I was to invite other members of the online community to join in. They could petition him execrate whatever they wanted and I would perform the rite on my Wep Ronpet, August 2.

I agreed, though I was unsure as to why I needed to go about it this way. I placed out a notice for other people to join in and I slowly began to prepare for how I would smite a/pep. I had learned from my last formal execration that I didn’t really care for the talking from a book method, and the candle wax thing was way too messy for my tastes. I knew I wanted to try a different way, something that was uniquely my own.

The Setup

I chose to make a different kind of effigy for a/pep this year. I went with something that I have explored fairly in-depth over the past year- the usage of fabric in different magical applications. I decided that I could create what would essentially be a sock in the shape of a snake, and I would fill said snake with everyone’s petitions. It seemed simple enough, so I waited until I had a fair amount of petitions racked up, and then I set to work.

On the evening before the first epagomenal day I wrote each petition down on a slip of white paper. I utilized red ink because it seemed like the whole theme of this particular execration was red. Whether red for fire, red for blood or red for Set (or a mixture of all and more), I couldn’t say. But everything I did, I kept feeling as though red was the color I should be aiming for. On the back of each petition I wrote the name of the petitioner (where applicable) and I placed it into my execration pot. Each of these petitions would become the “guts” of my snake, so I kept them long and lean so that they would fit into the snake pretty easily.

Because I had started early (not sure why, I was driven to do so, so I did), I decided to make an altar space where the petitions could swirl and stew and build up potency before I destroyed them the following Saturday. The execration pot was placed on top of a sigil, aimed to keep the juju inside of the pot, and the lid and knife on top of the pot ensured nothing could escape.

Click the image to see more pre-execration altar pictures.

The pot is also placed on top of a very big sun. I have developed this sort of…. belief that Creation falls within the sun. Most of the ruling deities within our pantheon are solar in nature, plus the sun can burn the hell out of anything and everything, so I felt it was a good symbol to place the execration pot on. Nothing escapes the watchful Eye of Ra. Nothing that tries to exist within Creation can escape the rays of the sun.

I also placed offering dishes on the altar that would be used to house water on the day of the rite. There is also incense and Re-Ment offerings to last my mini-Set until the following Saturday. As I’m sure is obvious, there is a lot of red.

The night before the rite was to occur, I finished writing out all of the rest of the petitions I had received. I also gathered up the materials to make my snake. I tied all of the petitions together, and used 4 black cords knotted 7 times to keep them together. The black cord and 7 knots are suggested in Reidy’s book for execration, and I chose to use 4 cords, as 4 is a symbolic number for death in my personal codex. To the ancient Egyptians, 4 was a number for totality, so I chose to interpret this as total control over a/pep and complete and total destruction of the petitions inside of the snake.

photo 1

I began to sew my snake. I used red fabric and orange thread (closest I had to red). I was told while making the snake, to take care and time in the construction of my snake. I think the natural impulse would be to make a shoddy-built effigy, since we’re just going to rip it apart anyways. But Set reminded me that many times, the things we execrate, the things we have to destroy, they were once loving parts of our lives. They were things that suited us, that we needed in our lives. Things that we loved and cared for that have reached the end of their usefulness. So, too, was the snake I was creating. I had spent hours writing petitions down and coming up with the method for making this happen. Don’t short change the quality of my effigy because I would be destroying it 12 hours later.

photo 3

I stuffed the snake full of everyone’s petitions and sewed up the mouth. I then placed the snake inside of my execration pot and returned the knife and lid to their rightful places to await the next day’s rite.

photo 3 (2)

The Execration

The final altar setup wasn’t too different from my initial setup. There is still a lot of red. Still a lot of solar. And now there are the additions of my large Set statue, extra cutting and burning utensils, and “real” offerings of fancy lemonade and a cookie because I didn’t know what else to give him.

photo 4 (2)

I had no formal script for this rite. I decided to use music to fuel everything I did for this execration. I listened to it while I wrote the petitions, while I made the snake, and while I did the execration itself (Fall Out Boy’s “Save Rock and Roll” album, if you’re curious). I got the fortune of mirroring this ritual in the Unseen as well, at Set’s request. And even though I was doing my lines on the fly, I felt like I was going to do well.

We started off the ritual with an exchange of position. “I am now you, and you are now me”. I removed the effigy from it’s prison and set to work slowly destroying it’s body and it’s contents. I had originally hoped to destroy the snake entirely, and then set it on fire entirely, but I had too much snake and too small of a pot. So instead, I would destroy some of the snake, and then set it to burn while I destroyed other parts of the snake. I went in this pattern until the snake was completely decimated.

photo 5 (3)

“You shall be hunted down and struck where you stand.
You will be shown no mercy and given no quarter.
As sure as the sun rises, we will prevail.”

I learned from my last formal execration and decided to burn everything outside on the balcony. This way I didn’t have to worry about catching fire to my carpets or ruining my wood furniture. I made sure to grab every piece of thread that I could as well as any piece of paper that might have missed it’s mark in the execration pot.

Once the pot had cooled down, I turned the ashes out into one of my plant containers. Sometimes death can serve as a means to enrich our soil and give us firm foundations for rebirth and growth. It is my hope that this execration creates the death that fuels your rebirth and growth into the new year. May you all reach new heights over the next year.

Di Wep Ronpet Nofret

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2014 in Devo Magix Series, Kemeticism

 

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The Price of Rebirth

The thing about being reborn is this: In order to be reborn, you must die.
Everyone wants to be reborn, but nobody wants to die for it. (x)

In a little under a week from now I will be performing an execration for a number of people. It’s one of the first full-out public rites that I have ever done (I don’t really feel like my All Souls petitions really count). I used to do magic workings for individual people a long time ago, back when I first got into witchcraft and Kemeticism, and I learned quickly how difficult such workings can be. People often want really difficult things or they have unrealistic expectations about what the magic will do for them. I got out of performing magic for people because it became really stressful for me. When the magic didn’t perform as I thought it should I felt like a failure and that’s really part of why I put magic away for such a long time, too. I never felt like anything I did took.

All of these past experiences feed into my anxieties regarding this execration I’ll be performing. What do I do if things don’t change for people? What if I fail? What if I find out that I really suck at all of this? Should I even bother? If it doesn’t work, does that make me a hack?

However, I’ve learned over the years that magic isn’t under an obligation to act as we think it should, and there are many reasons why it may or may not appear to be working. To add to that, many times we shut our own magic down.

To me, an execration is an awful lot like a rebirth. When you execrate, you are essentially destroying something- a part of yourself, a habit, a piece of your life – and when you destroy something successfully, it is like a small (or large) rebirth, a zep tepi within your existence. And the thing about being reborn is that it isn’t always easy or pleasant.

I’ve had the fortune or misfortune of bearing witness to and participating in a number of rebirths in the astral. There are plenty of times when I have signed on to help someone be reborn (which usually involves a bit of dieing myself) only to get halfway through the process and decide that I must be the dumbest person on the planet. Many times, the destroying and subsequent healing process that is involved in these rites is very taxing and draining. And there are many times when I question if it’s all worth it in the end (the answer is usually yes, though it can take some time to see/feel it). In order for these rites to be successful, they require participation on both sides of the equation. I have to help the person rebirth, but they have to be willing to help me help them. You can not force an unwilling subject to be reborn, and if you force them, the rebirth will likely have unforeseen consequences and side effects.

Execration and other forms of changing magic are often the same way. You’re submitting something to the universe or gods to be destroyed. You are asking for change in some capacity. You’re asking them to help you die so that you can be reborn. And yet, how many of us actually think in these terms when we do our magics? How many of us are prepared for the routes the magic may take upon hearing our requests (or demands)? Rebirth requires a death, a price.

How far are you willing to go to see the change that you want become manifest? What price is too high for you?

In retrospect, I feel like a lot of the magics that I saw people requesting failed because people were not willing to pay the price for their rebirth. They wanted to fix the foundations of their life, but they were unwilling to raze the walls to get to the foundation for fixing. They want to get into college, but never submit an application. They want a new job, but feel their magics are failing because they lost their job, and were forced to move somewhere else instead (where a new job was waiting for them). They want their rebirth without paying the price of death.

Magic doesn’t always work on our timelines or how we expect. It works how it wants or needs to. Sometimes the path of least resistance is not the long term solution you actually need. When we perform these kinds of workings in our lives (or have someone perform on our behalf) we need to be prepared to take action ourselves to make the end goal a reality. Sometimes, you’ll be lucky and the blockages in your life will clear right up and you’ll land right where you wanted to be. But a lot of times, you’ll be forced to climb up some steep mountains in the rain in order to make your dream happen. That doesn’t mean that your magics didn’t work, though. It just means that it sometimes takes multiple things to make the magic manifest. Taking mundane steps to better your life situation can make your magic more potent. Sometimes the best answer to a magic request is practical application in your daily life.

So in the future when you’re considering performing a magical request (whether an execration or otherwise) I recommend being prepared and open for the possibilities that the magic can take. Don’t limit yourself to a certain preconceived notion or expectation about how the magic should play out. Be aware that sometimes the road to success is not a straight line, but a bumpy, obnoxiously tumultuous line, and that magic (or deities) can only do so much about it.

And remember that rebirth almost always has a price.

Sometimes on the way to where you’re going, you might think “this is the worst time in my life”. But you know what, at the end of the road through all the adversity, if you can get where you wanted to be, you remember that whatever don’t kill you make you stronger, and that all the adversity was worth it.

 

 

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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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