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I Have Come, Equipped with Magic

I have always felt as though there was a lot of overlap between Aset and Set, as in their drive and ability to Get What They Want always seemed similar to me. Both deities seem to be willing to kick a devotee into gear by any means necessary in order to get things moving forward. Both have been known to create waves throughout the company of the NTRW, both are capable of fighting off a/pep from the solar barque (fun fact, it’s not just Set who is capable of this,) and both have a way of being a bit subversive in the rules that they choose to follow or not follow. Even Spell 84 in Borghouts states that “her heart was more rebellious than an infinite number of men”, and I don’t know how much more alignment with Setian energy you can get with so much rebellion flowing through your veins.

In many ways, both Set and Aset have very good survival methods, though I posit that they survive and are able to do what they do through very different means. Traditionally, Set is considered a deity of strength and force. As mentioned yesterday, he represents everything that is natural, wild, and out of our control. In terms of tropes, he’s the character that is able to punch his way out of any situation. It is his strength and ability to force change where he needs or wants it to be that allows him to be effective.

Aset, on the other hand, is less about physical force and is more about mental acuity and observation put into action. It’s her ability to read a situation quickly, and know exactly who or what to do or say to shift the tide into her favor that has allowed her to be as successful as she has been. As it happens, I was looking into what causes resiliency and an ability to survive in the face of danger or threat (for Set’s post,) and it turns out that being able to read a situation and make very quick and decisive decisions at the drop of a hat is key to being able to survive despite incredible obstacles. I believe that Aset embodies these aspects of survival.

Regardless of what version of the Osirian myth you read, Aset is always front and center, to facilitate Osiris’ safe transition into his new way of being. It’s also Aset who facilitates Horus’ ability to not only be conceived, but to survive long enough to become King. While it’s true that Aset often utilizes other entity’s powers and abilities to make this happen (such as calling on the NTRW to heal Horus when he is stung by a scorpion, etc.), that is exactly what makes her heka so impressive and formidable.

In many ways, her ability to find the right spaces to pick at, to ask the right questions, create the right alliances or situations to get what she wants — all of these things are forms of her heka, and they are what make her powerful. She doesn’t even necessarily have to do the work — she can say the right things to get you into doing it for her, or set it up in such a fashion where you have no choice but to acquiesce her request.

“Now Isis was a wise woman. Her heart was more rebellious than an infinite number of men, more smart than an infinite number of gods. She was more clever than an infinite number of spirits. There was nothing she was ignorant of in heaven or on the earth- like Re’, who takes care of the needs of the earth.”

When you consider the fact that Aset is the throne, the seat upon which kingship is grounded, it begs to ask if these are the sorts of traits necessary to excel as the King. Of course, you have traits from both Set and Horus, but if you’re not capable of knowing when to use brute strength vs. when to use structures and legality to get what you need, you won’t be very effective at wielding either aspect. To me, it seems that Aset has the means by which to know how and when to utilize the skills of herself and others so that the task gets done quickly and effectively. Having her abilities would give you a firm foundation to utilize any other skills you gained throughout a lifetime.

And if we go back to the concept that each of us is, in our own way, kings within our own lives, it begs to ask if we should be cultivating more of these aspects within ourselves as well. Not necessarily the ability to manipulate people or use people to get what we want (as it is sometimes stated that Aset has done in some myths,) but instead to cultivate and fine-tune our senses, communication, and heka to be more effective in creating beneficial outcomes out of whatever kind of situation you walk into.

There are means to improve our observation skills, and improving those skills will likely open us up to new possibilities, new ideas, new edges to interact with. There are means to become better listeners, better communicators, and better humans that will bring us to be more present with the world around us. When you’re more present, you’re more able to seize opportunity, notice small details, and get what you want out of life. All of these things are embodied by aspects of Aset, and all of these things feed into ma’at. If Aset is the foundation upon which a king sits, then perhaps her skills should be the foundation upon building a more stable life or existence.

I think there is one other key part to really wielding the type of heka that Aset does, and that is the skill of knowing where you are going. When I went to her with my thoughts about the contents of this post, she responded with only thing (and I am paraphrasing), “Knowing how to get what you want is important, but what is it exactly that you want?” I think it bears repeating that we may all know what we don’t want, but there is also power in knowing what we do want. In order to truly tap into her ability to transform a situation, we must have an idea of what we want to transform the situation in to.

Do you feel that you embody Aset’s heka? Do you wish that you did? In what ways would her type of heka be helpful in your life?

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Build a Heart: Carrying My Father

Father-Lover proved to be a surprisingly easy task.

When I first realized that I would need to still do work with his remnants, I was daunted. I expected to be overwhelmed by the emotions and trauma of our past, of his past. I spent weeks avoiding putting his stone into the heart jar where it needed to go. And then I spent weeks ignoring the fact that I needed to pull it out again. And then I spent days doing everything I could not to touch said stone, for fear of what would come rushing forth. Each step seemed to inch me ever closer to resolving the situation at hand, but each step also evoked the deep-seated fear I ultimately have of the man that I once called father.

It was early morning, and we were having tea at the table. I found myself staring at Father-Lover’s stone as it rested on the table. There was a pull in me, a desire to touch it, but the desire was always tempered by fear. But because I had enough substances rolling through my veins, I guess I was in enough of a mind space to ignore my baser fears, and I found myself flipping the stone between my fingers, rolling through black fabric in my mind’s eye as I floated forward towards some unforeseen ending to the tunnel that the stone was pulling me down.

This was the first time in years since the stone had anything active in it. While it had always continued to carry its feeling with it, touching it up and to this point hadn’t rendered anything of note. But now? Now I was going somewhere.

I sat there for a while, waiting to reach my destination, and when my feet finally hit the closest thing I can consider ground, I saw that someone was sitting there waiting for me. I’m sure everyone can infer that it was Father-Lover sitting there in the backlit darkness, waiting for me to find him. However, he felt nothing like the versions I had been forced to interact with all of these years. In this crystallized moment, he was so close to who I had always been told he was, but had never gotten to witness on my own.

With his form as I knew it removed, it barely felt like Father-Lover. For a brief moment, I could look past the trauma, the hell we had been through together. For a moment, there was the tiniest possibility of healing. You could see it in his eyes, the sorrow, the unfairness of it all. In this section, he was neither Father-Lover, nor his predecessor. He was somewhere in between.

Of course, this place was not to last. Like so many other healings I have worked on, once the person in question gets what they need, the blockage is removed and everything starts to flow again. The problem being that flow usually means a lack of direct access like this, and so I was no longer able to find him again. All in all, I had less than an hour to soak in the emotions before I had to let go again.

But at least I could handle the stone freely, and I was no longer afraid of its contents. Though the trauma of Father-Lover still exists, I no longer seemed to fear that he would show up and wreck my life again.

And as soon as I had finished that bit of work, the next bit rolled in. And this time, it was my old pendant that I used to wear to represent Set and O as a sort of singular unit. My Ptah pendant that has skeeved me out so badly that I’ve barely touched it in years. It’s spent a lot of its time living in my heart jar, where I could forget that it exists. Every time when I would go to check the contents of said jar, a small part of me would be like, “Oh yes, this is a thing that exists, I forgot.” but I never felt inclined to pull it out or wear it. And as the years have progressed and my love of the religion and its gods has waned, my desire to wear the pendant has diminished greatly.

By the time that Someone was trying to convince me to bring it out and work with it, I didn’t want to touch it at all.

I have toyed for months now as to whether I should be opening up about it or not. Truth be told, most of the times I mentioned my growing issues or complications with the NTRW, I ended up with people either telling me its my fault for things being as they are, or to quit complaining, and so I’ve mostly been keeping it to myself. But when they made me pull the pendant out, and then made me wear the thing, it became much harder to ignore, and has since been very hard to ignore.

For whatever reason, I was inclined to hang it on two different strands of yarn, which you may recognize from this old post. And then I wore it for a few days until the feelings about the pendant itself started to float away. So I can touch it now without feeling completely put off, but I still don’t want to wear it.

Throughout this time, I received a handful of visions or experiences, and one of the most notable things that occurred during this time is that  the nerve damage that is present in my physical body began to show up as a sort of scarring on my skin in the astral. It’s not something I’ve had happen very often, and I’m not sure what working on these two items might have done to cause it to occur, but here we are.

Slowly, I’ve also noticed that I am sorta being dragged away from using my heart jar shrine as a sort of living shrine, and have instead been encouraged to co-opt a pre-existing setup that was in another part of my room. It’s left me wondering if the jar is meant to be temporary and not permanent, and honestly, I’ve always had this nagging question in the back of my head as to whether a heart jar would be a permanent fixture in a person’s self care, or if its something you only need during times of healing.

As this progressed, I began to question if maybe I should scrap my entire heart jar heka idea all together (though I am still using aspects of the shrine, albeit, sparsely), not to mention the slowly-rising anxiety about how I’d even begin to put into words what I was experiencing. It can’t be ignored that this series is now six posts deep, and I have no clue how much closer I even am to finishing this project, much less if this will ever reach any sort of logical conclusion. It has led me to feeling like the work will never be done, or that the hope of being healed is some sort of unattainable dream. It’s why I don’t usually write about a project until after its done, because if I can’t wrap it up in a pretty, edible package for everyone, then it usually never sees the light of day. But now that this is out in the daylight, it also feels weird to not write about its progress.

I guess if it does say anything about rebuilding your heart, its that the process is long, messy, and rarely feels productive.

Previous posts in this series, for those who lost count:

 

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Shadow Work: A Never-ending Process

It’s fairly well known that shadow work is sort of a pain. It’s difficult to work through less-than-ideal parts of yourself or your life. It’s hard to figure out how to heal damage that has been done to you, and it can be challenging to fit such heavy work into what is likely an already jam-packed life schedule. Not to mention that the gods rarely give you a game plan on how to exactly go about performing your shadow work- in so many ways, shadow work is sort of a headache in the making. It’s really no wonder that many of us stall out very quickly on trying to figure the whole shadow work thing out.

On top of everything listed above, I think one of the largest pitfalls regarding shadow work is that many of us assume that we’ll get a list of things we need to work through, and then once we’ve managed to mark everything off of that list, our shadow work is effectively “done” and we won’t have to work on it anymore. But then we usually find out later that we’re regressing and falling back into old patterns and routines. And the next thing you know, the gods show back up and tell us to fix some of the same things that we thought were already addressed and handled. Like many things in life, shadow work is something that is more effective if you incorporate it as a sort of ongoing, long-term practice or procedure within your life, but I don’t know that the gods have made that very obvious or apparent to many us.

For this post, I’d like to explore some ways to re-frame shadow work into something that is more on-going and less of a one off sort of thing. I’m going to use two examples that make sense to me as a means to help illustrate why shadow work should be a continuous thing, not a one-time process.

Example one: Shadow work is like dental work

I know, I know. “oh gods, you’re going to talk about teeth??” No one wants to hear about their oral health, especially when discussing paganism, but hear me out. As most of you probably could guess, many people come into the dentist after long periods of neglecting their oral health. It’s really not uncommon for someone to come in and say “I haven’t seen a dentist in 20 years”, and you can tell by looking at their teeth.

Typically when a mouth is in that level of disrepair (as many of us who are starting on a heaping pile of shadow work often are), you create what we call a treatment plan as a means to address all of the issues of the mouth so that the patient can be put back into optimal oral health. There is a certain procedure/method that is used by dentists to do this, and I think it is useful when considering shadow work.

The first step in any sort of treatment plan is to get rid of the big fires. That means that you address the work that is preventing your patient from eating or chewing properly. Anything that is actively painful or rotting in their head gets fixed before you work on the more superficial or cosmetic parts of their mouth. As you progress through a treatment plan, you deal with the biggest issues first and work your way down to the smaller stuff. Of course, sometimes a patient really wants their smile to all be fixed right now, but that’s not usually feasible if you’ve been slacking on your oral health for a few decades.

Shadow work is the same way. Start with putting out the biggest fires first. What is the most crucial to your daily life? What are you ignoring that has the largest impact on your living situation? What can you fix that will lessen up everything else you need to work on? Start with that first.

But here is where the ongoing comes in.

Once a patient has gotten their mouth all fixed up and beautiful again, what do you think happens if they don’t continue to upkeep their mouth? I’ll give you a hint: what got their mouth into such a state of disrepair in the first place? The answer is, as you probably guessed, a lack of upkeep. Mouths are not things you can simply stop taking care of, and expect their health to maintain all on its own. Its much like any other body part- you need to keep it clean and maintained if you want the health of said body part to last. Your mouth is no exception. If you get thousands of dollars of work done in your mouth, but then never floss or brush or go in for cleanings, you can expect that your mouth will go right back into disrepair in due time.

And shadow work is no exception.

Example two: Shadow work is like owning a house or property

Another way to frame this discussion is from the perspective of a house owner. My grandmother owns a house on property, and on the surface, everything looks relatively nice, but when you take a look at the structure of the house critically, you can tell that she hasn’t done any maintenance work for a long time. Sure, some of the stuff is superficial and not very important, but there are other things that are turning into time bombs due to a lack of maintenance. Because of the delay in getting work done, what might have originally been a $50 job is going to turn into a $500 job.

Just like with dentistry, you often maintain a house by fixing the most important stuff first, and handling the less important, more superficial stuff later on. You may want to paint your living room walls, but I’ll wager that you’ll want to fix the hole in your roof before you bother with the painting. Otherwise, all of that paint goes to waste during the next rain storm.

And just like with a house or teeth, there are regular intervals for maintaining certain things around your house. In the desert, we all know that you should get your A/C checked out before the summer months hit. Otherwise, you’re looking at spending the first super hot weekend without any air conditioning. Almost every part of a house needs to have regular check-ups and replacements. Roofs need to be re-shingled. Appliances need to have regular maintenance done. Your air filter needs to be swapped out once a month. Things need to happen all the time in order to keep a house in good shape.

Bringing it all together: Balancing action with planning

So I’ve probably driven home that regular maintenance is a good thing. But how does this apply directly to shadow work? Here are some ways that I take the above examples and use them in my personal shadow work process.

I’ve always used a system where I have high points and low points. High points would be the equivalent of spring cleaning- we (me and the gods) sit down and look at what needs to be fixed, where I want to go, what the priorities are for everyone involved. When I’m trying to figure out what you want to do in terms of shadow work, I often ask myself some of the following questions:

  • What exactly am I doing that is problematic?
  • What parts of myself do I want to improve?
  • What have I been putting off in terms of improvement?
  • Have I been slacking on maintaining anything I fixed in the past? Am I regressing at all?
  • What have others suggested I work on? Are their suggestions valid? If so, how can I implement them?
  • What am I doing that is working? How can I ensure that I keep these practices up?

Once we figure out what we want, we then plan out how to get it. Though they probably did more of the planning in the earlier stages, because they were the ones running the show initially. The further I’ve gotten into shadow work, the more I have been included in what I want to do, and how I think would be a good way to go about getting what I want (or what the gods want). I think ideally, the gods want me to be able to do this process on my own without their help.

And then the low points are resting points. As I’ve said before, you can’t work all the time, and sometimes life is too busy for me to be doing heavy shadow work. But that being said, I always have to keep my eyes open to the status of my life and person. Like I mentioned in the house analogy above, I might not be able to re-shingle my roof right now, but I can be aware that it needs to be done, and that it will need to be handled. So I might mentally prep to address that during the next meeting with the gods, even though we won’t be touching it for a while. Due to life and its cycles, there have been times when we’ve had to shelf projects and shadow work. We’ve got times where I already know I’m going to be plowing through a bunch of crap all at once (the Mysteries is a good example of this), and so kinda like running a farm, I try to plan for those kinds of personal seasons. I know when I need to plant my seeds, I know when I need to harvest, and I can rest during the recession of summer if you will.

This is the basic structure for how I maintain my shadow work “practice”. I balance out actively working on what I want to achieve with planning for how I will maintain what I have accomplished through previous shadow work. It’s an ongoing process of action and rest that doesn’t really stop (though it can be put on hold for certain life events). I start each cycle by putting out the largest fires first (if any cropped up while I wasn’t paying attention) and then progressively work on fixing everything else as resources are made available. And I think that ideally, once everything is all fixed (I still haven’t really reached this point, but I feel like I’m getting there), the goal will be to maintain myself while helping others work on their “houses”.

The more I work on shadow work, the more I believe that it’s best viewed as an ongoing process. I’ve found that by going back and reevaluating what I’ve done and where I’m at, I can make sure that I don’t slide back into bad habits, and I can ensure that I’m going in the direction that I want to go in. Practice makes perfect, and by consistently addressing my more negative traits, I am better able to fix the things that I want to fix.

How do you approach shadow work? Do you think that shadow work should be an on-going process? Or do you feel that it’s better to only perform shadow work when you need to?

Related posts:

 

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Not All Polytheists

This past weekend I noticed a thread on tumblr circulating about a new post over on Gods & Radicals about extreme-Right politics and it’s appearance in Paganism/polytheism. When I first saw the thread, I skimmed through the post, shrugged my shoulders and moved on. To me, there wasn’t anything particularly earth-shattering written in said post. It discusses some of the hallmarks of authoritarianism, and how it can manifest in people’s ideals, and then goes over some people and groups that have been shown to have these ideals and/or purport them. It then discusses how the New Right might be influencing certain groups, which groups are possibly more at risk than others, and then discusses some ways to (possibly) combat Fascism in our communities.

I don’t know that I agree with all aspects of the post and I don’t know that I would have written about the topic in the same way, but there was nothing that was particularly interesting in said post to me so I closed my browser and moved on. (ETA: There has been an update to the original post called “The Uncomfortable Mirror”)

But then I realized that everyone seemed to be in a huff over this post. Some people are calling to boycott G&R. Some people want to even boycott people who support G&R. I was so confused by the backlash that I had to go and read the post again. And again. And again. And then I had to ask some other people to read the post as well because I honestly couldn’t see what the big deal is. The only problematic thing I could find was that HUAR was listed as a resource when it’s been proven to be a problematic place in the past.

I then logged into WP and found that several people have also written responses to this post (links at the bottom), and only through reading those posts have I begun to get an idea of why everyone is so worked up. To put it very succinctly, the overall reason why people are upset is basically this: “How dare you lump People Like Me in with people like that!” With a hint of “hierarchies are not always bad” and “quit mixing your politics with my religion”.

That’s it. That’s all it seems to come down to. Here are a few snippets to highlight this if you don’t feel like reading the posts in their entirety:

This article associates many of our most meaningful and vibrant traditions with some of the most vile ideologies lurking at the edges of our community. It’s no wonder many Pagans and polytheists who have read this piece are upset. (Beckett)

It’s also not ok to claim that those who do not automatically share political ideology in common with those particular individual religions are somehow flirting with some form of light fascism—this is a silencing tactic. Given the current climate of anger and fear (both in the US and abroad), it’s a powerful silencing tactic. And it’s wrong, devastatingly wrong. It’s a wrong thing to do to associate others with different political or economic ideologies with vile things such as racism, sexism, and totalitarianism, and a destruction of diversity. (Dawson)

I guess my point here is that I too am concerned about right-wing influences creeping into devotional polytheism, but the way that Gods & Radicals has chosen to express this sentiment is extremely problematic. Making sweeping statements like the one I quoted above will only serve to alienate those devotional polytheists who, like me, side with the Left. (Marian)

Now I can sorta get where people are coming from. It’s frustrating when you feel like you and your co-religionists are not really a Thing, and someone is claiming that you are all this Thing. Trust me when I say that I know exactly how that feels as it is a very constant problem over on Tumblr. It can be frustrating and invalidating, especially if you are trying very hard not to endorse or be the Thing that someone is saying or insinuating you are participating in. This is further compounded by the possibility that someone could read the list on the original post and ignore the disclaimer, and instantly assume that everyone in that group is Bad News (which would encompass nearly every part of the Pagan/polytheist community, since the groups listed pretty much includes all of us in some way or another).

However, if you are so put out by the notion that other people in your religion and/or community are not exactly like you, and may not be supporting the best of ideals, then that is an issue and you really need to look closer at your religious community. Every group has problematic members. Every single one. Quite honestly, I consider the list that was placed in the G&R post a little useless, because nearly every. single. religious community has problematic people- including those who are very right leaning. Even in cases where a religion is set up to be equality-driven and very left leaning (such as Kemeticism and Shinto), you’ll find folks who manage to skew it to serve more extreme agendas and needs. Hell, even the cultures who practiced these religions had a tendency of doing so. You can find ways to make any religion be extremist, and/or extremely damaging to its people.

The more responses to the G&R post that I read, the more I felt like I was trapped in a #notallmen discussion, or even an #allivesmatter discussion. That is to say, it felt like people were blatantly missing the point because they were too wrapped up in their personal discomfort to even consider if the points being raised were valid or useful. If all you got from the article is “how dare you lump me in with them”, I feel like you’re missing the point. I get that some people believe that their religious category or community shouldn’t be lumped in with Fascism (this seems to be especially true of those who are from the Devotional Polytheist group/community), but the truth still remains that every group has problems and we should be having discussions on how to combat these problems. Even if you haven’t seen the problematic members, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there or that they don’t exist. I feel that when someone is raising concerns about a community or group, the answer isn’t to put your hands up and say “don’t look at me!” because you don’t think you’re part of the problem. This is such an important conversation to have, and it’s all of our responsibilities to keep our communities safe, and to make them unwelcome to people who are hurtful to other community members.

I had made a post a few years ago about how branding is everything, and I feel that it’s relevant and apt for this conversation. If your community has shitty people in it, even if they’re fringe, give them enough time and they will begin to effect whether people want to join your religious community or not. We can’t combat these issues and problems by sticking our fingers in our ears and screaming “that’s not me, quit lumping my group in with that other group that has nothing to do with me” because eventually that fringe group can and will become too loud to ignore, which in turn means that they will eventually become your problem, too (as can be seen in US politics right now). The act of calling attention to problematic behaviours and trends within the larger community is not the same as saying everyone in the community is bad. We need to learn to understand that calling attention to a problem (even if the wording or method leaves some of us wanting), and stating that there is a problem isn’t the same as saying that everyone is problematic. Just like with women raising awareness about how sexism makes them uncomfortable around men doesn’t inherently mean that all men are horrible. Just like when the black community says that black lives matter doesn’t necessarily or even inherently mean that other lives don’t matter either.

allhousesmatter

Now don’t get me wrong, as I said above I don’t necessarily agree with all aspects of the G&R post (the wording isn’t the best, I don’t think that the list of possible vulnerable groups was useful because we’re all vulnerable in some way or another, the inability to comment and discuss on the page is not helpful and can give the wrong idea about the nature of the post, and the lack of author, date, etc. is confusing and frustrating), and quite frankly I find that this article does a much better job at explaining how modern authoritarianism takes form and how otherwise ordinary people can turn towards authoritarianism under certain circumstances. It also goes over what people who tend to learn towards authoritarianism tend to look for in ideologies (whether political or religious, hint: reconstructionism would be a huge draw to authoritarianism types based off of the findings in this article). I also don’t necessarily disagree with every point raised in the counter posts that I pulled quotes from above (f’ex: I don’t find hierarchies inherently bad, depending on how they’re used, which was a concern raised by Beckett. I agree that the wording in the listing wasn’t the best, and the disclaimers might not be enough in some situations). The truth is that I’m rather ambivalent about the G&R post all together, and I thought it was common knowledge that we’ve got problematic people in every community (hence my confusion at why people are so worked up). However, I still can’t agree with the idea that the G&R post is entirely out of line simply based off of the notion of “how dare you lump me in with them.” We can’t fix the problems we won’t acknowledge. We can’t acknowledge problems if we can’t get past our own discomfort long enough to even consider that there is a problem. And we can’t fix the problems we acknowledge if we don’t actively work against said problems.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to help make our communities safe for everyone, and if we’re all too busy going “that’s not me, don’t lump me in with them” instead of discussing how to actually deal with the problem at hand, how on earth are we going to get anywhere? Instead of wasting time going back and forth on “who is really the Fascist here because it’s not me”, how about we focus on ways to get crappy people or ideologies out of our communities so that more people can safely enjoy the religions that we all support and love?

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Kemeticism, Rambles, Uncategorized

 

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KRT: Kemeticism is a Journey

how has your practice changed since you started out? How did you find your place within the Kemetic sphere? Are there things you do now that you didn’t then? Things you weren’t expecting? What have you learned through trial and error that newbs may find helpful or useful?

In a lot of ways, this KRT topic is a culmination of a lot of past KRT posts and then some. I’ve talked a little bit about how I got into Kemeticism, and I’ve also mentioned that my practice is not what I expected it to be. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect when they first enter into the Kemetic arena, and it’s very hard to really know which way is up once you’ve started to drink the Kool-Aid and eat the candy that the gods hand out. In many ways, religion is very confusing and stressful- especially if you’re going it alone or trying to piece together a practice from historical texts and dry Egyptological papers.

When I first started out in Kemeticism, I’d say that I was a lot… fluffier than I am now. I don’t necessarily mean fluffy in the sense of willfully ignorant, but I was a lot less discerning in my commentary on my practice, and my posts were all over the board and disjointed. I sometimes go back and look through my old LJ, and I hardly recognize the posts- and odds are you wouldn’t recognize them either. You’d probably look at them and think that I was completely making things up or that I was way too exuberant about everything and anything. Like many newcomers, I saw the gods in everything around me, I waxed on and on about what to offer them and what I spoke with them about and what I thought they might look like or be thinking and I often found myself thinking that nearly anything and everything could be from them. I also had a bad habit of posting 948346 times per day and I had virtually no filter on anything that I posted. I also had no real basis for some of my early discussion about groups within the Kemetic community, and I was a lot less open in a lot of ways when I first started out.

However, during my bout of therapy a few years back, it was suggested that I take my writing more seriously, and with that, my practice began to shift. When I first came into Kemeticism, I practiced largely for myself. But as I progressed in my path, my role and views on everything shifted, and my blog became less about me and more about everyone else. As I mellowed with experience I began to push against more difficult topics and my practice became more rooted in history and text books while simultaneously abandoning history all together. My practice became something of a dichotomy, and in a lot of ways, my practice formed into a sort of “test kitchen” for the rest of the community.

By taking on this role, I found myself trying to learn more about other people and other experiences. My older, more rigid views about what was ‘proper’ and what wasn’t fell away to the wayside because I could no longer push a platform of community-wide respect as well as ‘live and let live’ while drawing arbitrary lines in the sand with other practitioners. My practice became less about gods and more about people, and I’d probably say that in many ways, my practice no longer looks like anything like what it originally did. Honestly, the only consistency between then and now is probably Set. He is still here and I don’t imagine he’s going anywhere anytime soon.

My shrine setups have shifted from larger, more artsy shrines to something more simple (read:boring) and streamlined. My rituals became more polished and structured before disappearing almost entirely (the only consistent rites I do now are execrations). I focus less on various things for the gods such as statues, stones and doodads, and I focus more on actions and words for the gods instead. I became less physical in the trappings of my practice and more metaphorical and abstract in the way that I approach Kemeticism. I might even go so far as to suggest that my practice exists more in my walks to work and my blogging activities than in my actual shrine box.

There are days when I miss the practice I used to have. When I first came into Kemeticism, I was in love with the idea of doing rituals and honoring the gods daily. I wanted to be a priest back then, and I was trying to find any means possible to help scratch the itch that was gnawing at the inside of my head. Even now, I find myself pining over the practice that I thought I wanted- the one where I perform long, thought out rituals. The one where I still sit in front of my shrine every night and talk to the gods. The one where I was a little less jaded and a little more hopeful and excited about everything.

The truth is, I think there is a lot of opportunity when you’re first starting out. Your whole potential practice is in front of you, and you can technically “choose” to go wherever you want with your practice (I place choose in quotations because gods are meddlesome and sometimes they won’t let you go where you want). There is a lot of power in that, and I think it can be important to sit down and think about not only where you want your practice to go, but also where your strong suits lie when it comes to a practice focus. I’m not sure how many people actually work towards honing in on a particular area when it comes to their religious practice, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people have niche interests or projects that seem to place them into certain foci or categories in Kemeticism. And for anyone starting out, I would recommend thinking on that a little bit. Figure out where you’d like to go, and then test the waters to see if its actually for you.

I also think it’s important not to latch too tightly onto the idea of whatever you think will be super cool. I will always be at least somewhat in love with the idea of doing rituals every day. I will always be at least somewhat in love with the idea of being a priest that places their gods above all. I will always be at least a little in love with the idea of what I thought I wanted to be when I started off with Kemeticism. But age and experience has taught me that the idea of is not always what Becomes, and focusing too heavily on what you wish you had vs. what is actually in front of you can be detrimental in a lot of ways. While you think about where your practice could grow, it’s equally as important not to get too dead set on a particular “end goal” for your practice, because it might not be where you actually end up.

And in terms of an end goal, I think it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as an end goal with religion. I think for a while I thought there would be a time when I felt truly established in my practice. I’d know what was what and I’d feel comfortable with what I do and how I serve the gods and community. But the truth is, there is no such thing as comfortable or established. Every time I reach a plateau, the gods move the goal posts and I fall backwards again. Religion is a never ending cycle of growth and learning, and if you’re waiting for a time when you think you’re “good enough”, you’ll probably be disappointed, because I don’t know anyone who is 110% secure in what they do, believe or practice. Everyone, to some extent, is stuck in a never-ending Kermit-flail. Balance is not static, and so our practices will never be entirely static, either. If you begin to feel super relaxed and comfortable in your practice, I’d suggest taking a second look at what you’re doing to ensure that you’re not sliding into stagnation.

When it comes to stagnation, the other thing that I think is important for newcomers to realize is that we all hit points of stagnation. All of us. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Fallow periods are normal and can be very healthy depending on the circumstances. Just because you’re stagnating or falling off the wagon doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s a normal part of life in general, and that includes religion. Whenever this happens, it’s best to just get back up on the horse and keep trying.

Another thing I would recommend to newcomers is to not be afraid to try whatever you feel drawn to. I think it’s scary for a lot of us to move into uncharted territory, but sometimes wandering off into no-man’s land is the most rewarding adventure of all. Much like in my mention of finding a focus above, you never know where different paths will lead, and while you may not recognize the scenery- sometimes that’s where the best things lie in wait for you. To cite my own path, while I didn’t end up where I thought I was going to end up, or even where I thought I wanted to end up, there have been many things I would have missed if I hadn’t of gone the route that I have. It hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies, and there will always be things that I ponder, miss, or regret not being able to do, but at the same time I don’t think I would have ever imagined the stuff I have been able to do because I was open to moving off of the map. Keeping an open mind about where your practice can go can lead you to some really cool stuff. It’s just really important to make sure that you don’t inadvertently close any doors of opportunity along the way.

And in that same vein, I think the most important thing I can recommend to anyone who is new to the community is to think critically about your practice, and to think for yourself. I’ve always pushed for people to figure out the ‘why’ behind what they do, because I still think it’s the most important aspect of creating a religious practice. Don’t necessarily buy into what everyone says is necessarily “correct” or “the only way to do XYZ thing” because there is always more than one way to approach everything in life- religion included. Over the past 5 years of being in the Kemetic community, I can tell you that there have been huge shifts in what people deem “proper”, “suitable” and “good enough” which highlights that a lot of what is considered acceptable is really all about perspective. Keep a discerning eye on what you feel is best and don’t be afraid to use your own judgement when dealing with gods, religious practices and community interactions in general. Figure out what works best for yourself and let everyone else do the same for themselves.

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

 
 

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Souls are like Ceramics

There is a tea set that I use frequently. This set consists of four pieces: a saucer, the cup, a teapot, and a lid. All of these pieces nest together to make a very nice, compact arrangement.

Tea Set

And if you will indulge me, I would like to compare this tea set to a soul.

I know that many of us think that souls are all in one piece, but the truth is that this isn’t really the case. Sometimes your soul line can be in only a few entities, but in many cases, one’s soul is spread out across many many existences, like branches on a tree (see also: Donut Theory). In the case of this tea set, the “soul” would take up four pieces- residing in each of the parts of the set. These pieces work well together and fit well together in order to make a complete setting that can be used for drinking tea.

Of course, each of these pieces could be separate entities- such as bond mates, but sometimes they are “duplicates” of yourself, if you will, which are sometimes called facets by members of the astral community. Soul bits and pieces can be spread apart many different beings, some of which may look like you, and some of which may not. Some of these pieces may work well together and fit well together like the pieces of this tea set. Or sometimes these pieces don’t fit well together at all, and they end up falling over when you open up your cabinet.

via Flickr

So when I got this tea set, it was a whole set that worked well together. Everything fit well together and worked smoothly and everything was great. But one day I was stupid, and I dropped one of the pieces- the lid from the top of the teapot. I remember watching it fall and trying to catch it before it hit the ground, and ultimately failing. The lid shattered into several pieces that flew in different directions across the room.

Souls can do this, too. Souls can be broken, splintered, shattered, and otherwise ripped apart. You can cleave non-physical beings into multiple pieces- both by force and by choice. When a soul is broken apart, its usually not done on purpose (at least in my experience), and just like the shards of ceramic flying across my kitchen floor, so too can soul bits go flying across the universe. These bits can be large or small, they can fly by themselves and land totally separate from everything else, or they can land close together where they are easily gathered back up.

I looked to gather up as much of the broken lid as possible, with the hope that maybe I could glue it back together and make it usable again. But the truth of the matter is, no matter how few pieces a piece of ceramic breaks into- you will always be missing something. There are tiny bits that you’ll never ever be able to get back.

And in this case, some of the pieces went flying under the fridge where they would never be seen again. Some rolled under the stove, and others were just too small to be salvageable. For all I know, the piece under the fridge was picked up by an ant and carted off to be used somewhere else. And soul bits are like that, too. Have a piece that flies off into no man’s land? Good luck getting it back. And if some less-than-savory character happens across that piece where you can’t reach it anymore? Well, that’s how you wake up in the astral with 93858746 years of fuckery to clean up.

Just like with the lid, when a soul breaks, it rarely gets put back together in the same way that it was before the initial fracture. There are ways to “glue” a soul back together. To re-melt it and re-forge it into something new and shiny. But when you do that, it’s rarely the same person, entity, or consciousness that it was before. It would be the equivalent of making an entirely new cup from old materials. The materials of the previous cup may exist within the new cup, but the cup is technically still very different.

Of course, my tea set technically works just as well without the lid (though my teapot may be sad to be missing its companion). I could have decided to scrap the lid entirely, and go from having a four piece tea set to a three piece tea set. You can do that with soul bits, too, technically. You can destroy them, consume them, discard them. But even then, you can only destroy what you have in your hands. That piece that landed under the fridge that the ant got a hold of? I can’t do much about that. Not until I find the shard again. Another possibility is taking the larger pieces of ceramic and using them in another project such as a mosaic. You can also do that with soul pieces. You can meld them together, break them down and reform them with other soul pieces into new souls or beings. You can shove pieces of one soul or entity into another entity (with and without consent, with a variety of outcomes from doing so). There are many options for how you can handle shards.

And of course, I have to decide if I want to move into having a three piece tea set. Sometimes you really really want to salvage whatever you can, even if the “fixed” piece isn’t the same as it was before. Much like with Japanese Kintsugi, sometimes people think that flaws and break lines add character to a person or an item.

tealidIn the case of the lid, I gathered up as much as I could. We worked to glue it back together as best as possible. Of course, there were pieces I couldn’t get. There are now holes in the lid. There are huge chunks missing. The lid works, but it doesn’t really work as well as it did before. You have to be more careful with it. You have to be conscientious of how you handle it. It now has special needs that you have to recognize in order to utilize it. This probably sounds familiar to anyone whose body has broken down on them over the years. Spoonies spend their entire existence catering to the fickle needs of their body.

Souls can get like that, too. The soul can break, it can be thrown across the universe, and you have to go and find as many pieces as you possibly can. Sometimes you’ll think you have them all, but when you glue the thing back together, you realize you’re missing a ton of pieces. You can try to compensate for this with gold or mortar or thicker glue. Or you can just leave the holes there like scars that tell a tale of your past. Sometimes you’ll be living with those holes, and you’ll suddenly stumble across another piece- you know, the one that the ant took. And you’ll take it into you and you’ll feel it click into place. Sometimes you’ll grab a piece up you didn’t even know was missing to begin with, and feel the solidity of having that gap filled.

Other times your “lid” will break and you won’t be able to glue it back together. So instead, you opt to find a new “lid” to replace it, to try and fill the hole that the missing piece has left in your “set”, in your existence. Or you’ll continue on and live with the hole that now exists within you- for better or worse.

In many ways, my work over on the astral has been a lot like fixing this lid. I woke up over there to find that I had holes in my body, holes in my soul line, and holes in my heart. I spent years working to find the pieces to fill these holes. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been because I finally picked up on a tiny soul shard, and upon finding it, I had to extract my piece out of the situation so that it could be rejoined with the “set”. It has taken years, and my “lid” still isn’t finished. I don’t know if it will ever be entirely whole again (despite the whole “two pieces now made whole” thing). But sometimes that is the best you can do when things go wrong. Much like with my tea set, I have to learn to like the various flaws that now exist within the lid because I wasn’t careful with it. Much like with my body that isn’t ideal, I have to learn to work with the shortcomings that exist in my life. And much like with my soul, there will likely always be reminders of being broken- some of them in the form of holes, some of them in the form of lines of gold.

Because souls are like that. Imperfect. Breakable. And yet strangely durable.

 

 

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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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We Reflect Nature, Nature Reflects Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reconsidering the Witch’s Uniform

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

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

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

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

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

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

witches

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

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

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

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

The History of the “Witch’s Uniform”

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

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

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

According to Robert Wistrich:

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

As well as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean for Pagans?

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

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

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

Then this should bother you, too:

Because both are perpetuating oppression of a group of people.

So how do we remedy this situation?

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

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

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

Related Articles, Posts and Books:

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Rambles, Uncategorized

 

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Boat Paddling: The Second Rule of Kemeticism is…

One of the most repeated phrases that I see around the Kemetic community is “Don’t be a dick”, and for good reason! You can’t build solid communities if everyone is treating the other members like crap. Backbiting and infighting will lead to shaky foundations and a group that doesn’t last. However, like most things related to ethics and behaviours, it’s hard to pin down what qualifies as being dickish and what doesn’t. So for this post, I wanted to elaborate on some ways of determining whether someone is, in fact, being a dick or not and how we can use these yardsticks within the community.

The Yardstick for Dickery

It can be a challenge to tell when someone is being a dick to someone else because things like “how far is too far” are subjective in nature. What is mean to one person may be perfectly acceptable to someone else. And some people even think that warning others “hey, I am an asshole” gives them a free pass to say whatever they want because “hey, I warned you!” Because of this, I began to question if we really could determine when someone is moving into dick territory.

However, I think that I’ve figured out a place where we can start to possibly measure when you’re moving into dickish territory. I call it “The Yardstick for Dickery”, and it goes something like this:

If your behaviour is causing people to leave or withdraw from the community, then you should probably check yourself before you wreck yourself.

That is, if what you say and do is causing relatively innocent people (aka: people who aren’t racist, ableist, etc.) to leave the community, you’re being a dick. If what you say means that people are not willing to open up in front of you, or are driven to hide from you out of fear, you’re probably being a dick. If you’re saying stuff that makes other communities side-eye us and consider us all to be garbage, you’re likely being a dick.

I’ve used the yardstick and found someone who I think is being a dick. What do I do?

Each situation will require different responses, but the short answer to this is still this: Don’t be a dick. You don’t earn points for being a dick to someone else who is being a dick to you. When you drop down to their level, you open yourself up for further attack, not only by the person you’re engaging, but by others within your community. On the internet, our words are really all we have to use to define us. And if you start to act like a dick towards other dicks to try and “teach them a thing”, you end up being just as much a dick as them. Which doesn’t benefit you or anyone else. It just perpetuates the cycle.

(see the full gif-set here)

Whenever I come across someone engaging in dickish behaviour, I usually go through a few motions:

  • Double check that the situation is as I think it is.
  • I ensure that inserting myself into the situation will actually be beneficial.
  • I respond with a cool head and constructive critique that calls out the behaviour or offers alternative dickless ways to address the situation.
  • If I can’t respond with a level head, I walk away and address the situation upon return. If I still can’t respond with a level head when I return, then I don’t respond at all (or I utilize the Two Response Rule).

Ways to make sure you’re not being a dick

When you’re out there responding to people on the Internet, it can be easy to get away from yourself and start dipping your toes into the murky dickish waters. However, with a little bit of practice, it can get easier to make sure that you don’t accidentally come off in a way that you didn’t intend to. I think one of the most important questions you can ask yourself when posting things online (or having conversations in real life) is: What is the purpose of me saying this?

Figuring out why you feel compelled to say something is important. It will help you to stay focused and on task in your response/dialogue. It can also make it easier to trim out unnecessary scathing marks or possibly dickish side-notes that you might include otherwise. Having a purpose behind speaking in mind acts as a road map to help make your argument more sound and less dickish.

I’ve also seen another set of guidelines floating around the Internet that I often use before I start writing a post. Those guidelines would be:

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me right now?

These rules to harken up to the guidelines I listed above. Whenever you are considering writing a post, examine whether your addition will actually beneficial to what is going on. If it is something that should be addressed, figure out if you’re the best person to address it. If you can’t keep your snark to yourself, or if your point gets lost in angry words and frustrations, perhaps the post or response is better written by someone else. If you think that the response or post does need to be written, and that you could be the right guy for the job, determine if you need to respond right this second. Again, if your anger is clouding your words, or if you can’t get your point across respectfully, perhaps you need to give yourself a little time away from the situation to allow yourself more clarity in your response.

A lot of the situations where I’ve found my words pushing into dick territory have included responses that were off the cuff and perhaps not as well thought out as they could have been. I’ve found that many situations are not do or die, and that you can actually walk away from something for awhile and come back to address it later.  It can be difficult to develop the skill to learn to walk away, but in the world of Internet yelling, bashing and politics, it is a necessary skill to have if you want to excel at communicating.

The last point I want to bring up with all of this dicking around is simply this: help each other out. We’re all in this together, so don’t take offense if someone lets you know that you’re kinda being a dick. It happens to all of us, and the only way we can ever address such situations is to be made aware of what we’re doing wrong. So to refer to above- if a fellow community member is being a bit of a dick, let them know! Just make sure you’re doing it respectfully. And if you get called out on being a dick, think about your actions and use the yardstick above to see if the claim is accurate. If it is, try to correct your behaviour and move on. No need to make a fuss over something all of us humans do.

Because the only way we’ll all get any better is if we actually help one another reach our highest potentials.

Relevant Posts:

 Other Posts in the Boat Paddlers Arsenal:

 

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