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Through Resistance We Grow Stronger

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a number of different online groups with a wide variety of people that come from a wide variety of backgrounds. This has given me the opportunity to have many different discussions that run the gamut in terms of topics. Despite all of this diversity, I have noticed a trend amongst many of the people I’ve talked to:

You either love conflict, or you fear conflict.

Conflict in these situations has meant many things. Sometimes it’s a knock down, drag out flame war that is occurring on a message board. Other times it’s a simple misunderstanding that people are trying to work out. And during any situation that seems to have any sort of disagreement, no matter how civil or uncivil it may be, I’ve noticed that there is often at least someone who gets upset that conflict is occurring in any capacity at all.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that in any group of people you ever have the pleasure or displeasure of being with, there will always be times of conflict. Always. Ask anyone that is married, or anyone that has siblings or kids. Look at your own life for an example. No two humans are going to approach anything exactly the same, and so there will always be times where people have disagreements or misunderstandings. It’s an inevitable part of life. And while I don’t condone making conflict simply for conflict’s sake, I do believe that many of us could stand to re-frame what conflict means to us and our community.

We talk about this a lot in our courses that I put together for work. Many of these courses are about how to manage a dental office and all of the people that work there, so it’s common for the discussion of conflict to come up because conflict is inevitable in the group of people we call a dental practice as well.

In many of these courses, it is stated that conflict is not actually a bad thing. Instead, we are taught that conflict is actually an opportunity to better understand whoever you are having a conflict with (or those you are mediating a conflict between). The more I’ve learned about managing conflict and working through conflict in a professional setting, the less I view it as a bad thing. More and more, it reminds me more of resistance training.

The idea of resistance training is simply that by forcing your muscles to contract against an external resistance (usually weights), you will in turn develop more muscle definition and tone. This is obviously a simplified definition of what resistance training is, but the general idea is there. By resisting the weight, the muscles grow.

We also see this in nature as well. Plants (I know, shocking) are one of the best examples that I can cite, which require experiencing stiff winds while still a sapling in order to grow a strong stalk. These plants have to learn to stand against the wind, and if you remove the resistance that helps them grow, you run the risk of having a plant that will snap at the first sign of a storm later on.

Even Osiris himself had to break free from the very snake that protected him during his transformation after death (see Rundle Clark’s “Myth and Symbol in AE” for more). Without some amount of struggle we can not expect to grow or expand our horizons. Even if we are born into a safe haven, at some point, we must experience some turbulence and difference in order to grow.

So what does this have to do with conflict?

Conflict usually consists of two differing viewpoints. And when you effectively navigate a conflict and said differing viewpoints, you would need to consider both viewpoints and discuss each of them thoroughly. Each party has to be open and honest about their feelings and thoughts on a certain situation or idea, and then by honestly and actively listening to each other, and calmly discussing what is on each others minds, both can begin to understand one another better. This mutual understanding broadens the horizons of those participating in the discussion or conflict – even if the discussion doesn’t result in 100% agreement by all parties, as conflict resolution doesn’t always equate to complete agreement with one another. This allows new ideas to be brought forward and worked through in a calm fashion. It allows people to build trust as more conflicts are resolved calmly and without major incident.

Through each conflict and successful discussion that follows, everyone is made stronger and better because more understanding is achieved. When people realize that they can bring up differing viewpoints, and know that the community or group won’t jump on them, but instead will discuss things calmly, that will build up trust and strengthen the community as a whole. These instances of resistance allows us to become stronger both independently and as a group.

Learning how to work through conflict, or understand the ins and outs of conflict can help turn resistance into growth. Likewise, learning when to walk away from a conflict can as well. And with any luck, as we learn more about one another and learn how to handle our differences with less yelling and flame wars, the stronger we can become as a community. Take a look at the links below to learn more about how to turn conflict into opportunity.

How do you view resistance and conflict? Do you see them as an opportunity or something to be avoided? Does conflict or resistance play a role in your involvement in the Kemetic community? If it does, how so?

Relevant Links:

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2015 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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The Art of Co-Discovery

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

Right? Because that works so well for everything else?

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

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

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

“Magnifying Glass” by Derek Bridges via Flickr

What is Co-Discovery?

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

 Using Co-Discovery in the Pagan-sphere

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

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

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

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

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

 Other Posts in the Boat Paddlers Arsenal:

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

 

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Some Things Can’t Be Compartmentalized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Library Cabinet” by Lori Murga via Flickr

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

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

And I think that is a shame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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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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Why Priesthood is Pointless

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

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

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

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

A Frame of Reference: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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

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

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

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

First Steps First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Kemeticism

 

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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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Life is Orthopraxic

One of the first things we like to teach in the Kemetic community is that our religion is orthopraxic. That means that Kemeticism isn’t based so much on what you believe inasmuch as its focused on what you do. The gods need us to perform certain cultic and temple functions for them in order for ma’at to be perpetuated. The gods need us to do the right things and follow through in our actions and words more so than they need us to necessarily believe in them or believe that they exist.

And in a way, I would say that life in general is that way.

Belief can be nice. We can believe that god exists or doesn’t exist. We can believe that clothing the naked and feeding the hungry is a great cause. We can believe in peace and love and green energy and all of those nice lovely things that we see at humanitarian events across the globe. We can believe that being honest and forthright is the best course of action. We can believe whatever we want.

But at the end of the day, if you don’t act upon those beliefs, they are useless.

“Brendan + Action” by Marc Thiele via Flickr

For example, I could talk on and on about how being respectful to our peers is important. I could tell you about how we need more interfaith work, and that we need to not be dicks, and how we should all strive to get along. But if I get off of this blog and go and yell at everyone I meet and belittle every newb I come across, not only will that create a conflicting message from me, but it will also lead everyone that sees me to believe that I am really a jerk that likes to blow smoke up everyone’s asses. I can talk about respect and community and devotion until I’m blue in the face, but it means absolutely nothing if I don’t have any follow through.

Our whole life is made up of what we have done and said. We may have the greatest thoughts and ideas and beliefs in our minds, but if they never are brought forward into the light of day and turned into actions, then what purpose do they serve? When we go through our lives and let injustices occur and watch people screw other people over in our day to day lives without saying a word, what are we accomplishing?

I understand that it’s not always so simple. I have worked for people who are less than moral. To say something means to put my livelihood on the line, and therefore the livelihood of my family as well. We can’t always afford to be 110% just and moral all the time. However, I still think its important to remember that our legacy is built upon our actions and not our beliefs. Our lives are shaped and remembered by the marks and impacts we have left upon others, our communities and families, upon the world; and that our gods and fellow man benefit the most by the things we do for one another. And that in addition to that, our actions behind closed doors can speak even louder than the actions we do in front of others in public. You know, the actions we perform that we might think don’t have any sort of consequences to them, or the actions that we feel won’t have any payoff for us.

As you move forward into your communities, on your path and in your life, wherever that may take you, remember to keep in mind your actions. We are often taught in Western culture that our beliefs define us, but I posit that it really all does come down to our actions.

How do we do this? Well, through a number of methods. When you come across problems within your community, speak up! Or perhaps look into solutions that can help remedy problems. Network with other people, reach out to other folks and discuss with them about where they are at on their paths, what your community could be lacking, or other ways that you can create more resources for one another and newcomers to your community. For those with less spoons, just keep talking. Click the “like” button when someone else posts something you fancy. Talk about your experiences or give feedback on others experiences. Share links around for others to look at. Spread the love.

Every little action that we take helps to build up the community or tear it down. Every action helps to propel us forward or send us hurdling backwards. Even the little actions that we think don’t matter. As you move forward in all that you do, make sure that your actions are helping to form the world that you want to live in.

Do you think that life is orthopraxic or that your actions have weight in the community? What types of actions would you like to see your community members and leaders to take in the future? Do you feel our communities should be discussing the value of action? 

Relevant Posts:

 
 

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We All Have to Start Somewhere

Alternate Title: Paganism is like Japanese food, so quit picking on newbs.

This past weekend I was strapped to find a place to eat. Due to my laziness and the part of town I was in, I opted to go to a place I never go to anymore: Ra. For those of you who don’t know, Ra is a chain “Japanese” restaurant. I place Japanese in quotes because, as far as I’m concerned, the food is more American than Japanese in nature, though the restaurant does try, if nothing else.

I sat down at the table and looked the menu over. I placed my order and waited for the food to come. While I waited, I mulled over how long it had been since I had been to Ra. Truth is, it’s probably been 4 or 5 years since I last visited. As I took my first sip of the miso soup, I remembered why it was that I don’t come here very often: it’s Americanized, anyone that has spent a fair amount of time eating more authentic Japanese dishes can tell.

Unagidon by Hyunwoo Sun via Flickr

So what does this have to do with Paganism? Quite a bit, when you examine it.

The shortest way I can sum it up is thus: we all start somewhere. To use my Japanese food metaphor, when I started out eating Japanese food, I didn’t know where to start, so I went with something that was local and somewhat familiar. I ate at Americanized restaurants because while they weren’t quite American food, they weren’t quite… not American food, either. It was a simple mid-jump that allowed me to slowly ease into a whole new food genre. It’s the equivalent of sticking only one foot in the freezing cold pool as opposed to jumping into the deep end all at once. As I got more and more comfortable, I branched out to other restaurants with more authentic dishes. I began to research and make my own food at home. I moved so far out into the deep end that I can no longer stomach the taste of Americanized Japanese food.

Like many people who are starting on a new religious path or venture, they’re probably going start with something that is somewhat familiar. Maybe their foot in the pool is only pulling books from a local store, instead of an Internet list or a university library. For recon-based paths, a lot of the information is dense and hard to read straight out of the gate, and it makes sense that someone would be overwhelmed by that. Maybe if you’re lucky, to use the metaphor above, you’ve got a Japanese friend who can show you the best places in town to eat, or maybe will even cook for you in their home. In cases like that, you can avoid the weird in between phase and ease straight into the “good stuff”. But for many of us, there is no ambassador to help us out, there are only Llewlyn books in the local Barnes & Noble and the one lady that runs the New Age shop down town. We’re stepping into something entirely foreign and trying to grope for something at least somewhat familiar when we start out.

Imagine that you are knowledgeable in a genre of food. Let’s say I meet someone who wants to get into Japanese food, and they decide that they want to try Ra. Should I chastise them for their choice? Should I mock them or make them feel stupid or inferior because they are choosing to start off there? Would you do that to someone?

We as a community do this regularly to the newcomers of the community. “I can’t believe you bought that book, are you stupid?” “Who told you that?! That is completely asinine, how do you not know any better?!”

“How dare you eat at that Americanized Japanese restaurant. Don’t you know that only fools eat there?”

See what I mean?

We treat everything as if its do or die, as if you need to be 110% knowledgeable in everything straight out the gate. We forget that we all started somewhere. That we all started at our Americanized restaurant before we learned that there was more beyond that. And in addition to this, there are plenty of people who like the Americanized food, thank you very much, and there is nothing wrong with that! Maybe its better that we agree that we don’t agree on what food tastes good and we call it a day. Maybe you can show me the best meal on the menu for when I’m stuck eating Ra, and I can tell you about a local restaurant that is similar to Ra in nature. Just because we don’t exactly agree doesn’t mean it can’t be an exchange of knowledge or ideas. Nothing needs to be black and white.

So when you meet someone whose practice or knowledge is the equivalent of Ra (to you), instead of chastising them and telling them that they are wrong for eating California rolls, instead ask why they are doing what they are doing. Ask them if they’ve ever tried something at the Japanese run and owned restaurant a few miles down the road. See if they are open to trying some new stuff that you view as being more authentic.

And if you get asked why you’re eating California rolls, be open with your answer and remember that questions don’t always equate to criticism. With some respect (on both ends) and some civility, we can all learn more about where each of us is coming from and possibly gain more insight and knowledge about other members of our broader community. We can begin to learn and see how the gods present themselves differently to different people and we can share better resources and more knowledge to all parts of our community. But if you yell at someone who has just started, you run the risk of shutting them down before they’ve even started and that doesn’t do anyone any good.

And above all, remember where you were when you first started and how far you’ve come throughout your process. And then transform that into patience when dealing with others who have just started.

Relevant Posts:

 
6 Comments

Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Terminology and Why We Need to Reevaluate It

English Dictionaries by John Keogh, via Flickr

Words. We use them all the time. We read them all the time. They fall from our mouths and help to craft the world that we live in. In Kemetic circles, a common phrase is that “words have power” or “words mean things”. Our primary form of creating change in our world is through the use of heka, which can translate into “authoritative utterance”.

Words are very important.

So, too, are titles and labels.

However, despite the growth that both the Kemetic and Pagan/polytheist communities have undergone in recent years, I feel like our terminology hasn’t kept up. A lot of people seem to struggle with what it is they exactly are or what it is they are technically doing. Because Kemeticism is my main focus, I will be restricting my discussion on terminology to the Kemetic circle. However, I do hope that this post can be a jumping point for other circles to have discussions themselves!

In most Kemetic structures, there are not many labels for people to use. You’ve got priests (Hem(et) Netjer) and laity (sometimes called Shemsu). That’s it. If you want to take it a step further, you’ve got people who use magix, people who use heka (Hekau) and people who do protective magix/heka (called Sau). Our entire community is often rendered into less than five terms:

  • Priest
  • Not-priest
  • Magic user of some variety

Surely there is more than that to our community. Let’s break down some of the problems with the terms above:

Priest is a word I see thrown around all over the place. Priesthood means different things in different traditions, and in modern Kemeticism (of a more recon slant), being a priest means being a Hem(et) NTR, or a God Servant/Slave. In antiquity, a priest was there to serve the gods and temple, not the people (for more information, see here), and that is still largely the case even today. This term usually is only applied in the modern sense to people who have an Open Icon in their shrine at home, and for those who have the time and capacity to provide daily state rites to these Open Icons. This term becomes problematic because priest is a rather loaded term in our modern culture, and in antiquity, rituals were not performed by only one person, but a whole group of people. Does the term Hem(et) NTR even serve us in this day and age (literally and figuratively)? Especially when most of us will never be privy to all of the rites and methods used at a state level?

And then what about those of us who do daily rites, but don’t have an Open Icon in our shrines? Do those people count as priests? Or are they laity?

Laity has become a hot button issue in recent months, and for good reason. There isn’t a whole lot written specifically for people who are considered part of a religion’s laity. In antiquity, laity helped to serve the gods by providing the supplies that allowed the priests to do their jobs every day (to learn more see here). However, in the modern context, being a lay person usually means that you are an average person that subscribes to the faith and nothing more. In Christian terms, you would be part of the congregation as opposed to the person at the front of the room. In Kemetic terms, laity is often referred to as being an onion hoer. These were the poor folks who didn’t have the time or capacity to do a whole lot of religious stuff day in and day out. The requirements to be a layperson are pretty much non-existent by most standards, and in the Kemetic faith, the only real requirement as a layperson is to try and live in ma’at.

However, there is a large grey area between these two groups. Most people would probably look at me and assume I am a priest. However, I am not. I can’t remember the last time I did a formalized rite (hint: it’s been months), I don’t do daily service for the gods, and my icons are not Open. So with our basic terms above, I would be a layperson. However, I certainly do perform religious duties and devotional acts every single day.

So what on earth would I be?

And in this simple example, the problem with our definitions becomes ever apparent. We’ve managed to ignore and wipe out large segments of our own community because they technically don’t have a designated place within our paradigm. We don’t acknowledge the full variety of what it can mean to be Kemetic, and when we do that, we make people believe that you can really only be two things: a priest or a layperson, and that is a crying shame.

It is because of this that I feel like we should work on creating new terms that reflect how Kemeticism has shifted over the ages. We are no longer a State run, King-driven type of religion. We no longer have temples with full time staff to run them. We don’t have the capacity to be full time Hem(et) NTR. We don’t have the capacity to meet each other in real life (generally speaking). Things have changed. If the way Kemeticism existed in antiquity fell under a Horian style, we are officially in Setian Kemeticism: we are in diaspora and have lost our resources in the process. I see no point in holding onto a few handful of terms that don’t suit us.

While I don’t entirely have a list of terms to throw out for everyone to consider (I wish I did, I’ve been mulling on this for months), I decided that I could at least show some groups or areas that we need terms for. If we can at least identify that such things exist within our community, we can become more aware of them, and possibly the terminology for those groups will come in time. I’ve tried to keep them organized in some capacity or another, and if I missed a group, please let me know.

Rites, rituals and shrine status:

  • Someone who has an Open Icon and performs daily rites for the gods
  • Someone who performs daily rites for the gods (State rite vs non-State rite?)
  • Someone who performs rites sometimes.
  • Someone who doesn’t perform rites, but performs regular devotional acts to the gods.
  • Someone who only participates in holidays, or performs rites occasionally.
  • Someone who participates heavily in community, but doesn’t necessarily perform a lot of shrine work.

Practice focus:

  • Akhu and ancestors.
  • Death rites or the dead in general (not necessarily related to the dead by blood).
  • Heka or magix.
  • Lesser Unseen spirits such as netjeri.
  • Living in ma’at
  • Gods and deities, NTR

God-phone status and ability to travel between planes:

  • People who are involved in working in the Unseen/Duat.
  • People are work with spirits both here and in the Duat/Unseen
  • People who are able to mediate between the living and the gods or other spirits (for example: a medium).
  • People who can perform healing on non-physical bodies and the like.

Community activities:

  • Researchers and data collectors.
  • Scribes: people who write that data down in a format or location that others can access and use.
  • Story tellers and people who create new ways of seeing the religion
  • People who work on facilitating group activities within the community. Community organizers.
  • Divination services and oracular services for the community

As you can see, there is a lot more to our community and our religion than simply being a priest or not a priest (or a priest that performs magic and a priest that doesn’t perform magic). Our community is wide and diverse, and there are lots of areas where we need people to jump in and help out, and that there are a lot of places where we have absolutely no terms or labels for what these people do.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcoming this problem is trying to ascertain how much of the practices from antiquity we need to keep and how much of these practices need to go. It’s obvious we’ll never have a large, full time set of priests working in temples. It’s possible that we’ll never have large temples ever again as well. And we might not ever have a steady flow of money coming in from temple patrons that allow the priests to do their jobs. The role of priest has to change to accommodate how things have changed in the past few centuries. The role of the layperson has also shifted, and our structure in the modern community needs to reflect this.

To get the ball rolling, I’d love to hear back from the community (regardless of your path) as to what you feel a modern priest is, and what it should be. What is the role of the priest? Do they serve only the gods, or do they serve the community and laypeople as well? What is the role of the lay person? Should they support the priesthood? How would we organize such things? What types of terms do we use to illustrate the grey area that exists between priest and lay person?

Additionally, how would you label some of the roles listed above? Do you feel that we need to create new terminology for our modern religious practices?

While I know that this post is not filled with solutions and lists of terms, I hope that this helps to get the ball rolling!

Relevant Links:

 
36 Comments

Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Teaching Someone How to Pagan is Like Teaching Someone How to Art

via flickr

I was recently asked by a friend if I knew of any useful resources for someone who was looking into learning how to draw. It seems really simple- there are lots of tutorials out there on the internet for how to draw things: from hands to faces, cylinders to cars. There are lots of resources out there. So I linked them up with a fairly in-depth tutorial on how to draw a person and felt that it was mission accomplished. I patted myself on the back and said “job well done!” and thought it was finished.

But it wasn’t finished.

I received a response that stated that the tutorial seemed too complicated. That drawing that much anatomy out of the gate was way too much and that they needed something simpler than that. And then I realized that from the perspective of someone who was new to art- this probably seemed a little overwhelming or daunting.

I still wanted to help, so I reevaluated what it took to get to where I am artistically. What did we do in school? How did they teach us to draw? How on earth could someone else replicate what we did in school on their own?

And then I began to see a few parallels to polytheism and paganism, and I felt like I had been hit upside the head with an iron beam.

First off, this whole situation reminded me of many of the questions we’d receive at Pagan101. When people become more experienced at the whole polytheism thing, I think they lose track of just how far they have come. Because you might not exactly realize the progress you’ve made, you can lose scope of where newcomers are coming from, and we inadvertently end up inundating them with too much information, or information that is too complex. We think its simple because we’ve been at it for a while, but they are not us. To draw the parallel to the art scenario above, I thought that it was simple and easy to point to a broken down human figure and say “draw like that”. But in reality, we didn’t even start drawing people until the second or third quarter at school. I have completely bypassed what it took to even get to that point.

That’s how it goes for a lot of newcomers in the pagan-sphere, too. We give them a lot of academic books, or we tell them to “google it” and they get overwhelmed. For those of us who are acting as resources within the community, we’ve got to make sure we keep an eye on that.

But more importantly, I realized that “I can’t teach you how to art. No one can.”

And if you swap out “art” with “pagan”, you’ve got the same situation.

For those of you who are not artists, the truth of the matter is- most art is about practice. You can learn new techniques, sure, and those are plenty helpful. But when you’re starting out, what you end up doing the most of is… well, drawing. When I started in school, they sat us down in front of a pile of stuff. They would have us draw the stuff in different ways (contour drawing, negative space drawing, no lifting the pencil.. things like that), but at the end of the day- it was a whole lot of practice. And while we learned the basics for perspective and human anatomy, it was still a lot of trial and error, a lot of tearing up of papers and throwing pencils while you tried to get it “just so” or the teacher made you redraw it… again. Because art is not procedural, there is no way to linearly teach someone how to art. You can only learn how to art by doing.

Religion is much the same way, especially the less institutionalized religions of the Pagan umbrella. When someone comes to me and asks me how they become a Kemetic, all I can do is show them a bunch of information on what Kemeticism entails and hope that they can figure it out themselves. There is no “You do XYZ, and now you’re a Kemetic”. Sure, we proceduralize some of the methods- for instance, if you are a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, you take the informational classes, you undergo the RPD, you receive a name, and now you’re Kemetic Orthodoxy. But even then, you might only be Kemetic Orthodoxy in name.

Same goes for Shinto- you can become a member of the Sukeikai and receive an ofuda and have it in your house- but it doesn’t mean you’re living as a Shintoist.

When it comes to learning how to be a member of a religion, there is no one way to do it. There are as many ways as there are practitioners- and then some. Just like with art, becoming a member of any new religion will likely entail some screaming and throwing of things and crying as well. We all start somewhere, and many of our paths have been jagged and loopy and screwy as can be because there is no way to teach someone how to Pagan.

The best we can do is show you how we do it/did it, and hope that you can figure out what works best for you through trial and error.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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