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On Making Entities Smaller

Recently there was a post that circulated on my dash that was called “Making the gods smaller?” I didn’t read it and I don’t know anything about what the post entailed, which is why I haven’t linked to it here. It played absolutely no role in this post except that seeing the title got me thinking about what it means to make gods, or other entities, smaller, and how that affects a relationship with them.

Working through all of my crap over on the astral has given me the opportunity to see entities of many scopes and sizes. The variety of what I saw, and how each of these entities interacted with someone such as myself, is largely what skewed my views of what we call “gods,” because I found that many of the entities I encountered were just as big and powerful as our gods, and yet were not called as such. It also taught me that size and power aren’t always directly related, and are usually not static.

The more I mulled on it, the more that I decided that for me, when it comes to an entity’s size, most of us (physical and non-physical entities alike) are All Encompassing, and incredibly small and shallow all at the same time. Allow me to attempt to explain.

I think one of the easiest ways for me to explain this is to use my own experience with myself as an example. As you all know, I am a human stuck on this planet just like the rest of you. However, when I travel in the astral, I can connect with other parts of myself. Some of these parts are very “small” and contained in the same way that my human self is. However, there are times when I will come across parts of myself that are vast and feel very “big” in comparison to who and what I am here on earth.

On the surface, the “bigger” parts of myself may still look very much like the smaller parts. We take up the same amount of space physically, and the representations of choice tend to look more or less the same. So it behooves me to say that on a visual level, you’d never know I was smaller, that she was bigger; though you may guess we are the same in some way or another.

I know that most people seem to look at “making entities smaller” as a sort of bad thing, as though becoming smaller and more human is some awful horrible act. But the truth of the matter is that it does have its place, its benefits. When you talk to the larger form of myself, you’ll note that she behaves differently. She has different priorities and different ideas on how to handle things. In many ways, she’s colder, more calloused, less understanding, and can seem like she doesn’t care about the suffering of anyone or anything. I’ve found that many times “larger” entities are so busy looking at the bigger picture that they forget that the entities they’re sacrificing are living, breathing things with their own autonomy. They’re so busy looking at how everything is going to “come together” that they can become very much the mindset “you have to break eggs to make an omelet.” As though living beings are just pieces on a chess board. A means to an end.

Sometimes those traits are useful. Sometimes you need someone who is capable of seeing the big picture, of not getting caught up on those details. In order for many cycles to complete, you’ve got to sacrifice some things. The same way that none of us would be alive if not for the death of other living things. It makes sense that we sometimes need someone Big to carry out bigger things.

However, those traits aren’t always useful. When I and my partner were first brought into a series of events over on the astral, it seems as though we were both fairly “large” in comparison to humans. However, in order to be able to get out of that situation, we desperately needed to find a way to be smaller. There are certain benefits to understanding life on a physical level. There are certain traits you pick up as you become reduced, as you become more humble. There are certain things you just can’t do when you’re so large.

I believe this can be true for our gods, too. That there is a benefit to being reduced in some capacity. They can learn new skills and traits. They can relate to their devotees in new ways. They can develop a better understanding of our needs, our existence, and incorporate that into their own activities. This can, in turn, effect how things happen on the Duat. They may be better able to relate to the residents of the Duat, to be able to better govern them or help them in their needs.

In many ways, I believe that being able to be both Large and Small at the same time is beneficial. If you’re a fully-connected entity that is tapped into both ends of the spectrum, you can shift your focus from large to small, from big picture to small detail. You can see how to best get from point A to point B (large) while also understanding that minimizing the sacrifice of smaller entities needs to remain a priority (small) — because you’ve been there, you’ve seen it, and you understand that smaller entities matter, too. You make yourself more well-rounded and connected to the world at large.

In a way, a dare say that being able to make yourself smaller makes you bigger — because you can reach things you couldn’t before.

Being made smaller doesn’t mean that you can no longer access your larger self ever again (though its possible to be blocked in your ability to do so.) If anything, it just means you’re able to tap into both, and utilize the skills and knowledge of both.

At least, that’s how I’ve come to understand it.

I think the thing I wish to know most is why is everyone so afraid of coming to meet the smaller parts of the entities we interact with? What is it about being “small” that is so detestable?

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Silent Gods

It’s pretty safe to say that most of us spend our lives unaware of the layer of Unseen that penetrates the world around us. We don’t have access to a lot of the goings on in the Unseen, and so we don’t really notice the spirits or other entities that may be around us at any given time. For all intents and purposes, we’re blind and unaware of our surroundings when it comes to non-physical beings.

But just because we are blind to them doesn’t mean that they are blind to us. So many people have stated that “looking back on things, I can tell that my god/s have been around for years now, and I just didn’t realize it” or something in that same vein. Just because we don’t notice when our gods are hanging around us doesn’t mean that they aren’t hanging around us all the same.

So if the gods are hanging around, why on earth would they be silent to us? This is especially hard to figure out if you’re in a place of pain, frustration or confusion, and could really use some reassurance or assistance in your life. And of course, I’m sure that there have been plenty of times when someone has sat around and tried to reach out to a god who is actively listening to them, and yet they remain silent for years. Why?

One of the most overlooked factors is timing. It’s a pretty common saying that “timing is everything”, and it’s a statement that is pretty accurate. To understand my point, consider your own life and your own growth. Think back ten years ago. What were you like? Were you an awful lot like who you are now, or were you very different? Have you become more mature since then? Have you learned anything new? Have you grown at all?

Odds are, the person you are now is pretty different than who you were ten years ago. It’s par for the course that we all grow and change as we age, and the gods realize this as well. If a deity is wanting you to do work for them, it’s possible that they’re waiting for you to reach a certain level before they step forward and begin to work on you.

For those who realized that their gods had been hanging around them since they were kids, it’s possible that your deity watched you silently through your teenage years because they knew that you wouldn’t be ready until after college. Maybe they felt that pushing you while you lived in your parent’s house would cause unneeded and unhelpful stress and strife between you and your family members. Maybe your teenage years were before the Internet took off, and even if the god did reach out, you wouldn’t know what exactly was going on or even what to do about it. Perhaps it was better to wait until there were more resources available to you. Maybe it took seeing those resources to make the connection to the god in the first place.

Maybe they waited because they knew you’d need to complete a boat load of shadow work before they can enlist you for whatever job or task they had in mind. So they decided to wait until you were in a place to actually work on the shadow work before they stepped forward. It was pretty obvious when Osiris showed up that I was not ready for his lessons or his methods, and he had to step back again until I was able to cope with what he was wanting. To push too soon might have resulted in our relationship not working out, in trauma on my end, or in my not performing the tasks that he wanted me to perform.

I know that looking over the past ten years of being 100% non-Christian, that I couldn’t have done what I am doing right now ten years ago. If Set would have shown up right when I first decided to look into religions that were not Christian, I wouldn’t have been able to perform the tasks that he needed. I might have been able to make some progress on the Pit, but he would have had to have cultivated me for years before I would have been ready to start working on community work. I also think that my failures through Wicca and my experiences with dysfunctional online Pagan groups have helped me to get a better understanding of what a community shouldn’t do. Every failure can have seeds for success, after all.

Even if my astral partner decided to show up when I was in college (which is where I was ten years ago–and he was around, I just couldn’t sense him), I wouldn’t have been prepared to handle what was coming at me. It’s technically better for everyone that I was forced to wait another seven years until my head broke open entirely, and I could begin to do what I am doing now. Looking over my experiences, I could definitely make an argument supporting the idea that these Unseen entities waited because the timing was not ideal. I could also make an argument that their judgement was pretty solid, and that waiting ended up saving us more time and strife in the long run, crappy as waiting can be.

Of course, some of you may be reading this and thinking “well that’s not how it is with me. I could have handled whatever they threw at me! Why can’t they start talking to me now? I don’t want to wait!” And that could very well be the truth, but that doesn’t mean that the deity in question sees it that way. Just like how we often act based off of what we think is best, so too do the gods. The gods often have a larger scope of things, and use that to discern and decide what courses of action to take. Who is right or wrong is a moot point when push comes to shove, because again, we’re all relatively cut off from the Unseen and it’s machinations, and so we’re often bound to whatever the god feels is the best course of action (for better or worse). If they put up a wall so that you can’t talk to them, it’s going to be very difficult to break it down before they are ready, and breaking it down before they’re ready can have it’s own repercussions.

I think the biggest take away when considering the various reasons why communication with a deity may or may not be happening is to remember that it’s not always because of you that things aren’t moving forward. There can always be a wide variety of reasons behind why a deity may or may not choose to step forward and make themselves known. As frustrating as it can be to be stuck waiting on a god to say hello to you, it’s worth keeping in mind that relationships are a two way street, and sometimes it’s really not about us (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), what we want, or what we think is best. The gods can have their own agendas and motivations behind why they do what they do, and we may never be completely aware of whatever is going on inside of their heads. I have always found that being patient and persistent can be the key to breaking through and being able to communicate with the gods, and that while waiting for said deity to decide that “now its okay to move forward” and “now I am okay with talking to you” can suck, it usually works out in the grand scheme of things. At the very least, I’ve always been comforted to know that it’s not always me being a screw-up that causes a god to be silent. Sometimes it’s other things that are beyond everyone’s control- the gods included.

Have you ever experienced a quiet point with your gods? Did you ever figure out why the deity was silent with you? How did you work around the silence that you experienced?

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Breaking the Narrative

One of the best and worst things about being a creator is having the privilege of seeing how your creations grow after their birth. When I take the time to craft a post, I never know exactly how my new “child” will grow after I hit the publish button. Will this post take off and be reblogged a ton of times? Will it be a dud? Will it make anyone angry? It’s always a mystery until after it’s too late to do anything about it. Because of this, each post is a sort of social experiment in a way. You put something out there like a piece of modern art, and you get to watch what everyone does with it, because it’s out of your hands once it’s out there for the world to see. And many times, I love watching what people do with what I have created.

As it just so happens, one of my creations was recently rediscovered by none other than Krasskova herself and brought back into the light after having been in my archives for nearly 2 years. For any of you who have been around TTR for any length of time, you’ll probably recognize the post “On Being Broken“, which was a series of pieces that I wrote a few years back where I examined, challenged and reflected on the nature of devotee-deity relationships, boundaries, and lines in the sand.

I have a very deep fondness for this series. That’s probably because the posts that comprise this series were the product of a lot of hard work and religious rooting around on my part (read: shadow work). Plus, I felt the topics were very important and rarely discussed in our community, and I was so very happy when I realized that I hadn’t alienated everyone upon hitting the publish button. For all intents and purposes, the social experiment was a success.

It was such a success that this post is actually my most popular post for 2013. That’s saying something, considering it was published in the fall and didn’t have many months to gain traction.

So it should go without saying that I was initially excited to see where people were now going to take my post. The social experiment was not done, and I was interested to see where this next “chapter” of my creation’s existence would lead.

Sometimes it’s not always so fun to see where people take your work. It’s part of the tradeoff for being a creator, though. Sometimes you wish people wouldn’t touch your work. Sometimes people use your work to springboard them into places you don’t want your work to go (such as racism, yaaaay).

Shortly after Krasskova’s initial post, I found a couple of different Heathens showing up in my comments section, as well as a another Heathen blogger responding to both myself and Krasskova. This also happened to coincide with a lot of discussions on other venues about the nature of gods as well as discussions about trust and faith and the gods. And it was at this point that I began to notice a trend forming.

That trend is that our community has an acceptable narrative when it comes to devotees and gods. And if you don’t happen to fit into that narrative, your voice is ignored or dampened- if not erased entirely.

When I say narrative, what I mean is that there is an acceptable storyline or way of going about things. If you happen to fall outside of that acceptable format, you are usually shunned or ignored. You’ve probably heard most of the popular or acceptable narratives from the pagan community when it comes to devotee-deity relationships:

  1. Gods are always loving to us. They always know what is best and what we need, even if it makes no sense to us. So when the gods push us, we should do as they say because they always Know Best.
  2. Gods would never be cruel or mean to us without reason. Everything they ever do is with our best interest in mind. So even if they do something that seems mean, it’s really just for your own good, so you should follow along because they always act with your best interest in mind.
  3. Gods always know what you need in order to become a “better person”. So you should do whatever your god tells you to do, because they know what you need even more than you do.

Does that sound familiar? It should, as these the most common narratives and “unspoken truths” that seems to exist in the wider Pagan community. In a way, I might argue that our community was built on this sort of mindset, as almost every single generic paganism/polytheism book has reinforced this sort of mentality and mindset. It’s this very mindset that necessitated the need for my original post in the first place. And what is so bitterly ironic about everyone jumping in on my post (and this topic in general) over the past month is that this narrative was perpetuated and played out right in front of my own eyes. The people that were responding to my musings were, in a way, missing what I was trying to say and perpetuating what I was trying to put a halt to in the first place.

Indirectly, my social experiment had revealed something very telling out about our larger community. And by looking at the trend that was forming, the answer to the very prominent question that I had posed in my original post became very evident to me.

For those who don’t remember, the biggest question I left in my original post is “Why don’t we talk about this? Why haven’t we addressed this in any capacity?”. And I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out why: it falls outside of the acceptable narrative.

If you go through the posts that each person wrote (no I am not linking to them. If you wish to see them, you can go through the pingbacks on the original post. I have personal reasons for going this route) or any of the recent posts on Tumblr that talk about this stuff, you’ll notice a few common themes. One is that gods have a Divine Will that shouldn’t be questioned or challenged. Just because it “doesn’t make sense to us” doesn’t mean it’s not right. The god shouldn’t have to change their ethics for us petty mortals. Instead, you should change to facilitate your god. If you’re refusing to change your ethics, it’s probably because you don’t want to grow or change and your ethics shouldn’t come between you and your devotion. Any disconnect between you and the gods is all on you, probably because you’re human and apparently we suck.

There are also elements of “gods always push us to be better and more genuine”. There doesn’t seem to even be a question of if the gods could ever do wrong or push people in the wrong direction. It’s just assumed that the gods always Know Best. It’s not up to us to figure out if a god is actually doing right by us. I guess because we’re humans, and they’re gods.

Another common theme is the assumption that because I am calling into question my god’s behaviours or show a lack of trust in my gods, that somehow I have not put in enough work, or haven’t worked hard enough to trust his motives. It doesn’t seem to matter which venue this topic comes up in, but there always seems to be this underlying element of shame that seems to be put in my direction for even thinking to question what the hell my god is concocting.

You’ll also notice that any discussion regarding this topic seems to treat all gods the same way. There doesn’t seem to be much attention given to the fact that different pantheons may operate differently (a common example of this is when people apply things such as hubris to pantheons that don’t have such a concept in their religious practice) or that gods can act differently from one another. Its as if someone believes that because their experiences have been XYZ, then everyone’s experiences will be XYZ. There is minimal room for diversity amongst gods, pantheons, or relationships in general.

These ideas mirror what most Pagans and polytheists consider to be the socially acceptable narrative for “turbulent times” with a god. I’ve seen it countless times across countless websites, forums, books and platforms. Our community says that this is the Proper Way to deal with difficult gods (or should I say difficult humans, since apparently it’s all our fault for not getting what the god is trying to do for us), and if you don’t operate “properly”, you are “doing it wrong”.

And I believe this is why people don’t want to talk about things. I, for one, wouldn’t want to talk about how my gods dicked me over if that was the response that I was going to get. I wouldn’t want to open up a very raw wound in my heart and tell people about how my gods did this to me for no perceivable reason and how I felt hurt, alone and betrayed, if I felt that people were going to respond as so many often do: “Well it’s for your own good”. “The gods would never do something like that, you’re mistaken”. “It was a part of their Divine Will and you just don’t understand it yet, but you will”.

When people expect to get treated poorly or chastised for being in a situation they can’t control, they are not going to want to talk about it. No one wants to talk about their pain and then get told that they asked for it, or that their pain isn’t real or legitimate enough for concern. No one wants to get told that the pain they are in is always for their own good- but that’s exactly what this narrative does and reinforces.

This type of narrative is unhealthy. It takes the responsibility off of the gods’ shoulders and places that weight directly on the devotee. It ignores the fact that gods can and do treat people poorly sometimes- and sometimes for no reason at all other than they can. It ignores the fact that not all devotee-deity relationships should actually continue, especially if the god is being abusive. And it creates a narrative that perpetuates victim shaming while simultaneously closeting those who have had bad experiences with the divine because they fear backlash for opening up about what they’ve been through. This narrative basically states that anything that doesn’t work out is always your fault, and if you can’t see the benefit in what you’ve been through, then you’re simply too uneducated to bother talking to.

In many ways, the narrative that we use in Pagan and polytheist circles mirrors the victim shaming narrative that we see in our day to day culture (if you happen to live the US). And perhaps that is the reason that we continue to push this narrative out year after year in our communities: we perpetuate what we know, and we perpetuate what is comfortable for us.

One thing I can say about all of this, though, is that I am very happy and proud to say that the Kemetic community has worked very hard to put an end to this narrative since that original post was made. Something that struck me as both bitterly funny and frustrating about the responses that my post garnered this past month is that I don’t think anyone realized that this post is nearly two years old as of this writing (nor did either responder seemingly read the two follow-up posts that went with the original post where I detailed more about how I handled my own troubled times with my gods and my recommendations for people who are in similar situations). Everyone seemed to think that this was new and uncharted territory, and no one seemed to realize that things have changed in my community since that post was “born” onto the Internet.

After my initial posts about how the gods can be less than perfect and how devotee-deity relationships can degrade, our community began to reconsider what it means to work with the gods. More posts came out from other devotees who have had bad experiences, we were able to discuss how to handle situations like this, and there are even posts about how some devotees love their god, but realize said god can be a twatwaffle to other people.

The Kemetic community realized that the narrative needed to change, and so we changed it. We made it more acceptable to have a bad time with the gods. We made it acceptable to be openly frustrated with the gods. We made it acceptable to black list a deity because they were not treating someone with respect.

We took away the limitations of what gods can and can’t do (or will and won’t do) to devotees. We also took away the limitations of what a devotee can do in a situation where a god is overstepping their bounds.

We made it okay to talk about how relationships can go bad. Or good. Or anything in between.

Now if only the rest of the wider community could catch up.

What do you think about the various narratives that exist within the community? Do you find them helpful or harmful? What other narratives would you like to see changed?

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Worshiping the Whole

One of the great things about Kemeticism is that our gods are kinda squishy. This allows us a lot of wiggle room when it comes to deity interpretation as well as deity worship. Because of the nature of our gods, as well as the religious structures set up in antiquity, we are capable of working with a single NTR, multiple NTRW (whether while separate or merged into one) or all of the NTRW all at once. There are many posts out there about how to work with one or a few gods, but I haven’t seen anything that goes in-depth for honoring all of the gods all at once.

Why honor the NTRW as a whole?

The most well-known instance of people worshiping NTRW as a whole probably comes from Kemetic Orthodoxy. KO recommends that anyone who is new to the temple take a step back from any gods that they are currently venerating, and to consider venerating all of the gods as a whole for a short period of time during the beginners class. This is done to help the devotee open up to the possibility of other NTRW coming forward and forming relationships with the newcomer.

However, there are a lot of other reasons one might choose to worship the NTRW as a whole. The first might be that you may not have a particular deity that you want to venerate. Sometimes people will come into Kemeticism and never hear from the gods. When this happens, they may decide that it’s easier to worship all of the gods at once as opposed to picking a deity out of a hat. Alternatively, someone may want to try and give veneration that benefits all of the gods at once, and worshiping in this fashion would allow for that.

And of course, just like worshiping multiple deities at the same time, you are able to worship specific NTR while also having a space for all of the NTRW as a whole. Just because you choose to create a space for all of NTRW in their entirety doesn’t mean you can’t still venerate specific gods as well.

How is worshiping all of the NTRW at once okay? Isn’t that disrespectful?

You will probably get different answers from different Kemetics in regards to this, but it is my personal opinion that it is not disrespectful to approach the NTRW as a whole. In antiquity, Egypt’s ideas about the gods varied from hard polytheism down to henotheism, which would have all of the gods being facets of a larger god. If it was okay in the temples in antiquity, it should be more than okay to approach the gods in this fashion in the here and now.

As with everything of this nature, if you begin to worship the NTRW as a whole and you start to feel like someone is displeased with it, you may wish to look into the matter and find out if there is a particular reason why the gods don’t want you honoring them in this fashion. But to my knowledge, there hasn’t been anyone who has gotten in trouble for honoring the gods as a whole.

How do we worship all of the NTRW at once?

Luckily for us, it’s not that complicated to set up a shrine space for the gods as a whole. Unlike a lot of other religious traditions, our gods all tend to have a bunch of offerings and ritual structures that they all like, so it makes it easier to perform rites and give offerings that won’t upset any of the gods.

I think the hardest part for people who are attempting to honor all of the NTRW is trying to figure out what to use as a focal point on their shrine. Many of us have icons and statues of the gods that allow us to focus our attention on them and visualize them better. However, NTRW are this kind of nebulous, intangible concept that doesn’t really fit well into a single statue, image, or icon. Luckily, there are a few symbols that represent the NTRW as a whole, as well as symbols that are vague enough that will work for the purposes of an icon or statue.

First is the seated NTR hieroglyph:

NTR_wilkinson

From Wilkinson’s Reading AE Art

The second might be to use the “flag” hieroglyph:

NTR_FlagWhen it comes to the flag symbol, you would usually want to have three flags in a row to represent all of the gods. So while you can have a singular flag for the focal point, I would recommend drawing three flags if possible.

In addition to the signs above, you could also use something basic like an ankh or the ma’at feather. Since the gods are often equated to both of these (and are sustained by ma’at), they should be good enough to use as images in place of all of the NTRW. And of course, if you don’t want to have a focal icon or image, you technically don’t have to.

Just like with any other shrine, you could easily decorate it with whatever you are drawn to. In many ways, the shrines and temples in antiquity often had a lot of the same elements, regardless of who was being housed in the shrine. Things such as libation bowls, offering plates, incense holders, jewelry, flowers, and fine cloth would have all been common things to find on a shrine. Any of these would likely work for any shrine setup you’d be making here and now.

Here is an example of what a NTRW shrine could look like:

NTRW_Shrine

Image reposted with permission. Please click to see the original tumblr post.

 

For offerings, anything that you find on this list is safe for any of the NTRW- including NTRW as a whole. When in doubt, water, bread and beer are almost always safe offerings to give to the gods.

In regards to ritual structure, the basic outline that is listed here is perfectly fine for this type of shrine setup as well. The basic system of approaching the shrine, leaving offerings, stating any words of power, singing songs, playing music, or dancing before reverting the offerings is always a good mixture to use. You can always add other elements to the ritual, if you’re prefer. Adding things such as lighting incense, lighting a lamp or candle, embracing the icon that you are using (ka embrace), etc. will also work well for this shrine setup. Pretty much anything you’d use for a typical shrine setup will work here.

I know that this shrine setup is not very common within out community, but if you do end up setting up a shrine to all of the gods, I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Kemeticism

 

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Gods: More Like People Than You Think

Non-physical relationships can be a real pain to figure out. There aren’t any self-help books on them, and trying to get a communication style that works well can be challenging to say the least. Due to the nature of non-physical relationships, I think it’s common for people to flail and get scared when they need to figure out how to handle some of the bumps that normal relationships can take. You know the ones:

  • I think I made my god angry. How do I tell?
  • I know I made my god angry. How do I fix it?
  • How do I tell if this god is giving me the cold shoulder?
  • I don’t think my relationship with this god is working anymore. How do I end the relationship?
  • I haven’t been talking with the gods recently. Are they upset?

The truth of the matter is, regardless of whether your relationship is 110% in the flesh (such as with a physical human spouse, partner, parent, child, etc.) or whether it’s only half-physical (such as a god or spirit), a lot of the basics for relationships still apply. But for some reason, many of us have been trained to think that human relationship skills don’t apply to gods, and I can’t really figure out why.

I’m sure some of this has something to do with the Christian overtones many of us were raised in. God is bigger than you and cooler than you and doesn’t want to waste a lot of time with you (but he still loves you!). And then you have a lot of Pagan/polytheist bloggers who seem to imply that the gods are these HUGE BIG SCARY ENTITIES that you need to placate and offer your first born child to, lest they get mad at you. And in other situations, gods are apparently “above and beyond petty human concerns” and therefore don’t get mad or angry or make mistakes.

And when you’re new to Paganism or deity relationships, you probably have no clue what to do or where to turn, and you fear that one wrong move could be your last.

However, my experiences have shown me that the gods are a lot more like humans than we typically want to admit that they are. Yeah, they may have more power in some ways than we do. But at the end of the day, they seem to have a lot of the same basic attributes that we do, and I feel like we should be taking a closer look at that.

Like humans, no two are alike.

Something that is important to remember is that no two gods are going to necessarily handle a situation the same way. When people ask generalized questions such as “what should I give my god to appease them” or “will doing this upset the gods” the answer in response will almost always be “how should I know”. This is because no two gods are going to necessarily respond to something the same way.

For example, Set and Osiris don’t react to things the same way at all. Osiris gets more bent out of shape when I disappear for long periods of time, where as Set is more likely to say “you’re a spitting image of myself!”. When it comes to placating the gods, Osiris is more likely to want something heartfelt and small. Set is more likely to want a grandiose display.

This is no different than comparing two people who have different quirks, tastes, desires and needs. What you do may irritate one, but be preferred by the other. Giving XYZ food to one friend as a sign of thanks may send your other friend with the food allergy to the hospital.

In each situation you must take each god and devotee into consideration. Because what works for my relationship may not work for yours. No two gods are alike and no god will necessarily respond to two different devotees in the same way either. All of these situations carry a huge “your mileage may vary”.

Gods can be petty. Just like us.

I know that a lot of people seem to think that the gods can’t be petty. And maybe that’s true for some pantheons, but I’ll state that it’s certainly not true for all pantheons. For example…

Osiris wanted to humiliate his brother Set and convinced Ra to give him his Atef crown. With the new power bestowed upon him, he basically made Set kiss his butt and submit to his new power until his nose bled. This, of course, went to Osiris’ head so badly that he ended up getting a physical burn on his head from it.

Or you’ve got the Contendings where Horus basically does every underhanded trick in the book to try and win against Set because he is not above cheating.

And of course there is Thoth who will change his story to suit his needs so that he gets what he wants. And he is not above killing mortals who happen to stumble upon his books of knowledge.

Our gods are not above being petty. And if your pantheon is like my pantheon, your gods are probably not above being petty, either. This can influence interactions with them as well as what makes them grumpy or moody. You might think that your deity can’t get upset because you didn’t buy that piece of chocolate cake for them, but the truth is- they can get grumpy over that. I’m not saying that gods are always going to be petty, but it is certainly not outside of the realm of possibility. And therefore, it needs to be kept in consideration when developing a relationship with them.

Communication is key with relationships.

One of the biggest determining factors in whether a relationship with another human succeeds or not is communication. A relationship without communication is usually doomed to fail or be lackluster. Turns out that gods aren’t much different.

A lot of people like to ask how they should handle telling a god they screwed up. Or what they should do now that they’ve figured out that they no longer want to venerate this deity. Or they worry they messed up, and aren’t sure how to handle the situation. And in each of these situations, I always tell people to handle it the same way they would if it was another human.

If you screwed up, you’d usually tell the person it involves, and maybe smooth it over with a gift, if its appropriate. If you decide you no longer want to associate with someone (whether friends or otherwise), you usually would have to tell them at some point through some form of communication or another. And if you’re not sure if someone is mad at you, one of the fastest ways to find out is to ask.

And the same goes for gods.

Remember that gods aren’t actually mind readers (though sometimes I wonder about this) and they don’t follow us everywhere they go. Sometimes they aren’t going to know something unless you tell them about it. And sometimes the best way to get over a speed bump is to cut to the chase and talk with them. If you’re afraid of talking with your gods, I recommend you reevaluate why that is, and if your relationship with them is actually healthy. In all of my years of working with gods and spirits, I’ve found that open and honest communication goes a long way, and it’s made all of my relationships (both here and Over There) stronger.

Managing gods can be like managing friends or family. Or friends and family.

I’m pretty sure that most of the people reading this have many different kinds of relationships in their life. They have to manage time with kids and spouses, family and friends, coworkers and bosses, etc. There are many relationships that compose someone’s life, and each relationship has different needs and requirements to be kept healthy. And usually, certain relationships will require more time and/or dedication than others.

Many people struggle with the idea of having relationships with multiple deities. I think this stems from the notion that each god is super special, and so you must dedicate all of your time to each god, and each god must be dedicated to in equal measure. But the truth is, this isn’t necessarily the case. Much like juggling your friends and your family, one deity may require more time than another, and other gods may only want to hear from you once a season.

Whenever you’re trying to figure out how to handle multiple deities in your life, consider how you handle your human relationships. What do you do when aunt Sally’s birthday is on the same day that you and your friends wanted to go to a concert? What do you do when your child gets sick on date night? What about when your boss needs you to stay a little late when you had made dinner plans with your mother?

These types of situations all require different techniques to handle them, and the “right” answer will depend on your closeness with each person. Perhaps you don’t really like aunt Sally, and so you’ll opt for the concert instead. Or maybe aunt Sally is your favorite aunt, and you wouldn’t dream of missing her birthday. Neither answer is inherently correct or incorrect, but knowing your relationships will help you to figure out how to handle these kinds of situations when they pop up. Understanding what each deity requires of you and how lenient they are willing to be during times like this will help you figure out how to juggle work, religion, and several gods knocking on your doorstep. And using the communication listed above is key in figuring out how to make all of these relationships work all at once.

Whenever you find yourself in a pickle with the gods, I recommend that everyone learn to re-frame the situation as if you were both humans, and see if that makes it easier to figure out how to handle things. Because in many ways, the rules that apply to human relationships are equally relevant to non-physical relationships. Learning how one can be applied to the other can definitely make navigating the murky waters of deity-devotee relations much easier.

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Being a Spirit Worker is Like Running a Day Care

Alternate title: Once you are claimed by a spirit, you will never own anything again.

If there is something to be said about a large portion of god-touched folks, astral travelers and spirit workers in the polytheism/pagan community, it’s that we have a knack for having a lot of stuff in our practices. Statuary, jewelry, doodads and bobbles, you name it- we’ve got it. I’m sure a lot of it stems from the notion that we have a bit of Magpie Syndrome: it’s shiny, so I want it. But you know who has an even bigger affinity for being a Magpie?

Deities and other Unseen entities.

I mean, I guess it makes sense. Egyptian gods, at least, used to have all sorts of things offered to them daily: bread, exotic flowers and perfumes, prisoners, the best cuts of meat and lots and lots of shiny gold and silver. But you’d think that deities would have more important stuff to be doing than claiming ever nicknack in my house as theirs. And what’s worse is that it’s not only my house where this happens, it seems to be a common problem with anyone that has a decent working communication method with their deities: a god comes in and then claims everything in a 5 mile radius of your living room is theirs.

Bill Cosby once had a comedy sketch that talked about his three year old going through a phrase where everything in the house was claimed as theirs. It’s marked with a very shrill “MINE” that reverbs through the house.

Gods are kind of like this. Non-physical entities and spirits of all kinds are kind of like this.

“Look at that thing you have. I want it. Put it on my shrine.”

“Look at that ugly thing in the store. I want it. Buy it for me.”

“Look at those rocks on the ground. I want them.”

And its seriously not just gods that do it. I used to share space with an astral woman who would literally stop me every few minutes to pick up various sticks, leaves, stones and other natural materials for use “later”. I have no clue what “later” entailed, but I eventually had to tell her no because it took too much time, and I didn’t have enough pockets on me. She also had a penchant for wanting the most expensive items in a store and raised hell when I wouldn’t get them for her.

Set has been known to demand tacky items- even if they aren’t of the best quality, because he likes things that are shiny and look like they are expensive. Or simply because he can have them. And apparently Set isn’t the only one.

As I’ve moved through the years and gained more Unseen entities in my life, I’ve noticed that more and more of my stuff is no longer mine. My menz own every bottle of perfume and every piece of jewelry I own. My Other Half (also a menz) has claimed a large portion of my wardrobe and a lot of my decorative boxes. Set has claimed a large portion of my stone collection and anything with a heart shape, gold of any sort, or anything shiny.

Many of these people have claimed specific tea cups and silverware items. Some of them have claimed books and journals. Another has claimed a pair of scissors, another my sewing machine, and every single knife I own belongs to someone else.

Slowly, one by one, these larger, older entities have done exactly like Bill’s kid, and claimed every single thing in my house. And to make it worse, they even argue over items from time to time. Much like my cousins used to argue over who got the ‘pretty princess’ cup, I can hear deities demanding to know why he got the “better” looking offering plate. Why didn’t I get that slice of cake? Why does his have more frosting? It’s like an Unseen pissing contest to see who can claim the most crap within my house. I can only imagine what will happen when I die, and people get these items with various spirits and gods attached to them. I can clearly imagine some random person placing a nicknack that used to be mine up on their mantle while some spirit screams at them that that is “not where it belongs”.

In addition to this, gods and spirits have a knack for showing up at the worst possible time to have a discussion. In the middle of a shower? That sounds like a great time to have a conference call with Ra, Bast, and Thoth. Feeling sicker than a dog and stuck on the toilet while your innards leak out your butt? That’s a good time to discuss life’s mysteries with your closest spirit-friend. Really need to sleep because you’ve got a big Thing to do the next day? This sounds like a good time for a spirit to relay their entire life story to you!

I’ll be the first to say that gods aren’t always around us, and its common to have them disappear from time to time (and if they are always there to respond, I recommend checking your discernment). But they seriously need to check their timing better. It is not polite to giving me the agenda for the next week’s tasks while I’m getting it on or taking a crap. And gods forbid you’re stuck with a spirit or entity that likes to be a shit, you’ll be stuck listening to the same song for three days straight while they whisper it in your ear.

Gods and deities may be big bad entities that can screw up your day, but have it be known that the more deities that hang around you, the more likely they are to claim all of your stuff and intrude on your personal time. Because while they put on an air of being older and mature, deep down, they are all really little kids at heart.

Little kids that scream MINE.

 

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How Do I Pagan Without Gods?

It probably seems pretty contradictory for a polytheist to be talking about having a polytheistic practice without any main deities in it, but it’s not as confusing as it first seems. Just because our religious practices have a tenet that states that multiple deities exist in some capacity or another doesn’t mean that they necessarily have to be the focal point of your practice.

And just because you don’t have a patron deity doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have a viable polytheistic/pagan practice that functions well.

For this post, I’d like to discuss having a deity-free practice and what that might look like.

Why write about this?

The blog-o-sphere is filled to the gills with posts about talking with gods and working with gods and patron this and main squeeze deity that. I think that many people who don’t have focal deities are sometimes at a loss as to how they can even approach their practices without gods in place. This is my attempt to give people some ideas about how to practice their religion without gods being at the forefront. This is not me saying that you can’t have deities in your practice, or that you shouldn’t have deities in your practice. This is me giving people ideas on how they can make their practice work when they don’t have gods for whatever reason (whether that be that you haven’t found a main deity yet, or you don’t have a working god phone, or you don’t have a patron, etc).

What is the foundation of a deity-less practice?

The foundation of your religious or spiritual practice is going to vary. While there tends to be some unifying factors amongst people (such as the concept of ma’at for Kemetics), how these concepts play a role in your practice and how you perceive them is going to be different from how someone else does. For Kemetics, the foundation of the religion is ma’at- order, truth, balance. For a Shintoist, the foundation is kannagara which is to work together with Kami or with Great Nature. Additionally, Shinto has a large emphasis on gratitude and purification. None of these concepts- ma’at, kannagara, gratitude, purification- require deities to be enacted. They are orthopraxic in nature, which means its about what you do and less about what you believe, or who you believe in.

Before I became a Kemetic and started to work with deities heavily, my foundation was centered around elemental work and learning about myself. I placed a heavy emphasis on staying grounded and stable while I plowed through my college finals and looked for a job. For that time in my life, I needed to take the center stage, and so it became the foundation of everything I did in my practice. When I performed rituals, I called upon local spirits or elementals instead of gods. Or I just fueled my rites with my own energies instead of relying on the juju of others (my practice was heavily influenced by Wicca at the time).

In all of these situations, the way of living takes the center stage of the religion or the spiritual practice. Deities may or may not play a role in this- it’s really up to you. Don’t let the lack of deities scare you away from figuring out what you need out of your religious practice and how it will effect how you live.

What about rites or holidays? Don’t you need gods for those?

My answer would be- not necessarily. Most Kemetic holidays are about the seasons, ancestors or mythological events that are occurring. In truth, I don’t celebrate many Kemetic holidays because they aren’t tied to the gods I work with. So you don’t have to worship the deity in order to celebrate the holiday. For Shinto, most of the holidays are about purification and cleansing everything around you- no kami are required to make that happen.

So depending on what the focus of your religion is- you may not need to worry about gods in order to have a good time. Celebrate the seasons and the changing of the weather and world around you. Mark important times in your life with a holiday. Celebrate yourself or the universe as a holiday. Any day can become an important event if you deem it so. Get creative in deciding what works best for your religious calendar- if you even need a religious calendar at all.

Rituals can be more tricky, and will depend heavily upon what types of rites you perform. As I mentioned above, many Kemetic rituals and holidays call upon specific deities. However, you don’t have to worship these deities to call upon them in a ritual format (many Kemetic rites have specific deities you call upon- regardless of your relationship with them). And in some rituals, you can swap out deities for other entities, or a ritual can be formatted to omit the necessity of a deity all together. Remember that a religious practice needn’t be set in stone. You can work with things, try things and experiment to see what gives you the best results.

And when in doubt, I always turn to local spirits for ritual work. I figure if I help the local land spirits then they might be more willing to help me. They show up and help me in a ritual, so I leave them a pile of goodies afterwards- so that they are more willing to help me the next time that I ask for help. It’s all reciprocal.

Shrines, Altars and Places to Worship

This can always be a little bit more difficult to address. A lot of stuff that discusses building shrines and altars usually does so with the notion of gods in mind. However, a shrine can be whatever you want it to be, and you don’t necessarily have to have a shrine in order to be a “legit” Pagan/polytheist. If you’re wanting to create a shrine space, I’d ask you to consider why it is that you’re wanting to create this space for yourself. Is it because you want to honor someone? Is it because you want a place to reflect? Or are you doing it because its what all of the books and websites say to do?

Once you’ve ascertained your reasoning, it becomes much easier to figure out what you need to do. When I first started, I had an altar space- I needed a location where I could work on magix and other projects and I wasn’t interested in venerating anyone, so I created a small corner shelf where I could have space to work as well as having lit candles and incense out and wouldn’t have to worry about them getting knocked over. My initial altar spaces had a lot of candles and rocks on them. That is what I connected with most at the time, and so that it what I went with. However, keep in mind your own needs when creating your own special spot.

If you’re aiming to venerate someone or something- try to put things that remind you of that someone or something in that space. For example, a Kemetic could create a generalized Kemetic shrine and include things like libations of water, candles, ankhs, an eye of Horus, the symbol for NTRW or something similar. You don’t necessarily need a deity icon in order to create a space that works well for you. For someone who is into Shinto and wants to create a space sans a specific Kami, I’d recommend an area that is clean and simple. Possibly include omamori or ema boards for the space. Or maybe something from your location- such as rocks, branches or flowers that help to bring the outside in.

Like always, get creative. Don’t be afraid to experiment (see my post on shrines for more ideas).

Sometimes we like to create a space that is for worship or self-reflection. In these situations, I recommend filling the space with things that remind you of your path and put your mind at ease. For myself, this always involves big fluffy pillows, nice scents, and calming music. You can also rely on imagery that helps remind you of your path or goals, or possibly items and books of people and practices you wish to emulate.

Basically, it comes down to figuring out what you need from your practice, and what your religion places an emphasis on, and making a space that enables you to live and walk with those tenets in mind.

So I’ve got some of the basics of my practice working. What do I do from here? How do I find my place in the community if I don’t have a deity to write about?

I think that this is probably the biggest problem that most people have. So many people are busy writing about their experiences with the gods, that a lot of folks aren’t sure what to write about or discuss in regards to their deity-less practice. I discussed some ideas in my post here, but let’s go over a few more possibilities for people to utilize in the community.

  • Talk about your shadow work or personal growth.
  • Talk about how your practice has helped you grow and improve, or how your methods could help someone else improve.
  • Write about the community at large.
  • Talk about that ritual you did last night.
  • Take awesome pictures of your shrine space, or that cloud that reminded you of some religious thing, or maybe that piece of jewlery you found in a second-hand shop that was just what you were looking for.
  • Write about your day to day life, and how your practice influences that- or doesn’t influence that.
  • Talk about how you get through the day, through your life, without gods.
  • Discuss historical aspects of your religious practice (if applicable).
  • Talk about various moral structures or ethical structures that exist in your religious practice
  • Talk about concepts that exist within your religious practice and how they do or don’t apply to your religion today.
  • Talk about the mundane moments in your life that made you think of your spirituality/religion
  • Talk about some awesome magix you are working on.
  • Or how your fandom influenced your religion.
  • Or maybe how that fanfic influenced your religion
  • Or maybe write a fanfic modern myth in regards to your religion.
  • Or anything- I mean, really, anything is game.
  • Answer questions about other people who are lost on their path. Even if you don’t have an answer, sometimes its good for people to realize that they aren’t alone in their situation. Sometimes a “I feel ya” is more than enough.
  • Or you could collect resources, and help other people by directing them to those resources.

There are lots of options and ways to be active within the community and your religion without relying upon gods. It is my sincere hope that people will begin to write more about their “mundane” religious experiences. I would love to hear more about what other people do in their religious practices and love to see more day to day stuff discussed. Because even those of us with “woo” and gods do have our days when the phone is silent and our times when the practice is in a fallow season. The more we can discuss and the more we can learn from one another- the more we can begin to bridge that gap.

How would you practice your religion without gods? Did you see any areas that I missed? If you see any parts of this guide that need expanding, or if you’d like to discuss more ideas, hit me up in the comments section below!

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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Kemeticism, Rambles, Shintoism

 

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