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Lights in the Dark

Once upon a time I wrote about how accessing the astral is a bit like punching a hole through a membrane. In this metaphor, I had created a scene where the Unseen and all of its trappings are on one side of a very thick membrane, while we all live in the Seen on the other side of the membrane. And when we humans go to try and talk with any beings that exist in the Unseen, we are essentially playing a drawn out game of charades with this membrane in between us and those we’re hoping to speak to. In the case of astral travel, you’re essentially puncturing a hole into the membrane so that you can begin to access the Unseen more readily. Sometimes this hole is gigantic and easy to pass through, sometimes it’s more like turning the membrane into something that is permeable, but not removing it entirely.

All of these metaphors are still accurate, but they are all coming from the perspective of a human trying to get to the Unseen. That begs to ask–what about the gods who are trying to reach us through this membrane? What is it like for them?

While it’s entirely in the realm of UPG, it’s my belief that the gods are also living inside of a membrane just like we are. They live in whatever place that they happen to reside (for us Kemetics, that’s the Duat), and they go about their daily lives just as we do. They may be aware of the membrane that separates us from them, but they may or may not pay a lot of attention to whatever is going on on the other side. To draw a more physical parallel–I’m aware of Mexico being to the south of where I live. My state even shares a border with this country. But I have little to no in-depth understanding or knowledge of what is going on there–political or otherwise. Just because two planes, countries, or civilizations are close to one another doesn’t mean that they are actively paying attention to what is going on outside of their immediate sphere of influence.

There are times when I think the gods aren’t paying a lot of attention to us (whether that be humanity as a whole, a specific group of people such as religious practitioners, or earth in general). This is especially true after the religions and civilizations that pre-date us fell. I imagine that the gods paid a fair amount of attention to at least some of the goings on here on earth, but after their devotees dwindled down to nothing, they quit paying attention to us. It’s like watching a tv that is showing nothing but static–how long before you get bored and do something else?

That, of course, isn’t to say that all of the gods quit paying attention, but I think many of them started to pay less attention to what was going on with us. As such, we’ve got a lot of gods who don’t know a whole lot about the current state of affairs in our world. Much like astral travelers having a learning curve in regards to acclimating to whatever plane they’ve landed in, the gods are likely experiencing some level of learning curve with us.

Unlike us, the gods can’t punch a hole in the membrane and start walking around here on earth. They can do that in the less-physical layers of our existence, such as dream states or things like that. But to take on a physical form and start walking around like they’re one of us? Not likely to happen. So if the gods can’t break through the membrane in the same way that we can for them, how are they ever supposed to learn about how earth has changed in the past 839586 years?

I ended in up a conversation about this with O a couple of years ago. I didn’t really care about how the gods got their information at the time, but he was insistent on me listening to him and understanding the role that devotees can play in a god’s reality. The theory I’m about to posit to you is what he told me.

We all have a perceived reality of what kind of world we live in. We have a perceived reality of how others live, and all of the biases that can come along with both of these things. In many ways, a lot of us tend to have a small circle of people that we frequent and discuss things with. And this circle tends to form a basis of our reality.

When the circle of influence is small, the reality stays small with it. You don’t know what you don’t know. But if you push yourself to widen your circle of influence so that your horizons are broadened, you may find that your reality shifts with it. The more views and information you take in, the wider your understanding tends to become, and your perceived reality of the world and its workings will shift with it.

The gods can’t punch a hole in the membrane that separates them from us. But they can utilize us, the humans and devotees that live in this world, to widen their circle of influence and broaden their horizons. By interacting with humans across the globe, or from different backgrounds, they can begin to get a better understanding of how our world works, and what our world (and therefore it’s residents) needs in order to improve. In many ways, we can become a vessel for the gods, we can help them to better understand this world, and help widen their perceived reality.

In the imagery O showed me (because there is always imagery), our world was nothing but a big vat of darkness. You don’t know what you don’t know, and when you don’t know much, it can seem very dark. But then these tiny little lights started to pop up in this darkness. Each light was a devotee that had dedicated time, space, or something else to the god in question. The more devotees the god had, the lighter the world got, and as such, the more their understanding of the world deepened.

I recently talked about how we can create stability for the gods so that they can better exist within our plane. I feel as though this takes that stability even further, because our perceived reality of this world influences the reality that the gods have of our world. They learn about this place through us both directly (such as through conversations with us, through listening through our ears, etc.) and indirectly (by being given stable places to manifest, it’s possible that non-physical entities can manifest in a house and soak up information that is nearby, or listen in on conversations, etc.), and as such, I began to wonder what sorts of messages I was sending to my gods when I talked to them. Was I telling them important stuff that would help their understanding? Was I bringing up important information about the state of not just my life, but the world around me? Was I doing enough to explain to them more complex or nuanced situations that are occurring so that they can have a better grasp of what is going on around me?

If you found out that your reality directly influences the gods’ reality, and that your conversations with them help to round out their understanding of our world, what would you change? Would you talk about different things? Would you include more peripheral information to widen their understanding? Would you include topics that you didn’t consider originally?

What do you think about the concept of a god’s reality being influenced by our reality? Do you like the idea of the gods utilizing devotees to learn about our world, or do you find the concept to be too much pressure? Do you feel that there are other ways that non-physical beings learn about our world?

 

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The Importance of Stability

I feel that all of my astral travel has really given me an appreciation for some of the difficulties that gods and spirits probably face when trying to interface with our world:

  • “I’ve finally managed to get to the other side, and now I can’t get anyone there to pay attention to me. How do I talk to people?”
  • “I figured out how these beings communicate, but I can’t get any of them to listen to me. What am I supposed to do?”
  • “Why am I in this house, this is not where I intended on showing up.”
  • “Oh where did all of the doors in this house go? Why did all of the furniture move?”
  • “What the hell is that? And will it hurt me if I touch it?”

I feel like all of these statements could easily be uttered by a god trying to get some human to listen to them, and they are all statements that have fallen out of my mouth at least a few times while trying to travel. I’m sure that interfacing with foreign planes is probably not as challenging for some non-physical beings, as they have more power and practice than I do, but there will always be challenges when you’re trying to interact with beings on a foreign plane.

As I’ve worked to get better at my astral travel (and with communicating with my menz and gods over here), I’ve found that there seems to be something that helps everyone get on a little bit better, and that is stability. I mentioned in my post about working with unknown beings that stability can be useful for establishing a solid connection with non-physical beings. However, I didn’t go too terribly in-depth on what I meant by stability, or how to incorporate it into your practice. Today, I’d like to talk about two kinds of stability–stability that we can create for non-physical beings here, and how we can incorporate stability in astral travel to better our success rates while traveling.

Stability While Traveling

I feel that it’s better to start with stability as it applies to astral travel, because I think that it helps to round out the picture about how stability here can benefit beings that don’t really live here. You see, when you’re traveling in the astral, you’re effectively doing what the gods do with us: you’re taking a non-physical portion of your body or Self, and taking that portion to places that you don’t (typically) fully live in. While it’s true that I have a form that lives with my astral household 24/7, the human portion of myself doesn’t really live there 24/7. That portion comes and goes as I split my focus between here and There. And while the gods may indirectly always reside in our physical layer of earth, on the by and large, they aren’t living here fully, either (which is why Open statues are helpful, which I’ll cover in another post).

While I don’t pretend that my experiences are the same sort of experiences that all travelers have, I wouldn’t be surprised if my experiences aren’t entirely unique, either. And with that being said, my experiences have shown me that the process of getting from here to There can be convoluted. Sometimes it’s really simple, and I look inside, and I am instantly there and ready to move around. But most days, there is a sort of acclimation process that occurs as I move from here to There. For those who have never traveled, imagine waking up in the dead of night after having taken some medication. Someone flicks the light on, and your eyes haven’t fully adjusted to everything. You can’t really see well, you’re not very steady on your feet. You’re not sure where anything else because your brain is still fuzzy.

There are days when “waking up” Over There feels similarly.

And when you wake up in the middle of the night and need to move quickly, part of the reason you’re able to move quickly at all is probably because you know where you’re at. You know that you’re in your bedroom, and you subconsciously have an idea where the furniture is, and where to move or not move, etc. Your pre-existing knowledge of your house gives you the stability to know where to go, even when your brain isn’t running on all cylinders.

Now imagine that in an astral setting. You finally are able to connect in, but you’re not sure where you are or who is around. Your hearing is doing pretty poorly, so even when your bestie reaches out to talk to you, you don’t necessarily hear it or register it. The house shifted while you were gone, and you’re not sure where any of the furniture is, or where you’re supposed to go. You may not even be certain which room you fell into when you woke up.

You have no stability to know where to go or what to do.

Stability is key in these examples for being able to hit the ground running. In my household, we know that I have certain things that need to be done in order to visit regularly, and all of these things lead to more stability for me as a traveler. For those who might be interested in incorporating some of these ideas into their astral households, here are some of the things we keep in mind:

  • Keep some of your housing the same. The rooms that I get put into always have beds and doorways in similar or the same locations. That way, I always know which way to head to reach a door. Similarly, keeping the furniture to a minimum can be helpful.
  • Keep walls and/or space to a minimum. Whenever I’m having issues with connecting, we will remove walls, or shrink the size of the room that I’m in. That way, I don’t have to try and process as much information when I come into the room. Just like with video games, I can usually only process so much of a given space at once, and if the space is smaller, it’s much easier to move around because I can process the entire space in one go.
  • Keep a schedule, and utilize a partner. One of the best ways that I’ve found to make porting into the astral easier is to keep to a schedule. If I tell my menz that I’m going to be arriving at XYZ time in XYZ location, they know to keep an eye out for me and can assist in helping me to acclimate to the location that I’m shifting into. This also helps because you’ll know exactly where you’re going, and you won’t have to utilize as much energy or time trying to figure out your surroundings.
  • Get physical. I’ve found that when I’m having a particularly hard time hearing, seeing, or just being in an astral space, that touching someone’s face, or holding something and focusing on the physical sensations that I get can help to ground me into my body well enough that I can start to move better.

Stability for the Unseen

As you might have noticed, most of these things involve giving the person who is traveling some predictability in where they are going or what they will be doing. And when we are trying to facilitate stability for our non-physical compatriots, you’re essentially trying to do the same for them. Obviously, some of the situations listed above don’t necessarily happen all that often. We don’t have to worry about walls appearing or disappearing here. We don’t have to worry about rooms being reorganized, and most of us aren’t moving every few weeks like some nomadic astral people might. However, there are still things that we can do to help make our experiences more stable and predictable for the entities we’re reaching out to.

  • Create a space that is just for them. This is usually going to be your shrine area, but it doesn’t have to be a shrine per se. Having an item or a space within your home that is specifically for the entities you’re hoping to interact with will help to give them a solid place to settle in whenever they come over. This allows entities to saturate items with their energy, or place markers and other identifiers into their space that will allow them to transition into our plane much smoother. Using items that they readily identify with will help make it easier for them to ground into the space, and settle into their “body” or a vessel/item that can contain a portion of their energy.
  • Keep a schedule. Just like with my family preparing things for when I arrive, it can make it easier for the entity you’re trying to communicate with to manifest if you’ve got a regular schedule. When some sort of schedule is kept, it makes it easier for them to time their efforts for trying to communicate with us, and it makes it easier for us to hear them because we’re both working towards the same goal at the same time. I often feel that devotees end up playing this never-ending game of phone tag with the gods, and figuring out a schedule for everyone to work around can help combat that.
  • Start off sessions or rituals with similar dynamics. These dynamics can be any number of things. It can be playing the same song before your ritual. It can be saying the same words at the beginning of each ritual. It can be wearing the same thing for each ritual. Or sitting in a certain way. Anything that can be repeated regularly can help create a trigger that can help both you and any spirits you’re working with transition into a different mindset before communing begins. In the same way that a bell primed Pavlov’s dogs to be fed, starting off your sessions or rites with the same thing can prime your brain (and your gods or spirits) for astral work.
  • Provide energy. Traveling across planes takes up energy, so if you can give some sustenance to your spirits or gods to utilize during travel, it can help them to become more prominent within the space. Energy can be in the form of food, but it can also be the energy you raise in ritual or energy you give of yourself, etc.

When all of these things are met on the regular, you essentially create a predictable schedule that the entity can plan for, which will occur in a predictable space that the entity can settle into when they arrive. By having familiar items and sounds around, the entity should be able to grasp onto these things and settle into the space with less issues. And the easier that it becomes for the entity to settle into our physical world, the more likely they are to do it more often. And further, I believe that it helps the gods to better understand us the more often that they come here.

While this is certainly not a definitive list, I feel that these are the staples for creating more stability for non-physical entities to alight within a space, and if you end up trying any of them, I’d be interested to hear how they work for you.

 

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Slacker Gods

It is said that a lot of Kemeticism is based on reciprocity. For those of you who don’t know what reciprocity is, it’s commonly defined as “the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.” Or in other words, I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. I have worded this before in other posts as “we help keep the NTRW full and focused by giving offerings, and in return, they help keep our existence running smoothly”. We help the gods by fulfilling ma’at so that they can survive, and in return, they help make our lives a bit easier (in whatever fashion that that might entail).

Reciprocity is a really interesting concept, and it’s one of my favorite parts of Kemeticism. I love that it’s less about humans prostrating before gods (though you can do that if that’s your thing, no judgement from me), and more about gods and humans working together to make existence better for everyone.

However, there seems to be a missing part of the discussion about reciprocity: what happens when it seems like the gods aren’t fulfilling their end of the bargain? What happens when a devotee and a god have an agreement about “you do X, and I’ll do Y in return” and the god doesn’t come through? What happens when it feels like the gods are slacking off?

Not too long ago, this very discussion was sparked over on Tumblr. It started with a Kemetic devotee reflecting on their current relationship with the gods, and how they felt that the gods weren’t pulling their weight. I know at least a few Kemetics have been wondering and pondering the same things as of late (though many of us hadn’t been public about this), and I know I at least was excited to engage in this conversation. I feel that this is an important thing to discuss, as it’s come up for at least a few of us, and usually if a few of us are experiencing it, there are many others feeling the same way– they’re just not talking about it.

Unfortunately our discussion was cut short when a bunch of non-Kemetics jumped in and started to derail the conversation with mentions of hubris (something Kemeticism doesn’t have) and a side-note of “how dare you.” The conversation came to a premature close because no one felt safe enough to continue it anymore.

This is frustrating because I think this is an important conversation to have regardless of whether it makes a few people uncomfortable. As it turns out, I had made a mention of my own problem with Set falling through on his promises to me back in 2014 (something I had forgotten I even mentioned until I happened upon the post a week or so ago), but I didn’t really go in-depth about what devotees could or should do in such situations. Given that the response over on Tumblr from fellow Kemetics was relatively positive before things went to hell, I really want to open the discussion over here on WP where I have more control over comments and responses so that those who were interested in discussing this further might be able to do so in a safer space.

The Meat and Potatoes of Reciprocity: Offerings and Blessings

Now blessings is probably not quite the right word for this, but I’m going to use blessings for this post to mean “stuff that the gods give to a devotee”. This stuff could be protection, a new shiny job, a trinket, a windfall of money, etc. Basically anything that the god might give a devotee in return for their devotion and/or offerings. And I’ll be using offerings to mean anything that a devotee does for a god– whether it be food offerings, spirit work or work in the Unseen, community rites or rituals, offerings of time or devotion, art, jewelry, etc.

In many ways, reciprocity is based off of a trade of like for like. I give you offerings of your liking, and in return you give me something that I need or want. Usually, the exchange of offerings and blessings is relatively equal in nature, and sometimes the exchange is done organically because each party wishes to bestow gifts upon the other, and other times it’s officially contracted or predetermined through an oath, promise or something similar. To cite my own experience as an example, Set and I had decided that I would do work for him in the Duat for a period of time, and once that period of time was up, he would assist me with my finances and job situation, as they are not ideal. For those who are curious about what happened, I had fulfilled my term of work in the Duat, only to find out that Set had tried to fulfill his end of the bargain, but couldn’t seem to wrangle up whatever was needed to fulfill his end of our deal.

Based off of what I had seen on Tumblr during this fiasco, I’m fairly certain that many people in other traditions might feel that humans have no basis to request or demand that a god do something for them. The historical precedence for it in Kemeticism aside, if a person feels like standing up to a god and saying “you should be doing more for me because of all that I’ve done for you”, that’s their prerogative and issue, not mine or yours. When many Kemetics tried to explain to people how it was part of a NTR’s job to help the humans that offer to them, it seems that many people shrugged off the notion and continued to be offended despite the fact that there are books that say the exact same thing we were saying. For example:

The magician is speaking on behalf of humanity; reminding heaven tat if people are not regularly cured and protected that they will lose faith in the gods and cease to make offerings, maintain the temples, and respect sacred animals. The magician is only demanding the enforcement of a kind of divine contract. If the gods do not help mankind, the whole divine order will collapse.” (pg 73-75)

It doesn’t benefit the gods to ignore their devotees’ needs. It doesn’t benefit the gods to only take and never give. So that begs to ask, why do the gods seem to be falling short for so many devotees?

The Logistics of Blessings:

I think in order to answer that, we have to look at some of the logistics of what it takes to fulfill blessings and requests on the gods’ end. Obviously, I am not a god and I don’t pretend to know all of the aspects of what goes into fulfilling blessings, but I have talked with Set about this several times and watched quite a bit of politicking in the Duat that has given me a big heaping pile of UPG on the subject. So you can take this for whatever it’s worth.

I would hope that most everyone gets that blessings aren’t always easy to fulfill. Our gods aren’t all-powerful, and they have their limitations just like we do. On top of that, the human world isn’t exactly fair in how it doles things out, and I think that can play a role in how easy it is for a blessing to be made manifest. It seems that back in AE, the most common requests for the gods were probably things like “make sure the harvest is good” or “please cure this illness” or “get this person out of my life (or in my life)” or things like that. I feel that in some ways, the jobs were simpler and easier, especially for societies that weren’t run off of currency. In the modern era, I don’t need a good harvest, I need a job that pays well, or I need money to suddenly appear out of nowhere because a big bill came up, etc. Sure, you still have some of the same stuff from yesteryear–cure this illness, hurt or help that person, etc. But unlike back in the day, nearly everything needs to have money in order for it to happen. And for most of us, money doesn’t just come from nowhere. Most of us don’t work in companies that can suddenly give raises, or work for employers that are going to magically give you a bonus just because.

So I think one of the first big hurdles with blessings is that the gods are experiencing a learning curve on how to get blessing to their devotees. While I think the inherent nature of a lot of what devotees ask for is the same, the methods needed to obtain those blessings is not. And this isn’t even getting into the issues of societal limitations that the god has to attempt to work around in order to manifest what is needed. Something that could have been relatively simple once upon a time is likely a lot harder in our current society.

Another factor is the recent influx of devotees. Speaking purely for the NTRW, there have been quite a few Kemetics that have joined the ranks in the past few years, and it’s possible that the NTRW are short-staffed and unable to handle the workload. Pending on what sorts of offerings are coming in, that may dictate how many blessings get addressed or handled (since offerings are supposed to be related to the resources the NTRW have to work with). Not to mention that there are discrepancies between gods (UPG warning) as to who should be given what. Similar to how many managers have to deal with a budget and approval process involving upper management, sometimes I feel like the NTRW have to run some of their stuff through other higher-ranking gods for approval, and things don’t always work out how they want or expect. And if a god is trying to handle requests from multiple devotees at once, it’s possible that things can bottle-neck or get put on hold while the god works through everyone’s needs. In a lot of popular media showing this sort of thing, usually the god has a bunch of helpers to ensure that things run smoothly, but who knows what kind of assistance the NTRW are getting.

And of course, the offerings coming in from devotees certainly aren’t to the same scale as in antiquity. Who knows what sort of effect that has on the gods’ ability to manifest in the physical, or make things happen in the physical. It’s equally possible that the gods are having a hard time handling the difference between what was and what currently is. I imagine it’s a learning curve for everyone- humans and gods alike.

These are obviously not the only considerations, but they are worth noting. I think in order for the conversation about gods fulfilling blessings to be balanced, we need to be considerate of what the gods might be having to deal with as well.

Opening up the dialogue: What exactly is everyone owed?

So given that Kemeticism is largely based on reciprocity, and it’s apparent that there is a disconnect between what the gods are receiving vs. what they’re giving, that begs us to ask–

  • What should a devotee expect to receive when they engage in devotional acts for a god (if anything)?
  • What should a god expect from their devotees, especially given that most of us don’t have the resources to be priests or give on the same level as a temple would have in antiquity?
  • What should be the proper protocol for when a god doesn’t do the work they promised they’d do? If a human were unable to fulfill a contract, you know that all hell would probably break loose because “how dare a human break an oath or promise”, and yet when a god does the same, apparently humans are supposed to just deal with it?
  • If a deity can’t keep their contracts in order, should a devotee even bother to do dealings with the god in the first place? What is reasonable in terms of failing to uphold a promise (whether for gods or devotees)? How far is too far?
  • Most importantly– how do we handle these situations when they happen, because they are happening.

I don’t think that we’ll all agree on the answers to these questions, but I think they’re worth discussing. I know that a lot of people feel uncomfortable saying that they think their gods aren’t pulling their weight, or that the gods owe humans anything at all. However, for devotees who have gone above and beyond for their gods, or who wrote out contracts with them only to have them fall through would probably disagree with you. I know that when this was discussed on Tumblr, I saw a lot of the same old rhetoric of “if the gods aren’t giving you blessings, then you must not be doing something right.” But I honestly don’t think that’s the case, and it’s not an answer I’m really willing to accept.

They say that it rains on the just and the wicked alike, and it’s important to remember that perceived blessings don’t always equate to doing things right, in the same way that a lack of blessings doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong. We often say that our gods aren’t omniscient or all-powerful, and we have to keep this in mind when it comes to blessings and contracts as well. There are many factors that go into why someone may or may not receive something, and we shouldn’t assume that the quantity of blessings necessarily relates to the devotee’s “inherent” worth.

Now while I don’t expect my answers to be the same as everyone else reading this, I did want to give my two cents regarding how I think handling these kinds of situations could be handled. That way, if someone in a similar situation happens across this post, they have some ideas they can work with.

Some Thoughts:

First off is that I don’t think devotees should go into relationships with the gods purely on the basis of getting blessings out of it. I still think that the best way to start out is simply because you want to get to know them, or because it has a place within your religious practice, etc. I know that I personally didn’t get involved with Set or Osiris because I expected them to bestow lots of blessings on me (and for a long time, I refused to ask them for assistance with anything). I think that going into a relationship with a god with the end goal of getting free stuff is likely going to set you up for heartache and frustration (because my experience with the gods has shown me that they’re pretty bad at fulfilling basic needs of devotees, or in other words, they’re unreliable).

That being said, I do think that the gods should be doing more for those who are in true need of assistance, and for those who are actively doing a lot for their deity. Further, if a god has been under contract to give the devotee something, and they fall through, I think that the devotee is within their rights to be upset about that. Alternatively, if a god says they will fulfill a need, but only does so in the barest sense, I think there is room for some discussion about whether they’ve really done their best to help their devotee. And the bargaining power that the devotee has is probably going to depend upon how much work they’ve put in to their end of things, too. If you were slow to finish the work, or were sloppy in your execution of the work, you’re probably not going to have as much leverage in your negotiating.

To go back to my own situation with Set, when he couldn’t fulfill his end of the contract, we both agreed that I would be allowed to drop the additional work he had asked of me until he could uphold his end of the deal. With each month or attempt that has failed, I have been allowed to withdraw and do less because what I asked of him was crucial to my ability to be able to continue doing the work that he’s been wanting. We also agreed that if I wanted to do more for him, I could, but that that was on me.

If you find yourself in a situation where a god isn’t following through on contract, I think you’re within your ability to null the contract and withhold work or offerings until the god follows through. If your god skimps on their follow through, I would advise sitting down and talking with the deity about your concerns with what they’ve provided, and seeing if you can reach some sort of agreement. Or, learn to write a better contract that doesn’t allow them to skimp on you.

For situations where you’re not under contract, I still believe that it’s in the god’s best interest to take care of you, especially if you are doing good, consistent work. In those cases, I think it’s worth talking with your gods, and being firm in your needs. I would treat it a lot like a conference with your boss, honestly. Have reasons why you feel you deserve whatever you’re asking for. Show how what you’re asking for is important, and how it will ultimately help and benefit the gods as well (I call this “help me help you”). Of course, the god can still say no. And if they do, it’s up to each individual to figure out how they want to handle that situation. It’s not unheard of to flat out threaten the NTRW if they don’t give you what you feel you need, and you could go that route if you wanted. You could also withhold offerings or services if you wanted to as well. Like with any threat to a god, don’t promise or threaten with what you can’t achieve.

As stated above, there is no one right or wrong answer to any of these issues, and how you handle the situation is going to depend on what you’re comfortable with and what you’re prepared to deal with. Some people may not think its in the human’s right to make demands or even requests, and that’s fine so long as you’re not dictating that others can’t attempt to make demands if that’s what they want to do. If negotiating falls apart, there are lots of other options for you to consider ranging from very passive to very aggressive and everything in between. Even though this conversation is likely going to make some people uncomfortable, or even down right angry, I think it’s worth considering how to handle these situations, because as I stated above, they are happening whether we want to acknowledge it or not.

Have you ever felt like a god was slacking in their role? Have you ever felt like the gods weren’t taking care of you despite the work you’re putting in? How do you feel about the concept of gods not taking care of their devotees? How would you go about things if you ever found yourself in such a situation?

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Kemeticism

 

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Worshiping the Unknown

Figuring out how to worship, venerate or work with a deity can be challenging. You’ve got to read up on their mythology, their history, and the culture and religion that surrounded them back in the day. And once you get through the mountain of reading material, you have to sit down and figure out how to work everything that you’ve read into something practical and useful that will look remotely like a religious practice. But as challenging as figuring out what to do with known gods can be, there is something that can be even more difficult — trying to figure out how you’re supposed to venerate unknown entities. Whether unknown gods or entities that aren’t gods at all, it can be nerve wracking to figure out how create a practice or routine when there is virtually no reading material at all. And if your unknown entity isn’t from earth or doesn’t have a known religion or culture that you can read up on, the challenges can become even more daunting as you try and figure out what to do.

I’ve had the pleasure of finding a whole host of entities whose names will never be known on earth. Their names will never grace a text book. Their cultures and places of origin will never cross a human’s lips. For all intents and purposes, they are unknown to humanity. Getting to know each of these entities and their back-histories has taken quite a long time and a heap of effort on all of our parts. My experience has been that getting to know non-physical entities takes time and energy, regardless of how well known they are or aren’t. However, there are definitely some unique challenges to each side of the spectrum (known vs. unknown).

Stepping into the Unknown: Creating Stability

I think the biggest challenge for working with unknown entities (as opposed to known entities) is that there is no history or stories you can glean from in order to get a sense of who they are or how they act. With a bigger name god, you can read up on them, learn what they like or don’t like, or get a feel for how they handle situations or problems. You can read their mythos and learn if they’re a hot head or if they stay cool under stress. You can learn about that one time they overdosed on that concoction that they like and work that into your relationship with them. With unknown entities, you are starting from ground zero and have to rely solely on your own intuition and discernment based off of what the entity may or may not tell you. It’s very daunting to know that there is no one you can cross reference your information with. There is no text book or historical record that can confirm what this entity told you. Working with unknown entities can definitely put your discernment to the test in the way that known entities might not.

I’ve found that one of the most important things for success when starting from ground zero is to create some level of stability for both you and the entity you’re communicating with. Interacting across planes of existence uses up a fair amount of energy, and entities that don’t have hundreds or thousands of devotees aren’t going to have a lot of excess energy to interface with this realm. Working to create a place of stability for interaction can help to make your interactions easier and hopefully will require less energy from both parties. This can manifest in a number of ways. You could work to meet up at the same time every day or week, so that the entity can create a sort of schedule to work around. You could always meet up in the same location, to make it easier for them to manifest in whatever space you’re in. You could keep a certain deck or space in your house for them, so that it’s easier for them to alight from said space or utilize and “own” whatever items you might be using for communication (this is particularly useful if you use decks of cards for communicating). Or you could start each communication “session” with the same sound, song, scent, actions, etc. to create something very stable for the entity to latch on to.

I truly can’t overemphasize how stability and repetition can help an entity gain an easier entrance/access to this plane. If you can find a way to create a stable place for you and the entity to interact, it’ll make your interactions much more frequent and more productive.

But how can I create a stable space or practice if I know nothing about them?

This of course is the crux of so many things. It’s the ever present paradox of how can you create a space if you don’t know what they like? How can you communicate with them if you can barely communicate at all? How do I know what to offer if I don’t know what they like? How can I do anything without ensuring that I don’t upset them or make a social faux pas? There are multiple ways to tackle these problems, and there is no single right or wrong method to overcoming these challenges, but here are some recommendations that I can give.

Take Copious Notes

Even if you aren’t very good at communicating with your unknown entity, there has to be at least some level of communication in order for you to know that they exist. Take a close look at what you recall from the communications you’ve had with the entity. What did you notice about your interaction? What can you remember from it? Some things to take note of:

  • Clothing, hair style, form, manner of dress. Were they humanoid? Something else?
  • Location cues: where were you when interacting? what can you glean from the background/surroundings?
  • Were there any scents? How about sounds? Utilize all 5 senses when recalling an interaction
  • Did they have any mannerisms of note? Are they uptight? relaxed? Are they immaculately dressed or were they in the equivalent of “street clothes”?
  • What formats do they use to communicate with you most often? What can you glean from these methods?

Look at every angle of any interaction you’ve had with them, and write down as much as you can. I would recommend doing this for every interaction you have with them until you feel more comfortable with things. This will form the basis for everything that follows.

Apply Your Notes

The next step is to look at what you’ve written down and use them to create your stability. There will likely be no ready-made icons or statues that you could use for your unknown entity on a shrine, but you may be able to use something that already exists instead. If the person looked humanoid, you may be able to find a picture of a human that looks like them, print that image off, and use it as a sort of icon on your shrine space. If you’ve got art skills or know someone who can draw, you may be able to create an art piece depicting them, or commission a piece from someone else.

Alternatively, you may be able to look at what they’re wearing and include other things that are part of their ensemble. For example, I have a menz who loves high-end suits. So I might be able to use various fancier suit-bits in a shrine setup (think cuff links, tie bars, etc). I’ve got another entity that wears nothing but black and silver, and so his shrine space is quite literally nothing but black, silver, and white. I’ve got another menz who loves coffee and leather, and so I use those items to lure him into talking to me.

Use all of those notes that you took to find different things that you think might be helpful in creating a shrine/stable place that they might like. Keep in mind that this could change as you get to know the entity better. It’s entirely common to pick slightly off-base things when you first start out. That’s fine. The most important here is to find a place to start. Things tend to fall into place as you progress and get better at communicating.

Bridging the Gap

Speaking of communication, it’s worth noting that it may be very rough at first. When I first really started to try and work with my menz, communication was really really patchy. I couldn’t see worth a damn and I could barely hear on top of that. I’ve mentioned in the past that this sort of work has a learning curve, and so it’s important to remember to be consistent and persistent. It takes time and consistent effort (on both ends) for this sort of thing to work out and get easier.

When it comes to communicating with unknown entities, I’ve found that there are a few things that helped me bridge the gap. First is that I always brought some kind of energy or sustenance for the entity. Sometimes that involves raising energy using my body. Other times I would use music or sound as a form of energy. Other times it would be offerings or food. And sometimes a mixture of all of these. The reasons for this are two-fold. First is that the entity will possibly be inclined to work up the effort to come meet me because I’m giving them sustenance for their effort. I’m essentially paying them for their time, so they will be more inclined to prioritize seeing me. The second reason is that I’ve found that it often helps me to communicate better. This is less the case with food, but music, dancing or words of power will often help put my mind into a specific space that is ideal for working with the Unseen. And if both I and the entity are listening to the same thing, it helps to sync us up for better communication.

As mentioned above, I also found that consistency of timing helped, too. All of my menz know that I am available to talk during my lunch break, my walk home (which used to be my drive home), and after I have taken my nightly medication (all of which happen at about the same time every day). Back when I had more time to dedicate to the Unseen, I also had meditation/dance sessions regularly during the week during which we’d be able to talk or communicate with one another. Consistency helped all of us, because they could plan their day and include me in their planning/schedule. The consistency meant that we could sometimes dedicate one day to menz A, and another day to menz B, and everyone would get relatively equal attention and time. It also created something predictable, and if something came up on either side in terms of a conflict of schedule, we’d be able to notify the other that we wouldn’t be able to make it. That way, no one was left waiting around wondering why the other wasn’t showing up.

In many ways, it’s the same as having a relationship with a human. You usually make plans and plan for a certain time to meet up. I have found that using this system works for the Unseen, too.

But what if I get it wrong?

I think the biggest fear and hurdle so many people who worship unknown entities have is that they’ll screw up royally and ruin everything. Speaking as someone who has gotten it wrong several time over, both with known and unknown entities, I’d definitely say that getting things wrong is not the worst thing in the world. It’s normal to mess up. It’s normal to possibly not get things exactly right the first time you do stuff. Most entities that aren’t well known on earth come into relationships with an understanding that humans are limited in what they can glean from brief interactions with the Unseen. And if the entity you’re working to get to know gets cranky that you’re not up to speed fast enough, remind them that you’re doing the best, and possibly ask them if they have suggestions to make things easier for the both of you.

Sometimes entities will be able to give you better ideas than what I’ve given here. Each relationship is different, and entities from other parts of the Unseen may benefit from other methods than what I’ve listed above. These are simply guidelines to help get you started. If your entity has other suggestions, I recommend looking into them, because they certainly know their specific situation better than I would.

Have you ever worked with a relatively unknown entity? How did you build your relationship with them? What challenges have you faced that are different from working with known entities?

Related posts:

A note: A lot of these posts do focus on known gods, but the concepts are applicable to non-gods and unknown entities as well.

 

 

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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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Devoted without Devotion

I have a hard time talking about devotion. The word devotion, much like the word worship, has a lot of baggage tied to it. And if you ask several people how they define devotion, you’ll get all sorts answers back. As it turns out, we all have a lot of different ideas about what it means to be devoted to the gods. And it makes sense why a lot of people would have differing, and sometimes conflicting, ideas about devotion, as the definitions for the word devotion run the gamut:

de·vo·tion dəˈvōSH(ə)n/ noun
  • a feeling of strong love or loyalty: the quality of being devoted
  • the use of time, money, energy, etc., for a particular purpose
  • devotions: prayer, worship, or other religious activities that are done in private rather than in a religious service
  1. profound dedication; consecration.
  2. earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
  3. an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.: the devotion of one’s wealth and time to scientific advancement.
  4. Often, devotions. Ecclesiastical. religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

Some of these definitions are pretty straight forward: you spend a lot of time doing the thing, and that is devotion. Where as others definitely have more emotion involved: you feel strongly about the thing, and that is devotion.

When it comes to most discussions featuring devotion, I feel like the second definition (you feel strongly) tends to be the more prominent definition used, and that the bulk of the discussion has a lot of emotional overtone to it. A lot of people seem to believe that devotion is an act of love, or that perhaps your love pushes you to perform devotional acts. And it makes sense in a way- you don’t have to look very hard to see that many people in the wider Pagan and polytheist community have a lot of love for their gods. It’s pretty easy to find poems and hymns praising the gods; posts about how awesome the gods are, artwork and songs… the stuff is all over the place. And that’s a good thing! The gods are pretty cool, and it’s good that people feel good things about the beings that they are spending so much time focusing on and venerating.

But this post isn’t about having love for your gods. This post is about the exact opposite of that.

This post is about being devoted to beings that you don’t feel much of anything for, and how alienating and weird that kind of relationship can be.

As I’ve said in a few posts now, I don’t feel a whole lot about much of anything anymore, and if I do feel anything it’s usually on the sad/upset/negative side of things. That is to say on any give day, I’m usually either neutral or depressed. Happy, excited and positive don’t really seem to happen for me, and when they do it’s very fleeting. It took me a while to realize that this is how I’ve been for most of my life, and it likely is a byproduct of my depression.

As it turns out, this largely applies to my relationships with the gods, too. Unlike so many people who feel these immense emotions when they are around the gods, I am usually left feeling the same way I would if I were talking to anyone else. I don’t sit in front of my shrine and feel awe or humility or… anything. And even when I’m standing Over There talking to one of the NTRW, I still don’t feel anything different than what I would feel if I were talking to anyone else.

I don’t know if this occurs because I don’t view the gods as anything special, or if it’s my lack of feelings that has led me to not consider the gods as anything special. It’s really a case of the chicken and the egg-either could beget the other, and I couldn’t tell which came first, if either came first.

Not feeling anything for the gods leads to a very alienating experience in the community. It probably doesn’t seem that way on the surface, but over time I have noticed that it has become harder and harder for me to ignore the differences between my relationships and the relationships that other Kemetics seem to have with the NTRW. Of course, we all know that comparing ourselves to others is almost always a recipe for disaster, but I think its inevitable that each of us will at least compare notes from time to time with other co-religionists through discussion and interaction with one another. And it’s become very glaring to me that so many others can discuss and feel these things, and yet no matter how much I try, I just can’t seem to find the emotions locked within me.

When I first really realized that this is how my relationship actually was, I began to question if I was broken, or if I was doing something wrong. Maybe there were emotions somewhere that my depression was drowning out? But after months of looking, I still couldn’t find them. Even as the gods told me about the emotions that they have for me, I couldn’t find it within me to reciprocate, and I began to feel even worse. As I dug deeper into my own experiences and motivations, I really began to wonder why it was that I continued to work with the gods and focus on this Kemeticism thing if I didn’t really feel anything from it.

And I really think that this is key in a way. A lot of people come to religion in order to feel something. A lot of people left Christianity because they never felt anything for the god, the religious structure, or what have you. In many ways, if we don’t feel something from our actions, we stop repeating or performing the act. Many of us don’t pick religions because of logical decision making, we pick religions because they feel right to us.

The problem with feelings is that they can be misleading sometimes. I remember reading about Nehet’s reflections of tending a deity’s icon every day, and one of her recollections was that you won’t always feel super cool woo stuff every time you go into shrine. There are going to be some days where you are seriously just going through the motions and nothing else. And if you expect every single experience to make you feel something amazing or different or unique, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Being someone who has multiple mental illnesses, I know that I can’t always trust what I feel. I also know that I can’t always trust what I think, either, because sometimes it’s more my mental illness and chemical imbalances talking than myself. Perhaps its due to living this way for so long that I don’t really rely on feelings to motivate me or drive a lot of my actions. If I waited for feelings to give me the signal to get things done, I’d never get anywhere.

By the time I had reached this point, I began to wonder if it was a bad thing that I don’t feel anything for the gods. There are so many days when I feel like the only one who describes the gods as “ehhh” with a side of “wiggly hand movement”, and I couldn’t help but worry that maybe it was a problem on some level. However, neither of the gods I frequent seemed to care. Yeah, they get a little disappointed when they start talking about their feelings in regards to myself, and the best I can do is shrug in response, but outside of that, it’s never gotten in the way of the work they’ve asked me to do.

The only time it’s ever been a problem is when I’m talking with other humans about relationships with the gods, and particularly when we’re talking about devotion. Because it seems that so many people believe that action that isn’t coupled with emotion is somehow not as effective or desired.

But the truth of the matter is, you can be devoted to your gods and not have a bunch of love backing your actions. You can be extremely loyal to the gods and the religion you practice without having love flood your heart. You can be dedicated to the pantheon that you serve without having the warm fuzzies.

You can be devoted without feeling devotion. And more importantly, you can be effective as a devotee without feeling devotion. Our religion is supposed to be more about doing (orthopraxy) and less about feeling (orthodoxy), and yet it doesn’t seem to translate into how we view relationships with the gods. Even though most of the dialogue you see regarding deity-devotee relationships involves some element of emotion such as love, not every relationship needs that to be the focus in order to be successful.

Just like with my last post about pushing back against general narratives, I’m going to push against the narrative again and state that I am a devotee that doesn’t necessarily feel their devotion. My lack of feeling doesn’t make my actions any less sincere or any less effective. Who I am is enough for the gods- weird emotional ticks included. And if it’s enough for them, then it should be enough for me. And hopefully it is enough for everybody else, too.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 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?

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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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