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The Fight For Yourself

Before I start this post, I wanted to thank everyone who gave me feedback from my last post. It’s great to see that I still have a readership despite being awol for the past year or two, and I’m glad to hear that people like my less informative posts, and were still down with seeing more of my shadow work stuff. So a lot of love to all of you ❤ and with that, now for the actual post…

Being chronically ill is frustrating.

Of course, many of you reading this know that, but it bears repeating all the same — being chronically ill is frustrating. It’s a constant uphill walk, filled with schedules and things you have to do, along with a lot of not-doing things that you want to do. It requires a lot of will power and discipline, which illness loves to collect from you as though it were extracting a fee. It also costs a lot of money and time to be sick all the time. I’ve lost track of how much dough and how many hours I’ve dumped into various doctors appointments, prescriptions, supplements, etc.

When you consistently hate yourself, this battle becomes even more difficult. You end up burning the candle at both ends — telling yourself that you need to do something, because its good for yourself and will make life more bearable, while simultaneously hating yourself for being sick all the time, for making your own experience on this planet even more difficult and frustrating.

Or at least, that’s how it has always been for me.

When I first started therapy, one of the first things that we discussed was the fact that I was so super mean to myself. I was always super critical of everything I did. I was very much like a non-stop version of this:

There is a reason why so many of us end up with this sort of negative internal self-talk. To pull from someone who knows more about this than me:

A flashback-inducing critic is typically spawned in a danger-ridden childhood home. This is true whether the danger comes from the passive abandonment of neglect or the active abandonment of abuse. When parents do not provide safe enough bonding and positive feedback, the child flounders in anxiety and fear. Many children appear to be hard-wired to adapt to this endangering abandonment with perfectionism.

A prevailing climate of danger forces the child’s superego to over-cultivate the various programs of perfectionism and endangerment listed below. Once again, the superego is the part of the psyche that learns parental rules in order to gain their acceptance.

The inner critic is the superego gone bad. The inner critic is the superego in overdrive desperately trying to win your parents approval. When perfectionist driving fails to win welcoming from your parents, the inner critic becomes increasingly hostile and caustic. It festers into a virulent inner voice that increasingly manifests self-hate, self-disgust, and self-abandonment.

The inner critic blames you incessantly for shortcomings that is imagines to be the cause of your parents rejection. It is incapable of understanding that the real cause lies in your parents’ shortcomings. […]

A traumatized child becomes desperate to relieve the anxiety and depression of abandonment. The critic-driven child can only think about the ways they are too much or not enough. The child’s unfolding sense of self (the healthy ego) finds no room to develop. Their identity virtually becomes the critic. The superego trumps the ego.

In this process, the critic becomes increasingly virulent and eventually switches from the parents’ internalized voice: “You’re bad” to the first person: “I’m bad”.

This is unlike the soldier in combat who does not develop a toxic critic. This process whereby the superego becomes carcinogenic is a key juncture where ptsd morphs into cptsd.

(you can read more quotes from Walker’s CPTSD book here.)

In Kemetic circles, you will often hear about how one should “not eat their heart.” In a way, its saying not to devour yourself, to destroy your own essence. Arguably, it’s working against ma’at to eat your heart on a regular basis. It undermines your health, your life, and what the NTRW have given you. Yet for someone like me, eating my heart was all I seemed to be doing. It didn’t look like it on the surface, but deep down, I have always been mean and nasty to myself. I’ve always been bitter at my own limitations, at my own body, at not being what I thought I wanted to be (truthfully, I don’t think I even know what I wanted to be… back to not really having a clear goal of where I’m even going.) I think chronic illness adds another layer to all of this hell because it gives you even more “reasons” to hate yourself, and the society we live in often reinforces that hatred (because western culture doesn’t seem to like disabled people much.)

If my body is a microcosm of my world, and I were to translate how I treated myself to how the NTRW run the Duat, it’d be a case of only going to battle a/pep whenever it suited me. The citizens would cry out in the streets about how isfet was devouring the outer edges of our land, and I’d begrudgingly pick up my spear and bemoan about how I have to go do this yet again to keep our land safe. I’d be the most obnoxious “savior” anyone had ever met. And because of my lack of speed to even help battle a/pep, I’d then have to spend more resources cleaning up the damage after the fact. All because I wasn’t really in it to win it. My heart was gone, for I had eaten it. I wasn’t really fighting for myself as much as I was just… going through the motions and hoping it would work out.

And if we flip that narrative, how would you feel if you saw the gods drag their feet and get huffy every time they needed to go smite isfet? Would you have a lot of confidence in them? Would you want to put your energy into helping or backing them? Or would you be more inclined to not get involved? I suspect a lot of us would waver at the sight of our gods acting like that, and on an internal level, the same thing happens to our neglected selves, our inner children that watch our adult selves shirk off responsibilities and only half-assedly dole out love to our own beings, our own selves. As my inner child told me very early on in therapy, “You care more about your astral self than you do me. Why should I even talk to you.”

If there is one thing I could stress to everyone reading this, it’s that you have to be on your own side in order to win a fight against yourself (and by that, I mean, win a fight against your inner critic.) You can’t be passive in your love of yourself and expect to make headway in loving yourself.

I’m sure many of you are now saying “well that’s all good and well, but I don’t know how to stop hating on myself.”

The method that we used is rooted in the notion of having options. A major factor in PTSD and learned helplessness is the feeling of having no options to take. When we don’t perceive ourselves as having options, we feel like there is nothing we can do, that we are powerless; and often times it means that we don’t even give it an honest shot to try and be successful. The perception of having options (and therefore control in your life) is vital to moving forward.

We often generated options by asking ourself “well, what else might be true?” To give you a more concrete example, we often call ourselves lazy. When you find yourself saying “I didn’t finish it because I’m lazy”, you could ask yourself “what else might be true about that statement?” And you may very well realize that you’re not actually lazy, but are downright tired from a spoon shortage.

Another example might be “everyone hates me” converted into “I feel like everyone hates me.” One is a statement of absolutes, the other allows the possibility that maybe it’s not as bad as it feels right now.

The way that really made this concept stick for me was to step back from myself and go “if I was someone else looking in on me now, would I believe this is true?” Usually I am more forgiving of other people’s shortcomings and problems. I’m more able to be understanding and be lenient, to remind someone that they’re going through a lot, that they’re doing the best that they can. And in turn, I should be doing the same with myself.

I’ve found that this method works best with multiple people to help point out when you’re being mean to yourself. Very often, me and my SO will quip “what else might be true” or “why are you being so mean to yourself” whenever we start with the negative self-talk. It’s been very helpful for noticing those behaviours so that I can work to correct them.

If we believe that heka is an Important Thing, then we believe that our words have power and weight. And as such, we should therefore believe that mean words to ourselves are essentially our own internal execrations thrown against our own hearts. The more we execrate ourselves, the more salted the ground becomes, the less effective we become at everything. We are all amazing hekau — when it comes to execrating ourselves.

I propose that 2018 become the year that we master our internal heka, you know, the internal messages that we tell ourselves. That we truly start to fight for our own well being, for our own needs. That we open up to the possibility that we are not the pieces of shit our world has taught us to believe that we are. That we hold each other accountable, and ask each other to not be so mean to ourselves. That we help each other see our goodness and strong points. That we quit using our energy to break ourselves down, and instead utilize it to build ourselves up.

What untruthful things do you say about yourself? Have you considered whether negative self-talk could be damaging your relationship with yourself and your life? Will you end up working to create more options about how you talk about yourself?

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When One Door Closes…

I think it’s pretty obvious that I have fallen off of the wagon this year. I don’t even know if I could call it falling off the wagon, as it feels more like falling off the wagon and log rolling down the hill next to the wagon and into the bottom of the canyon that lies below. And then I fell into the river at the bottom of the canyon, and floated three states over.

I’m at that level of falling off the wagon.

As with most fallow times, I quit doing a lot of my work for the gods. I haven’t really done any work or rites since Wep Ronpet, and I’ve even gotten bad about opening my shrine so that I can at least look at the gods (and so the gods can look upon my wreck of a life house in return.) Over the course of the year, I’ve done less and less in regards to religious stuff.

So imagine my surprise when couple of weeks ago I got the urge to give an offering. It was an offering of cookies to O, and at first I thought it was more myself being petty at a past slight over cookies and Osiris, and so I ignored it. But the urge didn’t go away, and eventually after a few weeks of ignoring it, I decided to give in.

cookies_osiris

I’m sure many would expect that in this paragraph, I would talk about how I gave these offerings and suddenly felt the love of the gods. That they rushed forward to me and said “finally, you came back, we’ve missed you” or something equally pretty, but it would be a lie. Instead, I laid the offerings out, wafted the incense inside of the shrine, told them about what had been going on with me, gave well-wishes for their current affairs, and stared at the shrine box for a while before moving onto other things. I know this sounds boring, and it is. But it’s also realistic.

If I could sum up 2016 in terms of my Kemeticism, I’d say it was largely uneventful, just like my offerings above. It wasn’t uneventful by choice, but my body decided earlier in the year that it was Not Having Anything, and everything had to be put on hold in the wake of my health deteriorating. I’ve dealt with having spoon shortages in the past, having to muck through weird new health “things” while I held down a job and continued all of my extracurricular activities such as religioning, astral work, writing, etc. But this year was different. This time, my body went headlong straight into the ground and took me along for the ride.

By the time the summer hit my ability to do much of anything was gone. Not even gone like it used to be, where I mentally was ready to do everything but my body or time limits were preventing. Oh no, this is full on gone. Where even trying to construct sentences or read paragraphs of text is challenging. Where there are virtually no ideas in my head to even mull on, let alone the energy to mull upon them. Where trying to do housework is hard. Where trying to do much of anything is proving to be challenging. This is a whole new level of gone for me. This is completely unexplored territory in my life.

At first I tried to fight it. I figured I just needed to will up the nerve like in the past, and that I could push through it. “You can do things, just do them slower!” I’d tell myself. Until I found that just doing meant that I literally could barely function for a few days after the fact. “You can do things, just start the process and the rest will come!” as I try to write, but three paragraphs of barely legible sentences was enough proof to show me that it wasn’t something I could push through so simply like I could in the past. “You can still interact with the community if you just limit how often you go online!” as my eyes continued to glass over at the words on my screen, none of which were actually being processed. Every work around only succeeded in making my situation worse. Eventually, I had to give into the fact that this was my new normal for the time being, and that fighting it was doing me no favors.

They often say that when one door closes, another door opens, but that’s not necessarily true. Sometimes one door closes, and you’re left in a room with nowhere else to go. Sometimes life throws you a sucker punch, and your only option is to lay passed out on the ground for a while.

To put it in a more Kemetic context–sometimes your ma’at is running around smiting isfet all the time. Sometimes your ma’at is doing daily shrine work. Sometimes your ma’at is just surviving. Not everyone can do everything all the time. Sometimes we must retract ourselves from the world around us while we sort things out. Sometimes we need to prioritize meeting our bottom line of survival before we worry about other things. Sometimes a fallow period is very much a part of maintaining balance.

At the end of the day, this post has no real point to it other than to illustrate that “nothing” can happen to any of us. That life can throw a wrench in the works and sometimes we need to step back, and that that is okay. And further, that sometimes you will take a step back towards the gods, towards your religion, towards what you used to do before and not find an immediate reaction, and that that is okay too. A lack of response doesn’t necessarily mean that you messed up. The gods know, too, that fallow times have a place and a purpose. They know that sometimes we truly need a drop-everything-and-do-nothing sort of break.

This post is a reminder to be gentle with yourself when life hits you in the face and sends everything to a grinding halt. It’s a reminder that sometimes we have no choice but to sit down and be patient while we do next to nothing. A reminder that Kemeticism will still be here when you get back to it. That the gods will still be here when you get back to it, even if it’s not immediately apparent.

It’s a reminder that sometimes surviving the day to day is all that we can muster, and that there is no shame in that.

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Posted by on January 5, 2017 in Kemeticism

 

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The Internet Lacks Object Permanence

Over the years of interacting with people over the Internet, I’ve noticed that many people online seem to lack some amount of object permanence when it comes to other Internet users. Now, this isn’t object permanence in the strictest sense, obviously. I’m fairly certain that most of us have the ability to “understand that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way)”. But just because we get it on a superficial level doesn’t mean that it’s actually being absorbed and utilized on a deeper level.

Object permanence: what it is, and how I’m relating it to religion

For those of you who have never heard of the concept of object permanence, it’s basically the concept that you understand that things exist, even if you can’t see or experience  them directly. It’s something that most people develop when they’re still a toddler (there are some exceptions to this, as some disorders involve having difficulty with object permanence), and so most of you reading this probably do understand that when I place a cup in the cabinet and close the door, the cup still exists inside of the cabinet, even if you can’t see it. Your inability to experience this cup directly doesn’t make it suddenly vanish from existence.

You’d think that a group of people who spends a lot of time talking about entities that none of us can touch or see in the physical sense would have a really firm grasp of object permanence. In many ways, our entire religious experience is a drawn-out exercise in object permanence. We can’t necessarily experience our gods directly (as in: we can’t touch them, see them, or talk with them the way that we would a human), and so nearly everything that we do requires utilizing object permanence in order to be effective or successful in what we’re doing as practitioners.

However, it seems that many of us have a blind spot in our object permanence: other practices and how they are presented on the Internet by co-religionists. I think that objectively we understand that many of us aren’t talking about the entirety of our practices online, but it seems that many of us forget that on the regular. It seems that for a large portion of Internet users, if you’re not actively talking about it or posting about it, it doesn’t exist.

To use my cup and cabinet metaphor above, if I decide to keep part of my practice (the cup) in the cabinet because I don’t wish to share it with you (aka: I don’t post about it online), then a lot of people assume that the parts of my practice that are in the cabinet (the parts of my practice that I don’t openly discuss) don’t exist.

Or in other words, because I haven’t dredged up every aspect of my practice and put it on display for you, I’m obviously not doing those things ever, and those “missing” parts of my practice don’t exist.

Building roadblocks out of assumptions

This habit can be very damaging on multiple levels. First of all, it can create a very hostile environment where practitioners may use their assumptions (aka: assuming the cup stops existing because it’s in the cabinet) to berate or chastise other practitioners. This seems to manifest in a lot of ways, but the most common that I’ve seen is that people assume that because everyone only posts funny, lighthearted or “fluffy” stuff online, that none of them is actually serious in their religion or practice. This then bleeds into the belief that others aren’t historically driven enough, serious enough, or legitimate enough because they’re not seeing the “proper markers” to assume that someone isn’t making a joke of this very serious business known as religion.

These assumptions can then create a toxic environment where co-religionists have to worry about appearing “legitimate” enough to their peers in order to be taken seriously or given respect. Some members may feel pressured to over emphasize the “real” parts of their practice so that their peers will give them the time of day. Conversely, others may feel that they need to hide the “less legitimate” portions of their practice, or even stop talking or participating all together because of the pressure to meet this unstated standard of perfection that these assumptions have created for the community.

And as can be seen and witnessed in multiple communities right now, this dichotomy of “good enough” and “not good enough” creates a very large divide within a religion. It creates a divide between those who are deemed as legitimate and those who are not. You are either serious and follow a set protocol, or you are a pleeb who is “ruining our religion” and “disrespecting the gods” because we’re making assumptions about what your practice consists of based off of what you say online. The fact that you may go away from your computer where you’ve just posted 10 sparkly NTR gifs for funsies and are about to do a 3 hour long ritual means nothing if you’re not posting it online.

Destroying roadblocks by destroying our assumptions

To be honest, every time I see an instance of someone forgetting that people don’t display every aspect of themselves or their religious practice online, I get very sad. To me, it seems like such a waste to spend all of our time comparing practices and telling others that they’re doing it wrong because they don’t meet our own personal criteria for what makes a practice “correct.” It’s one thing if a community member is being problematic or hurting others with their practices, but honestly, if no one is being hurt by what they’re doing, why do we make such a big deal out of it? Why are so many of us more interested in judging how others practice or worship than tending to our own business?

I think the only way to actively work against the lack of object permanence that exists in our online communities is to actively work against our own assumptions that we make. Each of us makes assumptions about what others are doing or not doing, about how legitimate their experiences are or aren’t, and about how serious they may or may not be about their religious practice. We all do it, it’s part of human nature.

What’s important is to actively work against those assumptions, though. Even if you start to assume that someone has something wrong, maybe take a step back and ask yourself if it really matters. Does it really matter that someone sees a god with pink hair? Does it really matter that they’re offering to the gods in plastic solo cups? Does it really matter that people are joking about a god’s butt?

It’s a lot like the yardstick of dickery: is what is being said or done actually hurting anyone, or is it just bugging me? Is there any actual benefit from me saying something?

If the answer to both of these is no, then there isn’t really any need to get upset over it. And it’s important to remember that what we’re seeing online is not the totality of anyone’s practice. Just because someone might appear to be practicing one way online doesn’t mean that that is all that their practice consists of.

And as I’ve said a million times before, if the behaviour is truly damaging to the gods, we should learn to trust that the gods will handle it in their own time using their own methods.

Learning to work together with something as personal and important as religion can be challenging, but the sooner we learn to ease up on our assumptions, the better off things will get. Learning to remember that no one shows every aspect of their practice online is important, as is remembering that different deity-devotee relationships can take different forms. The more that we can work to find common ground between different methods of practice within Kemeticism, the better off our entire community will be.

Do you have issues with assuming too much about others’ practices based off of what they showcase online? Have you ever assumed something about a practitioner’s practice, only to have that assumption proved wrong later on? How do you stop yourself from assuming too much about your co-religionists?

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Posted by on June 22, 2016 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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A Shrine for Traveling

I love boxes. Boxes are so useful for holding things ever-so-nicely, and they look nice when they’re all stacked up neatly. I have so many decorative boxes laying around my house just waiting for the right stuff to be placed in them. Some might say that I have a problem, but seriously. I love boxes.

I have been holding onto a box for a long time now. For those of you have been hanging around TTR for a while probably recognize this box. It appeared in my Wep Ronpet 2014 photos, and that’s just how long I’ve been holding onto this box, waiting to give it its purpose.

Travel_shrine_closed

Unlike a lot of my other boxes, I knew exactly what stuff I wanted to put inside of it, but I was waiting for the spoons to make it happen. As soon as my SO had removed his headphones from this Beats box, I knew that I wanted to turn it into a travel shrine due to its size and obscurity. I just needed to find the energy to put it together.

Originally, I wanted to make a custom image to go inside of this box. I was going to create a scene where these shrine boxes would be painted on the back of the interior, and then I was going to have offering tables on either side of each god’s shrine, and then possibly cap everything off with images of stars, the sky, and the Nun. As pretty and nice as it sounded, two years in waiting, I never once managed to sit down and make it happen.

A few weeks ago I was at a craft store for something else, and I noticed this really nice geometric paper. It looked pretty and struck me as something that could go inside of my travel shrine box. Since I wasn’t getting around to actually making the art that was supposed to go inside, and I couldn’t tell when I’d actually have the energy or desire to make said art, I thought that this paper might be a nice work around. It’s shiny and pretty and looks expensive, so it’ll totally work, right?

Travel_shrine_Open_002

I’m actually fairly happy that I didn’t do the artwork that I wanted for this shrine piece. Originally, I had wanted to orient the box to be on it’s side, so that the “wing” you see hanging out on the left in the picture above would actually have been laying flat on the ground, with the drawer being beneath the gods, as opposed to being on the left side. However, I ended up making the drawer a little too tall, and Osiris’ statue didn’t fit in ideally in the original orientation, so I decided to flip things on their side (literally). If I had put all of the effort into the artwork, it would have been a very sad day when I went to put the statues in, and found that they didn’t fit.

The gold back plate is made of nothing but paper that has been cut down to the proper size, and formed into a box. I haven’t permanently adhered it to the interior of the box, as it seems to stay in place fairly well all on its own. The drawer is made similarly- of paper that has been cut down to the proper size and shaped into a box. Originally, this box had a divider that was fairly central, but I trimmed down the edges in order to create the space that you see for the drawer. If I wanted, I could have removed the divider entirely, and utilized the entirety of the interior of the box.

Travel_shrine_Open_005

When you first open this travel shrine, you’ll notice that it doesn’t look like much of anything. I kept the original headphone holder as a sort of “cap” to place on top of the shrine before I close it. That way, all of the contents are very secure inside, and if someone gets nosy and opens it, they might get disinterested and not bother to look beneath the cap.

Once you remove the cap, you can see that I have fabric in place to keep my statues safe during transit. On the left, I have placed a portable offering tray and ritual rubric inside of the black sleeve. I also have enough room that I could easily put a book of matches, incense, amulets, or other relatively narrow items inside.

Travel_shrine_Open_003

Shrine when it’s set up.

To the left of the gods’ naos, I have a drawer where I have stored incense, natron, and some votive offerings. It’s very likely that when I’m out traveling, I’m going to offer actual food and water on actual dishes, but I thought it would be nice to have votive offerings to keep the gods fed while the shrine isn’t in use. Plus, if I ever happen to be in a situation where I don’t have access to these things, I will have backups in place. You can also see in the picture above the small rubric that I’ve made.

Close-up of drawer and its contents

Close-up of drawer and its contents

Originally I had wanted to write the offering formula on the drawer, so that way it would relate to the offerings inside. However, I wasn’t sure about the translations that I was finding, and I was doubly not sure about being able to fit an entire offering formula on the front of such a small drawer. So instead I decided to place ma’at feathers on the front. That way the gods are getting their daily dose of ma’at as well.

Some of the other perks of this setup is that I can easily remove the golden back plate and swap it out for something else if I felt like it. That means that one day, I could actually make the art in the correct proportions, and put that in place if I ever got the spoons to do so. I could also write heka and place it behind the back plate, if I wanted. I could also decorate the outside of the box to include more protective heka, but in this case I’d rather leave the box unassuming in appearance. That way no one gets the inkling to explore its contents. I think that this setup could easily work for a full time shrine on the DL, if you wanted. It would be small, but it would be very discreet.

Travel_shrine_Open

I’m super happy to finally have a travel shrine that is more formal than what I’ve used in the past. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting to make, but I think it’s turned out nice all the same.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2016 in Kemeticism

 

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Not All Polytheists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

allhousesmatter

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

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

Relevant Posts:

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

 

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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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A Religion of Boredom

Religion is great, right? You get to learn new stuff. You get to develop a personal practice that works well for your needs. You get the opportunity to develop relationships with the gods. You get the chance to give the gods cool stuff, and sometimes they give cool stuff back. You get to try new things, and many times you get to work on your personal stuff, too. It’s a never-ending trail of “where the hell are we going, again?”

But the truth of the matter is, no matter how much religioning you do, religion can be incredibly boring from time to time.

You know the kind I mean. It’s the kind where you wake up one morning, and you’re preparing your offerings for shrine, and you realize “Wow, I’ve done this same ritual for 6 months now. And I haven’t heard a single peep from the gods in almost the same amount of time. And I think I’ve offered them the same basic offerings for the past two weeks. And wow this is boring- why am I doing this again?” And then once you’ve hit that point, most of us get this rush of fear and anxiety. We begin to wonder if we’re doing it wrong. “Is it okay to not hear from the gods for 6 months? Is it bad to offer the same exact thing day after day? Oh no, maybe they’re not talking to me because I’m doing it wrong!” And so everything rushes down the gutter as the waves of inadequacy wash over you.

But like I said above- religion is sometimes boring. For everyone.

There will always be times when your gods don’t hang around much. There will always be times when you’re not asked or required to do a whole lot in terms of service to the gods. Even the priests in ancient times had breaks in their service. And even when you are being asked to get things done, there will always be times when you still feel pretty bored or inadequate. There will always be lulls in what you’re doing.

I think that the idea of boredom having a place in religion is foreign to us because so much of the media that is out there for us to consume about religion (and paganism specifically) purports this idea that there is always something going on. It’s been stated in many places that people rarely write about when nothing is happening. It’s hard to make posts out of literal nothing, and many of us don’t bother to write about the day to day, more mundane aspects of our practices. This is a great disservice to the wider community, because I think that many newcomers assume that once you start running down the hill into paganism, that you never stop running.

But if you never stopped running, your legs would get awful tired. If you don’t stop going full steam ahead, eventually you will tire out. In that respect, we need some aspect of boredom in our practice. We need to have times where nothing major is going on, so that we can recuperate and gather up our energy for other things.

For a comparison, think of your daily life. Do you ever take time to rest or wish that you had time to rest? Do you have a job that is non-stop go go go go go go GO GO GO? And if your job is like that, do you ever wish that there was a brief point in time where you could just sit at your desk and simply be for a few minutes? If your religion ran you ragged, you’d feel the same way. Even in our current society (speaking for the US), you are legally entitled to two breaks per day, because it’s well known that rested workers work better.

If we apply those same concepts to religion, I think that it would make sense that the gods would step back from time to time to allow us room to breath. If we are constantly running all the time, we will burn out. We need time to go through the basic motions without anything additional thrown onto the pile. And in turn, it’s very likely that the gods need their own time, too. Even if a deity only has about 50 devotees- imagine how much time must be spent giving daily attention to each and every individual, on top of whatever the deity is already working on. The gods have a lot going on that isn’t centered on us or our shrine and offering habits. It makes sense that they won’t always be around.

Okay, so boredom is normal, and sometimes necessary. What do I do about it?

If you google “relationship boredom” you will find that there are thousands of hits talking about nearly every aspect of relationships and how people react when they become normal (read: boring). Out of all of the angles that could be covered about relationships and their normalcy, you’ll find the most common topic is “how to make your relationship exciting again”. There are posts that are similar to that in the religious community, too. If you read through the KRT topic on Fallow Time, you’ll see that many people give some suggestions for how to break out of a fallow period and restart your religious practice again. However, being bored isn’t quite the same as fallow time. Fallow time usually involves a complete breakdown or degradation of your religious practice. Boredom is usually a sign that things are becoming normal or stable.

Speaking as someone who has been in a relationship with the same person for about ten years now, I can assure everyone who is reading that boredom is part of every solid relationship. There are some days that my SO and I don’t hardly talk at all because there is so little to talk about. We sit at our respective computers and work on our personal endeavors. We get up and spend a little time together, and then go back to doing our own thing. This isn’t a sign that we’re dysfunctional as much as it is a sign that we’re comfortable.

You can’t expect each day to have new and exciting stuff. When you live a relatively repetitive life (which most of us do), you’re going to have days when nothing exciting is going on. This isn’t necessarily bad, it’s simply a part of life. By trying to fight this regularity, you’re creating unnecessary stress for yourself that needn’t be there. Don’t be afraid of consistency or the boredom you may initially feel when you realize things have become somewhat wrote. You’re not doing anything wrong. Surely the priests in antiquity got bored with the same daily rituals that would be performed day after day after day. And when that boredom struck, I’m fairly certain the temple didn’t up and decide to spice things up by changing the structure of the shrine rituals. I’m fairly confident that the gods are used to the daily grind of consistent rites and offerings because that’s how it was done “back in the day”. If anything, its we modern practitioners that need to learn to become more okay with consistency and repetition.

So instead of telling you how to make your practice more exciting again, I’m going to recommend something very different. I’m going to suggest that you learn to become okay with the feeling. Remind yourself that this is part of the process of something new becoming something normal, and that the rites and offerings in antiquity rarely changed, so it shouldn’t be a huge deal if you do the same rites and give the same offerings day after day after day. When the first wave of “oh no, I’m messing up” hits you, take a step back and tell yourself that it’s okay. Push through the feelings as best as you can and keep performing your rites as you normally would and see how the feeling shifts or changes over time. Odds are you’ll find that everything becomes more okay as you continue your practice.

Have you ever felt bored with your religious practice? How did you handle these feelings? Any advice for anyone experiencing boredom in their religious pursuits?

Related Posts:

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2016 in Kemeticism

 

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