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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Bringing it All Together

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of how to set up a calendar, I wanted to try and bring everything together by showing you my calendar. Throughout this series, I’ve tried to use various examples that aren’t just from my region, in a hopes of showcasing different ways these ideas can be applied, but the problem is that I don’t know any other region on earth like I know AZ. And so some of my information, in my opinion, gets lost in trying to make it applicable to everyone. So to try and fix that, and show you how the ideas laid out in the past four posts come together, we’re going to go over what I’ve got going so far.

Please keep in mind this calendar is still a work in progress, so some sections may still be incomplete, but hopefully this gives everyone a better idea of what a relatively complete calendar could look like. For where I live, at least.

Direction, Background, Context

There are two things that brought me to want to make a calendar that better reflected my local area. The first is that I’m rubbish at actively planning out my gardening projects. When you’re gardening as a means to try and feed yourself, there are a lot of things that need to be done at regular intervals if you want to be successful. And if there is one thing I’ve found I’m not great at — its being diligent and timely in gardening tasks. My original hope was that maybe I could create holidays or rites or something that would help me to better plan and participate in my gardening adventures.

As such, you’re going to notice that a lot of my holidays and days of importance are tied to gardening, and all of the extra tasks that come along with it. And since the weather isn’t always consistent year to year, you’ll find that a lot of my holidays are more generalized in their placement, since things may vary year to year.

The second reason that I wanted to make a calendar is because our weather is changing every year. I think part of me hoped that by participating in the cycles of weather, trying to perform rites that help to encourage the weather to be as it’s always been might help to ease the discomfort of losing the predictability that comes with not having climate change. From a Kemetic perspective, it was the job of humans to help keep things moving smoothly and regularly. Our participation helped the gods be timely, helped to ensure successful inundations, helped to ensure survival. And while I’m not saying that doing rituals to bring the weather where it needs to be will solve anything, I can’t help but wonder how it may effect me all the same.

As I tried to combine both of these needs/wants, I found that the basic information you use for site assessment in permaculture could translate into making a calendar and eventually sat down to write the process out for everyone here. Ultimately, I think the end goal for all of us is to end up having a sense of place. A sense of being from a location, existing in a particular region or space, and not constantly feeling like we’re dragging something from somewhere else into a land that is ultimately not ours. While also not disregarding the past that led so many of us to be on land that is ultimately not ours.

It’s due to trying to find that sense of place that my calendar doesn’t have a lot of really in-depth ritual work. I’ve had this really bad problem for most of my “Kemetic career” where I seem to believe that if I make something Important and Detailed and Ornate and Involved, I will be more inclined to Get It Done. But if the Year of Rites taught me anything, its that people are what bring me to Get Things Done. The only times I’ve ever been able to genuinely participate in ritual work is when others were involved, even if only indirectly. As such, my calendar is less about ritual, and more about how to find ways to Be Present in my natural surroundings, and also how to get other people to participate in stuff with me. It’s less about sitting in front of a shrine case, and more about doing yard work outside with someone else.

I bring this up to really drive home that your priorities don’t need to be the same as mine, and your methods of celebrating don’t need to look like mine. However, I really wanted everyone reading to have an understanding of the context behind the choices I’ve made in what to include or exclude from my calendar.

And with that, let’s (finally) get started.

List of Holidays

Just to make it easier, here is my calendar without all of the additional information tied to it:

  • January 1: Wep Ronpet the Second
  • Feb – April: The Smiting of Stinknet, weekly to daily
  • Feb 22: Basking in Greenness
  • March 5: Gathering and Drying
  • March 15: Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at
  • Late March – Mid April: Transition month
  • April 10: Gathering and Drying
  • April 12: Return of the Vultures
  • April 25: Desert Hanami
  • First day of 100F, usually late April, early May: The Great Farewell, The Long Dry Begins
  • May 5: Winnowing and Sorting
  • May 15: Seeking Out and Spreading Ma’at through the Land
  • May 20: Gazing Upon the White Crowns
  • June 15: Feasting Upon the Red Crowns
  • June 30: Collecting of the Beans
  • July 1: Enticing the Monsoon
  • Monsoon Season: Greeting the Storm (floating)
  • First week of humidity: The Great Relief, Monsoon season begins
  • First weekend in August: Wep Ronpet
  • Sept 25: Gathering and Drying
  • October: Transition month
  • October 5: Preparing the fields for growth
  • October 10: Winnowing and Sorting
  • October 15: Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at
  • November 20: The Short Mild Begins
  • November-December: Celebrating the First Rain (floating)
  • Dec 15: Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at

I wasn’t sure how to organize the information for this calendar, so I’ve decided to walk you through our seasons, and discuss the holidays as they come up within their seasons. There are a series of holidays listed above that occur multiple times per year. I’ll cover those in the “Transitions” section after the seasons.

A Place of Two Seasons: The Long Dry

The Long Dry usually begins in early May, with a month of transition starting in late March. During a bad year, the Long Dry will start in early April (yes). You’ll know when the Long Dry is here, because our evaporation rate will sky rocket, and everything needs to be watered more regularly. As dry as the Short Mild might be, the Long Dry is, by far, dryer yet. Days are above 90F every day, and during peak season, your nights will be in the 90’s.

The transition to this season is marked by the Great Farewell, which is usually the first day that is over 100F. We call it the Great Farewell because you’re saying farewell to your comfort for the next several months. This day is spent making sure everything is prepared for the heat that’s about to set in; including things like sun shades for plants and animals, extra water bowls for the outside critters, mulch to protect the roots of our plants, etc.

The Long Dry begins with a bang, because everything will be yellow. The short span of transition that leads us into this season is filled to the brim with active life and changes. Things come into flower, bees are everywhere, lizards, vultures, and moths all begin to reappear, and you have to actively watch out for snakes again. The first holiday of the season, Seeking Out and Spreading Ma’at through the Land, is about foraging for local seeds, and dispersing them in the more denuded parts of our area. These seeds are the remnants of the Short Mild, and the first casualties of the Long Dry. As the season progresses, all of our plants slowly begin to die back or hibernate, and only the hardiest desert plants tend to survive without human assistance. One of the first things that is available to harvest and eat are Palo Verde beans and Saguaro fruit.

This brings us to Gazing Upon the White Crowns and Feasting Upon the Red Crowns — the next two holidays that occur during the Long Dry.

The Saguaro is a big deal in AZ. It only grows in the Sonoran desert, and it’s sacred to the indigenous people who live here. Every year, the older saguaros around the state will produce flowers that then turn into edible fruits. These white flowers usually form something of a “crown” on the top of the saguaro, and they can be hard to spot, since they are often open for only 24 hours or so. The first half of this holiday involves simply paying attention to these crowns, noticing which cacti are producing flowers this year, and giving homage to what they provide to our ecosystem.

The second half of this holiday is about collecting the fruits, which are a nice red color. Now, I have the benefit of being able to refer to the indigenous traditions relating to collecting fruit, but I honestly don’t want to appropriate or overstep onto something that isn’t mine to utilize. So for our purposes, it will likely be only a household thing, as I wouldn’t want to attract too many people and overtax our local ecosystem. A lot of animals rely on these fruits for sustenance throughout the Long Dry, and so we won’t be removing too many, just in case. I’m also fairly certain that none of the saguaro around here are claimed or utilized by any indigenous people, so we’ll stick to what is local so that we don’t accidentally take from someone.

Very likely, this will end up being a ritualized form of foraging, where we will utilize our saguaro ribs, go out and look for some pods that are ripe and that we can reach. And then take these home to celebrate and eat as part of a fancier meal. Ideally, I think I would like to find a way to give to the saguaro itself, or the various pollinators that help create these fruits, but I’m not entirely sure what that will look like yet.

The next holiday is the Collecting of Beans, which are the result of the yellow flowers that dot the landscape in April. These bean trees are vital to sustaining virtually everyone through the Long Dry. The beans can be eaten green, or stored indefinitely. They can be eaten whole as a bean, or ground into a flour that has a sugary flavor. There are often milling parties in the summer for people to bring their collected beans and have them ground up.

There is a micro season that occurs in the Long Dry: monsoon season, which is marked by the Great Relief.

Traditionally, monsoon season began in mid-June, but more and more it’s started in late July. You’ll know when monsoon season is here because it’ll be humid (for here), and the dew point will be above 50% daily. This is the only rain you’ll usually get during the Long Dry season (usually half of our yearly average), but with climate change, we’re getting less and less rain. Last year barely even got humid. This is a problem for us, because without this humidity, there is no growing anything outside (easily) until October. Even though humidity is awful, it is a huge relief when the humidity shows up, as it allows both plants and animals to cope a little bit better with the scorching summer sun.

Enticing the Monsoon is meant to be a series of rites that helps to encourage the monsoon upwards to our area. Traditionally, I would create new windchime clappers that go onto a certain set of chimes that only ring when a storm front is coming in (usually). I’m hoping to expand it so that once the Great Relief shows up (if it does,) we celebrate by planting monsoon crops and digging some basins to help make sure they get as much water as possible. I would like to potentially utilize some of the concepts present in the Beautiful Reunion, but I’m still working out details.

Monsoon season usually ends around the second week of September, and the Long Dry will recommence until sometime in November.

A Place of Two Seasons: The Short Mild

The Short Mild is also called snowbird season down here, and it’s when stuff is actually green and you can go outside without dying. Most Kemetics will note that the Mysteries happens during this season, and while most of you get to experience Osiris as nothing but death and coldness, I actually have nothing but greenness and growth occurring during this period. The Short Mild is a respite in every sense of the word, and is one of the main reasons many Arizonans choose to live here: “because the winter is mild.”

The Short Mild is a heavy planting season for us, and most earth moving projects come to a halt to allow as much growth as possible to occur. Traditionally, we would have a spike in cold temperatures between the last week of December and the second week of January, but this isn’t always holding true anymore. We typically have winter rains that help to make up for the other half of our annual water, and I would like to celebrate that first rain whenever it occurs, and potentially every time it occurs, because it allows us to save so much water (and money) because nature waters our plants for us.

The second half of the Short Mild is full of growth, which makes it prime invasive-killing time, since the goal is to pull the plants up before they go to flower in March. Currently, AZ is having a huge problem with Stinknet. This plant was categorized as merely a “noxious weed” two years ago, but after last year’s Super Bloom, there has been a huge push to cull Stinknet wherever we can. In the past year, my property went from having only two plants on it, to having a third of an acre covered in it. As such, it will now be a yearly “thing” to go out and clear out the Stinknet before it sets in.

At the peak of this season, I usually go out twice per day to remove as much as possible. I’ve learned to create something of a ritual out of it, as my household is quite allergic to the pollen, so I keep a separate set of clothes and gloves specifically for this purpose. There are also elements of learning how to lean into “doing what you can”, since its very challenging to remove every instance of an invasive species across multiple acres of land. Next year, we’d like to turn this into a community celebration, where people can come help us pull it out, and we can all have a big meal together.

Basking in the Greenness exists in the heart of the most growth during the Short Mild. This is when almost everything is at it’s prime before the heat and chinch bugs of March kick in. So this is the best time to really enjoy nature’s splendor, and eat from our local area.

Transitions: The Busiest Times of Year

The transitory months that exist between the two dominant seasons in our area are the busiest times of year for us as we harvest and process all of the growth from the past 4 months, and prepare for the changes that will be arriving once the seasons shift. Both of these periods include holidays with similar themes, which I’ve gathered together here.

Preparing the fields for growth | Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at | Gathering and Drying | Winnowing and Sorting

All of these holidays are part of the cycles of growing food. Preparing the Fields for Growth is exactly as it sounds — going out and preparing all of our beds for new seeds and new plants. This would involve adding amendments to the soil, if necessary, setting up new planters when possible, and gathering needed supplies for when we do the next holiday: Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at.

To me, seeds are very much ma’atian in nature. They contain aspects of the Nun: formless creation, the ability to become a thing, but not having embarked on that transition/journey yet. Seeds are the way in which nature helps to take care of us, and by spreading seeds and growing plants, we in turn help take care of nature. By aligning these with ma’at, you create a nice feedback loop wherein you grow ma’at, and then harvest ma’at, offer and eat the ma’at, and then gather it and save it for the next cycle next year.

Gathering and Drying and Winnowing and Sorting are both parts of the harvesting process in our house. I’m not sure how readily known this is, but a lot of the time you can do one of two things with a plant: you can eat its fruit (or vegetables,) or you can collect its seeds. It can either feed you now, or produce seeds that will feed you later. We always let at least a few plants go to seed because we’re always trying to make sure that we’re accounting for future needs. This is also because getting seeds from a plant that is grown in your area means the plant is more accustomed to your climate, and will be more hardy the more generations exist in the same climate. Since most places that produce seeds are not in the desert, its up to us to make sure that we acclimatize our seeds as best as possible. Part of this process also involves giving seeds back to the land. We always leave at least a few seeds/seed pods outside to see how they fare, and to feed the local wildlife.

All aspects of these holidays can be ritualized and involve offerings of the seeds and food harvested to the land or gods. Ideally, the harvesting and processing portions of these holidays will involve other people, and we can have a big meal and seed share to commemorate the changing of a season.

And that is currently what I have for my calendar. It’s not perfect, and there are still a lot of holes in it, but I’m sure that as the years pass, I will notice new things in the area around me, and be able to create more robust holidays that hopefully involve more people.

If you end up creating and posting your own calendar, let me know! I’d love to see how other people interpret these ideas and apply them to their local regions.

Other Posts in this Series:

 

 

 

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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Folding in Religion

So we’ve finally made it to the last post in the “tutorial” portion of this series on how to go about setting up a region-specific calendar. We’ve gone over what sorts of information to gather for this process, how to determine your seasons and come up with a basic starting point for your calendar, and how to begin to create associations to help flesh out your holiday celebrations. In this post, we’re going to talk about how to fold in elements from pre-existing religious practices, concepts, and mythologies.

Now, even if you don’t have any religious elements that you want to incorporate into your calendar, I would still recommend browsing this post, because I feel that some of the information I’m going to discuss would still be applicable to anyone embarking in this process. And, as always, this post will be written largely from a Kemetic perspective because that is what I know in terms of religions and mythology. If anyone else ends up writing info pages on this from their religious perspective, let me know and I can link it here.

Deity Associations: A Starting Point

I think one of the easiest places to start this topic from is drawing direct natural associations between the elements in your calendar/region and your deities. It seems that most polytheistic religions have deities that are tied to the sun, tied to harvest, tied to water features; and so these deities could easily be incorporated into any local/seasonal aspects that correspond to their domain. For Kemetics, that means you could focus on Re during the summer, maybe Kephri during the spring, when the sun is more “new” and fresh, and perhaps Atum-Re for the fall as the sun becomes less prominent during the winter. You could also incorporate Aten during your solar season, if your location has one.

If you have a season that’s known for having an abundance of growth in terms of either plants or fauna, you may find that you could incorporate deities tied to fecundity or farming/agriculture. Whether you’re growing these plants that you can eat, or going and foraging for things to eat, you could invoke deities on either end of either process. Asking the gods for assistance with a good growing season or good luck with foraging, and then thanking them after you’ve brought in lots of good things to eat. Folding in additional aspects of what allows this growth to happen would be another way to create new groupings of deities that aren’t specific to antiquity.

This also applies to local fauna and flora. For example, if you’ve got geese that migrate through your area, perhaps you could incorporate Geb into celebrations that occur during that “season.” Hathor has associations with oaks, so incorporating her into acorn collecting or processing might be worth considering. Wenut is tied to rabbits, which often have their own roles in local ecology that could be played into. It seems that nearly every deity collects a bunch of associations with both plants and animals, and so those could be used pretty much the same way that the seasonal associations would work.

To create an example that incorporates the last two paragraphs, if you were going to do the acorn gathering above: you could fold in Osiris for his exudations that allow for excellent soil that fosters good growth, Re for his solar properties that allows the trees to grow, Shu for the air that brings the rains to the area where these trees grow, and Hathor for her association with acorns, perhaps overlapping her joy with the joy that acorns bring to your belly when properly processed.

Of course, there are some other more nuanced ways to align these associations. For example, we’ve got something called the Ironwood tree down here in AZ. It’s a keystone species, which means its already something of a sacred plant to begin with, but there are qualities of the tree that really remind me of my gods.

First is the use of the word “iron” in its name. This often comes from two aspects of the tree’s wood: its ashen color that is similar to iron in nature, and the fact that the wood is considered very hard and very durable. There are trees that have been dead for over a century, but their remains still dot the landscape due to the high poison content that is present within the wood. Literally, the poison is what makes the wood last forever.

Second is that this tree is vital to the survival of many plants and animals throughout the desert. Each tree is said to support and play a role in the survival of over 500 other species in the desert. This tree is both a survivor and a source of sustenance. To me, this tree is a culmination of both Setian and Osirian properties. The iron associations, the ability to survive even better than other desert plants during the harshest conditions, and the use of literal poison to create a means of existing indefinitely all seem like Setian traits. The fact that the tree is responsible for the survival of many species during the worst parts of the year in AZ, the sustenance that it provides for the desert, plus its capacity to endure for literal centuries after death all feel very Osirian in nature.

What I’m trying to get at is that your associations needn’t be super direct to be applicable. Always be willing to dig deeper to find your gods in places you wouldn’t expect. There are lots of ways to see our gods in the world around us, and the more we learn about the plants and fauna that live around us, the easier it becomes to find our deities in our local area.

Once you’ve found an association that resonates with you, you could then find ways to weave it into any current practices you have. For example, I could potentially do rites for Set or Osiris under or around one of our local Ironwoods. I could also reverse that and involve Set or Osiris in any celebrations centered around Ironwood trees. Or perhaps I could find a piece of wood or seed pods to offer to the deities in question. It would also make sense to utilize the seeds as part of a food offering as well. In this way, I would be bringing a small part of where I live to each ritual that I do, thereby closing the gap between the traditional location-based practices and my local area.

Religious Symbols and Concepts

Pretty much every religious tradition has symbols, themes, and concepts that infiltrate the mythology and living practices of anyone who participates in the religion. For Kemetics, we’ve got ma’at and isfet, we’ve got trees that give life, benben mounds that herald transformation and birth, just to name a few. When you’re trying to fold your religion into your calendar, I feel that using these symbols and concepts is a good way to begin to bridge the gap.

Solar Bathing

Something that seems to have been done with some regularity in antiquity is the idea of bathing icons in sunlight. In some locations, this can be done almost anytime of the year (like Egypt,) but for those who live in places where the sun isn’t constantly visible, it may be worthwhile to pay special attention during the solar season that is present within your region. During this time, it may be beneficial to plan to take any important amulets, icons, or other religious paraphernalia outside where it can soak up some rays.

Rejuvenation and Rebirth

There were many parts of the natural world that the ancient Egyptians decided to embody in their religious symbolism in the form of rejuvenation and rebirth. There were flowers that rose and fell with the sun, blooming once the rays hit the water; that were incorporated into the mythology surrounding Nefertem, and by extension, Re. Re, of course, living a non-stop cycle of rebirth and rejuvenation that is embodied by the sun. There is also the annual cycling of the river that sustained ancient Egypt, often embodied in the mythology surrounding Osiris (at least by the later periods of Egyptian history,) and to a lesser degree, involves aspects of Sekhmet, as plague was more likely to set in when the river was running low (or completely gone.)

Most of us will have our own examples of plants that rise and set with the sun, of animals that come out to greet the sun, of plants that die back during one season only to be rejuvenated once the weather shifts later in the year. Looking for these examples in the world around us, and then seeing where they might dovetail nicely with our pre-existing stories regarding this theme will allow us to see our gods in our immediate surroundings, and provides opportunities to find new ways to celebrate the rebirth that is occurring.

Battling Isfet, Instilling Ma’at

For Kemetics, one of the biggest directives in our religion is to maintain ma’at and get rid of isfet. And if there is one thing that we could do that would help our local ecology (and therefore ma’at) probably more than anything else, its by pushing back invasive species. In a sort of juxtaposition against keystone species, invasive species are plants and fauna that actively destroy and degrade a particular ecosystem. These are usually species that existed in balance within a given ecological system, but were moved into a foreign space that they then began to take over.

Most places try to have “round ups” where people will gather and work to pull out and remove invasive plants that occur at specific times in the year (timed to the cycles of the species that are being removed, usually.) For those of us who are interested in this work, it wouldn’t be hard to create an annual holiday where you go out and join these groups of people to help push back isfet (by removing the invasive species) and help restore ma’at (because you’ll usually replace what you removed with new plants or new seeds.)

And if invasive species are not your thing, there is always trash collecting and cleaning that occurs in many places across the globe. Another way of instilling ma’at would be to learn restorative gardening and land-keeping practices, this is particularly if you happen to own or oversee any property. That way you can make sure you’re not accidentally adding to isfet by mismanaging what happens to the land that you live on.

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but I hope that it gives you something of an idea of how you can begin to bring your local areas and your pre-existing religious practices closer without being appropriative. In the final post of this series, I will go over some of the holidays that I’ve created for my area, and how I’m starting to work on folding religious practices into my calendar.

 

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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Developing Associations and Themes

So while we have the backbone of our calendar that was generated in the last post, you’ll note that many of these holidays lack any real direction for how to exactly celebrate them or participate in the natural shifts around you. This post and the next are here to help you flesh out your calendar by exploring ideas, themes, and associations you can link up with your holidays.

The backbone we made in the last post is meant to give you a basic framework to build around. From here, we’re going to utilize all of the information we still haven’t touched from the first post to refine what the yearly cycle in your area really looks like to you. It’s one thing to know when your summer starts and ends, or how much snow you get in the winter, but its another to know how these seasons actually play out where you live. Ideally, we will want to incorporate these elements into our yearly celebrations so that we’re genuinely connecting with the region we live in — not just a cardboard cutout that is generalized for ease of use.

Meeting Your Neighbors: Local Landforms

One of the first areas I wanted to start our layering process with is the concept of landforms. Landforms is a pretty generic term that encompasses pretty much every geological feature you’ve ever seen. This includes mountains, rock formations, lakes, valleys, etc. Taking stock of the landforms around you is essentially taking stock of the topography in which you live. Do you happen to live in a valley? on the edge of a valley? Are there any mountains nearby? Do you have any rivers or lakes that influence your area? What does the land look like where you live?

There are a couple of reasons why having this information can be useful, and which of these reasons applies to you will depend on what is most important to your individual practice.

Landforms Define Your Local Weather

First is that your local weather will be heavily influenced by the landforms closest to you. To use an example that is close to my heart, Phoenix, AZ is in the bottom of a valley that lies at the base of the Colorado Plateau. You’d think that since I’m an hour from Phoenix that my weather would be the exact same, but that’s not entirely true. I live on the southern ridge of this valley, on the north face of a series of small mountains. These mountainous landforms change the weather for me pretty dramatically. Being 600 feet higher in elevation means that my temperatures are often a few degrees cooler than Phoenix, and are about 5 degrees cooler than the closest town that is at the base of the mountains, about 20 minutes away.

Which is to say that looking at your local landforms will help to give you a better idea of how the weather works specifically where you’re at. Most of the weather information that you can pull will be from city centers and airports, and not all of us live in those specific locations where the weather data is pulled from. In order to tailor-fit your calendar, it’s best to observe whether landforms could be playing a role in your weather, and how that effects your yearly calendar.

Also keep in mind that man-made objects can also alter your weather, and if these structures are benefiting your weather patterns and systems, they may be worth incorporating into your calendar.

Landforms as Foci of Veneration

The second role that landforms can play in your calendar is to be a focus of veneration or adoration. For example, the mountain range that exists directly to the west and south of where I live often protects us from the worst monsoon storms. I have lived on both sides of what I call the “south ridge,” and I can attest that living south of this ridge means that your power will go out a lot more, and you’re more likely to have your house destroyed from the harsh weather that comes at us from across the dry river bed.

Knowing this means that I could always give thanks and attention to these mountains as we go into the monsoon season. Perhaps acknowledging that these mountains deflect the worst from us, and provide us with some amount of protection and stability in an inherently unstable season.

As another example, if you live near a large body of water, you may find that this body of water keeps your climate more temperate, as large lakes and oceans tend to take the edge off of the hottest and coldest parts of the year. Maybe you really love that your summer is nice and balmy, and would want to give thanks to this body of water for making that happen. This could involve having your celebrations at this body of water, or perhaps engaging in more direct action to protect or preserve it (whether through community action or volunteering to clean up the area, etc.)

From another angle, you may have learned that this large body of water serves as the main source of water for your local area. Knowing this, you may choose to incorporate this vital landform into your holidays, perhaps even creating a holiday that acknowledges your reliance on this water source existing. Some places where this might make sense would be in the springtime, as the snowpack begins to melt and begins to fill all of the waterways below, or to honor it during the summer, when your water supply is likely to be the most taxed for survival.

Nesting Local Ecology into Global Patterns

As you could potentially tell after reading about landforms, it becomes really easy to continue to shift the scope of your weather into a larger and bigger scale. The mountains that protect me come in contact with storm systems that are generated from the equator, and suddenly I’m looking at weather that’s happening in parts of the world I’ve never seen. To me, it helps to be able to place my local weather phenomena onto a larger scale to be able to see where my weather actually comes from, and by extension, to better understand what’s going on when my weather doesn’t behave as it normally does.

To use an example that’s familiar to some of my readership, in ancient Egypt, they knew that the inundation of the Nile was vital to their existence, but they didn’t have a full and solid understanding as to where that water actually came from. They believed it to bubble up out from the Duat in a cavern at the base of the river, but in truth, the answer is a lot more complicated and involves monsoon storms and snow packs in other parts of the continent. So in their frame of reference, you would cajole the deities that oversaw those caverns to ensure that you got enough water for the year. Where as under this model, you might cajole the monsoon rains to fall and the winter storms to bring a decent amount of snow so that there would be enough to fill your river later on.

This is also why I had you look into watershed maps. These maps will inform where your water comes from, and where you should focus your intent if you want to help ensure an appropriate amount of water comes to your area. For example, if you live somewhere whose water source relies on an aquifer being filled by a snow pack in a mountain range a few counties north of you, then it may be worth considering creating some sort of holiday that honors the role these mountains play in your survival.

Creating Associations

Part of fleshing out your calendar is having the ability to make associations between your holidays and the world around you. In this section, we’ll talk about a few ways to develop various associations in your area.

Seasonal Markers

Anything that helps to bring you to a particular time within the year would fall under this category. Put another way, these are the things that help you to notice that something is shifting around you. Usually, this would be seasonal shifts and changes, but it could also encompass other natural phenomena. Some examples of what these could be are:

  • the first flowers that pop up in spring
  • a particular type of wind that indicates that snow is coming
  • migratory animals that are only in your region for brief periods of time throughout a given year
  • the most-available natively-grown food item during your region’s “dead period” (most of you know it as winter)
  • the first things that are edible in spring, or after the “dead period”
  • the first leaves that change color during the fall

If you see it, and it lets you know that stuff around you is changing, it belongs in this category.

You could utilize these markers with the seasons they are associated with. For example, if you’re celebrating the beginning of a season, it might make sense to utilize the things that let you know this season is beginning in your holiday goings on.

Sustainers

The sustainer category is made up of anything that essentially helps to sustain your ecosystem in a particularly large way. These are essentially the keystone species that exist within your area, and would include both fauna and flora. This could also include landforms and larger ecological systems that help maintain the characteristics of your region such as a large reservoir that maintains the potable water for your area, or a particular forest that brings your seasonal rains down to where you live, or even a large tree that shades your porch in the summer.

In many ways, I would argue that this category would qualify as a sort of means of figuring out what is sacred in an area. Keystone species in particular leave a huge impact on the environment around them, so much that they are often used to gauge how healthy an ecological system is. When keystone species are removed from an ecosystem, the ecosystem is almost guaranteed to degrade and suffer until the balance is restored. As such, these species are worth protecting as much as possible, and to me, deserve sacred status where they natively occur.

Given that these species help to maintain the ecology of your region, I would argue that these species (or representations thereof, or potentially things associated with them) could be utilized in any holiday at any season. However, I also think there could be some potency in celebrating certain key times in the life cycle of the species within this category. For example, if there is a tree that is a keystone species, and it bears fruit, it might be worth celebrating when the fruit comes into season.

The Power of Observation

As a final note, we always say in permaculture that the most important skill that you can have is the skill of observation. Every year, I observe my surroundings, and every year, I discover new things. I notice new patterns that emerge, new ideas for holidays, new plant associations that form. By watching the world around you, and taking note of what you experience and when, you open up the possibility to incorporate an ever growing number of associations for your calendar.

For me, the calendar is about actively choosing to participate in the world around me. Sometimes, this means big displays of celebration or ritual. But sometimes, its nothing more than baring witness to what is going on around me. Not everything needs to be elaborate or large, and just by observing and paying attention, you are still participating in the natural patterns that occur around you. When we are not sure, or are lost on how to proceed, observation should be our fallback tool for coming up with new ideas and inspiration.

Hopefully this post has helped you to start thinking about ways you can begin to flesh out meaning and associations with your local natural settings. In the next post, we’ll discuss some ways in which religious practices can begin to be incorporated to your calendar.

 

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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Creating the Backbone

In my last post, I discussed the various pieces of information that might be useful for creating a region-specific calendar based off of your local ecology. In this post, we’re going to take all of that information and begin to extract the beginnings of a calendar that we can then work with.

How to Utilize Your Weather Info

Your weather information will provide you the backbone of your calendar. Analyzing the information should give you a general idea of what weather happens when in your region. And generally speaking, when weather happens, you have holidays.

The most important thing to get out of all of your weather information is a solid understanding of how your local weather works, and by extension, when your seasons actually occur. Don’t be afraid to move away from our standard, wrote ideas of the standard four seasons that are exactly the same length of time every year. In my experience, there are a lot of small shifts and changes that occur in every region throughout the yearly cycle, and to me, it feels worth honoring these changes as they occur, which might lead you away from a basic four equinoxes and four solstices.

To get this started, I’m going to show you some charts of the weather in Pueblo, CO (a place I chose at random) to illustrate how to parse information out and translate it into holidays or seasons.

In the chart above, you can see that the hottest parts of the year start around June 2, and wind down around Sept 13. You could make this your summer, with a celebration of the average hottest day of the year on July 8. If you wanted, you could also add in another holiday to celebrate the middle of the summer season, which would be around July 22. Your winter season generally starts on November 20 and ends around Feb 24, with the coldest day being on Dec 29. Just like with summer, you could also add in a holiday celebrating the middle of the season if you felt the need. That would then leave your spring to potentially be from Feb 24 to June 2, and your fall to be from Sept 13 to November 20.

To summarize, you now have the following dates/holidays of note for this region so far:

  • June 2: spring end, summer start
  • July 8: hottest day of the year
  • July 22: summer midpoint
  • Sept 13: summer end, fall start
  • Oct 17: fall midpoint
  • November 20: fall end, winter start
  • Dec 29: coldest day of the year
  • Jan 6: winter midpoint
  • Feb 24: winter end, spring begin
  • April 12: spring midpoint

You can use solar maps to determine when you have the most and least amounts of sunlight within a given year, which can be useful for people who happen to have interest in “light and dark” juxtaposition, or have solar-related practices/deities. Now despite the summer being from early June to mid-Sept, the solar map below shows that your sunniest time of the year in Pueblo actually begins on April 29 and ends on July 31. This often occurs out of sync with summer due to cloud cover. So this is less about how much your region of the world is exposed to the sun, but more about how much of that solar energy actually makes it to the ground.

So in this situation, you could create an entire “solar season” that has its own reoccurring rites, or you could potentially just have a singular holiday on June 10, which typically has the most sun out of the year. The same goes for the darkest parts of the year — you could have a season that exists from Nov 3 to Feb 10, and you could have a singular holiday on the darkest day of the year: Dec 20. I will expand on these ideas more in the “Adding Layers” and “Folding in Religion” posts.

Another two seasons to consider adding to your calendar are your rainy and snowy season (if applicable.)

You can see that the full rainy season for Pueblo runs March 16 to October 16, with two peaks in between. Depending on what is most important to you, you could have a holiday at the beginning and/or end of the season, and you could have two days of note for each of the peaks that exist within the rainy season. Since the rain appears to die back at the start of summer, it might also be worth making a nod to the reduced rain in your summer holiday setup.

Snowfall in Pueblo seems to run from October to May, but you could start and end the season at the 0.1″ mark as this website did, which would make the dates December 10 to Feb 15. You also could consider creating an impromptu celebration each year for the first day that it snows, regardless of your yearly averages.

 

And while I’m not sure if someone in Pueblo cares too much about the wind, the windy season for this part of the world runs from November to June. Down in Arizona, the shifting trade winds dictate a lot about how our weather is running, and often marks the changing of the seasons. So for me, wind patterns play a significant role. However, you may find through observation that the winds don’t seem to correlate to anything where you live, and may choose to omit this information.

So after having done this basic analysis, you get the following basic holiday/seasonal structure for Pueblo:

  • April 29: solar season begin
  • May/June: snow disappears (floating holiday)
  • June 2: summer start
  • June 10: brightest day of the year
  • July 8: hottest day of the year
  • July 22: summer midpoint
  • July 31: solar season end
  • Sept 13: summer end, fall start
  • Oct: first day of snow (floating holiday)
  • Oct 16: rainy season end
  • Oct 17: fall midpoint
  • Nov 3: dark season begin
  • November 20: fall end, winter start
  • Dec 10: snow season begin (Alt: Oct 1)
  • Dec 20: darkest day of the year
  • Dec 29: coldest day of the year
  • Jan 6: winter midpoint
  • Feb 15: snow season end (Alt: May 1)
  • Feb 24: winter end, spring begin
  • March 16: rainy season begin
  • April 12: spring midpoint

Of course, you don’t have to utilize every single holiday listed. You could easily just pick a handful to start with, and work your way from there. But if nothing else, this should allow you to see how you can extrapolate any number of natural events that occur seasonally within your region — and then make holidays out of them. Now, these holidays have very little character or specifics to them, and that can be challenging to work with. In the next post, we’ll go over some ways to flesh these holidays out by using other local information that we gathered in step one.

Related Posts:

 

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The Time Outside of Time

For the past week, my daily routine has been abnormal. Instead of hearing my alarm in the morning and instantly getting up to get ready before I must leave to drive into work, I have been turning the alarm off and going back to sleep for a while in the hopes that it will help my body heal from what plagues it. Instead of spending eight hours at a desk working on orders, I find myself spending a lot of my day idling aimlessly around my house, trying to find ways to kill time without any energy to really devote to anything.

And even once my illness recedes, my patterns will still be off-kilter in other ways. I may begin to get up with my alarm and rush to get to work, but things will be different in every other aspect. I’ll have less traffic impeding me on my way into the office, since many other people are in quarantine and kids aren’t in school. I’ll have to devote more time and energy into procuring my weekly supplies (groceries), as every store in my area has been completely wiped out, and will likely have a restricted selection for weeks to come. And I’ll have to be more considerate about keeping enough energy to cook, since I won’t be able to rely on restaurants and fast food to help me out on days when my brain or body needs an easy meal.

We are living in strange times, you and I. In the wake of a global pandemic, many things have changed overnight for most of us.

As I ponder how surreal everything feels, I find myself frequently thinking about the intercalary days, and how their existence is unique in every aspect. For those of you who don’t know what the intercalary or epagomenal days are, they are the five days that precede Wep Ronpet. These days are said to have come about when Re wouldn’t allow Nut to birth her children on any day of the year. In order to help solve Nut’s problem, Thoth decided to bet on a game of Senut with Khonsu, and upon winning, Nut was able to give birth on these five days that existed outside of the year.

When I think about how we are living right now, I can’t help but feel like we’re living in a prolonged version of the intercalary days. That we are living in a time outside of time. What does it mean to live in a time outside of time? To get a better idea, I decided to take a look at how the intercalary days were viewed in antiquity. There isn’t a lot of specific information on the intercalary days, but the information that I had feels applicable to what we’re dealing with now.

The intercalary days are said to exist outside of the year, and that makes them peculiar. While many modern Kemetics don’t seem to attribute any sort of eeriness to these days, in antiquity, they were often seen as a time of trepidation. I suspect that this has both a mythological and a more “mundane” component to it. From a mythological perspective, Nut was ready to give birth, but couldn’t until these days were created specifically for her and her needs. Child birth is inherently dangerous, especially before the modern era. It stands to reason that both the aspect of “this is a limited window of time to do something that another being doesn’t want me to do” and “this is childbirth and that is risky to my health” could have played a role in interpreting these days as being inherently apprehensive.

But there is also the mundane aspect of where these days fall within the seasons of ancient Egypt. Situated at the end of the dry season, these days were often fraught with some amount of unease. The dry season was often a time of rationing and careful planning of resources. Since nothing substantial could be grown during this period, and there was limited amounts of water as the riverbed becomes dryer and dryer under the summer heat, the Egyptians knew that they needed to be careful how they utilized their resources until the inundation came. So as the dry season inches onward through the summer, resources become more and more scarce, and with that, an increase in concerns about the future. Will the inundation come? Will we have enough to survive until we can plant more food? Will we get through the summer without illness?

There is also the simple fact that these days manage to exist outside of the year somehow. That ultimately makes them a liminal time and space, a threshold between the old and the new.

To me, where many of us are living now fits very well with the views of the intercalary days from antiquity. Things are abnormal. Our patterns are broken or augmented in ways we’re not used to. Things are not reliably available to many of us, and there is no guarantee that things will be reliably available to many of us anytime soon. There are fears of illness, hunger, and a lack of resources. There is a lot of trepidation in the air. We are stuck between how things were, and an unclear future that has yet to fully manifest.

And that is the most important thing to keep in mind as we navigate through this set of prolonged intercalary days: they may be fraught with danger, but they are also ripe for inducing unforeseen change (both good and bad). There is a lot of instability with our system right now. This is scary and terrifying, but it is also the best time possible to incur long-lasting change that gives people more resources to live and thrive once everything is said and done. Liminal times and spaces don’t follow the rules of what is expected. They are the edges that exist where two systems or spaces meet, and these spaces are known for their intense biodiversity and bending of the rules.

You can see this in the original myth that defined the intercalary days, too. Re didn’t want Nut to give birth because he knew that her children would invoke a regime change. It would incur a new way of life for all of the NTRW, and he didn’t want to see that happen. Every year, the intercalary days are meant to be an intense time of chaos before everything resets and ma’at is restored anew during Wep Ronpet.

These liminal spaces are meant for change and transformation. This liminal space will likely be no different, but the question becomes: what sort of change will we fight for?

 

For the first time in a long time, retail and food workers (among others) have the means to potentially leverage their position to gain workers rights and benefits that were due to them forever ago. There are people trying to push state governments to utilize vacant housing to give the homeless shelter during these challenging times. There is an entirely new wave of people talking about classism and how class intersects with politics and daily living in new places that I haven’t seen in the past. There are people who are starting to see that if there is a time to start pushing for hard-hitting change, this is it.

On nearly every video or post that I’ve read regarding COVID, it seems like the conclusion always ends up with some sort of “if we all band together, things will be okay!” and I don’t want that to be the case with my post because its simply not true. There are people who will not survive this. There are people whose lives will be irreversibly changed by this. This situations is bad, and this is merely a post about the potential tiny silver lining of a really bad situation. Many people have had their entire life thrown into turmoil because of this, and I certainly don’t want to make it sound like their suffering is “worth it” if it means potential change, because that’s not the case.

Instead what I am trying to suggest is that perhaps the means to insure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again is within our grasp, and if it is, we should do what we can to make that happen. Because while the intercalary days are a mere five days of uncanny discomfort, we are more likely to be stuck in this liminal space for months, if not a full year and some change (vaccines aren’t expected to be ready for about 18 months, which is when pandemics usually recede.) Things will be unsteady for a while yet, and our best chance of survival will come from mutual aid that we give one another during these difficult times.

I think it is imperative that we look at the conversations being had, and consider what we could be doing during this time in relation to the changes going on around us. To look for those ripples of change, and to see if there are other things we could put our backing into that would help other fellow humans have an easier time of it on this rock — both within this liminal time, and beyond it. It is the responsibility of all of us to help maintain and foster ma’at, and from what I can tell — there are a whole lot of opportunities being made for increasing ma’at right now even in the face of overwhelming isfet.

And I think we should do everything in our power to seize those opportunities and create a world we want to live in.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2020 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at

 

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Redefining Order

Truth. Order. Justice.

The three words that I’ve seen used the most to describe ma’at.

Out of these three words, “order” always sticks out to me as potentially being a bad choice to describe ma’at. Why? Well, in short, I believe its because we tend to use one variation of “order” at the exclusion of other possible definitions. As an experiment to start the conversation off, what do you think of when you think of the word order? Maybe some of you think of

or maybe

Or maybe it’s

Even if you didn’t think of these specific examples, I’m willing to bet that whatever came to your mind shared some of the same underlying associations as the gifs above. That’s because our culture has a specific inferred meaning when we use the word “order” — whether we acknowledge those associations or not.

Whenever the word “order” is used, it’s almost always in the context of a very clear difference of power. It’s often used in terms of schools, where teachers demand order. Or in the military, where soldiers are given orders. Or even in more harmless situations, where you place an order at a restaurant. All of these things imply a situation where the person receiving the “order” is not allowed to rebuff the order. The soldier is not allowed to tell their commander “no,” students can be heavily punished for telling their teachers no, and can you imagine what would happen if a waiter told you that your order was not going to be followed or not allowed? Even when a waiter has to tell someone that something in their order isn’t available due to circumstances beyond their control, people lose their minds.

In our cultural lexicon, order usually means that you’re doing something without question. It’s a directive that you must follow, lest you get into trouble. For most of us in the US, “order” is essentially authoritarian in nature — to the point that the word “authoritarian” is used in the Oxford definition for “order.”

While there is second definition for “order,” I don’t think that most of us are using that definition when we tie the word “order” to ma’at. I’ve watched people dictate that authoritarian order is inherently implied and mandatory with ma’at simply because the Egyptians engaged in a form of it, and it overlaps with our preconceived notion of order and what it entails. Which is to say that since they so readily line up with one another via authoritarianism, I feel like most people are lazily assuming that one begets the other (authoritarian order begets ma’atian order.) What I’d really like to do with this post is challenge that notion by redefining what order could mean for us when associated with ma’at. And to also buck the idea that authoritarianism is inherent in, and therefore mandatory to, our religious structure.

A New Frame of Reference

The less-often cited definition for order usually entails things such as “a specific pattern or sequence,” such as alphabetical order, numerical order, etc. I believe that this definition is closer to what we need, but I feel that it could use refinement for our specific needs.

I would like to posit that for our needs, order would mean something along the lines of “a predictable rhythm or pattern.”

Every single living thing/system on this planet has (ideally) a rhythm, a pattern to their existence. You wake up after sleeping, you do the general same routine after you get up, you might do similar things Monday through Friday, and then do a secondary set of “similar things” on Saturday and Sunday. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The night follows the day, and the moon is constantly shifting between being visible and completely non-existent to the naked eye.

These patterns form the basis of our existence, and the nature of our patterns often determines whether we’re healthy and having our needs met or not. In the last post about determining ma’at from isfet, I mentioned that the frequency of doing something can often turn innocuous acts into something more isfetian in nature, and this plays into the idea of regular habits and patterns. If you do something that is unhealthy once in a while, its usually not a big deal. Do it all the time, and it becomes a pattern that can slowly unravel your life.

When we’re talking about ma’atian order, we’re talking about having rhythms that help support living things. When you’re acting in ma’at, you’re acting to maintain these beneficial rhythms, while also acting to destroy, alter or remove patterns that hurt living things.

When viewed from this perspective, it explains why the Egyptians crafted tons of holidays, rituals, and actions that were consistently enacted upon to help ensure that the patterns of the Duat and earth alike were kept in regularity. Because anything that could be done to make sure that the patterns of the world stayed as consistent as possible should be done as a part of maintaining ma’at.

I also think it should go without saying that making these regular patterns as predictable as possible was also on the agenda. Humans tend to do best with a certain level of predictability in their life, and I feel like including this in the understood meaning of ma’atian order only serves to help us really understand and appreciate how important the consistency of it all really is.

The rhythm should be dynamic in the sense that it has diversity and harmony, but it still needs to have some level of regular occurrence in order to be stable. When examined on a whole, it becomes easier to see how the diversity and harmony feed into the stable complexity of it all. Everything feeds into everything else, and when the rhythm of it all is maintained, everything more or less gets its needs met.

When Authoritarian Order is Conflated with Ma’atian Order

From this perspective it becomes easier to see how authoritarian order really doesn’t synergize well with ma’at. Authoritarianism seeks to control (create “order”) everything it touches, and severely punishes anything trying to resist its control. To this end, it often seeks to divide people into two groups: and in-group (us) and an antagonistic out-group (them), and they basically use the in-group to keep the out-group in check as much as possible. You can see this in America right now in the form of loosely-made militia groups that act out a sort of vigilante justice wherever they’re allowed to.

Because the in-group always needs an out-group, authoritarianism will consistently find new demographics to attack, and in the process usually ends up eradicating the harmony and diversity necessary to keep ma’at in place. People are usually forced to live within strict confines and regulations at the risk of extreme punishment, with no real recourse to punish those who are putting the regulations in place. Ultimately, there is no means to change your fate or change the world you live in, you’re ultimately forced to deal with whatever you are given because there is little-to-no alternatives available to you. This, of course, is mentally taxing and degrading. The system as a whole may continue to exist, but its parts and pieces are not healthy, and thus are living in a form of chronic disorder (isfet.)

When you start to really examine how this system can destroy people’s health, it becomes painfully clear that by its very nature, authoritarianism does not foster ma’at. Only a tiny percent of the population really flourishes under authoritarianism, leaving the rest of the population to wither and rot.

And for those of you who are wondering if I feel that the ancient Egyptians were doing things outside of ma’at, I would say that based off of today’s standards, the answer is yes. Plenty of their population lived in unnecessary squalor due to inequality at play within the society, and I can’t say that I believe that to be within ma’at. Yes, upper class people were to look after their subjects and provide them with what they needed, but its been shown time and time again that people who are in positions of privilege and esteem typically aren’t willing to give what they have away unless they really really have to.

While I understand that a couple thousand years ago was different, and that we shouldn’t necessarily judge ancient cultures based off of today’s expectations, I also feel its our job to reflect critically on the past, not to assume that the movements of the past are inherently superior simply because they’re old. The Egyptians committed all sorts of brutal acts in the name of ma’at. If we’re able to deem these acts as being not-within-ma’at, I’m pretty sure we could find it in ourselves to do the same with their governmental system, instead of blindly trying to recreate it in the here and now.

Ma’atian Order

At its core, ma’atian order strives to bring balance and health to all of its individual components. It is a bottom-up mentality, ensuring that the smallest, yet most foundational parts are taken care of, with the understanding that healthy foundations allow everything else above it to thrive. This format allows for (relatively) predictable patterns to emerge that allows for all of the parts of the system to synchronize together. It is through the harmonization of all of the parts that allows the system to really thrive and creates the predictable “order” that everyone seeks.

It is my hope that moving forward, if the word “order” is used to define ma’at, that this is the definition that comes to mind, because this is the only definition of “order” that really makes any sense within the ma’atian paradigm.

Relevant Posts:

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2020 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at, Rambles

 

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A Proposed Model for Determining Ma’at vs. Isfet

Before you read this post, you need to read the first and second parts of this series, otherwise nothing will make sense.

So far, I’ve talked about how ma’at is like a regenerative system, which is a living series of processes that will renew and regenerate themselves provided their unique balance is maintained. Some examples of regenerative systems in daily life are ecosystems or your body. In opposition to this is isfet, which is what happens when disorder overtakes a regenerative system and makes it degenerative. Degenerative systems are not sustainable and tend to destroy the balance of other nearby systems. In this post, I’d like to discuss how we can use this model to determine if something we’re doing is more in alignment with isfet or ma’at.

Using this Model

So now we’re at the most important part of this whole discussion. We’ve laid the framework for understanding:

  • how systems work
  • how ma’at aligns with regenerative systems
  • how disorder tests the resiliency of a system
  • how too much disorder will put your regenerative balance is at risk
  • how isfet is an embodiment of degradation of natural systems.

Now comes the time for bringing it all together so that we can better reflect on our own actions and whether they relate to isfet, ma’at, or somewhere in between.

The reason that viewing ma’at as a system was so revolutionary for me was because it made it so much easier to understand if something was actually aligning with ma’at or not — because we’re using very concrete terms. Many times, I’ve found that people want to distort ma’at into being something that is relatively passive, or ultimately doesn’t require the person to really change or grow. To summarize this model for ma’at, it would be: if it bothers me, it’s isfet. If it doesn’t bother me, it’s ma’at.

However, by establishing that ma’at is like a particular thing that has a particular set of needs that must be met in order to be maintained, it really allows us to examine whether the things we do in our lives actually lives up to those needs, regardless of our own biases or feeling. By using a structure that can be clearly defined, it removes at least a portion of our bias, and allows us to be more objective in our assessment of ma’at. It also allows us to be very succinct when describing it.

Put succinctly: if something is pushing multiple systems towards degeneration, it’s likely aligned with isfet. If something pushes multiple systems towards regeneration, it’s likely aligned with ma’at.

For example, humans need several things to really survive and be healthy. Things such as:

  • Access to nutritious food, shelter, clean clothing (you’ll note, all of these are markers of having lived in ma’at in antiquity)
  • Access to healthy and supportive relationships. Humans are social creatures, and we need some amount of social interaction to be healthy.
  • Ability to self-express in a fashion that doesn’t hurt others (directly or otherwise)
  • Ability to be autonomous over our own choices and decisions, the feeling of having some control over your life and future.

So, if these things are all necessary for human systems to be healthy, then we know that anything that directly opposes these things is isfetian in nature.

Caveats: Frequency, Context, Scope, and Scale

Now, of course, there is some grey area in here. There are a few other considerations that must be applied when determining whether something is truly isfetian or ma’atian; things such as frequency, context, scope.

Frequency is about as straightforward as it sounds. That whole bit about disorder being the beginning of the sliding towards ultimately unraveling (isfet) means that a singular action isn’t necessarily going to lead you straight into isfet-town. For example, I know that fast food is really bad for my health. It is ultimately a degenerative force in my life. However, if I choose to eat it occasionally, it’s not likely going to qualify 100% as isfet in my specific system. Why? Because I’ve enacted moderation.

There are always places where we can have little exceptions to the moderation that marks our daily life. In antiquity, this is largely the role that festivals and holidays performed. They allowed people to let loose and let go for a short period of time before they fell back into the regularity of daily life. In our modern era, this isn’t always the case, and I’ve found that many of us are constantly living on the edge of making decisions that ultimately undo our efforts to thrive.

In short, frequency is the difference between engaging in a damaging behaviour in moderation vs. engaging in it all the time. Its the difference between eating something that’s bad for you once a month vs. every day. The frequency is vital to keep in mind when considering whether something is damaging or not. The less often you engage in damaging activities, the less likely they are to evoke an isfetian reaction in your specific system (aka your body and/or life.)

The context and scale of an action should also be considered, because it turns out that changing the scope or context of an action often will change whether its damaging or not — and that’s mostly because we live in a degenerative system. For example, let’s take the fast food thing mentioned above. On a small scale, when I’m really only thinking about how it effects me and me alone, it’s relatively harmless when in moderation. However, on a large scale, one might consider the act of giving your money to a fast food establishment isfetian. Why? Because many of these establishments treat their employees horribly. They engage in practices that degrade people’s lives by purposefully underpaying them and denying them access to necessary resources. Many of these companies engage in practices that wreck the environment, they lobby for legislation that allows them to get away with bad practices, and most of these companies aren’t putting much beneficial energy back into the world.

There is a phrase, “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” and that’s truly visible when using this model. When it comes to most larger systems, such as supply chains, economies, and governments — nothing is currently sustainable, and as such, is degenerative in nature (as I mentioned in previous posts.) The context of every action is important, because I think it’s vital that we remember that so much of our day to day lives are built on practices that are not sustainable (aka degenerative), and often hurt marginalized countries and peoples the hardest. While a singular act on a small scale is relatively harmless, when considering the full scope of the process of that act even being available to you — the true harm often comes into focus.

This, of course, muddies the water because it can be ethically confusing to determine how on earth to do anything without putting energy into an inherently isfetian system, but that’s also why engaging in activism, being politically active, and holding those in positions of power accountable is all the more important. I would argue that not doing so leans you towards isfet, because it means you’re choosing to ignore the degenerative systems that are eating away at the regenerative system that is you.

And please bear in mind: sometimes the ma’atian choice, the course of action that honors the regenerative nature in you and others, will be painful or difficult. Many people want to equate ma’at to the path of least resistance, and I am here to tell you that this is often not the case. That’s why its very important to really examine all of the aspects of a given course of action to ensure you’re not copping out due to fear of the new and unknown.

Useful Questions to Consider

Here are some examples of questions that can be asked when trying to determine whether a large-scale system is regenerative or not:

  • Will this legislation/action/structure degrade human lives?
  • Will it cause people to lose their autonomy?
  • Will it degrade the community and connections that people have?
  • Will it restrict access to healthy food, clean water, adequate housing and healthcare?
  • Will it oppress or hold back a particular group of people (please keep in mind that leveling the playing field between classes or races is not oppression)?
  • Does it rely on a biased system/structure to reinforce it?
  • Does it needlessly destroy nature?
  • Does it endanger natural resources and living things?
  • Does it destroy or threaten other regenerative systems?
  • Does it lead us closer to things like climate change or fascism?

And in case its not clear yet, if the answer to these is yes, it’s isfetian in nature.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when trying to determine whether a small-scale interaction is regenerative or not:

  • Does this harm my health?
  • Does this hurt my relationships or those around me needlessly?
  • Does this incite self-hatred or acts of violence or abuse against the self?
  • Will this cause you regret or shame later on?
  • Does this hinder my or others growth, however painful?
  • Would those who care about you condone this choice?

Of course, sometimes these things are not clear cut, and that’s why its important to always consider the wider context of a situation as discussed above.

If you’ve managed to make it through all three posts, I congratulate you. If you have any questions or would like to suggest any other means of refining this model, I welcome them!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2020 in Kemeticism

 

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A Year of Rites: Reflections, Redirections

With 2019 having come to a close, so too has both the Year of Rites project and Making Ma’at project come to a close. I wasn’t sure if there was anything to say about either, but it feels weird to not do a recap of both before moving onto whatever next chapter lay ahead.

Making Ma’at

I will start by saying that I have a hard time not viewing both projects as something of a failure. The Making Ma’at project barely got off the ground, and once we lost the repository that contained what everyone had written, the project basically was dead in the water. I personally think that that is a crying shame, because we really do lack ready-made resources for honoring ma’at, and with ma’at being at the center of our religion, it feels weird that we don’t have more to work with.

When it comes to pinpointing why this project didn’t go very far, I personally blame a bit of myself — in that I didn’t have the energy or time to consistently research new prompts and ideas to get people creating new stuff to add to the project. But on the flip side, I also feel like no one was overly committed to the project if no one else was working to come up with new ideas. Which is honestly the biggest problem with our community, isn’t it.

My hope is that maybe people will still add to the project in their own time, or that what was created will at least serve as something of a resource for those in the future.

Year of Rites

Then there is the cluster that was the Year of Rites. I knew going into the YoR that I was hoping for more than I should. I knew that the odds of people participating in it were slim. I knew that the odds of me being able to complete everything to a level that I would prefer would be slim — especially if my grandfather died along the way. But I have a bad problem with hoping for more than I should, and in the end, I was disappointed by it all. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any useful lessons along the way, however.

First off, I will say that creating 18 rubrics in a year is a horrible idea unless you have a ton of time and mental space to work with. I was really trying to embody traditional verbiage and heka because I feared straying too far from verbatim sources, and so crafting something 100% from scratch didn’t happen very often. As such, I would scour the source materials to try and find sections that made sense for what I was trying to create. Source materials take forever for me to read, and I would often have to read 50 pages before I found a little tidbit that would be useful for whatever rubric I was working on.

When I wasn’t overly stressed, working the rubrics wasn’t all that bad because you get to learn a lot of random information from sifting through source materials. As a byproduct, it’s easier to follow some of the information that is presented in various books and papers. I can also say that reading the source materials also gave me a very good understanding of how sentences should be structured and words selected to make better heka. Only after I started working on these rubrics did I realize that my old rituals had a lot of wiggle room and a lukewarm quality in many of the words chosen.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that each rubric took hours to make, they were hardly commented on, and probably four people used them throughout the year. If I ever did this again, I’d cut the rubric creation down to maybe two versions for an entire year. Anything more than that is unrealistic.

As for the rituals themselves, I managed to complete every ritual up until the end of June when things went on hiatus to take care of grandpa. After that, I completed 3 out of 4 rites per month until I quit doing it all together in October. If we want to count my eating-as-a-ritual for the Mysteries, then I completed all of December’s work as well, though none of the originally-planned rituals were performed.

All in all, I did more than I didn’t, but it still doesn’t feel like I accomplished much. Having my depression completely wipe the desire out of me to do anything really put a bind on the end of the year, and I still don’t know how I feel about that. If I’m also being honest, the lack of feedback and participation on the by and large didn’t motivate me to continue, either. By June I was wrapped in a sort of “no one really cares” state, which is why the write-ups stopped around that time. It’s also why I quit documenting my rites on IG, and it’s why I never bothered to rework the rubrics in September when I found I disliked them vehemently (this also played into why I didn’t want to keep doing the rituals come October — I had to use new rubrics that I hated.)

As my ability and desire to perform these rites degraded across the year, I can say that structured rituals can serve as a good focal point for me if I’m not too stressed or depressed. When I’m not doing good mentally, its very easy to just go through the motions of the ritual and not really be present. If I’m not present, it’s really not doing me much good and I usually end up rushing everything as quickly as possible (which probably doesn’t do the NTRW much good, either.) The final rites that I did during the Mysteries were much better at keeping me present — more so than doing a structured ritual. I think there is something important to that.

So what now?

I realized somewhere around September that I would soon need to start making decisions about my future with performing regular rituals for the NTRW; along with what my future with Kemeticism would actually look like once this year was over. I don’t like performing standard, structured rituals if I’m being completely honest. It’s hard for me to find reason to set aside the time, clear out the space, and sit down to perform these rites. Perhaps if I had the right space, or perhaps if I got more out of the experience, I would feel differently. And while I understand that these rituals are supposed to be for the NTRW, it doesn’t change the fact that unless I find a way to repackage them or get more out of them, I’m not likely to perform them. We’re all human, and as humans, we don’t do well with tasks that we view as pointless or not serving a purpose. And that’s exactly where I ended up with most of my rituals by the time October rolled around.

However, I don’t know that I can, in good conscience (yes), just set rituals aside and not perform them ever at all. Rereading Roberts’ books in 2018 really drove home (for me) that the original religious structure really placed a heavy emphasis on our rituals helping to maintain the regenerative processes of the NTRW. And it’s led me to question if the lack of continuous ritual on our end could have a degradation of things for the NTRW. It brings us back to the age old issue of “if we think this is really real, and if we believe the Egyptians did things for a Reason that they also believed was really real, then why am I casually ignoring doing that?”

Because if the rituals did actually influence the quality of life for our gods, or if the rituals did actually help to keep the Duat regular and functional, then it really begs us to ask what would happen if those rituals stopped. And by extension, why we don’t do more of them.

And I’m really stuck on that.

So far, I do think I want to create something that strikes a balance between traditional ritual work and what I did in December. For me, it makes more sense to find something that fits into what I am capable of right now, and then build towards something that is more refined as I learn more from my experiences. That being said, I’m still not entirely sure what that looks like, or how I want to approach it.

I guess we’ll see what 2020 brings on that front.


For those of you who participated in either project, I would love to hear your feedback or thoughts so that I can incorporate them into any future projects that may occur.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2020 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at, Year of Rites

 

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Eating a Mystery

A few weeks ago I was getting ready for my shower when I suddenly got this memo that went something like “don’t forget that you need to be preparing for the Mysteries this year.” It struck me as odd, since I haven’t really done anything for the Year of Rites since October, and for the NTRW to not harp me on that, but instead decide I needed to perform the Mysteries really seemed out of character.

I asked the “memo” what I needed to focus on for the Mysteries, and I received one line, it said “Glorify your father.

In the matter of a few seconds, my brain raced in several directions with this. First off, the word father really seemed highlighted to me, and there are two reasons for that. First is the mythological component. Osiris’ myths are frequently centered on Horus and his quest to avenge his father and take back what’s his. Second, you’ve got the historical context in that every Osiris relies on his eldest son to give him a proper funeral and to maintain his cult to at least some degree. Both of these aspects would place me in the role of Horus glorifying my father, and have fairly straight-forward heka connotations.

But what really caught me was the third place my brain went.

While I understand that the NTRW can use familial terms for some people, it’s never been the case for me. Further, if there was a NTR out there that I would use familial terms with, it certainly isn’t Osiris. But there is another person that frequently gets labeled specifically as father (as opposed to “dad” or some other similar label, it’s always father) and that would be good ol’ Father-Lover. Would I need to incorporate aspects of my rebirth/rebuilding process into this? Or perhaps more accurately — had the NTRW decided to insert themselves into my process without letting me know? I wasn’t pleased with the idea.

Between all of these concepts, though, there is one vein of similarities: you become your father.

Ultimately, the reason Osiris gets it on with Aset is largely to make sure that he continues on through his son. Ultimately, the son and father overlap and become one mythologically speaking (hence Bull of His Mother) and so in some respects, I would argue that you could potentially interchange the two to some extent. And when it comes to Father-Lover, well, its just that we are literally the same being spread across two forms. We are ultimately one and the same on some level or another.

So I began to mull on this. If glorifying my father ultimately ends up glorifying myself… what would glorification look like? The word “glorify” means to praise or present admirably, perhaps unjustifiably so. It is what nearly every Kemetic ritual aims to do — to beautify the NTRW in the hopes that they will remain gracious to us. It is also through this process of glorification that we ensure that the rhythmic needs of the Duat are sustained and maintained. Re needs to go into the Duat each night, he needs to push back a/pep each day, he and Osiris need to meet in order to revitalize the Duat and its residents. Just like nature, everything has a rhythm and a cycle. Part of our end of the deal is performing the rituals and doing the acts that sustain these cycles.

To consider this concept on myself, we all need a healthy attitude about ourselves. We would all lead more fulfilling and less-miserable lives if many of us weren’t constantly being self-defeating or putting ourselves down. To glorify yourself would ultimately mean to feed into your inherent regenerative nature. And so I asked myself what would help sustain me most?

I then switched back to considering the historical contexts of glorifying your father — what do akhu value most from their families? What do we often see most often for helping the akhu? And the answer I came back with was:

The voice offering, in my opinion, is the quintessential akhu rite out there. There are lots of people who know nothing about Kemeticism, but know about the “thousands of beer, bread, and every good thing” voice offering that was left to the akhu of the necropolis. The most important thing a son could do for his father was to offer the basic necessities of life so that his father could continue to live in the Duat. And when I think about what the best offering that you could give would be, I thought of the foreleg. The foreleg is, by far, the piece de resistance in the Opening the Mouth ceremony. Everything in the ritual crescendos when you pull out the choice cut of meat and offer all of its contained vitality to the statue/mummy.

I thought to myself, could I offer myself the foreleg instead? Could I offer it to both of us simultaneously?

One of the suggestions after my post about my eating issues interfering with being able to offer to the gods regularly was the idea of drawing foods, and offering the drawing. In response to this, I began to offer my paper foreleg amulet to the NTRW as a stand-in meal. And so the connection between the foreleg and the offering of foods went full circle, and I thought to myself “what if I offer a meal to myself every day? So that instead of doing offerings at a shrine that are couched inside of a larger ritual, the act of feeding myself becomes the ritual.” And in response, I heard “what if you did it three times per day?” (since, you know, we’re supposed to eat three meals a day.)

So I guess that means I’m eating three times per day for the Mysteries.

I admit, this is strange to me. It feels like a cop out, like I’m just using something I “already do,” and saying that it’s a good replacement for “proper rituals” at a shrine, as I have been doing all year. But to cite that post I mentioned above: I don’t really eat regularly. Or at least, I don’t eat as regularly as I should. So it’s actually quite a challenge for me, since I won’t be able to eat depression meals and call it a day. Even though it feels like a cop out, it’s going to actually be a challenge for me to do this for any length of time.

I decided I needed to check through other means to make sure that I was on the right track, and the response I got was so direct and straightforward that it was hard to deny the answer, so I guess this means I’m eating three times per day for the Mysteries. Which O dictated that it’s to be a month, as it’s always been. So I’m eating three times per day for a month. I’m sure that’ll be riddled with success.

The general idea of how this is supposed to go is that I’m to treat each meal as an event that requires my full attention. I’m to focus on myself, the food I’m eating, and try not to let myself get super distracted by the Internet, my phone, thoughts, or what have you. The meals need to have enough substance to them that they can be called meals. So for example, just eating a piece of bread and walking away is not good enough. It needs to big enough to fill me up (a challenge.)

The biggest question I am left with when it comes to doing this is the following: when we typically do rituals, there is a layer of separation involved. You offer to the gods, separate from you, and then you take the food into yourself afterwards. The path is outwards (to the gods) then inwards (when you eat it.) But what happens when you skip the outwards part? What happens when both the offering and the consuming are done in one step, at the same time, with both parties being overlapped? And is O doing this because he wants me to take care of myself, or is he wanting me to do this because of the overlap I just mentioned?

I guess we’ll see.

 

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Ancient Egyptians Didn’t Have Disordered Eating

If there is a problem that has plagued my ritual work for years, it’s my disordered eating. And while I know that there is no absolute way to determine whether ancient Egypt had disordered eating present or not, I feel pretty confident in my guess that it wasn’t a prolific problem, if it existed at all. For those of you who are unaware, disordered eating is technically a sort of eating disorder, its just that there isn’t a particular name for the way that your eating is not healthy or “normal.” Many people have disordered eating and don’t realize it — potentially as many as 3 out of every 4 Americans have it, and for many of us, its a byproduct of our mental health and the unhealthy culture that we’re forced to live in.

For me specifically, my disordered eating is often a byproduct of my depression and stress levels. When my depression skyrockets in a particular way, I often don’t feel like eating — even if I’m hungry. Most things sound completely unappetizing, and when I force myself to eat I often end up with stomach aches or meltdowns as a result. This, of course, is a problem if you’re doing ritual work because our ritual structure mandates that you offer something to eat to the NTRW. I have yet to see a single Kemetic ritual that doesn’t include food offerings as a staple chapter.

And I mean, why not? Food is great (I guess?), it’s what keeps us alive, and supposedly the NTRW help us to grow is so that we can sustain ourselves with it. But it’s a huge problem if you can’t bring yourself to eat.

Years ago, I sought to bypass the disordered eating by using votive offerings instead. I bought a bunch of ReMent and used that to fill my offering plates for many many years. Even if I couldn’t bring myself to eat, I could bring myself to give the NTRW replicas of what I was supposed to be eating. I could offer them more in terms of number and quantity than I could ever do with actual food. It allowed me to let go of the stress around food and just focus on being present.

Of course, people did not like the idea. I’ve read everything from “that’s half-assing it” to “if you give the NTRW ‘fake’ offerings, they’ll give you fake blessings in return.” And so I’ve always ended up having a mixed relationship with my votive offerings because years and years of being told that they aren’t good enough will eventually leave you feeling like they aren’t good enough.

And so when I finally could eat again, because my health issues had reached a certain level of improvement, I told myself that I should try to use real food and not votive offerings. I created a sort of “rule” in my head that votive offerings are only for people who can’t offer “real” food (not that I’d ever place that rule on someone else. It was only ever directed at me.) And so I packed them away and tried not to use them. Fast forward a few years to my Year of Rites project where I told myself I would use real food for the entire thing because I knew I should eat, could eat, and needed to eat. And therefore, should try to use my ritual work to motivate myself to eat better and regularly.

And I guess it’s worked so far. If you read through what few updates I’ve given, or parse through the images that I used to take, you’ll see that offerings were still a problem for me. I can’t tell you how many rituals get put off until the end of the day because I couldn’t force myself to cook or eat early enough to do things at a reasonable time, or how many times I just grabbed a piece of convenience snacking material to offer instead. But the more important point is that I was managing up until August.

I want to preface this with a certain level of “I knew this would happen.”

As my grandfather lay on his death bed, I could overhear my mother telling the handful of people that were there with us that she really wanted to make sure that people checked up on me for the next few weeks. She was worried that I would fall apart after he died, and seemingly was trying to be proactive or something. I remember trying to meet these people halfway, letting them know that my depression would likely stave itself for a month or two, and that if people were really concerned, they’d make sure that they came around in a month or two, because that’s when I’d likely actually need the help. My emotions take time to process. My disassociation takes time to wear off so that I can feel what I’m actually feeling.

It took a while to kick in, but I noticed that by the end of August, my eating was beginning to slip. I blamed it on a new medical protocol I was trying, and hoped that my appetite would return.

But it hasn’t. And I’m not really surprised about it. Just as I had told those people — it takes time for my grief to process, and so the depression took a bit to really settle in.

Each day that there is a ritual scheduled, I feel this sort of dread or aversion in my stomach. To know that not only do I need to come up with something to offer the gods, I need to actually eat it, and I need to prepare it at such a time that I will have the time to perform the ritual, but also won’t lose my desire to eat whatever it is by the time my ritual work is done (for example, if I take a break while eating, I often lose all desire to finish my meals. I eat to reduce my stomach pain, and once that’s even mildly resolved, I often quit eating.)

When you combine this with how much I absolutely can’t stand this last batch of rubrics I made, you’ve got a recipe for not doing many rituals. So far I’ve only missed three rites this year (they were all execrations. Execrations feel like the world’s biggest waste of time and involve finding a place to start a fire and smelling like smoke and I’d just rather not most days,) but I can tell that this last quarter will be the hardest because I hate the words and I hate the food. There are other factors at play as well, but I still feel that these are the largest components to why I’m avoidant of doing ritual work right now.

So this begs to ask — what does one do about this? After this year’s worth of work, I honestly have a lot of criticism of people’s assumptions about how rituals should be set up, how often one should be able to do them, what they should consist of, how much we should be maintaining ancient practices, etc. But even if we don’t get into analyzing traditional ideas of what Kemetic rituals entail, it still really needs to be asked: what do we do about disordered eating? It’s quite clear that the ancient Egyptians didn’t have this particular hurdle to overcome, and so it’s something that we modern practitioners need to answer for ourselves, and possibly for our community.

Votive offerings seemed to be a solid alternative, but at the same time, there is a lot of moral baggage that comes with using them. You risk being ostracized or criticized by your fellows, and that just leads to more dysfunction for a person. The other alternative is to not offer food at all, or perhaps give only a voice offering — but both of these are also rife with chastisement and belittling within our community (have I mentioned recently how much I hate our community? I hope this post gives a little peek as to some of the reasons why) and I know that I often feel like voice offerings are not “enough.” It would feel weird to sit at my shrine and just say words and not perform any ritual actions that mirror the words. So, from what I can tell, no clear alternative exists that won’t evoke feelings of shame because it results in at least a portion of our community putting someone down for using it or doing it.

So I ask you all, how do we get around this? What is the best solution? How do we modify ritual structures for modern problems such as this? Is there even an alternative that anyone can take that doesn’t result in being shat on? Because so far, the answer feels a lot like a no.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2019 in Kemeticism, Rambles, Year of Rites

 

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