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On Making Entities Smaller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Fight For Yourself

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

Being chronically ill is frustrating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Questioning Your Way to a Solution

In terms of my religious practice, I have spent the better part of the past year aimlessly wandering. This may surprise some people (maybe?) as I’m sure that most would consider my conviction in regards to Kemeticism to be pretty rock solid. But the fact of the matter is that sometime in the past year or so, my interest in most things suddenly disappeared without a solid reason, and as a result I have been left with a void where my passion for religion used to live. This has caused me to spend a lot of my time questioning what this means and what I should do about it.

I have seen people suggest that having periods of questioning (or perhaps better referred to as “crisis of faith”) is somehow bad, as though you’re personally offending the gods by examining your place within your religion or relationship with them. However, I personally think that there comes a time in everyone’s practice where they run into a period of being lost or unsure; where they aren’t sure why they’re doing something or whether they should continue to do it. Like many topics that are considered “bad”, I find the lack of resources for sorting such a situation out to be unhelpful, not to mention that the semi-taboo nature of the topic doesn’t allow for people to openly search for answers. This is a problem.

Over on Tumblr, I will regularly get questions about how to handle situations where a god isn’t responding, where a practice is no longer fulfilling, where a person is unsure how to move forward, and each time that I receive such questions, I often tell people to self-reflect to see if they can better ascertain an answer for themselves. My logic behind this has always been a case of “how can you know what to do if you don’t know how you got here?” If the religion used to fulfill you, what happened that caused it to become unfulfilling? Examining where you started and comparing it to where you are can often times be enlightening.

That being said, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection this past year as I’ve looked for answers to my suddenly disappearing enthusiasm.

When I first noticed that I suddenly gave zero cares about Kemeticism, my gut response was to freak out. I think any of us would initially become concerned if something we used to be passionate about was suddenly of no interest to us, and I was no exception. It’s not something that usually happens overnight, but for me it felt like it did. As though one week I was interested in doing the things I had been doing for years, and the next week I suddenly no longer cared about any of it.

On the other hand, I wanted to ignore that I noticed a shift in things. I wanted to believe that it was a temporary issue that would resolve itself over the course of a few weeks. This is not uncommon for me, as I often burn out on a lot of what I do on a regular basis. However, as the weeks dragged on and nothing changed, I realized that something was definitely up. I now knew that I needed to shift gears to figure out what was causing these issues.

The Process

For me, there is a process that is involved with picking apart problems:

  • First is to notice that there is something that is off or different.
  • The next thing is to stay calm about it. This doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring the issue (as I had) as much as it means not running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Remember that these issues can happen to anyone for any number of reasons, and nothing says that the current feeling or situation is permanent or necessarily indicative of a problem. It’s easier to troubleshoot something if you’re calm.
  • From here, I recommend a potential period of observation to make sure that what you are feeling or perceiving isn’t a momentary sort of thing. Things you could think about include: What do you notice about what you’re feeling? Does it come and go with your mental health, mood, or stress levels? Or is it consistent? I always find its best to wait and make sure that it’s a long term “thing” and not a spur of the moment misunderstanding.
  • Once you’ve ascertained that the issue is not going away, then you move into the questioning phase.

It’s also worth noting that I will often switch between periods of intense introspection/questioning and observing/waiting. I don’t think it’s mandatory to do everything in one go, and I think it’s very likely that most of us won’t find all of our solutions in a singular round of questioning. Being able to pick up your “problem” and inspect it from a bunch of angles, and then set it back down for a while before coming back to inspect it again allows you to process and consider other angles you didn’t think of earlier. Just like any sort of shadow work, none of this needs to be absolutely linear; I’m just trying to give some general guidelines for those who are new to this method of working.

Asking Questions

When it comes to reflection on a particular topic, problem or situation, I don’t think that there is necessarily a right or wrong way to go about it. You can sit and mull on all of these questions at once, or you could mull on them one at a time. You could try writing down answers to these questions or simply go through the answers in your head. You could even pose these questions to a sort of divination deck to see if you’re overlooking something about the topic in regards to the situation.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of what could be asked, but is simply a place to get started on mulling your way to a possible answer or solution to any particular situation you’re in. I have organized the questions based off of general topic, and as such, some of these questions are redundant. However, I find it easier to mull when I’m not trying to parse apart several questions that have been stacked into one.

Questioning a deity relationship:

  • What first attracted you to this particular deity?
  • What about the relationship did you enjoy? What didn’t you enjoy?
  • Has anything changed recently in your life or in the relationship that may be causing a shift in feelings?
  • How often do you reach out to this god? When was the last time you attempted to communicate with them? What was that communication like?
  • What is considered a normal level of communication with the deity? Has this changed recently, if ever?
  • Has the deity expressed any signs that would signal that there were any issues present? If so, what were they and did you ever ask for further information from the god when it happened?
  • What sorts of things are you looking for in a relationship with a god? What are you hoping to achieve by developing a relationship with a deity? If currently in a relationship, what of these things are not being met, if any?
  • What does your deity expect of you, if anything? How does this make you feel? Are the expectations realistic or feasible?
  • What feelings do you get when you think about said deity? Are these feelings different from when you first started out, or when you felt the relationship was stable (if applicable)?
  • If you could tell your deity anything about your current feelings/status with them, what would it be? Why would you wish to convey these emotions/thoughts to them?
  • If your deity could clarify anything for you about your relationship, what would it be and why would it be helpful?
  • When you think of no longer having a relationship with your god (or when you think of changing the nature of the relationship with your god), how does it make you feel? What could that indicate?

Questioning your place in a religion:

  • What first brought you to your religion?
  • What do you enjoy about your religion–whether the religious practice, community, or structure, etc.? What don’t you enjoy about it?
  • When did your feelings about your religion change? Was anything going on at the time that could have caused the shift in feelings?
  • What do you hope to get out of your religious practice? Is your current practice meeting your needs? If not, what could be done to help your needs be met?
  • Are there any external factors that could be causing a shift in feelings about your religious practice?
  • Have you talked to the gods about your shift in feelings? What have they said about it?
  • What makes you hesitant to leave or join [insert particular religion]? Why?

As I had stated above, this list of questions isn’t exhaustive, and they may not cover exactly what each person who reads this is looking for. However, I feel that they indicate the nature of the questions I typically ask when I’m trying to figure a situation out, and as such, can be used to formulate other questions of a similar nature for other situations.

I’ve answers some questions… what now?

This is the hard part, in my opinion. Its easy (sometimes) to sit around and mull on some questions, but figuring out what to do with the information you uncover is a different story. Generally speaking, I like to ask questions so that I can get a feel for my thoughts on a situation, and then use that information to make an informed decision on what to do in said situation. However, it can sometimes take several rounds of questioning and mulling before I actually arrive at a decision that I’m comfortable with. Remember that none of this has to happen all at once, and sometimes you may ask yourself a question and find that you don’t have an answer to it. The whole point of the questioning is to really get to the heart of the matter to better inform yourself on what you really think or feel about a particular situation. And then to use that information to make a better decision.

Do you find that questioning helps you arrive at a decision in a difficult situation? If so, what sorts of questions do you typically ask yourself?

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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When One Door Closes…

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

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

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

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

cookies_osiris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2017 in Kemeticism

 

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The Internet Lacks Object Permanence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building roadblocks out of assumptions

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

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

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

Destroying roadblocks by destroying our assumptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Devoted without Devotion: Why?

I wrote a post last year about some of my revelations and experiences of devoting yourself to the gods even when you don’t feel a whole lot of emotion towards them. It’s one of my favorite posts, I think, because it really does sum up a lot of my experiences not only with the gods, but with life itself. Due to the broken structure of my brain, or perhaps it’s just my nature in general, I don’t base a lot of what I do off of my feelings, and ever since I wrote that post, I’ve become more and more okay with this. I have become okay with being devoted while not feeling the devotion (aka the love). In many ways, I wear it like a badge of honor that I have managed to continue to develop my relationship with the NTRW despite my emotions sometimes telling me to quit.

I am proud of the fact that I can see something through, even when that something becomes frustrating, difficult, or mundane.

Despite that pride in my acceptance of myself (and to an extent, my limitations), there seems to be an awful lot of confusion about why someone would bother to do work for the gods even though they don’t seem to love their gods (this, of course, is all dependent upon how you define love). When this came up on Tumblr (because it’s always Tumblr, amirite?), the confusion seemed to largely come from non-Kemetics. However, I think this is something worth talking about, so that maybe we can reach a better level of understanding about different methods and reasons for different practices styles. So in that spirit, I’m choosing to go a bit more in-depth about the misconceptions of what a somewhat “emotionless” relationship/practice might entail as well as the why behind the continued devotion despite the lack of feelings.

jobunenjoyable

“It’s a job, therefore you don’t like it”

I think one of the biggest points of confusion about my lack of love for my gods is the idea that viewing my work for them as a job, combined with a lack of perceived love for the entities I am doing the work for, inherently means I don’t like it. Now don’t get me wrong, there are days when I definitely don’t like doing this work. Days like when tumblr explodes because Kemetics were talking amongst themselves. Days like when I have to deal with drama within the community or on one of the boards I admin for. Days when people are being particularly mean to one another, or I see back-biting occurring.

Even in the best of jobs, relationships, and life–there will be bad days.

And due to having depression (and I’m in a fallow period that is coupled with a really bad stretch of depression right now, for context), there are often more days where I dislike doing the work than not. That doesn’t mean that I don’t always like the job, though. And calling something a job doesn’t necessarily mean that I dislike it, either. There are certainly people who love what they do for a living. Jobs and enjoyment aren’t mutually exclusive. You can call something a job, and still get enjoyment out of it. I just happen to be the kind of person who will take something more seriously if I call it a job. For me, calling something a job reflects how serious it is for me. It’s more than a hobby or something I do when I happen to have time. And that’s part of why I call it a job–because it keeps me serious about getting the work done.

Of course, that doesn’t answer why I continue to do the job despite it’s bad days. Unlike a bad day job, I don’t get paid for this, so I can’t cite that. Surely there has to be some reason, right? (the answer to that is yes, and I will get into that in a minute.)

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“There are other people who can do the work”

Another misconception that I saw thrown around was that there are certainly other people who love the gods more, and surely they can do the work instead of a negative nancy like me, right?

Perhaps in other religious groups there are enough devotees to spread the work around (I disagree, but maybe I’m wrong), but Kemeticism is not one of those religions currently. As small as we still are now, there was a time when we were even smaller. In the time when I was first contacted by Set, there was very little to speak of in regards to an online Kemetic community. Nearly everything was KO driven, and there were only two small groups that existed outside of KO (Children of Kemet and eCauldron’s SIG). So the assumption that there is enough people doesn’t really work for our community.

To build off of that, even if there were enough people to spread the work around, it’s entirely possible that the gods might have felt I could do this particular job better than another person. I think that many times the gods hand us work based off of what we are good at doing, not necessarily what we want to do (which is why I didn’t get to be a priest, I assume). So to that end, it’s worth remembering that sometimes the gods don’t really care about what we want. They care that we get the work done.

There are also other factors including having enough time to get the job done, having the resources and tools to get the job done, beyond the basics of how effective you are at the job. In the mundane world, we say that love doesn’t pay the bills. In the Unseen, love can certainly be a useful tool or asset, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to get the job done that needs doing. I may not have a heart overflowing with love for my gods (though I think I might have once upon a time), but I certainly did get the work done.

And that is a sort of love, in a way, is it not?

whystay

And now we get to the part that everyone is actually interested in- the big fat “why” behind why weird ol’ me continues to do this work despite breaking the holiest of holy commandments, which is not loving my gods. This list is not exhaustive (I could probably give you a solid ten, but then this post would be really long), but I think highlights the top three reasons behind why I stick around.

Reason 1: I said I would

One of the first things you have to understand about me is that I place a lot of value in my promises and my word. I don’t sign up for projects and then drop them. I don’t start stuff and not finish it (although sometimes it can take a long time to finish a project, due to life getting in the way). And that is the same for this situation, too. Set found me, and told me that he wanted me to help build a thing (and later to do other things). I agreed to help because I was starstruck and naive.

However, just because I am less naive and a bit more jaded now doesn’t mean that I’m going to revoke my agreement. I said I would help with what he wanted to build, and I aim to see that through.

I recently saw someone say that devotion is a series of choices, and I have chosen to stick this out even when every part of me wants to quit.

Reason 2: It allows me to help people

One of the biggest things I love about the work that I do for Set is that it allows me to help people. While I may not always love Set, and I may not always love his methods, I do have a love for what his methods and direction have created. Yes, it sucks that a large portion of my life is spent dealing with drama. Yes, it sucks that I’ve made enemies along the way that I probably could have avoided otherwise. Yes, it sucks that there are days when I really want to be lazy, but instead need to get something done because he told me to.

But when I get anons telling me that my posts have helped them, all of that becomes worth it. When people tell me that I’ve made a difference in their life, that makes all of the hell worth it.

I once equated myself to a guinea pig for Set. That he would throw me in front of a bus so that I could document it and pass the information on to the rest of you so that you wouldn’t have to be hit by a bus like I was. I go into situations knowing this, and willingly doing it anyways because I know that it could help someone. For me, helping others is one of the main reasons I continue to stay alive. For someone who is a proud nihilist, one of the biggest achievements you can make in life is to help others–it’s the best way to leave a lasting impact that could persist beyond my short lifetime.

Set knows this, and he uses it to his advantage. I let him because it’s one of the only things I’m truly passionate about- helping people.

Reason 3: It serves a purpose (tw suicide mention)

Another reason for why I continue to serve despite not feeling the love sadly comes down to my survival. This isn’t the “woo” spirit worker kind of survival that you often hear about- where the spirit worker has to continue to do the work, lest the spirits kill them. Oh no, this is far more mundane.

What I mean by survival is that it often keeps me from contemplating ending my life.

Yes, there are several other things besides Kemeticism that I use as leverage to keep myself alive in a tough spot. But this whole community shtick is still a pretty hefty thing that I use on the regular. Having something to do with my time that I can convince myself as being bigger than myself, and therefore more important (see reason 2), often keeps me feeling like my life isn’t a complete waste of time. It gives me something to direct my energy at. It gives me something to work towards, even when I don’t feel like working towards anything except a 6 foot hole in the ground.

In that same vein, it’s worth bringing up that many of the people who chose to go after me for my lack of love for the gods seemingly ignored the ties that this has to depression. The implication was that if you don’t love it, you shouldn’t do it–especially if there are many other people who could possibly do it better, and be happier in the process. If I, a depressed person, took that attitude towards everything, I wouldn’t be alive. While I’m sure that there are readers who will disagree with me, in my opinion it’s not a far jump for someone who has problems with suicidal ideation to take that mindset and go “well I don’t love my life or myself, and there are other people who could fulfill the same job and functions that I do, so I should just call it quits.”

For those of us with damaged brain chemistry, listening to our brain every time it decides something isn’t worth doing can become a matter of life and death. This is also another reason why I don’t place so much emphasis on how I feel, because if I based everything off of my feelings, I’d likely not be here to type this out. Kemeticism and all of its trappings has helped me to not take drastic measures during low points in my life.

TL;DR:

So to sum up everything above (because creating a nice, succinct outro was not working):

  • There is nothing wrong with calling your devotion a job. There are several reasons why one may choose to do that, and those reasons may have little to nothing to do with their feelings (or lack thereof) towards the job or role they are fulfilling. Much like with “work with”, let’s quit attaching baggage to words.
  • You can still have a job that is fun. They are not mutually exclusive.
  • There isn’t always enough people to go around to fulfill a function. We should stop assuming that there are enough people to go around. I think there is a reason so many polytheists end up with 3893756 gods knocking on their door. It’s likely because they’re short-staffed.
  • Even in cases where there are enough people to fulfill a role, that doesn’t mean that those people are the best choice. Strong feelings, while nice, don’t instantly make you proficient at a job.
  • The number of devotees available to perform a job also doesn’t invalidate someone else trying to fulfill a role. You can still perform a job, function, or role well while not feeling super awesome about it (and to bring this into a mundane sphere, there is even a ruling that an employer can’t force you to be happy while performing your job, which should further reinforce this point), and the fact that others might be able to do the same stuff as you doesn’t make your actions any less valid. Another person’s success doesn’t inherently mean you’re a failure.
  • The reasons why I continue to stick around and perform my role for Set include:
    • I told him I would, aka I’m loyal
    • It helps me to fulfill some of my own personal ideals for a well-lived life (aka helping people, trying to leave a positive impact on the world around me)
    • It’s one more thing in my arsenal to use against my depression
    • It allows me to learn and grow as a person, while also fulfilling the above

Hopefully this helps to clear up some of the miscommunications that were occurring earlier this month. If anyone has questions, I am more than willing to clarify and explain a bit more about anything listed above.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2016 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Not All Polytheists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

allhousesmatter

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

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

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

 

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