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We Reflect Nature, Nature Reflects Us

One of the main parts of practicing Shinto is to revere, honor and pay attention to the natural world around us. Many Japanese have received inspiration from observing the natural world around them, while also drawing strength and renewed vigor by taking a cue from nature.

Arizona isn’t noted for it’s seasonal changes. We really only have three seasons: room temperature, pits of hell and humid pits of hell, but there are still small changes in the natural world that I try and pay attention to and draw from. As I get older and pay more attention to my own rhythms and changes, the more I see similarities in the natural world in comparison to myself and other people I know. I don’t know if it matters to other people, but I honestly find that seeing that nature is a lot like us, and that we’re a lot like nature is kind of reassuring.

treeAn example of this can be seen with some recent weather in Arizona. We had a pretty heavy rainfall last week that brought down almost an entire year’s worth of rain (7 inches is standard for us) in a single night. The result was pretty intense. There was a fair amount of flooding and a lot of property damage. The water caused so many problems that most people couldn’t get to work the following day. Needless to say, we were pretty smashed up around here.

And yet, despite the strife caused by the storm, there is new growth everywhere you look. Trees are showing new growth. Seeds that got scattered on the wind have produced baby trees. The water soaked ground provided our birds with a bunch of yummy worms to eat.

Despite the destruction, growth is everywhere. And life can be that way, too. We talk about that with Set- who razes your building down to it’s foundations in order to make a bigger, better building. And that happens with nature, too. Humans and nature mirror one another with growth after destruction. It’s just that nature is less grumpy about it.

Another similarity I’ve noticed is cycles. We all have cycles- cycles of growth and cycles where we get nothing done. Periods of time where we flourish followed by periods of fallow. For those who live in more places where seasons follow the European “standard”, you’ll see that your period of decay and stagnation largely happens in winter. Everything freezes over and nothing grows- only to be hit by a new phase of growth and rebound come spring. For those of us in the desert, our seasons mirror that of Egypt where the stagnation and decay often happens in late spring when the sun burns everything to a crisp, which then shifts into new growth come fall.

I often see this occur in many places and many ways in my life. My ability to create art comes and goes. My desire to sew comes and goes. My spoon count comes and goes. Everything ebbs and flows (just like the moon and the tides, for another nature reference). This also shows up for many of us in our religious practice. I personally see this manifest as I try to balance myself between two deities. Set is known for being the predominant deity during the decay of summer, where as Osiris oversees the planting and growing periods of winter. And my religious practice mirrors this in a lot of ways, where I tend to be more Set oriented in the summer, and more Osiris focused in the winter.

And while sometimes when I’m in the thick of being more focused on one over the other (or finding myself unable to create anything worth a damn), I will fret about whether I’m doing a good enough job. But then I remind myself that everything has a cycle, everything has a season, and everything that slips away from me will likely come back to me in its own good time. I look out my window and remember that the hot hot summer will eventually give way to the cooler winter (and that the cooler winter will eventually end and bring back the hot hot summer). So too with life.

But not everything is all sunshine and daisies when I look outside at nature. I mentioned above that there is a lot of new growth from the seeds that were scattered in the storm. And while its true that there are lots of seeds taking off and growing, there are a number of seeds that are not, and will not ever form a tree. There is a lesson in this too, however. If you are the tree, and the seeds are endeavors to better yourself or the world around you- you’re going to not only have success, but also failure. However, despite some of these seeds not ever sprouting, that doesn’t stop the tree from producing them all the same. We have to remember that even when are we beset by failure, we must keep trying to move forward.

And I think that is one of the largest lessons I pull from nature. Despite how harsh the weather is down here in Arizona, nature keeps persisting to the best of it’s ability. Despite how much humans may try to control nature- where it can exist, how it looks and appears – nature continues to persist, despite our efforts. While this doesn’t give humanity a free pass to dick nature over, we all have to admit that nature is a persistent bugger that isn’t easily bested. And I take that lesson very close to heart. I remind myself that even when things are not looking up, or when life is rubbing me raw, I must do what I can to try and persist. We can see this mirrored in Egyptian mythology  by the company of gods and their persistent efforts to keep a/pep at bay. The balance between Order and isfet is very fragile and ongoing with no real end in sight. Life here is the same way – the sun cooks the ground into dust, and yet the plants still try to thrive. Nature tries to remind humans that we are tiny things that can’t control nature, and yet we try to anyways. Both sides continue to try and fight to live to see another day.

On days when I am not doing so well, I remind myself to look to nature, for I am a part of nature and a part of this planet. Despite the differences in appearance, humans and nature (or plants) are not all that different. Between our cycles of growth and decay and our ongoing struggle to survive, I am reminded that I am not the only one fighting to keep going. I draw some strength from the plants and animals working to survive in my own front yard and I remind myself that I am capable and will get through whatever I’m facing.

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Know Thyself

One of the things I think we pagan folk don’t discuss enough is knowing when enough is enough. And with that, knowing your limits and what you truly can and can’t handle or take on.

Let me illustrate an example.

This year when I went to renew my Sukeikai membership, I didn’t get a new ofuda. For those who don’t know what an ofuda is, it’s something that goes inside of the kamidana. It’s more or less the Shinto version of an open statue. The Kami alight on top of it, or from it. They use it as a door to visit you, your house, this realm, etc. Because of this, you need to treat it like an open statue and take care of it daily. This is part of what makes Jinja Shinto Jinja Shinto. And, well- I’ve been really bad about doing this lately.

In fact, I’ve been bad about all of my daily ritual stuff lately. Why? Because I just don’t have the time or spoons for it. When you’re busy tracking down astral crack for 5 hours after you get home from working your full time job- things like putting out some salt and water for the Kami at 5am just stop being appealing (Jinja Shinto has you place offerings out in the morning, and take them in in the evening). I don’t even do my stuff daily for Netjer anymore. And while I’ve been able to strike a deal with them (part of my astral crack is their doing- so in trade of physical offerings, I work on their crack every day instead- and they’re okay with that), I don’t have the ability to do that with Kami- we just don’t talk like that.

And so, in knowing that I was unable to uphold my responsibility of having an ofuda in my house- I decided against getting a new one this year. I knew myself, my limits- and I knew that it was time to take a break for now.

Many people seem to lack this ability – the ability to say no, or to drop something that is important to them. However, its my firm belief that all of us really need to sit down, look at ourselves in the mirror and learn what our limits are, and the effect that sticking our head in the sand could be having on the gods and ourselves. How not saying no can be of detriment to the things we really care about. To use the example from above, most people I have seen would tell themselves that they could make it work somehow. They’d continue trying to figure out a means to go in front of the kamidana and try and do offerings, or half-ass the offerings, or keep it up a few days out of the month- etc etc. Basically, they’d stick their heads in the sand and try to make it work somehow- all while slowly eating up their spoons and becoming more and more disheartened with their progress (which leads to self loathing and other fun stuff).

And in the end, who does it benefit?

The kami would not be properly cared for (in this case). The follower slowly begins to associate their faith/religion/practice with negativity, its a chore, it’s something you have to do, or you avoid doing because of the shame you feel from it. It takes something that is supposed to be empowering and cripples it.

Sometimes, we need to understand when to say no. When to say enough is enough.


Now this isn’t necessarily about quitting at the first sign of problems, struggle, or strife. Oh no. And I’m not saying that there won’t be days when you half-ass your rites or duties, because that will happen from time to time- we all have fallow periods. I’m talking about honestly being able to examine your practice, what you’re doing, and being able to look at it and realize if it’s actually creating something useful and good long term (such as pushing through a fallow period or going through painful shadow work that a deity has handed you), or if it’s only going to be a detriment to yourself or the gods. In the case of the ofuda, it seems highly disrespectful to bring a living being into the house, only to ignore it. It’s like buying your kids a puppy- with no intention of properly caring for it. That makes you irresponsible. This is no different. Sure, it’s a bit of a dent in my pride. I can’t maintain this anymore. I don’t have the capacity to, and that really sucks. But as it has been said here– it’s not always about us. It’s about them. It’s about something larger than us, and I have to be able to swallow my pride and look at myself and the Kami and say “Hey, I can’t really do this right now, and to pretend like I can is not only disrespecting you, its disrespecting myself.”

Sometimes, we need to learn when to walk away from something. Sometimes, we need to realize that it’s okay to walk away from something. And sometimes, it really does us (and the gods) more good to let go of something than to try to hold onto it out of fear, shame or pride.

The only way you’ll ever know the difference is to take an honest look at yourself, and learn your needs and limits. Perhaps as this new year sets out and we’re busy creating ‘to do lists’ for the coming year, we should all take some time to get to know ourselves a bit better.

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Shyu-ki Taisai: The Great Fall Ceremony

We are finally moving into the last phase of this year. At each quarter point within the year, there are Taisai, or great rites and festivals which occur. The last one was at the beginning of summer, where everyone got to walk through the Chi-no-Wa And now we are hitting the last major festival before the big shabang at New Years.

From what I can tell, this ceremony involves the opening of the inner doors of the shrine, which only happens twice per year. Another strong element for this time of the year is harvest- as the rice harvest happens in Sept and October.

For myself, I did what I always do for any Shinto observance- I cleaned. I cleaned everything. Dusted. Vacuumed. Rearranged the pantry, under the sink, my desk. Everything gets a good cleaning.

And of course, there are offerings. The kami got a nice bottle of sake and a longer norito.

Offerings for the kami.

The netjer got cupcakes.

They are called “Tuxedo Cupcakes”. For gentlemen only.

I also finished up some magix I was working on, and started some new magix. One of the things I worked on was a type of bowl magix. In Shinto, it’s suggested that we leave some of the salt we’ve offered in the Northeast and Southwest corners of our houses- for cleansing, prosperity and happiness and all that. I normally replace this salt with each quarter point of the year. This time, though, I decided to add some extra oomph to my salt bowls. I got these ramekins from the Gu keylime pies that I bought last week.

The pie inside of them was good, too.

And as I looked at them, I was like ‘man, I need to do some magix with these’. And so my bowls were born.

They contain sand/dirt from a special location. A feather, ground up incense sticks, salt, leaves, bark, some cactus bits and rosemary.

I then walked around my house, cleansed in a less physical manner. Re-amped up my wards and all of that. Like normal, there was good food in the afternoon and evening- because every holiday has to have good food! I look forward to what the rest of the year will bring. I feel like big things are on their way- for better or worse. And I will do my best to meet these things head on!

What are your plans for the rest of 2012? Are you excited to see what the end of the year will bring?

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Shintoism

 

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Wish Upon a Star (Tanabata)

Today is the 7th day of the 7th month, otherwise known as Tanabata. This is often called the star festival, and it relates to wishes. According to Barrish-sensei, here is the back story to the festival:

Two stars, Weaver Princess Star and Herd Boy Star were in love. The Weaver Princess Star was very good at weaving, and her father was a heavenly king. Although the Herd Boy Star was a boy of lowly birth, the king, kind-hearted, let them marry. But because they were in love so much, they forgot to do their work. The Weaver Princess Star did not weave the cloth and the Herd Boy Star did not take care of the herds of sheep. The king became so angry that he decided they must be separated. They were told to live at the opposite sides of the Milky Way, the Sparkling River of the Heavens. They were only to meet on the night of July 7th, when they cross the sky.

There are multiple versions out there. As always, wikipedia has something to say on the matter. No matter which story version you follow, today is the day for making wishes. This is usually done by writing your wish on a piece of paper, a tanzaku. You then tie this wish to a bamboo plant or pole. Little Tokyo has a couple of bamboo plants that always have wishes on them. To the point that the bamboo looks like it is stunted from it.

Me and SO decided we would participate this year at home (we participated last year in Little Tokyo). We took out some of our special origami paper and cut a nice piece for ourselves. We focused on what we wanted as we wrote. We then took our papers outside to hang on our wisteria plant (I know, it’s not quite the same). I also left some offerings out for the local fauna, so hopefully they will like it.

Tanzaku on our wisteria.

The offerings are tea and water- the only two beverages on tap in our house anymore, and cookies. Back when I offered to the fae regularly, they seemed to like sweet baked goods- sugar cookies and mini-cupcakes were the most common. Since I had some lying around, I decided to offer them up. If I would have had any, I would have offered daifuku as well.

Offerings

If you could wish for anything right now, what would you wish for?

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Shintoism

 

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The Great Mid Year Purification

Today, the Tsubaki GSA is celebrating the Great Mid-Year Purification or the Nagoshi-no-O-harai. This event is usually held in the 6th month, and it corresponds with the last day of the 6th lunar month and the protection and purification needed to get through the second half of the year.

As with all rites in Shinto, there is a heavy emphasis on purification and clearing out tsumi, or impurities, and this is done with katashiro and the chi-no-wa.

Katashiro take different forms, but typically, they are little paper people. You take these pieces of paper, and you rub them all over your person. In so doing, you soak up all impurities and negativity. To finish it, you breath out a long breath to get rid of impurities inside and out. After this is done, the Head Priest takes all of the katashiro from all of the Shrine members, and throws them into water to be purified. The source of water is different for each shrine. For Tsubaki, it’s a river. In other places (as stated in A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine) it could be a small pond or font of water.

Walking through the chi-no-wa is usually done last. I’ve seen a couple of different stories as to the origin of the grass circle. In the book mentioned above, the story goes:

It was a hot day in summer during the rainy season and a traveler was passing the last two farmhouses before the trail lef into the mountains. Being late, he stopped at the first and politely asked for a night’s lidging but was rudely refused. As the second house, however, they kindly took him in and treated him well. As thanks the next morning, he revealed himself as a Kami and foretold of an epidemic soon to come. “But don’t fear,” he told the terrified farmer and his family, “if you make a ring out of the long-stemmed grasses growing near your house and put it above your door, you’ll all be spared.” And so it came to pass.

As per Barrish-sensei, the story goes:

Susano-no-Mikoto was traveling incognito and was offered the hospitality of a poor but sincere man named Somin Shorai. In gratitude, Susano-no-Mikoto taught Somin Shorai how to make the Chi-no-Wa as the ward against disease and misfortune.

In the Mid-Year ceremony, all of the participants walk through the Chi-no-Wa. In the book mentioned above, everyone makes a figure-8. For Tsubaki, you will walk through it 3 times (I have never been to this festival, so it’s possible they walk in a figure-8 as well). Walking through the chi-no-wa will bring you health and harmony for the rest of the year.

I have yet to actually make it to a Mid-Year purification, but Tsubaki Jinja has made it possible for us long distance members to participate in the rite. We are all sent out own katashiro in advance, and we take them and rub them over our persons to soak up negative energies. I was a little rough with mine- and nearly bent the arms completely off of the little paper person. We then sent out katashiro back to the Shrine, and they will be cast into the river today.

For our own personal purification, today will be busied with cleaning the house and clearing our minds for the future ahead. Usually, there would be special offerings for the Kami, but I currently don’t know what to offer them. With my current limitations in diet, I can’t offer any juices or alcohols… so instead, I decided to give the birds outside extra seed (I feed the birds at the behest of the Kami). Beyond that, it will be a day of rest and mindfulness about the rest of the year to come.

What do you wish to see in the next 6 months?

Posts about Mid-Year Purification:

Some videos on it:

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Shintoism

 

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Equal.

I have heard Barrish-sensei say many times that we are “All equal under the sun”. To me, this is such a beautiful concept. Equality. Something that we all strive for. Something that everyone wants to feel – to be an equal among their peers. Yet despite this, there are many times that I have seen many people treat other beings on this planet as lesser, due to a variety of reasons.

The concept of being un-equal is mind boggling to me. It is at the core of all three of my practices that everything is equal. All things are divine, and everything you see is on an equal playing field.

In FlameKeeping, literally everything is Divine. I am of the Divine, you are of the Divine. Anything you eat is Divine. Your carpeting is Divine. Even your feces is Divine. We are all Divine, and we all strive to uphold that divinity. To work to make everything better. And to live up to the fact that we are of the Divine.

In Kemeticism, we are also Divine. Everyone and everything came forth from the Nun. We all came from the Creator god (pick your myth). His tears. His fluids. His spit. His clay. We all came from the same place, we all share a Ka (at the core). We are all Divine. And in that right, we are all equal. You, me, the carpet.

And in Shintoism, we are told that we’re all equal under the sun. Because we all receive Divine ki from the sun, it’s solar energy. Due to the pantheistic nature of Shintoism, Kami can exist in anything in everything. You. Me. The carpet.

Yet despite the emphasis on equality, there are so many who do not seem to embrace it. There are those who think themselves higher than their peers. Those who think that they are better than what they eat, the people they interact with, and the general world around them. And in many of these situations, their reasons for feeling as such are very superficial. They have a special ‘title’ or membership to a group. They have nicer cars and clothes. They hold a job, or a ‘better’ job. It seems that everyone is out to make themselves feel better, by making everyone around them feel lesser somehow.

Every time I see this, I cry a little inside. There is so much more to life than being above or below someone (or something). There are so many much more important and larger problems out there, yet we allow ourselves to get trapped in this game of greater than and less than. Unlike the carpet, a tree, or a dog- we people have a greater opportunity and ability to enact change in this world. We are able to create beauty and change in this world. To leave it a better place than we came into it. As it is said in FlameKeeping, we are the eyes and hands of the Divine. It is our job to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of hating on others. It’s our responsibility to keep respect in our mind at all times, because everything is Divine, and we must respect that.

Can you imagine how different the world would be if we all had honest respect for one another? If we all lived in equality with the world and nature around us. If we as a species suddenly got over our “we’re here to dominate everything” complex? I think it would be interesting to see how the world could change. And while much of the world might not practice equality on the by and large, that isn’t going to stop me from trying to keep it in my mind on a daily basis. The idea that something out there is lower or higher than me just doesn’t jive in my mind.

How much equality do you keep in your day to day life? Is it something that your religious/spiritual practice places and emphasis on? Should it?

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Flame Keeping, Kemeticism, Rambles, Shintoism

 

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Spring Flows In

This past weekend marked the beginning of Spring in the Shinto calendar. Spring, called Risshun, began on Satruday and Setsubun marked the day before spring on Friday (the day before the start of a new season is always called Setsubun). In the old calendar, this was the time of the new year. A time of renewal, much like with any other major holiday. So I set out to see what I could do to celebrate this at home.

Typically, in a shrine the activities include shooting three arrows to help purify your mission, your life and your fate (one arrow for each) for the next year. Afterwards, at least at our shrine, you’ll take your soybeans and throw them at oni (closest word I know is ‘demon’). These oni will become purified by the soy and help to make your next year successful (as I understand it). While doing this, you will shout “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” or “misfortune out, Come in happiness”. Afterwards, you’re supposed to eat as many soybeans as you are old, plus one extra to represent the next year of good health. Unsure what to do to bring these activities home (honey, I need to go buy a bow…) I asked Barrish sensei what would be the best activities to do at home. He told me to clean my house thoroughly, to open the windows to allow fresh air in, to pray to the kami, and to toast, throw and eat roasted soybeans.

Slowly I am learning that every Shinto holiday consists of at least three things:

  • Cleaning your house
  • Praying to kami
  • Eating/offering a food that is specific to the holiday

So on Friday and Saturday, we cleaned the house up. We dusted, picked things up off the ground… made sure everything was in fairly good order. We left the windows open most of the weekend to allow the nice cool breeze to come in. And on Sunday, we got down to business with making roasted soybeans.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like these beans. It really was a tough call, but I thought I’d give them a shot for tradition’s sake. First you need to get your beans, we bought the prepackaged kind. You’ll need to de-hull them. For us, that meant taking off a layer of clear-ish skin. Then, you’ll place them onto an ungreased baking sheet. Afterwards, put them in the oven at 350F. You’ll need to keep a close eye on them. We had to roll them around every few minutes to ensure that they wouldn’t stick or burn.

Once they look as brown as you want them, you’ll pull them out of the oven. Spray some oil on them, and follow that up with salt.

After that, we placed them onto our ‘honorary ozen’ and took them over to the kamidana. We also added some Vitamin Water to our offering cups. Not necessarily the healthiest, but at least the Other could partake of it, unlike sake. After we said our prayers, we took a few handfuls of beans and threw them around the house, chasing out hidden demons. We then sat and ate our 26 beans. They were actually quite tasty.

I personally love that Shinto has spring so early. Down here in the desert, it’s already warming up. You can go outside in your shorts and sandals. It’s almost like winter doesn’t even happen down here. So for me, it’s great timing. I also like the reinforcement of renewal. I feel like many things are on the cusp of change, like spring is going to bring a lot of awesome stuff. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Shintoism

 

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The Mochi Project

It’s a standard tradition in Japan to have a Kagami Mochi for the new year. Normally, this is placed in front of the Kamidana and serves as a reminder for the renewal and togetherness that this time of the year brings. Last year, we got our Kagami Mochi really really late. And it didn’t come in until after the new year. This year, it at first appeared that there would be no available mochi- so we decided we were going to make our own.

The process is fairly simple, but quite messy. I decided to take pictures of the whole ordeal for all of you to look at 🙂

Ingredients for the mochi. We used a recipe featured on Cooking with Dog (on Youtube). If you ever are interested in learning more about Japanese cooking, I highly recommend their channel.

The process is fairly simple. You take the mochiko, mix it with sugar and then add water. Mix it well. You boil water in a pot, and once it reaches boiling point, you’ll put your mixture’s pot on top of it- double broiler style. You put a large towel covered lid over that, and let it go to town for 15 minutes. Apparently, if you wanted, you could microwave it instead.

Afterwards, you take your mixture out of the pot and lay it onto a pile of katakuri starch (potato starch). Depending on what you’re making, you might need to work quickly and mess with the mochi before it cools. For us, we were able to let the mochi rest before trying to form it into balls.

We had an issue with the balls wanting to melt into pancakes. However, if you keep at it, eventually the balls will hold their shape pretty well. Be prepared to go through a lot of starch. Be prepared to make a huge huge mess 😛

We let our balls rest for a while. During this time, I set up the ozen for the mochi which included trying to make shide. I was only partially successful. Afterwards we placed them onto a plate and then put the plate into the ozen. We decided to decorate our mochi with the orange and crane from last year’s mochi. It would have been better to use a real mini orange, but we couldn’t find any small enough. All of the Clementines were waaaaay too big this year. So we opted for a fake one.

After it was all said and done, we placed it up in front of the kamidana. We’ll be eating it in a few weeks. Not sure what we will make out of it yet, but we’ll figure something out.

The whole experience was pretty fun. Trying to work quickly mixed with long periods of waiting made for an interesting dynamic in the kitchen. It was quite difficult to not eat everything in sight. I love mochi ❤ I feel like the energy spent and the bonding that came from making it ourselves made it a better offering to the Kami than a store bought plastic kagami mochi (technically there are real mochi inside). Even though the shape isn’t perfect, and the technique isn’t quite correct, the energy and thought make a larger impact. And I can’t wait to make another batch next year!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Shintoism

 

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The Great Clean of 2011

Cleaning. Is Fun. (borrowed from Flickr)

As I understand it, it is a common practice in Japanese culture to clean your house from top to bottom for New Years. Doing so more or less clears your slate for the upcoming year. It allows you to have good things come to you in the new year- because all of the crap has been cleared away.

I love this concept. I use it as a part of my Shinto practice, as I feel it’s focus on cleanliness and returning to a pure/clean state (such as Zep Tepi in Kemeticism) really mirrors the whole concept of The Great Clean. And after the Great Clean of 2010, I felt that I had cleared some of the drama from my life. I felt that it played a role in restoring some order in my life. That it cleared some chaos and stagnation away and allowed me to move forward to where I am now.

So this past weekend commenced the Great Clean of 2011. Due to being busy, we have broken up the Great Clean into multiple weekends. Each weekend we’ll pick certain areas of our house, or certain tasks to do. And hopefully, by the time Jan 1 hits, the house will be completely clean and ready for the new year. This past weekend we worked on cleaning out the kitchen. Getting rid of items we no longer need or use and taking them to the Goodwill (and actually, you know, taking them there. Not just leaving them in a pile by the door). We also got to work trying to sell our futon, which has been waiting to be sold since the beginning of Nov.

We also made the decision this past weekend that we will be making our own Kagami Mochi this year. Our normal place for buying it doesn’t seem to be carrying them this year. And at this rate, SAL wouldn’t get here in time. So we shall attempt to make our own. This will be the first year where we have an actual ofuda in the Kamidana- so I think it’s fitting that they get real Kagami Mochi, not a fake plastic one. Hopefully it will turn out well :3 I also need to get the Kamidana and it’s shelf all set up and ready for New Year and it’s ofuda. Which should be an adventure in and of itself.

Looks like I’ve got a lot to do before New Years hits.

 

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Shintoism

 

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A Child of Chaos

Most people know me as being a child of chaos- a follower of Set. And even if you don’t know who I worship, or that I even have a religion, if enough time is spent around me- you’ll describe me with the same words and phrases that most of my fellow Kemetics do. Despite my attempts to change people’s perceptions of me, it seems that the same traits always come forward. I’m hard, mean, no nonsense. I am cynical, snarky, and sarcastic. And you can’t forget that many people think I’m a dude (and if they know me in person, I’m treated as a male, not a female).

Even recently, in a discussion with a friend of mine, thoughts about the Kemetic community came up. Kemeticism doesn’t really have a large community. There isn’t a whole lot of selection (it’s pretty much KO or nothing), and many of the different temples seem to hate one another. Basically, our community sucks, and is pretty non-existent. To my friend, it almost seemed odd that a follower of Set would want to be in a community. Let alone run one. I mean, Set is the outsider, the foreigner. He’d rather stick to himself than deal with people right?

I can’t help but wonder- Why?

Why is it that following Set means that I don’t want to fit in? Why is it that because Set is cast out to the deserts that he doesn’t want friends? And why is it, that despite my attempts to show that I’m not a complete ass, that I have softer sides, people only seem to see that one aspect of me?

Why?

I am more than just the ass you see. I do have a need to belong. A need and desire to be a part of the group, and to not question my role or position in that group. To feel that people genuinely want me around. And to be able to be myself in that group. I would also like for people to see that I have other aspects. That I am more than just “that Set follower”. Oh yeah, and I can hurt just like everyone else too. I’m more than just stone. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why it is that the other parts of me get ignored.

When explaining this to my friend, I related to Asar. There is a part of me that is like him. Kind. Quiet. Fertile. Soft. Yet for whatever reason, no one ever sees that. I joke, a have fun, and I try to show people that I can be light hearted, I can be happy and nice. Yet, no one ever sees it.

I have always had a fancy for Asar. And really, he has been around me since this whole thing started. I figured he hung around because of my s.o.- who also happens to have a thing for Asar. However, I’m beginning to wonder if Asar hangs around not because of my s.o.- but because he wants something to do with me. Set told me to make the two halves whole. If Set is the side that everyone sees, could Asar be the side that no one sees? Could acknowledging him help me to equal out the halves? If he is the other half, the way he approaches me could easily be the same as the way my other half is. It’s very intangible, and hard to grasp. It’s there, but it’s not. It’s a feeling that you can’t describe. And in many ways, Asar is the same. He influences me in ways that I barely notice. A little touch here, a little nudge there. Words aren’t needed, but if you’re paying attention you can see that it’s him.

The other piece in this puzzle is Shinto. Set sent me to look into it, to help with the halves. I think part of this is in the Japanese culture. I shared my thoughts on this with my s.o. last night, and he seemed to think it could be a factor.

When I go to Little Tokyo, or I sit in a Japanese restaurant (that is run by Japanese people), or I go to the local Japanese market- I change. Entirely. I didn’t think I changed that much, but after listening to my s.o. last night, apparently it is like night and day. For those of you who don’t know, Japanese culture is very different from us in America. The mannerisms, the way you talk, the way you look at people, hold your hands, hold items- it’s all different. And when you stick me around a bunch of Japanese I try to follow these rules. I thought the change was there, but according to my s.o. the change is like a slap to the face. You just can’t miss it. I told him last night that it’s a case of “When in Rome, do as the Romans”. He said that it was more “Don’t do as the Romans, I AM a Roman”. I guess I almost become one of them in my actions.

I think these little interactions are important. That these little moments are the times when my other half gets to shine through. I love interacting with the Japanese culture (here in Phx, and in LA). I will seek out festivals and locations where I tap into this feeling, into that half of myself. Where I can let this yin side through. And because Shinto is so intertwined with the culture of Japan, perhaps that is how Shinto plays a role in making me whole.

But then there is this whole Asar thing that I need to figure out. And still binding everything back together is important. I feel I’m onto something, but I’m not positive what to do with it. All I know is that while I love working with Set, and I love being a hard ass in his name, I do get tired of constantly fighting these labels people put on me. I’m tired of always being considered hard, and unbreakable. I’m tired of only one side of my nature being acknowledged.

And I wonder if Set feels the same way some days.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Kemeticism, Rambles, Shintoism

 

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