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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Folding in Religion

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

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

Deity Associations: A Starting Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Religious Symbols and Concepts

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

Solar Bathing

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

Rejuvenation and Rebirth

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

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

Battling Isfet, Instilling Ma’at

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

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

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

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

 

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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Developing Associations and Themes

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

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

Meeting Your Neighbors: Local Landforms

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

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

Landforms Define Your Local Weather

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

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

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

Landforms as Foci of Veneration

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

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

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

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

Nesting Local Ecology into Global Patterns

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

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

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

Creating Associations

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

Seasonal Markers

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

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

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

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

Sustainers

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

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

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

The Power of Observation

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

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

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

 

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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Creating the Backbone

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

How to Utilize Your Weather Info

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

 

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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Gathering Information

I think one of the hardest parts of creating your own sort of local cultus is that it can be challenging to figure out how to do things without being appropriative. Most of us are living on lands that were stolen from indigenous people who had their own traditions, religions, and ways of relating to the land/world around them. To cherry-pick and take elements of their traditions as an outsider is an act of violence and theft, and so many of us are left wondering what options might be open to us.

In many instances, people will often look to their own religious traditions for inspiration, but the truth of the matter is that most of us are pulling from traditions that were centered somewhere else. For example, as a Kemetic, I would be pulling from a very specific area in the world with very specific weather patterns and cultural ways of existing in a region. Egypt was known to have a three-season cycle that centered heavily upon the rising and falling of the Nile, because the Nile was really what allowed them to survive how and where they did. And while the three-season model is close to what we have in Arizona, it’s certainly not what most people living in the US have to work with. Which is to say that most of these traditions don’t line up with our daily experience because they’re not tied to our specific region where we live. You know, the region that had its own culture that was forcefully removed so we could be here.

At the end of the day, most of us are still left going “how on earth can I connect the dots between where I live, and my religious practice?”

This series is aimed to help connect those dots — without being appropriative.

Direction; Expectations; What are we even making?

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of how to create this connection, I wanted to first lay some groundwork down that will hopefully help you get the most out of this.

First off, I am attempting to show you a way to gather information about your local region, and utilize that information to create holidays and rituals that form a sort of yearly calendar. At least initially, all of the posts in this series will be very generic in nature, and should be applicable to nearly any religious practice/practitioner. As things progress, if there is any interest in it, I can create more posts that show specific examples of what I’m doing with my local region, as well as how you can tie specific Kemetic ideas to the concepts laid out in this series. So regardless of your religious practice or preference: this should still be useful to you if you’re wanting to create a custom calendar.

This calendar will essentially be used to help you celebrate and participate in the natural, cyclical phenomena that occur where you live. This can also be expanded to encompass local fauna, landforms, and other natural features that exist around you which help to create the natural rhythms that make up the characteristics of your region. This includes suggestions for how to determine what might be considered sacred in your area. I also feel that you could utilize this as a baseline to fold in mythology and deities that exist within the religious structures that many of us are already participating in — hopefully in a way that respects the fact that we’re living on stolen land.

Second, I wanted to set the expectation that this sort of thing is not created in a day. Every year my understanding and knowledge about the region I live in is enriched and expanded. As you get more adept at seeing the patterns and cycles at play within the natural world around you, the more subtle stuff you’ll be able to pick up on, and the more you can branch out your holiday/ritual setup. Your first yearly calendar may only have a few holidays, but as time goes on, you may see other places where you could do more or try new things. This is normal and its fine if it takes a while to get the hang of it. Don’t be afraid to start simple and make it more complex as time progresses.

And finally, if you end up using this information to create your own calendars and rituals based off of your region, please let me know. I’d love for this to be a collaborative effort where we can all build off of each other and create a lot of different ways of celebrating our local regions. Ultimately, if there is enough content, I’ll create a sort of index of posts so that others can view them.

Here is the general outline of how these posts will flow:

Step One: Gathering Information

For me, the first step to creating a local calendar is to gather a whole lot of information about where you live. What kinds of information? Well nothing is technically off limits, but for the sake of ease, I’m going to break this down into two categories: weather patterns, and local plants and fauna.

Weather

So let’s start with weather. I feel like many people will say that this sounds stupidly obvious. Obvious in the sense of “We have four seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall; and they occur at these times of the year. Done!”

But I urge you to dig a little bit deeper than that.

Weather patterns are often way more nuanced and vary across different regions. To give you an example, almost every part of Arizona has something of a three-season cycle, but the specifics of the cycles are still very different depending on where you live. There is a city about two hours south of me called Tucson, and while they have the exact same seasons as Phoenix (where I live,) the specifics of our seasons are super different. Tucson is a lot less hot than us, they get way more rain, you can grow way more in the summer there, and their winters tend to be colder than ours. The only real difference between us is our elevation, and yet our wind patterns and rain patterns are quite different. The more local you can get, the better your results will be.

When examining weather patterns, here is a short list of things I recommend learning about:

  • Temperature patterns: what are you hottest and coldest days/times of the year? At what times throughout the year do your temperatures start to shift?
  • Wind patterns: what direction do storms come from? How about pressure systems?
  • Rain patterns: do you have a rainy or snowy season? When is it? Does your rain or snow typically come from a particular direction or location?
  • Watersheds: how does your local area receive its potable water? Is it from rain sources, or an aquifer? Are there local rivers or other water sources worth honoring or protecting?
  • Global weather patterns: how does your local weather fit into the larger scale of global trade winds and patterns? This is useful for figuring out what is necessary to make the weather happen where you live. It will also highlight how climate change could be changing your weather.

There are lots of places you can look to learn about your weather patterns, but it can sometimes be tricky to find information. My absolute favorite is WeatherSpark.com, because it has really nice graphs. I generally find that Wunderground.com, BestPlaces.net and USClimateData.com are also good places to start, but I don’t know how well these websites will work for non-US locations. So just in case its helpful, here are some key words and phrases I often use:

  • [zip code] weather patterns
  • [zip code] weather history
  • [zip code] annual rainfall
  • [zip code] weather averages
  • [state/province] watershed map
  • [state/province] water resources

A lot of the websites you access will give you daily and weekly weather forecasts, and you can usually find “history” or “annual” tabs within these websites in order to see the bigger picture of how your weather pans out over a year.

Plants and Fauna

When it comes to plants and fauna, these are the sorts of things that I would recommend looking into:

  • Planting patterns: when do you typically plant and harvest where you live? Do you have one big growing season, or multiple smaller growing seasons?
  • Eating patterns: which of your native plants is edible, and could be reintroduced into the diet today? What are the growing and harvesting times for these plants? Are there specialty foods related to your specific region?
  • Natives: what are some of the plants or fauna that are native to the area? Which of these are keystone species? Are any of them endangered?
  • Invasives: are there invasive plant species in your area? how about invasive animals?
  • Local ecosystems and landforms: are there any forests, landforms, or other habitats nearby? Do these habitats (forests, deserts, etc.) influence your local fauna or weather?

Some search terms you could use to look up some of this information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone [zip code] (I don’t know if non-US places have an equivalent)
  • [state/province] invasive plant species
  • [state/province] native plants, native edible plants
  • [county name] extension office, extension resources
  • [county name] growing calendar

Of course, gathering this information is only part of the solution. You have to figure out what to do with the information that you’ve gathered — which we will cover in the next post (because this post is pretty long as it is).

 

 

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Connected in Loneliness

I have been lonely for as long as I can remember, and I’ve handled it in various ways throughout my life. When I was younger, I disassociated all of those feelings away. As I got older, I found the “better” method of handling my loneliness was to funnel it into work. Because if you’re busy, you don’t have time to listen to the feelings gnawing in your stomach. Over the years, I’ve found that I could combine my incessant need to drown things out via work while also trying to fix my constant loneliness. Which is probably why TTR as you know it even exists.

In recent months, I’ve found that the topic of loneliness has been on my mind again. Due to the current circumstances of my life, I find that the feelings of abandonment and neglect that I would have experienced in my youth frequently bubble up to the surface. Because I’ve gotten better at being able to look at my feelings and remain somewhat detached from them, I’ve found that I’m able to actually inspect them before being overwhelmed by them. This has resulted in a fair amount of navel-gazing about loneliness and how it relates to a person’s personal religious practice. And by extension, how it relates to the gods, and whether they get lonely or not.

I suspect that being a member of a more “fringe” religion leads to loneliness playing a larger role in our community’s experience as a whole. Unlike being in the dominant religious group of wherever any of us is living, where you can find physical places to worship with other human beings, most of us are stuck creating our own religious experience in our own homes. I think its all very foreign, this trying to allocate resources to concoct, conceptualize, and implement whatever brings religious meaning to us while still engaging all of the other aspects of our busy lives. It’s a lot of extra work, and I think many of us don’t take the time to consider what impact that can lend to one’s religious experience. It’s a lot easier to build off of something that already exists than to have to figure out how to create it yourself from scratch. It’s a lot more motivating to participate in your religion if it is socially fulfilling or enriching.

In many respects, our choice in religion others us to a degree. And in that sense, our religion creates an ideal space to be lonely.

On a whim. I asked about loneliness and religion over on tumblr. I wanted to see how others relate to loneliness, and how that influences their religious practices. I left the question vague, as I wanted to see how people interpret loneliness without a wider context. I would say that most of the responses fell into a few categories:

  1. Loneliness is an act of being alone. This can allow for greater freedom to connect with the Divine, because there is no one around to interrupt you.
  2. Loneliness as a necessary tool or experiences. That some of our experiences are going to be inherently lonely, because we experience things differently as individuals. In most of these responses, the othering that comes with loneliness is temporary or situational, and not all-encompassing.
  3. Loneliness that separates a person from other people, as in being the only participant of your religion that you know of, or being the only non-white participant in your religious circle. This loneliness is pervasive and persistent.
  4. Loneliness that separates a person from the gods, as in not being able to connect with a deity as much as one would like, due to the fact that they aren’t living in physical forms we can interact with.

In these responses, I would argue that there are two over-arching relationships to loneliness. On one hand, it seems that people equate loneliness to being alone, nothing more and nothing less. On the other hand, it seems that people equate loneliness to being disconnected from others who are similar to themself, which is the definition I tend to err towards. From a mental health perspective, loneliness is not about being alone, it’s about being disconnected from other humans–regardless of how many humans are in physical proximity to you.

The ability to feel connected with people comes from a sense of someone being open and available to you, and by extension, you being open and available to them. It’s an open-door policy that works in both directions, respects both people’s needs and boundaries and leaves both people trusting the other with vulnerable aspects of themself. You can’t be connected with others unless you’re comfortable being vulnerable with them.

When you read that paragraph, how many people come to mind? How many people are you really connected with? How about your gods? Does the definition of connection apply to your relationship with them? Do you think that the gods feel connected with you?

Connection is ultimately the “cure” for loneliness, especially if its chronic in nature. And yet, according to most research, most of us do not feel connected with anyone. I might go so far to venture that many of us don’t even feel connected to ourselves. In recent months I have come to understand isfet as being “stuff that tears at the social fabric of human society,” and by that definition, loneliness might as well be a type of isfet because not only does loneliness make us miserable, it literally cuts your life short.

And if that’s the case, wouldn’t that make connection a form of ma’at? The balm that eradicates isfet from your life and restores the social fabric that us humans require to survive?

If 2019 is the year of making ma’at, then it stands to reason that this should be the year we start to tackle the loneliness that permeates our community. I don’t have any concrete solutions, but this is a call to action for anyone reading to start pondering about how we can work on helping members of our community to become more connected. Not only with each other or the gods, but also with ourselves. Figuring out who we are, making ourselves a priority allows us to give more space to other people when they are in a time of need. Treating ourselves as an important member of our own life helps us to form deeper, healthier relationships with others. Learning about yourself also teaches you how you want other people to treat you, and by extension, helps you create better boundaries, so that you can learn to trust people better. Which ultimately leads to… more ability to connect with others.

When you think about the loneliness that is in your own life or religious practice, what comes to mind? What helps you to feel connected to others? What steps are you performing to create more connection between yourself and others? What are you doing to help yourself become more connected with yourself?

Some resources to get the conversation started:

 
 

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A Year of Rites

Ever since I moved into my grandmother’s place, I’ve felt the urge to do a daily rite of some kind. I knew that I didn’t want to do the standard daily rites that are common in Kemeticism, because at the time, I wasn’t really eager to see O or Set anytime soon. Since I didn’t know what to do that would be helpful, but not involve my gods, I put the idea on a shelf and went about my business.

Fast forward to November, when O shows up and tells me that he would like me to consider doing successive rituals for the entirety of the following year (2019.) I expected him to try and sell me on how I would benefit from doing this for him, but he really didn’t suggest much. If anything, I think he knew it would tap my ego when it saw a challenge that it wasn’t sure it could hack — but ultimately wants to be able to say was effectively hacked. Almost like doing a thru-hike, you’re doing it partially just to see if you actually can. And so instead of trying to cajole me into doing it, he let me cajole myself into doing it.

And so, in the spirit of seeing if this is something I can actually hack, I give you “A Year of Rites.”

This “Year of Rites” will consist of four rituals per moon cycle, as per O’s original parameters. Each ritual will have its own theme and is placed at specific times within the moon cycle. These themes are then repeated around the same time each moon cycle, creating a sort of monthly rhythm.

So far, here is the general schedule and method that I’ve worked out:

New Moon/Day after New Moon: Monthly Ma’at

I chose to place the Monthly Ma’at rites around the new moon as a means of taking what is essentially a “blank canvas” that is the moon cycle, and infusing it with ma’at from day one. As such, I want to time these rites as close to the New Moon as possible. Here is the tentative schedule for the Monthly Ma’at rites:

Jan 7
Feb 4
Mar 6
April 5
May 6
June 3
July 2
July 31
Aug 30
Sept 30
Oct 28
Nov 26
Dec 26

Full Moon: Propitiation Rites

I am admittedly still a little unclear about what I will be doing for these rites. As I understand it, O would like me to mimic propitiation rites that occurred in antiquity, mainly centered around Sekhmet, Hathor, Khonsu, or Iyrt Ra in general. I think that I will initially start with the longform rite that Reidy wrote for Sekhmet, and see if I can use it as a base to create other rites that I could do for this category.

I chose to perform these rites around full moon due to the references of muuet and other nefarious entities being more prominent in the second half of the moon cycle (Roberts). I felt it best to propitiate the gods that oversee these negative forces before the dark side of the moon even begins to show its face. This is my tentative schedule for these rites:

Jan 18
Feb 19
Mar 20
April 19
May 17
June 17
July 16
Aug 15
Sept 13
Oct 11
Nov 12
Dec 11

Waning Moon: Execration Rites

Almost anyone reading should be pretty familiar with execration rites at this point, so I wasn’t going to bother with explaining them in-depth, but I will mention that these are meant to be a little bit more involved than some of my past execrations, in that I will be attempting to do more formal-styled execrations (such as what you see in Reidy’s book) for 2019. As for the timing, I chose to place these during the waning moon phase as a means to push back any negative forces that have managed to surface since the moon has begun to “shrink” or disappear. Unlike most of the other phases, this section has the most flexibility with timing, and I will likely do an execration on the first day of 2019, similar to how we would for Wep Ronpet, to insure that the year is as prosperous as possible. Here is the tentative schedule for the execration rites:

Jan 1
Jan 28
Feb 26
Mar 27
April 26
May 27
June 25
July 24
Aug 23
Sept 20
Oct 21
Nov 19
Dec 18

Not-Affiliated-with-the-Moon: 6th Day Akhu Rites

The akhu rites that I was asked to perform are supposed to be modeled somewhat after the 6th day rites that would have been performed in antiquity. Since I’ve got rites occurring around the 6th in several months, I will potentially shift some of these rites to the 7th or 10th day of each month, since I’ve read that it was not uncommon for akhu rites to occur on those days as well. To start with, I will be using Reidy’s akhu rites, but I have been asked to draft another version based off of the “Ancestor Ritual” of Amenhotep I by the end of the year. This is the tentative schedule for the akhu rites:

Jan 10
Feb 6
Mar 7
April 10
May 10
June 6
July 10
Aug 6
Sept 6
Oct 7
Nov 6
Dec 6

After each ritual is done, I will be doing a write-up discussing what I experienced, learned, or did for each rite. Whether these will be weekly, or combined into one monthly post, I’m not sure. However, all of them will be labeled as “Year of Rites” and will be tagged as such. If anyone else would like to participate, feel free to throw your experiences/write-ups into the “Year of Rites” tag, and I will place them at the bottom for others to view. For any custom rites that I create, I can post rubrics for others to follow if there is interest (I’ll be posting what I draft up for Making Ma’at no matter what.)

I know that the schedule is rigorous, but part of me can’t help but wonder how such an experience will change me. I look forward to seeing where this venture takes me.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2018 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at, Year of Rites

 

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Edge Effect

As I’ve been learning about permaculture, I have found that many of the concepts presented often line up with aspects of Kemeticism. There is one section that discusses the idea of “patterns,” which is a sort of self-contained entity that often exists inside of another system that is often its own kind of pattern. And because of the nature of these patterns, you can often see similarities that unite many patterns in unique ways.

For instance, as a person, I am made up of cells, each of which contains several patterns or similarities. I am self-contained, and yet I exist inside of an even larger pattern — a desert. And that desert is made up of its own components, each made up of their own patterns, and all of these entities is constantly interacting with the other entities and patterns around them. To take it a step further, this desert sits inside of a country, which is in many respects its own pattern that interacts with other counties (aka other patterns.)

The author then goes on to discuss how the boundary between patterns and systems is an area where events love to occur, simply by the fact that two separate “things” are being forced to interact together. This creates a space that is nothing but an overlap between two systems, and yet is a system unto itself. As described in the book: “Special physical, social, or chemical conditions exist on the boundary, because of the reaction between the adjacent media. As all boundary conditions have some fuzzy depth, they constitute a third media, the media of the boundary zone itself.” Because of this, boundaries are considered to be species-rich and usually have more resources available. Put another way, it’s a liminal space.

For example, where a forest meets a pond, there is a border where you’ve got both land and water. Because both ecosystems are represented in this singular area, you’re going to have a more complex system that combines both. “At interfaces, species of both systems can exist, and in many cases the boundary also supports its own species.” He calls this concept the Edge Effect.

Due to how special boundaries are and how beneficial they can be to an ecosystem, the author instructs the designer to create as many boundaries as possible. This way, you are increasing the amount of diversity and resources available. And while this was originally created for a natural/outdoor space, I personally think that it can apply to our own lives in many ways.

I’m sure to some extent, many of you are scratching your head (as I certainly am on my medicated reread of this post) as to what boundary interaction has to do with anything beyond agriculture. What I’m trying to suggest is the idea that if you consider the personal boundary that is your self, and if you make your boundary interact with lots of other boundaries, you might see an increase of resources or benefits within your life.

Put another way that is specific to my genre: I question that if you are struggling with interacting with the Unseen or its inhabitants (which live on the other side of a very thick boundary) that by going out and either increasing the amount of times you attempt to interact with the Unseen or their structures (aka, religious materials, rites, rituals, etc.) or by going out and having new experiences in general, that you might have an uptick in ability to interact with the Unseen.

First of all, I’d like to say that this concept isn’t new or original by any means. Therapists suggest it to depressed people. Life coaches suggest it to CEOs and creative types. If any of you watch Steven Universe, you might even recognize this concept already:

 

Though from a permaculture standpoint, it’s less about being random, and more about increased frequency of interaction.

This increased interaction can happen any number of ways, mind you. You could attempt to increase the amount of times you try to interact with the gods or the Unseen, and see if that helps you to get a better feel for them or have more interactions with them. It stands to reason that by doing more of a thing, you’re going to increase your chances of success at it, and rites and rituals are no different. Several authors have talked about the idea that by doing rituals in the same way over and over again — whether it be years or generations, that it helps to build up a sort of “Unseen Highway” that you can tap into and touch some deeper meaning or energy from those who came before. And while I can’t say that I’ve ever somehow stumbled upon some sort of arcane, unknown knowledge by doing rituals, it doesn’t change the fact that by doing, you’re genuinely increasing the likelihood that you’re going to have an interaction with those you are dedicating your time to.

But I would also like to posit the idea that increasing your interactions with other experiences in general could also help in this matter — even if the experiences aren’t directly related to your religious practice.

The main reason behind why is the simple fact that experiencing new things changes our brains. Simply by actively engaging with something, you are causing your brain to change, and those changes can lead to new and unexpected places. This is partially why its not unheard of for therapists to recommend those with mental illness get out and do something — because it’s going to force you and your “boundary” to interact wit others and their “boundaries” and those interactions can improve mental health, even if you’re not entirely thrilled to be doing stuff.

I think that this is also why so many of us recommend reading books or doing things that make you think about the gods/religion during fallow periods — because it allows your brain to learn new things, and make new connections. And that can not only refuel our desire for practice, but it can also lead to an increase in participation or interactions within a practice.

Have you ever considered making “outings” a part of your religious practice? Have you ever noticed an improvement in mood or creativity after a break from daily pattern? If you could use this method, what sorts of experiences would you want to explore or try?

 

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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?

Relevant Posts:

 

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We All Have to Start Somewhere

Alternate Title: Paganism is like Japanese food, so quit picking on newbs.

This past weekend I was strapped to find a place to eat. Due to my laziness and the part of town I was in, I opted to go to a place I never go to anymore: Ra. For those of you who don’t know, Ra is a chain “Japanese” restaurant. I place Japanese in quotes because, as far as I’m concerned, the food is more American than Japanese in nature, though the restaurant does try, if nothing else.

I sat down at the table and looked the menu over. I placed my order and waited for the food to come. While I waited, I mulled over how long it had been since I had been to Ra. Truth is, it’s probably been 4 or 5 years since I last visited. As I took my first sip of the miso soup, I remembered why it was that I don’t come here very often: it’s Americanized, anyone that has spent a fair amount of time eating more authentic Japanese dishes can tell.

Unagidon by Hyunwoo Sun via Flickr

So what does this have to do with Paganism? Quite a bit, when you examine it.

The shortest way I can sum it up is thus: we all start somewhere. To use my Japanese food metaphor, when I started out eating Japanese food, I didn’t know where to start, so I went with something that was local and somewhat familiar. I ate at Americanized restaurants because while they weren’t quite American food, they weren’t quite… not American food, either. It was a simple mid-jump that allowed me to slowly ease into a whole new food genre. It’s the equivalent of sticking only one foot in the freezing cold pool as opposed to jumping into the deep end all at once. As I got more and more comfortable, I branched out to other restaurants with more authentic dishes. I began to research and make my own food at home. I moved so far out into the deep end that I can no longer stomach the taste of Americanized Japanese food.

Like many people who are starting on a new religious path or venture, they’re probably going start with something that is somewhat familiar. Maybe their foot in the pool is only pulling books from a local store, instead of an Internet list or a university library. For recon-based paths, a lot of the information is dense and hard to read straight out of the gate, and it makes sense that someone would be overwhelmed by that. Maybe if you’re lucky, to use the metaphor above, you’ve got a Japanese friend who can show you the best places in town to eat, or maybe will even cook for you in their home. In cases like that, you can avoid the weird in between phase and ease straight into the “good stuff”. But for many of us, there is no ambassador to help us out, there are only Llewlyn books in the local Barnes & Noble and the one lady that runs the New Age shop down town. We’re stepping into something entirely foreign and trying to grope for something at least somewhat familiar when we start out.

Imagine that you are knowledgeable in a genre of food. Let’s say I meet someone who wants to get into Japanese food, and they decide that they want to try Ra. Should I chastise them for their choice? Should I mock them or make them feel stupid or inferior because they are choosing to start off there? Would you do that to someone?

We as a community do this regularly to the newcomers of the community. “I can’t believe you bought that book, are you stupid?” “Who told you that?! That is completely asinine, how do you not know any better?!”

“How dare you eat at that Americanized Japanese restaurant. Don’t you know that only fools eat there?”

See what I mean?

We treat everything as if its do or die, as if you need to be 110% knowledgeable in everything straight out the gate. We forget that we all started somewhere. That we all started at our Americanized restaurant before we learned that there was more beyond that. And in addition to this, there are plenty of people who like the Americanized food, thank you very much, and there is nothing wrong with that! Maybe its better that we agree that we don’t agree on what food tastes good and we call it a day. Maybe you can show me the best meal on the menu for when I’m stuck eating Ra, and I can tell you about a local restaurant that is similar to Ra in nature. Just because we don’t exactly agree doesn’t mean it can’t be an exchange of knowledge or ideas. Nothing needs to be black and white.

So when you meet someone whose practice or knowledge is the equivalent of Ra (to you), instead of chastising them and telling them that they are wrong for eating California rolls, instead ask why they are doing what they are doing. Ask them if they’ve ever tried something at the Japanese run and owned restaurant a few miles down the road. See if they are open to trying some new stuff that you view as being more authentic.

And if you get asked why you’re eating California rolls, be open with your answer and remember that questions don’t always equate to criticism. With some respect (on both ends) and some civility, we can all learn more about where each of us is coming from and possibly gain more insight and knowledge about other members of our broader community. We can begin to learn and see how the gods present themselves differently to different people and we can share better resources and more knowledge to all parts of our community. But if you yell at someone who has just started, you run the risk of shutting them down before they’ve even started and that doesn’t do anyone any good.

And above all, remember where you were when you first started and how far you’ve come throughout your process. And then transform that into patience when dealing with others who have just started.

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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KRT: Living the Faith

Living Kemeticism: What does living your faith mean to you? How can others bring their religion into their day to day life or live their religion?

It is my personal belief that religion is something that you live. It is a way of life or a way of being and approaching the world. It is a lens that you see the world through and when you are completely immersed in the religion, it will inform and influence just about every decision that you make, for better or worse. And for all of the guides out there about how to become Kemetic, I feel like there are very few guides out there that teach you how to live the religion. Sure, we’ve got guides for approaching gods and offering to gods and how to build shrines and what books to read. But none of these things really teach you how to live the religion.

So for this post, I’m going to discuss how I view living Kemeticism and hopefully some things that you can attempt to do to live the religion as well.

From my perspective, the way to become Kemetic and to live as a Kemetic isn’t about gods, offerings, reading, or shrines. It’s about living in ma’at. I’m sure some people would probably disagree with that, considering that 99% of everything out there on Kemeticism is about gods, priesthood, proper shrine construction and ritual performing, but I do believe that living in ma’at is the most important aspect in a Kemetic’s practice. The NTRW put maintaining ma’at as being their primary objective day in and day out, and since they need our help in maintaining ma’at, I’d wager that it should be a top priority for us as well. Problem is, ma’at isn’t something that easily defined and it’s going to vary for each practitioner.

When you see ma’at defined in an academic text, it’s usually defined as “truth, justice, order”. However, a lot of Kemetics agree that that definition isn’t very helpful, so a lot of us will define it as “balance”. We prefer to use the term balance because the word balance creates a looser definition (which is important for bigger concepts such as ma’at) that is able to reflect how ma’at is different for each person and it creates a definition that isn’t weighed down with a bunch of baggage as the ‘truth, justice, order’ trio would be.

If ma’at is balance, and I want to live in balance, what does that mean for my practice?

This is where the tricky part comes in because there is only so much I can do to define ma’at and it’s applications for each person, since balance will be different for each person. As an example, some people do really well with daily rituals in their practice. It helps to create a sense of routine and stability that helps to drive their religious experiences forward as well as helping with establishing a relationship between the devotee and the deity. For that person, daily ritual creates a good balance in their practice and helps them to maintain a sense of ma’at in their life and actions.

However some people don’t do well with daily rituals at all, and being forced to maintain a shrine through daily rituals may only succeed in bogging their religious efforts down. To force someone to perform daily rites when they are not well suited for them (for whatever reasons) would be counter productive and would not be conducive for building a sense of ma’at in that practitioner’s life and practice.

That being said, I think that the first step to living in ma’at is to acknowledge, understand, and accept that other people will do things differently than you. Other Kemetics will have differing (and sometimes conflicting) approaches to their practice and the gods, and that’s okay. We don’t all have to practice or do things the same way in order for it to be effective. In this same vein, I think we all need to acknowledge that there is no One Way to do this whole Kemetic religion and that there are as many viable methods to practice as there are practitioners.

The second step to living the religion is to figure out how the religion best fits into your life, and to pursue that.

That, of course, is easier said than done and it can take a while to figure out how Kemeticism will fit into your daily life. When I first started, Kemeticism fit into my life through ritual and shrine work. At the time, it was the only thing I could figure out to do to bring it into my daily life. I would read about Egypt and I would leave offerings out daily. However, I wasn’t entirely happy with this set-up. It was during the time that I took a break from Kemeticism to study Shinto that I realized that it was possible to be in a religion without performing shrine duties because Shinto places a huge emphasis on proper actions and religion as a way of life that seems to be missing from a lot of modern polytheistic and pagan movements. While I didn’t do a single ounce of shrine activity during that year, I still felt connected to my gods and my religion because they were still always on my mind, and I still acted with the concept of ma’at in my head.

It wasn’t until I began to do heavy community work and writing regularly that I realized where my niche was and what kind of role Kemeticism would play for me. My ma’at, my balance is in interacting with the community and creating resources for other Kemetics to use. I find more benefit for myself in these actions than I ever did inside of a shrine or ritual setup. For me, living the faith is equivalent to doing regularly community work, keeping this blog updated, and reading regularly.

And you may find that your balance, your ma’at, is different from mine, and that’s okay.

Figuring out your balance takes time and patience with a huge dose of trial and error. Only through experiencing how the religion works with your life and how you react to different activities and sectors of the community will you be able to figure out what works best for you. And what works best for you may change as you grow and shift. As you begin to find the core “staples” of your practice, a lot of the useless stuff will fall to the wayside, which may seem scary at first, but I think that’s par for the course when you finally find the meat and potatoes of your practice.

The short version 🙂

  • Being Kemetic is about living in ma’at, which we translate to mean balance (or “don’t be a dick”).
  • Figuring out your balance, your perfect Kemetic mixture is part of the path, but also part of living the religion.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things as you figure out what makes your practice tick.
  • Things may change as you change, and that’s okay.
  • We all practice differently as we all try to strike our own balance, and that’s okay, too.
  • Again, “Don’t be a dick”.

To read other responses to this topic, please check out the Master List.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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