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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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KRT: Kemeticism Underground

How public are you about your beliefs and practices? How has it (or not) impacted your work life, your familial and friendly ties? What advice would you give to uncertain Kemetics about how to approach either telling or not telling others about their beliefs?

For this round of KRT we’re discussing how open we are with our religious practices and what kind of effect that has had on our lives and relationships. Honestly, despite how open I am about my practice on the internet, I don’t really talk about my practice at all in my day to day life. If you are lucky, you will know that I am not Christian, you may even know that I’m Kemetic, and that that deals with ancient Egypt, but I pretty much don’t talk about anything in real life.

This is because I am fearful of the potential consequences that I may have if I were to be open about my practice. Most of my life and my lifestyle are hidden because I don’t want to experience more societal pressure for my choices and way of life. As I mentioned in my God’s Mouths post, my life is almost entirely centered around religious work and astral work, and it is made obvious when trying to have an in real life conversation with people who know absolutely nothing about Paganism that I pretty much have next to nothing that I can talk about with “normal” people. Usually, if someone asks about my religion and I’m required to answer, I get blank stares in return, or I get lectured about my choice in religion.

 

My family also knows very little about my religious practices as well. My closest family (read: parents and one grand parent) know that I am not Christian, but that is where the knowledge ends. They don’t make a habit of asking about my religious affiliations or practices, and I don’t make a habit of talking about it. I personally have found this to be ironic because my family does have a bit of “woo” to them. It’s said that other members of my family can see spirits and the like, and most of my family has at least some passing interest in energy work and manipulation, channeling and other spirit work. However, they never think to ask me or include me in their discussions, so no one knows anything about how that stuff factors into my own life.

So the short answer to the first question is this: I don’t tell anyone about my practice. I have difficulty speaking about it in real life, and I typically keep it very hidden, which results in a lot of odd mental quirks and odd discussions sometimes. It also leaves me feeling pretty alienated regularly.

My advice to anyone who is starting out on a non-“normal” religious path is this: Use discretion.

A lot of people seem to think that its a-okay to be an open Pagan in the modern day and age and that you’ll experience no repercussions for it, but its honestly not. Being open about your religious beliefs in the wrong place can get your harassment from coworkers, friends and family, or can result in you losing your job (despite the laws in place that are meant to protect you from such things). Be careful what you divulge and how quickly you divulge it. Much like my boiling frogs post, I would recommend that you start slow. If you mention that you’re not Christian, and no one freaks out, then maybe you can talk about your specific religious path, and then maybe more about your world view, practices, etc. Ease yourself into the conversation, and try to make it easy for you to back out if it goes in the wrong direction too quickly.

I would also advise to be careful on the internet as well. Many employers do check candidates out online, and its very possible that finding a bunch of online stuff regarding your religious practices can become a factor in their decisions to hire you. It’s also possible that people can use online interactions against you for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways (I’ve seen this done in divorces and custody cases, for example). If its possible to write under a pseudonym, I recommend considering it. Because of this, I also always recommend being professional, courteous and respectful online as well- because that can also play a factor if someone finds out who you are online and in real life.

I understand the desire to want to be open about your practice and that it’s not really fair that you have to live (to some extent) in hiding, but I’ve found over the years that being completely open about my way of life tends to result in drama and stress. So for myself personally, I’d rather keep that stuff hush-hush because I don’t want or need the extra stress. As you get further along your path, you’ll find the best mix of open and secret that works for you, but to start out, I always recommend being rather reserved with your religious workings. It’s always easier to reveal a secret later than to try and cover your secret back up once it’s out of the bag!

To read other responses to this question, please check out the Master List!

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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The Mysteries: The Process, Pt1

“If you’re going to send a fool to do it, you might as well do it yourself.”

That is what my grandmother always told me. Usually, in these cases, I was the fool and she was the poor schmuck who had to fix whatever I had “broken”. When it came to the Mysteries this year, I don’t know if I was the fool, the fool replacing a fool, or the right person for the job- but I was the person selected nonetheless. My feelings regarding the Mysteries and the work they entailed were very mixed- in some ways I desperately wanted to help the person that sat across from me in the sand of the Duat, and in other ways, I felt so entirely out of my depth I was sure that I would only succeed in making the situation worse.

And I’m still not sure whether I did a good job or only made it worse.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what happened during the 2013 Mysteries. To start off with, I don’t think I expected the Mysteries to end up as they did. I mean, you can only expect so much when the word “mystery” is in the name, but even then- what ended up happening was completely different from what I was told would happen and from what I had expected.

And I think it’s because of that that I am having so many problems with writing my Mysteries posts.

Back in November, when I approached O at the river, I was in the mindset of “I’m going to actually do some in-depth work with my deity this year. I’m finally going to sit down and work with him for a month straight so that I can learn what he is like and what this process of death is about”. At least, I think that’s what I wanted.

And when I went to him, I expected that he would help me work through my anger and move to a more stable place emotionally. When I got thrown into the Duat, I expected that I would go on a journey with the person who was with me. That we’d both go and travel to Osiris’ khat within Rosetjau. That we’d go through a rebirth process and maybe learn something about each other or our “purposes” along the way. Secretly, I hoped he would become my vomit reader, because I needed one. Or that at the very least, I’d make good what I told him I would do for him a year prior- and at least ensure that he was healed so that he could move forward without a million pounds of baggage hanging on his shoulders.

But that’s not how any of it happened. And because everything ended up so wonky, I still don’t know what on earth is going on, or why I was even sent on this adventure.

So instead of a big moral-ridden post about how the Mysteries changed my life for the better, let’s talk about how confusing they were.

via flickr

The Road There.

The first phase of my adventure lasted from the New Moon to the Full Moon and it involved trekking through a series of terrains with another person. When we were left in the Duat, both of us had injuries to our bodies, and we had both been stripped of 90% of our magix. Everything we did required significant amounts of energy, and we spent a lot of time smoking and laughing as not to cry.

It’s my theory that the wounds were two-fold. First off, they were a literal reminder of the wounds I and my partner had existing within us. He and I had a lot of baggage to sort through. We had had a year full of drama and backstabbing and our relationship had been tumultuous at best and downright deadly at worst. As we were forced to rely on one another to survive our trip, our wounds would open up, drain out, and slowly heal. As our bodies recovered, our relationship recovered.

Second, I believe the wounds were there to force us to take our time. We weren’t able to cover miles in a day. We had to move slowly because of our bodies. We also had to rely on one another because we were not self-sufficient in our physical abilities. It allowed forced us to each be vulnerable in one another’s presence- which feeds back into my paragraph above.

So we walked. And we walked some more. We found a netjeri who sorta helped us along- pulling our sled along behind him for a bit. We walked when we couldn’t do that anymore. We ran into Ra. We got rerouted to who knows where. We saw snakes and random entities that I have no clue what they were. We walked some more.

That was all the first two weeks consisted of. Walking and moving forward while we smoked and cried and talked about whatever came to mind. By the time we reached the end of the first leg, we had found ourselves at some outcropping of rocks that looked to have a type of cave to them that led downwards. We camped there while we waited for the ability to enter inside.

Moving Underground

On the night of the full moon I noticed that my body was acting up. The energy lines that course through my limbs were lit up and there was a large energetic marker by the rocks outside. As the evening drew on, a small group of people gathered outside of these rocks. A few women carried baskets of offerings and flowers. Another man had scrolls, and another man held a sistrum.

They were all happy to be there except for the man with the scrolls who looked like he was over everything.

I wished I shared their enthusiasm. By that point I had been run ragged. My body was still aching and I had a huge welt on my forehead (I joked that it was payback for all of my months of claiming to wear the Atef). I had been away from my family for nearly a month at that point and I was over the whole thing. But hey, at least they were nice and allowed us to enter into the depths below with them.

My partner and I traveled down into the darkness. A series of single-file stairs led us hundreds of feet down into nothingness. We stopped at a gate/pylon where the group of people performed some amount of rites. 30 minutes or so later, the doors opened and we all slowly moved inside. However, once my partner and I crossed the threshold, we found that we were all by ourselves again and our bodies were healed. Our clothing shifted and the other people we had come down here with were completely gone.

We were on our own.

It seemed like we were in a smaller hallway now. The ground continued to drop slowly and there were reliefs around us as well. Honestly, it reminded me of a tomb. We followed the path that lay before us until we hit another entity guarding a door. It was the only way forward- so we spoke the right words to gain entrance to whatever lay beyond.

All of our work was supposed to culminate to this, right? Surely all of the answers would lay on the other side and things would begin to make more sense, right?

Continued in part 2.

 

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Teaching Someone How to Pagan is Like Teaching Someone How to Art

via flickr

I was recently asked by a friend if I knew of any useful resources for someone who was looking into learning how to draw. It seems really simple- there are lots of tutorials out there on the internet for how to draw things: from hands to faces, cylinders to cars. There are lots of resources out there. So I linked them up with a fairly in-depth tutorial on how to draw a person and felt that it was mission accomplished. I patted myself on the back and said “job well done!” and thought it was finished.

But it wasn’t finished.

I received a response that stated that the tutorial seemed too complicated. That drawing that much anatomy out of the gate was way too much and that they needed something simpler than that. And then I realized that from the perspective of someone who was new to art- this probably seemed a little overwhelming or daunting.

I still wanted to help, so I reevaluated what it took to get to where I am artistically. What did we do in school? How did they teach us to draw? How on earth could someone else replicate what we did in school on their own?

And then I began to see a few parallels to polytheism and paganism, and I felt like I had been hit upside the head with an iron beam.

First off, this whole situation reminded me of many of the questions we’d receive at Pagan101. When people become more experienced at the whole polytheism thing, I think they lose track of just how far they have come. Because you might not exactly realize the progress you’ve made, you can lose scope of where newcomers are coming from, and we inadvertently end up inundating them with too much information, or information that is too complex. We think its simple because we’ve been at it for a while, but they are not us. To draw the parallel to the art scenario above, I thought that it was simple and easy to point to a broken down human figure and say “draw like that”. But in reality, we didn’t even start drawing people until the second or third quarter at school. I have completely bypassed what it took to even get to that point.

That’s how it goes for a lot of newcomers in the pagan-sphere, too. We give them a lot of academic books, or we tell them to “google it” and they get overwhelmed. For those of us who are acting as resources within the community, we’ve got to make sure we keep an eye on that.

But more importantly, I realized that “I can’t teach you how to art. No one can.”

And if you swap out “art” with “pagan”, you’ve got the same situation.

For those of you who are not artists, the truth of the matter is- most art is about practice. You can learn new techniques, sure, and those are plenty helpful. But when you’re starting out, what you end up doing the most of is… well, drawing. When I started in school, they sat us down in front of a pile of stuff. They would have us draw the stuff in different ways (contour drawing, negative space drawing, no lifting the pencil.. things like that), but at the end of the day- it was a whole lot of practice. And while we learned the basics for perspective and human anatomy, it was still a lot of trial and error, a lot of tearing up of papers and throwing pencils while you tried to get it “just so” or the teacher made you redraw it… again. Because art is not procedural, there is no way to linearly teach someone how to art. You can only learn how to art by doing.

Religion is much the same way, especially the less institutionalized religions of the Pagan umbrella. When someone comes to me and asks me how they become a Kemetic, all I can do is show them a bunch of information on what Kemeticism entails and hope that they can figure it out themselves. There is no “You do XYZ, and now you’re a Kemetic”. Sure, we proceduralize some of the methods- for instance, if you are a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, you take the informational classes, you undergo the RPD, you receive a name, and now you’re Kemetic Orthodoxy. But even then, you might only be Kemetic Orthodoxy in name.

Same goes for Shinto- you can become a member of the Sukeikai and receive an ofuda and have it in your house- but it doesn’t mean you’re living as a Shintoist.

When it comes to learning how to be a member of a religion, there is no one way to do it. There are as many ways as there are practitioners- and then some. Just like with art, becoming a member of any new religion will likely entail some screaming and throwing of things and crying as well. We all start somewhere, and many of our paths have been jagged and loopy and screwy as can be because there is no way to teach someone how to Pagan.

The best we can do is show you how we do it/did it, and hope that you can figure out what works best for you through trial and error.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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KRT: Aspects of the Daily Practice

For this round of the Kemetic Round Table we are discussing some of the basics in creating a daily practice. Daily practice is always tricky because you’ve got to figure out how much is enough, and many times people plan for things that end up being too much – which often leads to being overwhelmed and then burning out with the whole religion thing. Daily practice can be done by yourself, with a small group of people, or within a temple/coven structure and can involve many things.

So to start off- what does a daily practice entail?

Initially, when I first began to learn about Kemeticism, I thought that the daily practice revolved around a ritual. It seemed like everyone was always talking about rites and shrines and spending time in front of those shrines. And every temple or Kemetic group that you see has their own daily rites, too. For a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, daily practice would include Senut, and for the Temple of Ra, there is also a daily rite that the members all participate in in their individual homes (a version of it can be found in Eternal Egypt). But, for Kemetics who are not members of these temples, the answer to “what does a daily practice entail” becomes more difficult.

I think the ideas behind daily practice and daily rites get convoluted when you consider that many temple members don’t perform rites daily (for a variety of reasons). And I sometimes feel like the emphasis on daily ritual misses the point of Kemeticism- which is living in ma’at. In antiquity, is was the priesthood who performed daily rites, not laypeople. And in modern contexts, there is very little written on what a layperson’s daily practice should look like.

So needless to say- the answer to this question is going to be different for each person.

Like most things with religious practices- I would urge anyone who is looking into making a daily practice to examine their own needs. For someone who is working two jobs and has kids, a daily rite that is complex and long may not be a possibility. Truth be told, a daily rite might not be possible at all. And that’s okay. When I first started off, I did a daily shrine session every evening. It involved sitting down and crying in front of my icons about how I needed a job. By the time I got a job, my practice morphed into weekly rites that were longer and involved food. When I moved to my parents house, I tried to do daily rites every morning and quickly found that that was a no go. I would end up shelfing my daily practice almost entirely for nearly two years. I’d spend another year doing daily practice before my astral work came up- and now I don’t do daily rites at all.

But even though my ritual practice shifted with each new phase of my life- I still considered myself Kemetic because I was living the religion. Being Kemetic is not synonymous with “doing rites all the time”. You can leave offerings for the gods out, and still be a crappy Kemetic- the same way that a Christian can go to church every Sunday and still not live by the tenets of Christianity.

For myself personally, daily practice is about living the religion- in whatever format that that takes for you. For me, this involves reading a lot. It involves keeping this blog up to date. It involves being active in the community and answering questions and helping facilitate discussion and idea exchanges. My practice involves trying to embody the concept of ma’at and doing the work the gods lay in front of me.

And that work doesn’t involve a single libation or offering plate.

Sure, I still have my shrine box- but I only perform rites in front of it sporadically. Instead, I open the box every time I’m sitting at my desk. I keep my blog idea book inside of it because for me- writing and online work is synonymous with a daily practice. The Internet and online community is where I hold my rites and rituals. It’s where my practice can flourish and grow because its about building the community up.

So short story long- when you’re coming up with a daily practice, figure out what it means for you. Figure out where you want your practice to go, and what you want from your religion. In addition, keep in mind your limits and where the gods want you to go into the future. And above all, don’t be afraid to shift and change your practice as your life and needs change. Religion shouldn’t be static because we are not static. Don’t be afraid to try a bunch of things until you find something that works for you.

But what if I want a daily rite? How do I go about doing that?

You can either pull a pre-existing daily rite (1 2 3 4) or you could create your own. When creating your own rites, be considerate of limitations of space and time. Most Kemetic rituals tend to include the following:

  • Lighting of candles or incense or both.
  • Pouring of libations.
  • Words of praise to the deity.
  • Offering of foodstuffs, drinks, and/or items.
  • Personal speaking time with the gods.
  • Removing of the foot.
  • Reversion of offerings.

In many situations, these rites only take about 5 to ten minutes to perform (provided you are not doing one of the more ornate state rituals) and can take minimal supplies to do daily. So if you wish to create your own rites, I would consider using these bullets as a guideline.

For example:

  • You could start by entering your shrine space and lighting a candle, or turning on the light. Say hello to the gods.
  • Pour four libations for the deity you worship. With each pouring, state “may you be refreshed”, or “may this cool water refresh you”.
  • Ask that your deity come forth to spend time with you. “Oh He Who is Great of Strength, I ask that you come sit with me to enjoy these offerings I have prepared” and then leave the offerings on the table.
  • While the deity is a captive audience and is enjoying said offerings, you could let them know what you’re up to, or what you’re doing.
  • Once you are done, thank them for showing up and spending time with you. Wish them a good day.
  • Collect up the food offerings and walk backwards away from the shrine while still facing the shrine (called removing the foot).
  • Then go and enjoy your offerings.

You don’t even have to be that complicated, though. You could just as easily say hello to your deity in the morning while pouring them a cup of coffee and pouring said coffee out in the evening. There are lots of ways to go about things, and don’t be afraid to try stuff until it works for you. Sometimes, simple is better- so don’t forget that. In many situations, I recommend that the devotee start with something small, and then slowly work their way up- making the rites and practices more complicated until you hit something that works best.

The daily practice can be difficult to pin down. It’s not easy to figure out what exactly you need from your practice, or what the gods want and need from you. But with a little experimentation, you can find the right mixture that allows your practice to flourish.

To read other posts on this topic, please check out the KRT Master Post.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism, Uncategorized

 

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