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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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The Mysteries: Prologue, Pt 1

This year’s Mysteries ended up following a different pattern than normal. I came to Osiris shortly after the beginning of November and told him of my desires to handle my anger and cope with the past year during his month. As I mentioned in this post, the past year has been tumultuous. I’ve lost a lot and I wanted to really come to grips with what has happened, and I felt that O could help me with this best.

He simply stared at me. He did not nod or acknowledge me at all. He was busy keeping my river stable at the time, and didn’t see fit to respond at all.

But he heard me.

Two days later, I found myself dead. It was not a shock to me, really. I had been fighting off something for nearly 3 months now, and even though I had seen the warning signs, I wrote them off as something else or didn’t know how to handle or fight off the disease that corroded my insides. My family watched and tried to combat it, but regardless of our efforts, the result was the same.

I fell into the darkness and upon awaking, I found myself limited to a few places- the river, the lake, and a shared space between my two halves which looks a lot like black nothingness. When I came to at the river, I found myself in various stages of “healing”. I would wake up to find O tinkering with my core, or floating in the water with various cords coming out of me. Sometimes the Left would be there, checking stats and keeping an eye on things. Other times I’d wake up to find the Right whispering to me.

But for the most part, I floated in the water and stared up at the stars.

On this side, I worked on processing the anger that I had developed. Luckily, I learned my lessons from Set well and I didn’t need to spend time with him to even address that I had the anger. I could skip that step and move straight onto figuring out how to morph it into something more positive or useful. As I opened up the box that contained most of my rage, I could hear O asking questions to help me develop a clearer insight as to what was actually going on inside of me.

It started with two questions that would be asked one after the other.

  1. Who are you angry at?
  2. Why are you angry at that person/entity?

And these questions played back and forth until I could narrow down my list. As I examined the reasons behind my anger, I began to understand what was really going on in my head and heart.

Once I got a better hold, I started with the “Who”. I made my list of the people I was actually, truly angry at, and I broke that list down into two brackets- people that I was only slightly perturbed with, and people I was genuinely angry at. I then wrote down why I was angry at each person (or frustrated with each person in the case of the second list) in a short-form, bullet point format. I wanted to keep it simple for my brain to keep track of, and I tried to strip as much emotion out of the reasons as I could. In order to beat this, I would need some objectivity.

I then took these items and examined them individually. I looked for trends that were occurring and I created statements that helped to break my thinking and reinforce new thought patterns. Each statement was written down to make it more permanent. Whenever I felt the old thought pattern creeping back in, I’d pull my statements back out and read them to myself as a reminder of where I was heading.

At the behest of another, I also examined the emotions that I carried and determined which of the emotions were mine and which were placed on me. I took the emotions that were mine and put them into one list. I took emotions that were not mine and placed them into another. Most of the “not mine” list were adjectives and labels placed upon me by people who did not know me or had no right.

And I refused to carry those things any longer.

I examined each label and reflected on why each label had been placed upon me and whether that label was accurate or not, whether I should change my actions to change labels (if applicable), and then created affirmations to remind myself of who I was inside. This step was probably the hardest for me because I place way too much weight on others opinions of myself.

But I will not let others define who I am.

With each step I would write my thoughts and affirmations into a book. And with each stroke of the pen I felt better about my situation. I felt like my anger was becoming more manageable, and while it wasn’t completely gone, I felt like there might be light at the end of the tunnel. It was also at this time that I really began to appreciate the act of writing things down, and noticing how I wrote things down. The act of putting pen to paper made things feel more concrete and more final. I suppose in a way, this was one of the first times that I really began to appreciate some of the nuances of heka.

Once I had cut through the bulk of my larger issues, I found that I was no longer floating in the river, but that I had sunk to the bottom. I lay there and look up through the water to see the sky beyond. It was very quiet and still. I didn’t entirely feel at peace, but I felt like I was on my way to where I needed to be.

When I finally awoke, I found myself in a hall with O sitting in a fancy chair in front of me. He wore clothing that was much more elaborate and formal than normal.His kohl was particularly thick that day, and he was 110% serious business while I was there. It was a complete 180 from normal.

He looked down at me and told me to prepare for where I was going. Though before I could get to where I wanted and needed to be, there would be more work yet to do.

 

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How Do I Pagan Without Gods?

It probably seems pretty contradictory for a polytheist to be talking about having a polytheistic practice without any main deities in it, but it’s not as confusing as it first seems. Just because our religious practices have a tenet that states that multiple deities exist in some capacity or another doesn’t mean that they necessarily have to be the focal point of your practice.

And just because you don’t have a patron deity doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have a viable polytheistic/pagan practice that functions well.

For this post, I’d like to discuss having a deity-free practice and what that might look like.

Why write about this?

The blog-o-sphere is filled to the gills with posts about talking with gods and working with gods and patron this and main squeeze deity that. I think that many people who don’t have focal deities are sometimes at a loss as to how they can even approach their practices without gods in place. This is my attempt to give people some ideas about how to practice their religion without gods being at the forefront. This is not me saying that you can’t have deities in your practice, or that you shouldn’t have deities in your practice. This is me giving people ideas on how they can make their practice work when they don’t have gods for whatever reason (whether that be that you haven’t found a main deity yet, or you don’t have a working god phone, or you don’t have a patron, etc).

What is the foundation of a deity-less practice?

The foundation of your religious or spiritual practice is going to vary. While there tends to be some unifying factors amongst people (such as the concept of ma’at for Kemetics), how these concepts play a role in your practice and how you perceive them is going to be different from how someone else does. For Kemetics, the foundation of the religion is ma’at- order, truth, balance. For a Shintoist, the foundation is kannagara which is to work together with Kami or with Great Nature. Additionally, Shinto has a large emphasis on gratitude and purification. None of these concepts- ma’at, kannagara, gratitude, purification- require deities to be enacted. They are orthopraxic in nature, which means its about what you do and less about what you believe, or who you believe in.

Before I became a Kemetic and started to work with deities heavily, my foundation was centered around elemental work and learning about myself. I placed a heavy emphasis on staying grounded and stable while I plowed through my college finals and looked for a job. For that time in my life, I needed to take the center stage, and so it became the foundation of everything I did in my practice. When I performed rituals, I called upon local spirits or elementals instead of gods. Or I just fueled my rites with my own energies instead of relying on the juju of others (my practice was heavily influenced by Wicca at the time).

In all of these situations, the way of living takes the center stage of the religion or the spiritual practice. Deities may or may not play a role in this- it’s really up to you. Don’t let the lack of deities scare you away from figuring out what you need out of your religious practice and how it will effect how you live.

What about rites or holidays? Don’t you need gods for those?

My answer would be- not necessarily. Most Kemetic holidays are about the seasons, ancestors or mythological events that are occurring. In truth, I don’t celebrate many Kemetic holidays because they aren’t tied to the gods I work with. So you don’t have to worship the deity in order to celebrate the holiday. For Shinto, most of the holidays are about purification and cleansing everything around you- no kami are required to make that happen.

So depending on what the focus of your religion is- you may not need to worry about gods in order to have a good time. Celebrate the seasons and the changing of the weather and world around you. Mark important times in your life with a holiday. Celebrate yourself or the universe as a holiday. Any day can become an important event if you deem it so. Get creative in deciding what works best for your religious calendar- if you even need a religious calendar at all.

Rituals can be more tricky, and will depend heavily upon what types of rites you perform. As I mentioned above, many Kemetic rituals and holidays call upon specific deities. However, you don’t have to worship these deities to call upon them in a ritual format (many Kemetic rites have specific deities you call upon- regardless of your relationship with them). And in some rituals, you can swap out deities for other entities, or a ritual can be formatted to omit the necessity of a deity all together. Remember that a religious practice needn’t be set in stone. You can work with things, try things and experiment to see what gives you the best results.

And when in doubt, I always turn to local spirits for ritual work. I figure if I help the local land spirits then they might be more willing to help me. They show up and help me in a ritual, so I leave them a pile of goodies afterwards- so that they are more willing to help me the next time that I ask for help. It’s all reciprocal.

Shrines, Altars and Places to Worship

This can always be a little bit more difficult to address. A lot of stuff that discusses building shrines and altars usually does so with the notion of gods in mind. However, a shrine can be whatever you want it to be, and you don’t necessarily have to have a shrine in order to be a “legit” Pagan/polytheist. If you’re wanting to create a shrine space, I’d ask you to consider why it is that you’re wanting to create this space for yourself. Is it because you want to honor someone? Is it because you want a place to reflect? Or are you doing it because its what all of the books and websites say to do?

Once you’ve ascertained your reasoning, it becomes much easier to figure out what you need to do. When I first started, I had an altar space- I needed a location where I could work on magix and other projects and I wasn’t interested in venerating anyone, so I created a small corner shelf where I could have space to work as well as having lit candles and incense out and wouldn’t have to worry about them getting knocked over. My initial altar spaces had a lot of candles and rocks on them. That is what I connected with most at the time, and so that it what I went with. However, keep in mind your own needs when creating your own special spot.

If you’re aiming to venerate someone or something- try to put things that remind you of that someone or something in that space. For example, a Kemetic could create a generalized Kemetic shrine and include things like libations of water, candles, ankhs, an eye of Horus, the symbol for NTRW or something similar. You don’t necessarily need a deity icon in order to create a space that works well for you. For someone who is into Shinto and wants to create a space sans a specific Kami, I’d recommend an area that is clean and simple. Possibly include omamori or ema boards for the space. Or maybe something from your location- such as rocks, branches or flowers that help to bring the outside in.

Like always, get creative. Don’t be afraid to experiment (see my post on shrines for more ideas).

Sometimes we like to create a space that is for worship or self-reflection. In these situations, I recommend filling the space with things that remind you of your path and put your mind at ease. For myself, this always involves big fluffy pillows, nice scents, and calming music. You can also rely on imagery that helps remind you of your path or goals, or possibly items and books of people and practices you wish to emulate.

Basically, it comes down to figuring out what you need from your practice, and what your religion places an emphasis on, and making a space that enables you to live and walk with those tenets in mind.

So I’ve got some of the basics of my practice working. What do I do from here? How do I find my place in the community if I don’t have a deity to write about?

I think that this is probably the biggest problem that most people have. So many people are busy writing about their experiences with the gods, that a lot of folks aren’t sure what to write about or discuss in regards to their deity-less practice. I discussed some ideas in my post here, but let’s go over a few more possibilities for people to utilize in the community.

  • Talk about your shadow work or personal growth.
  • Talk about how your practice has helped you grow and improve, or how your methods could help someone else improve.
  • Write about the community at large.
  • Talk about that ritual you did last night.
  • Take awesome pictures of your shrine space, or that cloud that reminded you of some religious thing, or maybe that piece of jewlery you found in a second-hand shop that was just what you were looking for.
  • Write about your day to day life, and how your practice influences that- or doesn’t influence that.
  • Talk about how you get through the day, through your life, without gods.
  • Discuss historical aspects of your religious practice (if applicable).
  • Talk about various moral structures or ethical structures that exist in your religious practice
  • Talk about concepts that exist within your religious practice and how they do or don’t apply to your religion today.
  • Talk about the mundane moments in your life that made you think of your spirituality/religion
  • Talk about some awesome magix you are working on.
  • Or how your fandom influenced your religion.
  • Or maybe how that fanfic influenced your religion
  • Or maybe write a fanfic modern myth in regards to your religion.
  • Or anything- I mean, really, anything is game.
  • Answer questions about other people who are lost on their path. Even if you don’t have an answer, sometimes its good for people to realize that they aren’t alone in their situation. Sometimes a “I feel ya” is more than enough.
  • Or you could collect resources, and help other people by directing them to those resources.

There are lots of options and ways to be active within the community and your religion without relying upon gods. It is my sincere hope that people will begin to write more about their “mundane” religious experiences. I would love to hear more about what other people do in their religious practices and love to see more day to day stuff discussed. Because even those of us with “woo” and gods do have our days when the phone is silent and our times when the practice is in a fallow season. The more we can discuss and the more we can learn from one another- the more we can begin to bridge that gap.

How would you practice your religion without gods? Did you see any areas that I missed? If you see any parts of this guide that need expanding, or if you’d like to discuss more ideas, hit me up in the comments section below!

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Kemeticism, Rambles, Shintoism

 

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Land Spirits Living in Suburbia Hell

I have spent most of my life living in suburbia hell. You know the setting- tract housing that all looks the same. Tiny little postage stamp yards filled with grass and shrubs. It’s pretty much the standard for Arizona after the housing boom of the late 90’s. Almost everyone lives in tract housing or shoddily built apartments that have paper thin walls.

This is probably also a standard living situation for most Pagans. I know it is for me.

When you live in such a cookie-cutter setting, how does one find the land spirits that are around them? Can you even find local spirits inside of a subdivision?

I believe that the answer is yes, you can. You just have to know where to look.

Luckily for me I have spent 20 plus years in the Valley of the Sun. I’ve driven thousands of miles on this city’s roads and I’ve learned the ins and outs of the land. And I do believe that even here, in even the most suburban portions of this city, land spirits do still hang around and mess with your sprinklers when they’re bored.

They exist within the very streets you drive upon. They get their kicks screwing with the traffic patterns and watching people get angry over it. They show you that they love you by giving you green lights when you need them most.

They exist in the monotonous landscaping that lines our streets and dots our medians. It’s the land spirit that leaves a $5 bill on the sidewalk where you happen to pass every day, or the sneaky little spirit that guzzles up the remains of the soda in the Thirstbuster that got thrown out of a passing truck.

They exist in the reflective surfaces of the windows that make up our office buildings, and they make faces at you when you use the window like a mirror to pick food out of your teeth. They bask by your pools in the summer and topple over your snowmen in the winter (except not in central AZ. We just bask by the pool year round down here).

You can see where they gather the most- around the person’s house with all of the birds outside of it, and you know that the lady with the big flowers out front probably has some spirit that fancies her- because they help to keep the plants growing strong. You can see them mourning when a tree is felled by a storm or when some stupid human decides that that tree is not in an ideal spot and cuts it down for no reason.

They play in fountains that adorn apartment complex entrances and harass your dog as you walk him at ten at night. They play baseball in empty lots in between buildings and stop kids from chasing balls into the street.

They are all around us, and most of us never even realize it.

Every day I walk a stretch of pavement that is about a mile long. Every day I pass by the same gravel, trees, and houses on my way to where I’m going. Every day I can see and learn about how the local spirits are doing purely based off of what I see around me. They leave me little hints on the ground in the form of dropped papers or knickknacks (my astral companions are guilty of this, too). Its almost like divining based off of what I find on the side of the road.

They also leave me goodies that I can use in my practice. This can be in the form of feathers, rocks, critters or random stuff on the ground (mirrors, cordage, spoons, hubcaps).

As I walk, I can see problems with human design affecting the land spirits and lay of the land by watching where traffic buckles and where wildlife tends to get hit. And I always make a point to stop and say a piece to anything I come across that has met its end by the side of the road.

I nod as I walk by a tree that was felled in a storm last year, but hasn’t been cleared away yet. Something still hovers over the corpse of the tree, watching as people golf nearby and traffic rolls along without a care. I often catch a glimpse of the “locals” at the community pool as they stare at their reflection in the blue turquoise of the water.

There is a coyote that sometimes can be seen meandering through the subdivisions of this neighborhood. I always make a note of when I see him- because I feel like its important somehow.

It’s the little things, the little movements of suburbia that give away where the spirits are and whether they are happy or not. A place that has spirit activity usually has some amount of wildlife activity. The plants grow and the traffic isn’t filled with fatalities every other week. You can stand at the end of a subdivision street and look at the houses and watch where your eyes drift. Odds are, where your eyes go- so too do the spirits.

While we often think of them as being only in the wild places like woods with no cell reception, the truth is- they do still hover around us. We just have to open our eyes to them.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Land Spirits and Urban Spirit Work

 

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When Land Spirits Go Right

Last week I wrote about when a relationship with your land spirits heads south and the problems that can occur with such a situation. For frame of reference, I wanted to write about a peculiar relationship I’ve developed over the years with another set of land spirits and some of the signs that show that my relationship with these spirits has gone right.

San Tan Mountains by Garry Wilmore via Flickr

I grew up in a tiny mountain range in central Arizona called the San Tan mountains. These mountains aren’t anything special, honestly. Compared to the Superstitions to the north and Picacho Peak to the south- almost no one knows that the San Tans exist. They really don’t catch anyone’s attention (until the housing boom in 2004), but they were my home growing up.

When I was younger, there was almost nothing out in the San Tans. We had no running water (we had to drive into town, purchase water, bring it home and hook it up to a pump to get it into our house), we had nothing but dirt roads, and when we moved deeper into the mountains in high school, we didn’t even have mail service. Needless to say, we were out of the way and pretty much off of the map. To pass the time in such a location, I spent most of my days running around the desert looking at stuff. I used to meander through washes and climb up various rock faces. It wasn’t very long before I knew a lot of the landmarks for the area and I felt more and more comfortable walking further from home. In high school, I spent hours outside every week trying to find some peace of mind with my situation.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was effectively bonding with the local land spirits.

I suppose it should have made some sense, for despite all of my adventures on the backroads of the desert, I always managed to escape trouble. I evaded getting cactus in me (unlike in the Superstitions. I can’t set foot over there without getting cholla in me). I managed not to get bit by any snakes. And when flooding occurred in high school, somehow my car managed to plow through the river of a road to safety. However, I never really noticed that me and the land had anything special going on.

Eventually, progress would seep its way into the surrounding lands. I’d watch as my favourite trees would be cut down for homes and acres of land would be cleared for track housing. Luckily for me, as this was happening, my family moved to another part of the Valley so I didn’t have to watch the destruction of my childhood happen in real time. After college ended, I’d move out of the state all together and I wouldn’t be back to the San Tans for a few years after the fact.

Despite that, I still get dreams of the location.

It’s like even after all of these years, me and that location are connected. Whenever I dream of the San Tans, I know that someone is trying to tell me something. Every time I go there in dream space, its like I’ve traveled to an astral version of the location, and I can watch progress occurring on the Other Side as spirits carve out a living for themselves. It’s been very interesting to watch.

Now that I’ve returned to Arizona, I sometimes go out and walk through some of my old favorites (though I now have to shimmy under barbed wire to get there. Yay, “progress”) and connect with the land I grew up with. I think the area has moved on from the trauma ten years ago, especially since the economy halted a lot of the growth out there.

Now that I live closer to the spirits, I get even more dreams about them. I feel them move and whisper when I go to my grandmother’s house. I also listen to her stories of evading problems with local wildlife and I see her picking up pieces of the landscape and leaving them in her house- signs of protection, as though the spirits are telling me that they are keeping an eye on her for me, even though I’m not around much.

To me, this is the result of being tied to a land and its local fauna. These are signs that I’ve somehow managed to connect with some of the spirits that live in the San Tans. And as a result, they help me out from time to time. I don’t know what I did to garner their support over the years, but I am certainly thankful for it. Every time I head out to the desert in the San Tans, it feels like I’m heading out to see an old friend. It’s a feeling that I wish everyone got to experience.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Land Spirits and Urban Spirit Work

 

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All Souls 2013

I was lucky enough to be able to go to this year’s All Souls Procession down in Tucson. The All Souls Procession is a local event that occurs every year around Dia de los Muertos and All Saints Day and is geared to help people honor their ancestors, family and community. When I go, I go walk with a local Taiko group that likes to utilize elements from Japan’s Obon celebrations- most notably, Ondo dancing.

Much like the last time that I went, I stared at my prayer form for quite a while before I could even begin to figure out what to write on it. In an effort to get inspiration, I placed it in front of the shrine with some offerings for the gods; which proved ineffective for inspiration. But at least I got their blessing in a way.

I decided to go a different route instead. I decided that I would look at the past year, as though I had gone to All Souls last year, and reflect on how things had changed. This last year has been an adventure and many things have occurred and transformed. Some for the better, some for the worse. I mused on it for a while and ended up writing a short series of statements on my prayer form and folded it into a heart- a double edged symbol for me for the heart represents a lot of my astral work, and its reflection – balls – is a main symbol for Set.

Unlike my last prayer form, which focused heavily on purging the pain from my system and finding some sense of foundation in my crumbling life, this year’s prayer form focused about celebrating the fact that I’m still standing. I have been monitoring the anger and pain I feel for a while now, and I knew that I would be a fool to think that this one ceremony/event would be enough to purge that anger and pain out of me. So instead of even attempting to figure that out, I opted for the latter- focusing on what I’ve got left. While its true that my life has crumbled significantly in the last year, what has managed to survive is beautiful indeed, and I am very grateful that these people and things are still with me even now.

Its worth cherishing and remembering daily. I wanted to really embrace that.

Also like last time, I didn’t experience some sort of earth shattering mind breaking epiphany. However, the event was much more organized and more enjoyable (to me) than the last time I went. We were able to give our dancers enough space to move freely, and the crowd that lined the streets was very supportive and the whole vibe throughout the procession was better. In addition to this, the weather was awesome.

As I stood around waiting for the procession to start (which is about 2 hours of killing time) I listened to the DJ talk about the nature of the Procession. He discussed repeatedly about how the Procession is about experience. You’re there to be in the moment and to be a part of the gathering around you. It’s not about being a spectator or watching from being a camera lens (a problem that I have). To keep true to the nature of that mentality, I didn’t get very many photos. However, you can take a look at the All Souls FB Page, Tumblr, more Tumblr, or some news footage to see some of the variety of costumes and floats.

Much like with the Obon dances I participated in a few years back, this year’s Procession felt very much like I was a part of something more. I felt more connected with the people around me, with the community that came out to watch us, as well as with the other dancers. This year I didn’t stay for the finale of the Urn burning. I was too tired and had to drive back to Phoenix that same night so I decided to leave early. However, I don’t feel like my experience was any less for not staying. I knew that my Prayer Form would be burned in the urn and that I felt secure in my gratitude about what I still had in my life- my friends and family that are still standing with me despite the past year of turmoil.

And that is enough for me.

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2013 in Astral, Hypnosis & Inner Work, Rambles

 

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