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Revisiting “Working With”

One of the first posts I had ever written on this blog discussed my thoughts about using the phrase “I work with XYZ deity”. Since then, I have seen many many posts across the entire Internet about the many supposed problems and short comings of using this phrase. Because my horizons have expanded a little since 2012, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit this topic and freshen it up a bit.

The biggest reasons that I often see people use for why you should never say “I work with my god” is because people are assuming a few things about the relationship:

  1. that you view your deity like a tool that is to be used and then discarded
  2. that you view yourself on the same level as the deity (sometimes labeled as hubris)
  3. that you have no respect for your god

Now I have to admit that I’ve never entirely understood most of these “arguments” against the “I work with XYZ deity” phrase. I feel that many of these arguments have excessive baggage tied to them that shouldn’t necessarily be there. This becomes obvious when you compare the different uses and applications of the phrase “I work with” in a non-religious context. If you’re reading this and you’ve ever held down a job, you’ll likely know what I mean.

Ever run into a coworker outside of the workplace, and tell someone “Oh yeah, that’s XYZ person, I work with them”?

And when you said that, were you being disrespectful to them? Did you consider them a tool or item in that moment? Did you have any baggage or implications at all in that statement beyond “we perform tasks for the same company”?

I would put my money that most of us don’t have any ulterior motive when we are referring to people we work with in our day job. And when the statement is made, usually no one jumps to the conclusions that you were being disrespectful to your coworker.

And why is that? Why is it that we can say “I work with that person, they’re in accounting” and everyone is alright, but if you say “I work with that deity, they have taught me a lot”, it’s somehow suddenly bad?

joker_meme

I know some people would retort “well the gods are above us, so you shouldn’t say that” (see number 2 above), but I really don’t see how them being “above” us negates the use of “I work with them”. To bring back the workplace comparison- in my office there are many people who outrank me. They either have seniority over me, or their position is higher on the food chain than my own. In all of these cases, I would still use “work with” to describe the relationship. I work with my supervisor to complete tasks. I work with our CEO to help determine changes within the company.

And when I say that I’m working with these people, I certainly don’t mean it disrespectfully. Quite the opposite, actually, since my supervisor has more of a direct connection to my livelihood and existence than my gods do. If I started being disrespectful to those who outrank me in the workplace, I’d find myself out of a job, and probably out on the streets. Performing tasks with another person in order to get work done shouldn’t be inherently disrespectful. If it’s not disrespectful when I say it in regards to the person who controls my paycheck, why is it disrespectful when I say it in regards to my deities?

I’m honestly still not entirely sure how working with someone equates that someone to being a tool. I work with a lot of people every day of my life. I work with people I care for and would consider a friend. I work with people I don’t particularly like. I work with people of all stripes, and I don’t view any of them as tools. I view them as people who also happen to work. People who work with me in order to complete their job and get their paycheck. No one (at least in my workplace) is considering anyone else an item, disposable or otherwise. I’m not sure why this seems to translate differently when it is a deity instead of a human being, especially since we happen to work with many people day in and day out who aren’t considered tools that are used and then discarded.

Even though my ideas regarding “working with” gods were not nearly as fleshed out back in 2012, my sentiments behind the phrase still haven’t changed a lot. I may have shifted my ideas about using the term worship in the past 3 years (I no longer equate worship with being a door mat, but it still is not accurate for my relationship with the gods, and so I don’t use it personally), but I still stand behind my original statement that using the phrase “I work with XYZ deity” is perfectly fine. And truth be told, the phrase “I work with this deity” is more accurate in describing my relationship with the gods than stating that I worship or venerate them. Most of my interactions with the gods are centered around doing work. Whether that work is over here or Over There- it’s all work related, and we rarely talk to one another unless there is work to be done.

At the end of the day, no one can dictate to another what their relationship with the gods is like. No one has the authority or right to try and tell other people what their relationships with the divine “should” be like, or how those relationships “should” be labeled. When its all said and done, you and the gods are the only ones who have any room or right to determine what terminology best suits your relationship. And if your gods are okay with the terminology you’re using, then everyone else can shove off in regards to their opinion of the matter.

Mortal-deity relationships can take many many forms, and we should strive to let our terminology reflect the forms that these differing relationships can take. Imagine the diversity we could bring into our community if we quit worrying so much about how people describe their relationship with the gods, and instead focus on what the actual content of the relationship is. The sooner we quit dictating what we feel other people’s relationships “should” be, the sooner we can begin to explore all of the forms these relationships can take, and the better off we’ll be.

Do you ever feel apprehensive about the use of the phrase “I work with XYZ deity”? If so, why? What terminology do you use to describe your relationship with the gods?

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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KRT: Terminology & Language

via Wikimedia Commons

Terminology and language: how necessary is it? Is there a right or wrong way to use terminology and language in your practice?

When I think about terminology and language and how it applies to Kemetic practices, I feel like it can be applied in three ways:

  • The names of various NTR: Egyptian vs. Hellenized names
  • Egyptian words and terms in your practice (ma’at, isfet, sa, etc.)
  • Terminology as it applies to the community at large (priest, remetj, ritualist, etc.)

Because there are so many ways that terminology can influence your practice, I will be going through each of these points one by one below.

What You Call The Gods

I’ve seen many discussions about whether we should refer to NTR by their Egyptian-ish name, or by their Hellenized name. Some people believe that you shouldn’t use the Hellenized version, because it’s less effective or less “accurate”. However, the Hellenized names are not really all that far off for a lot of our deities: Horus-Heru, Wpwt-Ophois, Anup-Anubis, etc. And even if they are a bit off of the Egyptian names, I personally don’t think that using the Hellenized names is instantly going to land you in trouble. Not to mention that there is still a lot of debate about how some of the Egyptian names sound or should be pronounced and spelled for various NTRW. In addition to that, the ancients wouldn’t have necessarily called the gods by their “names” (such as Bast or Wadjet), but by their epithets. So really, there is nothing historically binding us to using Egyptian-based names.

At the end of the day, I think it’s most important to go off of what works best for you and your gods. If your deities have a preference, then listen to that. Otherwise, utilize what makes the most sense for you. I refer to Set by three or four different names (Set, Setekh, Big Red, Titit). And I refer to Osiris by his Hellenized name always (or I just call him “O”). So long as it works for you and your practice, that is what is most important.

What About All of This Lingo and Jargon?

Kemeticism has a lot of jargon. Because the religion is pretty much entirely foreign to modern Westerners (both in symbolism and in language), we pretty much have to learn a whole new set of words and lingo in order to communicate and discuss. But is it necessary?

The short answer, in my opinion, is yes and no.

I think that there are some terms that you really should have some working knowledge of. Generally speaking, these would be terms that are important to the practice and understanding of Kemeticism. Words such as ma’at, isfet, zep tepi, or Duat. This is because if you don’t know key components to the religion, it makes it very challenging to practice the religion effectively.

There are other words and symbols that you could probably live without knowing, though. Things like akhet, djed, sekhem, or tyet. However, I do believe that having a working knowledge of many Egyptian symbols and words can be very helpful. Understanding these things has added a lot of depth and layers to my practice. And it helps me to communicate with the gods more effectively because we’re speaking in similar terms and symbols. It makes it much simpler to try and pick apart various wingdings that the gods throw at me. It will also make it easier to discuss various aspects of the religion with other practitioners because, just like with the gods, you’re pulling from similar symbols and terminology.

However, I think that you can get by without an extensive knowledge of these words.

Community Terminology

I have written a bit about terminology and the community. In my post, I had mentioned that I felt that terminology for members of the community was important, and I still believe this to be true. A lot of people have questioned if having a variety of terms to describe your place in the community is absolutely necessary, and I still believe that even if it’s not 110% necessary, that it is very very helpful to have.

I personally believe that terminology that helps to define roles and places within the community is important because it allows people to find their place. Many Kemetics walk into our community thinking they can only be a priest or a layperson, and so many get discouraged because they feel they are inept at what they do, or because they feel that performing state rites every day is the Pinnacle of what a “Good Kemetic” should be. However, I think that having more terms and more labels can help people to feel more included within the community as well as boosting their confidence about their practice.

It’s kind of the same as realizing that there is a label for your “mental quirks” or gender identity or your sexual orientation. Labels can help people to understand themselves better as well as empower them to do more and be more. So I personally think that community terminology is important, even if it is underrated. However, unlike the types of terminology listed above, it will take a while for Kemetics to come up with terms that we all agree upon and share amongst different sections of the community.

At the end of the day, terminology and language is what you make it. Even though this is how I personally view this stuff, there are likely others who disagree or view it differently, and that’s okay. Figuring out how to juggle all of the various terms in Kemeticism can seem daunting at first, but try not to get discouraged. Remember that we all started somewhere.

To read other responses to this topic, check out theĀ KRT Master List

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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