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The Value of Being Passive

Alternative Title: Osiris Knows What’s Up

pas·sive  –  adjective
  1. accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.

Passivity is not a topic you see covered very often. Most every self-help article I’ve ever seen involves speaking up, grabbing your spine, or becoming more active in your life or your reactions to the things that happen in your life. Our society, and therefore much of Paganism as a whole, has put a stigma on being passive. If you’re passive, you’re likely an introvert (bad!) who often gets equated to doormats and wet mops.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

And it seems to be a common theme throughout all of US culture. We place assertive, outgoing attitudes and stubbornness on a pedestal, and you’re more likely to get praise if you’re constantly making waves as opposed to always going along for the ride (this doesn’t always apply if you are female, in which case you are to be confident, but not too confident). And while sometimes it is necessary to be a wave maker, at the same time, the sweet spot (like most things) likely lies in between the two extremes. That is, being passive sometimes and being more assertive at other times. But since so many articles already talk about how to become more assertive, I wanted to balance the scales by writing about some of the benefits of being passive.

It’s really no wonder that Set (and other hard nosed NTRW) gets a bad rap. He basically spends the majority of his time trying to get people out of ruts and moving into new territory. He is the force that comes in and removes everything that was familiar to you in the name of “change” and “growth”. He is, by his very nature, a very active, assertive deity. He comes in like a typhoon, rips your stuff apart, and then taps his foot while he waits for you to fix it.

And the thing about this type of change is that it forces you to yield. You can’t work with Set without learning how to yield. The idea of an unstoppable object running into an unmovable object results in a lot of pain for both ends. Truly learning to reap the benefits of his work requires you to learn how to be passive.

Despite knowing this, a lot of people seem to have a hard time with it. I mean, how many times have you looked at something that you know you need to do because it’s for your own good, and yet you still fight doing “the thing” with every fiber of your being? It seems that being stubborn is hard-wired into a lot of us.

This was further affirmed in some recent discussions that I had participated in regarding Shadow Work. Shadow Work seems to fall into two categories: the Shadow Work you initiate yourself, and the Shadow Work that gets initiated for you. However, no matter which category each person seemed to fall into, everyone seemed to want to fight it tooth and nail.

And I had to wonder- why is that? What causes us to push back so violently when we realize that the best way forward is to go with the flow?

via wikimedia commons

Pondering this, I looked to one of the most passive deities I know: Osiris. I think he must get it from his father, who is also noted for his passive ways. I’ve seen a lot of people heckle Osiris for being such a “wuss” of a king. For being a deity that doesn’t have the balls, nerve, or gumption to do whatever it is that non-passive entities do (maybe people think he should have strong armed his brother instead of being drowned? Or maybe that he should have been more active in his resurrection?). Again, people often believe that passive is a bad thing, and so Osiris often gets flack for being passive in his nature.

But isn’t that part of the point? He is passive. He has to undergo a transformation through his brother’s methods. And as I said before- the best way to really reap the benefits of Set’s methods is to become passive. No amount of fighting or flailing will actually save you in this case. Much like with quick sand, fighting will only suck you in faster. I, too, had learned this first hand back in 2011 when I was first being shoved under water by a deity – fighting didn’t benefit me in any capacity. If anything, it just made the process more traumatic.

Osiris knew what lay before him. He knew that it would suck. But he also knew that fighting it would only make it worse.

And over the years, I think I have begun to embody that in a lot of ways. With a lot of the work I’ve had to do Over There, I’ve seen that many times you have to roll with the punches and roll with what has been given to you. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my moments of digging my heels in the sand or moments where I wish everything would just work out for once, but at the same time, I have begun to learn when it’s more effective to hold on and fight, and when it’s more effective to let go.

I sometimes think that a lot of us fight everything in our paths because we are scared, or because we simply don’t know what else to do. And in those moments, I remind myself that letting go can be just as effective as holding on. I remind myself that I am capable, and that I can handle whatever is thrown at me, and that I will figure out a way to make it work.

And then I go with it. I let go and jump off of the cliff as so many people have metaphorically discussed over the years. I give into the unknown (fear and all) and I submit myself to whatever it has in store for me. Because just like with the river, the answers to the problems lie at the bottom, and I have to give into the water in order to reach said answers at the bottom. I have to be passive in order to get to the solution.

This is the value of being passive. Sometimes, being passive is the answer to getting through something with less damage.

Fighting just for the sake of fighting doesn’t necessarily make you strong. Being stubborn simply because you can be, fighting the things that would genuinely help you doesn’t necessarily make you a BAMF, it just makes you hard headed. And romanticizing this behavior isn’t beneficial to anyone. While it’s true that you can be too passive, the truth of the matter is, too much stubborness, too much Setian fire in your gut is not beneficial for you, either. Ma’at is all about being in balance, which balance is usually struck in the middle between the two extremes. Same goes for this. Too stubborn or too passive will likely render you in the same place: stuck.

Learning how to let go and trust in the process can make a huge difference in the experiences that you undergo. Although it is important to be assertive in many things, don’t forget that being passive has its merits, too. And in some situations, being passive is actually the better choice to make.

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A Good Horse: 6 Months Later

Last year I had asked all of my readers to consider what they would do when a god pushes too far. To consider how they would react if the relationships they had with one or more of their deities suddenly fell apart and exploded all around them. How would they rebuild? How would they proceed with their religious endeavors?

It’s not an easy thing to answer. With something like a house, its very straight forward. You clear away the rubble and you rebuild your foundations. In short, you start from scratch. But with a relationship, especially a relationship with a non-physical entity, its not so clear cut. How do you start from scratch with a god? How to you rebuild the trust that was lost? How do you overcome the anger and hurt that you feel so that you can even look at one another again without scowling?

How do we take a relationship that has gone bad and get it back into neutral territory?

Marseille, statue, cheval, stone horse by Jeanne Menj via Flickr

Last year I got to experience first hand what happens when a long term relationship falls apart. I got to be on the receiving end of a deity that went too far and we both got to experience the results of what happens when I’m pushed to my limits. Last year, I got to experience what it was like to essentially be broken. At the time that it was happening, I knew that there was a reason for it. I knew that I needed to go through this first hand so that I could report back to everyone else and teach them how to do it better than I did. I knew that this was all part of a bigger picture plan that Set was concocting and that his words were both laced with truth and falsity all at once. And above all, I knew that there was no stopping it.

I knelt down on the ground and listened to him tell me that I was good at destroying things. I felt the lump in my throat as he told me that the community wasn’t everything that I needed to be doing. I felt that lump sink to my chest in the fall when Osiris told me that he was the other side to Set’s coin, and that their work for me would be in tandem. And then the lump fell into my stomach when fall shifted to winter and I realized that both of them were right in their own ways.

This is a 6 month check in on how I coped with my falling out with Set. This is also a story on how I have attempted to rebuild the foundations of my relationship with Set and Osiris.

_____________________

After Set and I had our initial blow up, things were incredibly tense. The next few weeks were filled with short and snippy conversations. A few weeks after that, those short conversations shifted into yelling matches. And within a month or so, we were almost not talking at all. By the time that I had released my Good Horse post, we were pretty much not speaking unless we had to. Any time I’d show up to work with Set, he’d stand there and stay silent. He figured that opening his mouth meant that he could insert his foot, and so in his eyes, silence trumped speaking.

Truth be told, this was probably for the best. As soon as Set realized he had done some major damage, he stepped back and gave me space. He got mildly better at not reacting if I yelled at him. Instead he’d stand there quietly and keep his comments to himself. I was given space because more pressure on his end would have only made it worse.

So when a god fails you, I would say that the best first step is some breathing room. You and the deity need some space to get your thoughts together. How long this period needs to be will vary. I didn’t start talking to Set again until after I got back from the Duat. That is about 2 months of yelling and barely talking, and nearly 3 or 4 months of not speaking at all.

About the same time that Set completely backed off from me, I noticed that Wpwt stepped forward. I can’t tell if Wpwt has long term aims for me or not, but I certainly know that his sudden appearance was not coincidental. I joke about how Set must have cornered him in a bar and cried on Wpwt’s shoulder about how badly he had screwed up, and how he then begged Wpwt to do something to fix it, and for all I know the joke is accurate.

Either way, Wpwt came forward and began to talk with me about the situation I found myself in. For the record, Wpwt is much smoother with his words than Set is. He offered me perspective about not only my situation, but the situation that Set was in. He highlighted the difficulties that the whole pantheon faces in this day and age, and he gave me other ways to look at things.

In other words, he initiated the process of my shifting of attitude towards Set. Had Wpwt not talked with me, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to realize these things. Even now, I am grateful for his assistance with the whole situation.

So the second step in repairing a messed up devotee/deity relationship is to gain perspective. This can be through other deities or other practitioners. Wpwt talked to me about how Set’s hands are bound in a lot of ways by the upper echelons of the pantheon. He talked to me about how things are not as smoothly running as we’d like to believe. He knocked some sense into my head so that I could, at the very least, start being in the same room with Set without throwing things at him.

He began the process of healing for the whole situation.

By this point, Osiris had taken center stage and I was preparing to fall into the Duat. Due to the circumstances I was in, I wouldn’t see Set at all until I came out the other side, and by the time the “other side” came, I found that I was angry with both deities, and that I’d need to work on figuring out what to do with both of my relationships.

But why was I so angry? That’s probably the question on everyone’s mind. I’ve been dancing around just what Set asked me last year, and what Osiris told me he had in mind for my future with him because I’ve not been sure how everyone would respond to it. But it’s really hard to follow the whole story without having the actual whole story to go off of.

The long and short of what Set and Osiris have asked of me is this:

Set would like to use my abilities as someone who can kill and destroy over in the Unseen. According to him, he is bound by paperwork and red tape, and that there are some places, realms, and people he can’t get to because of it. I would be someone he would send to a location behind the scenes. I’d go in, handle the person, and leave. The downside to this is that it creates a huge target on your back and can create a lot of problems if you realm-jump regularly. Nothing like landing in a realm only to be thrown in jail because you killed someone important. Plus, it creates a lot of mental stress for me, and I’d be neck deep in death, which I don’t like.

Osiris wants me to heal and work with dead people. He says the Duat needs healing, that the land itself needs repair. And that dead spirits need care too. He would like to see me develop these skills both here and in the Unseen.

Both are interested in my community work, but that’s more Set’s bent.

Both deity’s requests center around my ability to tinker in someone’s core. To heal someone effectively, you need to go to their source, their core. To kill someone totally, you need to destroy their source, their core. Both the life and death aspect of things are tied together through one common skillset. Both Set and Osiris are tied together in this, and they know it.

For them, these tasks are not a “you pick one or the other”. It’s more a case of “you get both of us together and you will deal with it.” These two are tied together through a death, and I think in a grand scheme kind of way, it makes sense.

Well great. I understand their link, but both of these aspects still leave me in situations I don’t want to be in. They both leave me dealing with death on a regular basis.

However, more and more I question my ability to escape some of the aspects that I dislike about my astral life. The notion of somehow falling off of the radar to live a quiet life is unlikely for a variety of reasons. At least if I had a god’s backing, it may give me some political bargaining power in at least a few realms.

After my time in the Duat was done, Osiris sent me home to rest. I didn’t leave my bedroom for probably a month while I waited for my body to heal up. During that time, I had a lot of hours to kill, and I killed them mulling the situation I was in. I weighed the pros and the cons, I concocted ways to get out of things, to circumvent things, to find a way to spin this more in my favor.

I started by leveling with them. I talked with them about what I truly needed to make this work. I asked them to give me answers about specific questions (such as: how are you going to keep me from losing my mind from all of this? How will we handle my stress from all of this? What will you do when my anxiety starts to kill me?). I am currently waiting on their responses to these questions. I began to ask better questions about what they are planning. I began to work on handling my anxiety in the Seen so that I could at least consider their proposals, which I still don’t have in a final format.

All of these emotions and anger and frustration and I’m right where they wanted me to begin with. I’m sitting down at the bargaining table, trying to at least get an in-depth understanding of what they want from me.

And that is where I am at six months later. I am still a little bitter and frustrated at them, but no longer seething with anger or rage. I’m beginning to understand that the Unseen is filled with tricksters and tinkerers, and that the gods are no exception. No one is immune to it. And so I’m trying to figure out how to make this work in my favor because I currently can’t figure out a way to get out of it entirely. It will probably still be another year before I make any decisions, but at least I can gather my information now and move forward slowly.

Although the fact that I am considering their offers really makes me wonder if I was actually broken in as a horse would be. Does this mean that they won? Is that even the correct way to look at it? I’m not sure.

_____________________

I get that this post is long, so I’m going to sum up the short version here:

When a god dicks you over, I consider doing the following:

  • Give each other space. This includes from the deity’s side. Ask them to give you time to process things.
  • Get perspective if you can. Whether from other Unseen entities/gods or from devotees or other people you know. Weigh the perspectives to see what you want to do moving forward.
  • Take things slowly. Don’t let anyone bully you into moving quicker than you are comfortable with.
  • If it appears that the relationship is too far destroyed, look into getting some godly back-up and assistance in severing the connection with that god.
  • If the relationship can be salvaged, I recommend talking it out with the god. Being honest and frank with one another with where you are at. This may take months to accomplish, so take your time. Not everything needs to be addressed in one conversation.

As for my own deity relationships:

I was pissed at Set and Osiris for throwing me into things I question if I can handle. However, recent events have made me seriously consider what they have in the future for me, and I am currently working on a number of things to see if its something I can hack. Our bargaining is on-going, and I wouldn’t expect anything final for a number of months.

 

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KRT: Differences in UPG and Practice

Differences in practices: How do you deal with them? How do we overlook our differences in practice and UPG? What do we do if our experiences don’t line up with others?

It goes without saying that every Kemetic’s practice is going to be different. Each Kemetic is going to have their own way of doing things and their own way of interacting with the gods. Sometimes, these practices are very similar to our own way of doing things, and everyone gets along whenever religious discussion pops up. However, there are times when factions or branches of Kemeticism clash in how they approach their religious practice. These clashes can be as simple as minor disagreements on a forum, or can be as major as huge fallouts within a temple or community.

How do we combat these types of fallout? How do we get along even when our practices are vastly different?

via flickr

The first step is to make sure that you realize when you’re presenting your UPG to the world, that your UPG is yours alone. It’s a personal thing, and doesn’t necessarily have to correlate to anyone elses experiences. And due to the nature of UPG, no one else has to place a lot of stock into your UPGs (reminder that not placing a lot of stock doesn’t mean being a jerk about it). As I mentioned in the post about boiling frogs, you’ll want to present your ideas with reasoning behind why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you’d be best served by knowing where the historical aspects end and your UPG begins.

But what if you see someone presenting UPG as fact, or you’re not entirely sure where a UPG is coming from?

Coming across different UPG can easily cause a knee jerk reaction within you, however it’s important to remember that those types of reactions are rarely helpful. Whenever I see myself having this reaction, or I see someone presenting UPG that I don’t really get, there are a few things that I keep in mind to help keep the peace:

  • Pause briefly and re-read the statement.
  • Ask questions.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Understanding.
  • Mutual respect.

I feel that when people keep all of these points in mind, arguments and disagreements can be minimized between people of our religious community, and if you’re lucky these discussions can open up greater understanding between all of us.

Pause and Re-read

It sounds simple, but is often overlooked. Most of our interactions with other Kemetics occurs online, and due to the lack of body language, intonation and facial cues, it can be challenging to understand where a person is coming from. So whenever you come across a statement that seems “incorrect” to you, take a moment to re-read the statement. Sometimes we misread things while we are skimming a forum, which can lead to misunderstandings. So when in doubt, start here.

If you re-read and are still unsure, perhaps ask someone else to read the same material and see if they are getting the same impression that you are. If re-reading doesn’t help, then you move onto the next step-

Asking for clarification

Whenever in doubt, ask. If you’re unsure of what someone is trying to say, or you think you’re misreading a post, ask the original poster for clarification. This allows the OP to clarify their statements and explain their reasoning to you. This is where things like the Two Response Rule come into play.

Keep an open mind so that you may better understand

Remember that when you’re asking for clarification, you’re asking with the intent of understanding. You’re not here to prove that the person’s ideas are wrong or incorrect, you’re here to try and reach a mutual understanding with the person. Try to be open to other ways of working and doing things that are different from your own. You don’t necessarily need to agree in order to understand where someone is coming from, and you don’t necessarily need to discuss until both parties agree with one another. As the saying goes you can “agree to disagree”.

Mutual respect

And above all, aim to have a respectful discussion. Remember that what seems normal to you probably looks obscure and bizarre to someone else.  Even if we approach Kemeticism from different angles, our end goal is the same: to breathe life back into these religious practices and to honor the gods.

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

 
 

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KRT: UPG and Doxa

This week’s Kemetic Round Table topic is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. For this round, we are discussing the various aspects of UPG and Doxa within your religious practice.

For those who are unfamiliar with the terms, UPG stands for “Unverified Personal Gnosis”. Generally speaking, it is a term that is used in many reconstructionalist paths to describe spiritual and religious experiences that aren’t necessarily backed up by historical record.

A few examples of this (from my own personal stash of UPG) might be that Set likes dark chocolate cupcakes. If he’s not in business/working mode, he’ll show up in full out Japanese styled clothing. Or that Ptah’s capacity as a creator is where Osiris (stability) and Set (chaos) meet. None of these are necessarily backed by historical reference, however they have proven to be useful within my own religious practice.

Doxa is a term taken from the Greek area of things and generally means “popular opinion” or “common belief” and is a starting point for the terms orthodoxy (standard, set in stone beliefs) and heterodoxy (anything that isn’t orthodox).

Or, as someone described it to me: Doxa = Belief and Feels. Gnosis = Knowledge you can fact check.

Of course, this means that the term UPG is a sort of paradox that really makes no sense, but that is another post for another time. I use the term UPG for the same reason I use the term “pagan”- its what everyone else uses, and it makes it easier for communication purposes.

And for the purposes of this post, I will use doxa and UPG interchangeably.

The topics of doxa and UPG are very sticky within the pagan/polytheist/Kemetic community. There are people who dislike the use of any UPG/doxa at all. There are those whose entire practice is based off of UPG and doxa. It is my personal opinion that there is nothing wrong with UPG in your practice. However, I am a big supporter of the following:

a. Knowing historical information about your deity and the Kemetic religion- as done by the ancients themselves.
b. Knowing why you do what you do, regardless of whether it lines up with the historical record or not.

The saying often goes that you should know what the rules are before you break them, and I think that this really does apply within your religious practice. Knowing how it was done, or know how a deity used to be approached back then is an important gauge for approaching the religion or deities today. As I said in my last KRT post, I think that having a foundation to build off of is important. The more you know, the more you can compare and contrast what you’re taking in. Discernment is an important part of any religious practice, as is a healthy dose of skepticism. Knowing the basics from antiquity gives you a good starting point for discernment with which to check what you learn. Knowing why you do what you do reinforces this.

Now, this is not to say that gods can’t completely go against what was considered normal in antiquity. This can and does happen. They are gods, after all, and things do change- gods included. However, this means that when you do receive such tidbits, you can say that you know it wasn’t this way in the past, but this is what you’re currently being asked to do now.

To me, knowing that UPG is, in fact, UPG is very very very important. Not only for yourself, but for those who come across your statements and might not know which is which. A good example of this would be Osiris’s article on wpwt-wiki which states that you are to never offer Osiris sand or fish, due to his brother’s associations. However, in antiquity, its said that fish were offered at Abydos (according to O’Connor) and sand was a common purifier in temple rites- including rites for the Mysteries, a holiday revolving around Osiris. Another common UPG is that Set can’t have water offered to him, due to his brother’s associations. However, water was commonly offered by priest and laymen alike.

Both of these statements are modern doxa. They should be labeled as such. There is nothing wrong if Osiris shows up and tells me “I never want you to offer me sand”. However, for me to tell the rest of the world that that means that Osiris never wants anyone to offer him sand is misleading and, in my opinion, irresponsible.

This is why labeling is important. This is also why having a good knowledge foundation is also important. We all need foundations to check things against.

Whether you should let someone else’s doxa influence your practice is entirely up to you. When I read an interesting bit of trivia from another Kemetic, I mull it over for a bit before I jump on the bandwagon. If it really rings true to me, or if Set or Osiris confirms that the UPG is valid/useful for me, I will then start to incorporate it into my practice. However, if a piece of UPG doesn’t work for me at all (such as the Set and water thing mentioned above), then I don’t bother with it at all.

You should never, ever feel pressured to incorporate someone else’s UPG or doxa into your religious practice. Do not let anyone ever tell you that you have to follow their UPG. UPG is called “unverified” for a reason.

How much you rely on other’s doxa, or even your own doxa- is entirely dependent upon you. You don’t have to incorporate doxa or UPG into your practice in order to be a successful Kemetic. As with most things, I do believe that balance is key, and figuring out what balance works best for you is imperative. Because your balance is your own, no one can tell you how much to keep or how much to leave, but keeping an open mind and learning about modern and historical practices will serve you well in discovering your own balance.

See the KRT Master List for this topic by clicking here.

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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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