The above is a modified quote from Greg Anderson, writer and founder of the American Wellness Project.
In the last week, Devo asked a really kick ass question on her personal FB page. What she asked was, “So, what is it about Kemeticism, Kemetics and Pagans in general that makes everyone so attracted in having a god to call ‘their own’? Why is it that so many people are more interested in collecting gods than figuring out how their religion works in a day to day life and living said religion?” And I told her that I figured most people just find it easier to change their religious affiliation than in changing who they are. And that it could be kind of nice from going to a faceless deity in Christian terms to a face-filled deity in pagan terms. I ended all of that discussion with reminding her that it has only been in the last six months that I’ve finally begun changing my perceptions to incorporate living in ma’at and not just worshiping new gods. She asked me why that was. And so, here I am.
When I first began learning about paganism, I was thoroughly intrigued with something new and “shiny.” It was a very nice alternative to Christianity and, to be honest, a great way to aggravate my ex-husband. (We really can’t discount that I started down this path to annoy the hell out of him.) But I figured it was whimsy that brought me down this road, more than anything else. The constant search of something new and exciting, the desire to fit somewhere… It was all whimsy. I knew, intellectually, that I could be whoever I wanted to be and it didn’t matter. But, we all have that side that says you want to belong and that you need more than the roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food in your belly. And really, it was kind of enjoyable to read about magic and whatnot. But, I’d never do more than sit back and read about it. I didn’t have a teacher and, in Texas, I couldn’t see finding one. Besides, I was more the sit back and like something kind of person as opposed to the get up and do kind of person. And without proper teaching and with my ex’s scathing commentary, I didn’t want to jump too deeply into something I didn’t fully understand. And again, there was the whole “shiny” thing going on. It was a good concept but not something I’d put into practice. I figured “armchair pagan” was as good as I was going to get.
But then, I moved and the “shiny” quality faded. I had a teacher and someone willingly able to put up with my inane questions. I was given the ability to experience some of the things I had read about: spell work and ritual. I remember stumbling over the words as I called the corners to form a circle. I remember the feeling of empowerment when I did my first spell. I remember talking about herbs and enjoying the smell of them when we worked them together for whatever reason. I remember bonding over Tarot card readings in her living room and the joy-filled night of my first ritual. It was heady and exploratory; it was fun and thrilling. I found myself empowered and able to do things. I found that I could do more than sit around and talk about it with others who were like-minded. I found that I could actually become more than a simple “armchair pagan” and that was a good moment. It made me feel like I could do anything.
And it was with that background that I was able to stand up to my ex-husband and leave him. It was with that background that I snagged a man I loved more than anything. It was with that empowerment that I moved to TX with what could fit in my car and started over. So, in a way, I suppose, even without the worship of “shiny” gods, I was able to get some practice in and fix my life. I was doing more than just “armchairing” it.
I began to live it as opposed to talking about it.
But the thing is that I fell into a similar predicament as I had when I first lived in Texas and found out about paganism. It was still difficult to conduct rituals and still difficult to find supplies that I felt were necessary. (Oh, the quaint adorable moments of worrying about “supplies.” Ha. Ha. Ha.) It was difficult to do much more than take an extra breath in the morning and remember that I had power within me enough to do anything. Another wrench in the plans may have been the sudden sprout of a fertile belly. It can be awfully difficult to do much more than live your life when you’ve become an oven to another living person. And it was definitely difficult for me: TS sucked up all of my energy, both self-empowered by the living of a new religious experience as well as the mundane. I couldn’t even read the cards for myself without tiring, to be honest. Just pulling them out for a shuffle was draining, especially towards the end. I stopped living the religion I had discovered and began talking about it again.
I had gone back to the armchair pagan stance as I cultivated my little critter and the life that I had made for myself.
But things changed because that’s how life is. While I was busy sidelining as an armchair and oven, I was thinking about the things I wanted to do. I began to remember with very high affinity the moments of ritual and the moments of fun. I remember feeling empowered, but it was all resorting more to a hazy memory than anything else. When I finally moved out of my mother’s house with TH and TS in tow, I had the room to perform rituals. I had the time to do so after they were both abed and I could sit on the phone and telephonically communicate with the other two pagans in my life. But even then, I was still “armchairing” it. I talked a good game, but I had moved back into the self that preferred to sit and like something as opposed to actively going out and doing something. I dreamed about casting a circle on the beach and just sitting in the sanctity of that space – but I never did it. I dreamed about having a whole storage spot for herbs, drying from the rafters – but I never did it. It was easier for me to work things out via the telephone with my pagan friends as opposed to living it. Again.
When I moved back up north, it was like something was pulling me back into the empowerment I had discovered beside the Sister. She had moved back up from her southern journey and the EM was nearby, as well. It was like a spiritual confluence moved together to realize and learn that things were meant to be done as opposed to talked about. The thing being that the things meant to be done were all the EM’s horse manure. It was all her; it was always her. I remember sitting around and enjoying the moment when I was supposed to be “incorporated” into the pagan lifestyle that both the Sister and the EM were in… but it was blind-sided by the EM’s horse manure. She had taken it over. I found my empowerment on my own, when I was at home. With the succor of a family that was willing to support my random religious conversion, I was able to step outside of the box and I was able to live it again. But things always happen to me when I think I’m moving up and forward and I fell back to old habits: depression has a way about it. The energy I could call upon to do whatever I wanted disappeared and I moved back toward the talking about it instead of living it portion again. It was beginning to feel like a ping-pong game and I was the ball.
I was really beginning to think that I wasn’t supposed to do much more than talk about it or that I was on the wrong path, altogether. While this particular Fallow Time had everything to do with the fact that depression gets in the way of things, it really got me thinking. I had been so intent on getting things a certain way and living things a certain way that I had never stopped to consider if what I was doing and walking was the right way. And it’s at this point that I began to remember about gods.
Now, you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned gods prior to this. At this point in the Turnpike, I have to say that I wasn’t sure about the “gods” thing. Of course, I knew about others’ thoughts on the process. And I had heard both the Sister and the EM discuss the gods things before, as well. And I had pretty much decided that a personal relationship wasn’t for me. But, aside from having a deep-seated need to know everything and anything about the goddess, Ma’at, I wasn’t very big on gods (a possible side effect of my screw up with Ganesha, but maybe more along the lines of trying to work in a polytheistic Wiccish model that wasn’t actually working for me). I didn’t know how I felt about them, collecting them, worshiping them, and all of that. To be honest, aside from Ma’at, maybe I didn’t even believe in them more than a soft polytheistic way: perhaps, a female-male duality god/dess that lived unseen and unknown. While I saw Ma’at as a goddess, I couldn’t quite say much more about her other than she was “mine.” And that was all of it. There was nothing more concrete or changing about me.
But the thing is that just because I hadn’t found the right way with things didn’t mean that they weren’t coming upon me. I was ripe for a lesson and ripe for this particular Fallow Time’s unsubtle message: Sekhmet. I know; I know. What the hell, right? That’s what the message, the big lesson, was all about? I go on about learning things with various Fallow Times in my various FT-related postings. But, in this particular instance, there wasn’t some big huge lesson about female empowerment and learning to live with the fact that things didn’t always go your way. This particular lesson was all about Sekhmet. (Yes, you will get that story one day. There is an S posting or two coming up in this, right?) In a very real way, we could say that the lesson was that the gods wanted me as much as I wanted to believe in them. And that maybe, just maybe, the whole Wiccish model I was trying to stuff myself into. To me, Wicca never really allotted for other gods at least not in the way that they should be allotted. It was at this time that views changed, beliefs changed. This is the moment when I began to get into hard polytheism and I began to realize that the gods were just like we were: alive, well, living, different, but there. (And now, after nearly two thousand words, we get into the meat of this particular journey, eh?)
When I began to get into the gods things, I was paying more attention to the things I felt that I needed to cultivate a relationship with them. The thing is that I was so busy on the things that I was definitely not remotely interested in living. I didn’t want to hear the lessons. I think what got me, particularly, at this point is that I was so intent on the fact that I had a god that I could touch and commune with. In the Christian churches I had been a part of as a child, it felt to me that whatever deity was listening was incredibly distant and possibly not even listening. And how would we know if they were or weren’t? Sure, we could sit around and wait for our prayers to be answered, but wouldn’t it have been better to see a face and feel their presence a good deal more than just something indistinct and hazy? (Gods. I love those words lately.)
I didn’t want to “collect” gods as Devo mentioned (and what got this post started). I didn’t want anymore than Sekhmet. She was simple and easy enough for me to work with. In having the one goddess to please and work with, I felt rather special. I was enchanted with the feeling that a single god could care about what I said and wanted my attention as much as I craved hers. I think in the relation to just “collecting gods,” especially in my case it was another aspect of the “new and shiny.” It was more headiness and more thrilling. It was along the similar lines to the rituals I had held along with the Sister, my first ones. It was an elation that something, out there, cared about me and not because a book thousands of years old says that was the case. This was a goddess who had sought me out and wanted me: while it would be a while still before I realized that aspect of the relationship, somewhere deep inside I knew that instinctively. She had chosen me. And I think that’s part of the reason why I was more interested in the gods aspect to the journey as opposed to the overall message: living it.
It takes a lot of time and patience to cultivate a functional spiritual practice. After I joined TC, I began watching the posts that some of the older and wiser would post in, especially in regards to newbie questions. I watched as they worked endlessly on things that I wasn’t fully interested in. I watched as calendars were discussed and jettisoned; I watched as concepts were touted out for discussion; I watched as they crafted things into a functional practice and realized that I would never be that good. I think at this juncture it was more self-esteem than anything else that kept me from living what I wanted my practice to, ultimately, be. There were other things, too, in that list that kept me constantly sitting in the little kid’s chair instead of the big kid chair. It wasn’t just the fact that I thought it would be too hard and too confusing, but there was raising a child, and being with a guy who didn’t wholly support my spiritual journey, and then there was the job that sucked my life essence out of my butt. (Two points to anyone who knows what the hell reference that’s from!)
I gloss over it a lot, but my job did a lot of damage to the practice I’ve been crafting since I was fired.
And so, now, I find myself months and years later, in some cases, and am amused by the fact that I’m actually starting to craft something that’s functional. It is living in ma’at and it is worship. It is more than just the new joys of finding gods that are real: that can be touched, talked to, and loved. As I look back and realize just how much I’ve written (shit, 2600 words so far!), I’ve begun to see that it was a lot of different things that held me back from living as opposed to talking. It was a job and a life and a family and being alone and self-esteem and being lost all the time and the uncertainty monster. It was all of these things, but I think the biggest thing that kept me at bay was the fact that I diligently tried twice thus far and failed miserably in all of that. True, there were circumstances beyond my ken and beyond my power, but all in all, I think it was the fact that I had tried to make that leap before and been burned in the process. I didn’t want that to happen again. And, as I said, the job really did damage a lot of my ability to think past it. Sure, I had thought about living in ma’at and crafting a calendar and all of that, but it went hand-in-hand with just talking about it instead of doing it.
So, to answer the question about why it’s taken me this long. Well, it’s a lot of different things and it’s a lot of hullabaloo. It doesn’t really matter the why it’s taken me so long, but that I’m doing it now. And I’m changing and I see that. And I’m having fun and I see that. And I’m empowered and I see that. I can only hope this bridge doesn’t get burned down, too. Hopefully, I’ll be wise enough to not stop in the middle, but stop at the end.