One of the things people tend to forget is that not everyone is cut out for the position they want.
As a non-religious example, let’s take me. I have a lot of skills that I bring to the table when I am going on a job interview. I have had over a decade of experience in the customer service arena, which means that I have cobbled together a lot of various skills that doesn’t exactly equal to what every customer service position I apply to is looking for. I am kind of a Jane-of-all-Trades in this regard. I can do a lot of intense project work considering my overwhelming obsessive-compulsive disorder; I can answer the phone like nobody’s business; I can make sure 95% of all customers are happy at all times (unless they’re one of those people who are terminal assholes); I can take dictation; I can type over 100 words per minute; I can work heavily with most Microsoft programs; I can take notes; I can do a shit ton of things. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily cut out for the $20/hr position I’ve been applying to for years with [Name Redacted] because I may not have one little item that they require (a degree, if you’re curious). However, this doesn’t mean that I’m not cut out for all of the other jobs I’ve applied to over the years. This just happens to mean that the [Name Redacted] is not going to understand how fucking fantastic I am at my job and how much joy I could bring their company and their customers. It’s all right – shit happens. (Though it pisses me off whenever I get one of those automated rejection E-mails from them.)
One of the other things people tend to forget is that not everyone is willing to take the shit they’d get just because they can handle the position.
Case in point, there were numerous jobs that I was fully qualified for and would have gotten with very little push on my half when I was unemployed. However, most of the jobs in question that would have hired me without even an interview were jobs that I knew would put me over the edge or would not pay me what I am worth. They would expect me to take a sizable pay cut from my last position to the sizable cut I would take to my unemployment benefits just to have a job under my belt. While I am all for remaining employed until you can find another position (unless circumstances force the hand, as they did in my situation), I am also all for not living on the streets. And with as much experience as I have in the realm of customer service, there is no way that I was willing to destroy my self-worth by taking a position at a measly nine dollars an hour. Not to mention, I actually work to live on my own with a family of three, so that much money an hour wasn’t even going to pay for rent each month, never mind the rest of the requisite bills like electricity and gas. So, I ignored those jobs and kept right the hell on looking.
What does this have to do with laity, though?
Over the last five years, I have developed a lot of skills in my personal practice. I have developed really “awesome” things that have helped me and have assisted me in helping others as they get their feet underneath them and begin to toddle off in whatever direction they are looking towards. In that time, I have found myself constantly thinking about what it meant to enter into the priesthood and I have come to the conclusion that many people tend to think that after a while of doing the layperson thing, you get enough skillsets underneath your religious belt to enter the “awesome” that is the priesthood. I’m not quite sure what all other people in the polytheist communities view as skillsets “required” of entering the priesthood, but I have a few of them, I think. I have a working godphone, so that should zoom me to the list, too. I’ve been doing this for five years, so that should zoom me to the top of the list, too. I appear particularly devoted to the netjer with whom I work, so that should also add me to that list. The thing is that just because I have developed all of these various skills that may seem required to enter the whole priesthood shtick, it doesn’t mean that I am qualified to actually head in that direction.Over the last five years, I have remained purposely “below” the station that I could probably end up in. I knew that with all of the skills I had, I could do the job. However, I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle the intensity of the relationships nor the requirements for those relationships. Being a priest is something that is very intense, very personal, and very spoon-eating in the Kemetic hemisphere. I’m not quite sure how much devotion it requires in other polytheistic arenas, but many of the Kemetics I speak with discuss it with a certain amount of gravity that is unexplainable via a text post. There is just something extremely difficult in explaining when it comes to the level of piety and devotion one is required in Kemeticism when they decide to enter the priesthood. I take a lot of shit now from my gods; there was no way I could handle and remain who I am, with a specific end goal in mind, by entering something as hoity-toity as “the priesthood.” So, I’ve kept my self-worth in this situations and continued to do the “just keep swimming” bit a la Dory.
The thing is that for the last five years, I think I’ve been building up to the priesthood thing. And I have to say that I’m not even remotely interested. I’m devout. I can do a ritual in five minutes or less, with no prep. I can pray. I can sing [badly] to the gods. I can do all the things that a lot of people – me, specifically, here; I don’t know what all other think goes into the priesthood shtick – would do, are doing or have done for their gods in the guise of priests. But, with all that ability, I have to say that I’m not interested. It was never the roll of subservience to the gods that I was actively searching for, no matter what I was thinking or saying at the time prior to this moment right now, but it was the actions that I wanted to build for future generations. It’s not that I want to be a mouth piece for Sekhmet or Aset or Hetheru or Djehuty and have people come to me in that guise. I want them to come to me because I’m building a fulfilling practice that doesn’t need all the extras involved or all of the intensity involved. I want people to look at what I am doing, based on being a nobody with nothing but some faith, and say, “That’s it. That’s what I want. I want to do that, too.”
Since the recent round of discussions about laity on Tumblr and on other blogs, I’ve been thinking intensely about what it is about my practice that may scream out that I’m more than I am presenting to the world. I think a lot of people look at what I can do – the godphone, the astral, the things like that – and see me as a bit more than I really am. I don’t think I ever came right out and ever said otherwise, but I can do some things that maybe some other laypeople can’t and so, I get lumped in where I don’t belong.
And since that recent round, I’ve been reading and re-reading this post by HBW over and over again. I have it bookmarked in my toolbar so that I can get to it easily for future reading. I keep coming back to this entry because everything she has said in that entry was something that I could agree with, minus the too hot thing because it was balmy last week. And it got me thinking about laity in more detail and to more extent than anything else that has been said on the subject. I have been reading this entry because it’s important. Not only is this beautiful person saying, “Hey, I’m not like all that, you know. I’m just me and I do things quietly and you may not know it about me, but I’m a lay person, too.” And I’ve been reading this entry because it dawned on me that she’s right: there aren’t that many open examples out there. And as much as I say, “I AM THIS THING,” my examples are lacking.
It’s time to stand up and say, “Laity is important.” Or, maybe not just say it but to scream it from the roof tops of all the pagan and polytheistic hemispheres.
While I am just a drop in the Kemetic layperson bucket, I’ve realized that I need to start talking about my practice more (again). I also realized that I need to begin to be the layperson example. While Kemetics are wired a little bit differently, I think, than many of the other pagans and polytheists out there in the various communities, I think we need to start making it clear that many of us aren’t “special” or “priests.” I took an impromptu poll on this subject in my personal Kemetic group the other day. Some of the Kemetics you may know don’t consider themselves as such: Devo, Zenith, Nellethiel, Joan, Sard, Helms, Senneferet, and various others. These are all bloggers that you have probably come across in Kemetic searches or may know from their companion Tumblogs. And each one of the people whom I consider part of my community has said, with few exceptions, that they belong to that “layperson” aspect that not too many people hear from or see from. So, while each of these bloggers may not be overt about it and may not make you think, “This person is just like me, only Kemetic,” or “this person isn’t a priest,” they are exactly like you and HBW and Jason Pitzl-Waters from The Wild Hunt.
But, how they convey these topics isn’t the point in this post. The point in this post is how I convey this topic. And I am going to start conveying from every fiber of being, as well as all ongoing blog entries, that what I do is for anybody and everybody. Just like Jane Ancient Egyptian Doe, living in one of the 42 nomes all those millennia ago, I am going to build that practice. I am going to be just another nome person, with a family, who maintains relationships with the gods in my home. I am going to attempt to facilitate the practice of just a no-name nobody from here on out, with more focus and intent on that no-name nobody that I am emulating (hopefully) from long ago. And hopefully, everyone else out in the wide Internet world will begin to realize that it’s the laypeople that matter because, frankly, without us, who the fuck cares what the priests have got to say? And frankly, without us tiny little people, maybe, just maybe, the gods wouldn’t be as prevalent as they are today. And maybe just maybe, without us around, things would be a hell of a lot more boring and a lot less diverse than they are today.
Hi. My name is Satsekhem. I am a layperson of the Kemetic persuasion and I am striving towards a functional practice, heavy on the laity, for anyone and anybody who is interested.