You Are Not the One You Say You Are.

Years ago, I followed a number of people who were deep into astrology. Sometimes it felt like they were all speaking together in another language when they would get going on their discussions regarding charts and retrograde and returns. I had a passing fancy back then that maybe I would learn what they knew and use it somehow in my own way. That never came to pass and most likely never will, but one thing that stayed with me was the concept of the Saturn Return.

At the time I found out about it, I wondered when I could expect that to happen to me. I never looked into when mine would appear back then but I sometimes found myself wondering when it would hit, when I could expect things to disintegrate so spectacularly as those astrology people described, and how I would look coming out of the other side. I, of course, never bothered to look into when my Saturn return would occur because I didn’t want to confirm that I was already in the middle of it or that it was still some ways off. It was better not knowing.

I have since learned when my first Saturn return occurred. Before I figured it out, I often wondered for a long time after the year 2015 had slowly died as years tend to do if that year was the start or end of my Saturn return. It would have explained so much if it was.

Saturn Return

I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. If you are who you say you are then show me your face. You came out of the ocean like you came out of a dream. Your voice it sounds familiar but you are not what you seem… – The Stranger by Lord Huron

Fear and hopelessness are two words that, when paired together, they form a very distinct image. They elicit a painting of some dark gray and bleak hellscape. When these two words are mated together in this way, the words can convey a certain nuance that the words, when spoken not in tandem, tend to lack. The desolation one can feel when these words are used to describe themselves and their situation is so absolute as to be inescapable. It’s suffocating, worrisome, and above all, horrifying.

I think “fear and hopelessness” does an adequate job of explaining my mindset three years ago.

The year had started off so strong. I had worked diligently for the preceding three or so years to get to where I was. I had gone through a lot of shit both on a personal and spiritual level. I had developed new avenues of insight and networked to a point where I was mostly comfortable with the community I had crafted around myself. I had spent time moving as hard as I could, pushing things into place and reorganizing as I felt the need arose.

I had developed a strong relationship with a handful of gods who I loved and succored. I whispered their names as fervent prayers and I worshiped them truly. I cared for them in a way that I cannot convey verbally, that I cannot write. The emotional connection I had with them and they with me was often intense, often personal, and above all, it made me feel fulfilled in a way that I had never felt in all the years before and all the years since.

I had faith.

I had belief.

I had a lot of things that people talk about every day about their gods, about their spiritual lives, about their religions. I had all of those things and I could wear them like a strong, beautifully rendered blanket around my shoulders. Or a tapestry strung upon the wall, crowing to the world around me that I had love with my gods and they loved me. It protected me against the negatively and nay-saying. It made me feel safe and loved in return. It was security. It was safe.

But the thing about blind faith is that it doesn’t always sustain you. It’s not something that can always fill you the way that a good dinner can. It’s nothing that you can survive on. My blind faith, my blind love, began to fray and the warm, beautiful blanket began to erode around me. I grabbed for the pieces of it and I tried to re-weave it but I had my eyes opened when I died for the first time to be reborn into a useful vessel for my primary goddess. The death was necessary; the manner of it, in my opinion, was not.

It’s hard to get back to loving your gods when they have used you. It’s not impossible, but it can be so very hard to be the bright and shiny youth you once were after going through something as traumatic as all of that. It came to a head, all of my pent-up emotions on the topic, in 2015 because I was being asked to die all over again. I needed to be reborn yet again, not just for myself but for my god as well. I needed to die so that we could both live.

And I was so very angry that after only just dying, only just healing myself, only just coming to terms with all that the original rebirth’s changes had wrought that I was being asked to do it all over again. To be sure, the purpose has always been necessary and I have always been headed in that direction. But I needed to come to terms with what had already happened in conjunction with other changes I was going through; I wasn’t fucking ready.

It never helped that all of this chatter about death and rebirth was always, always couched in terms of Bigger Picture. We always come to this statement, this fucking phrase, and for those of us who do spirit work, we have to ask ourselves what in the ever-loving fuck is the point? Our lives are all supposed to be for this Bigger Fucking Picture but damn if it doesn’t make any fucking sense when paired with what our woo has shown us to be the reality of our gods’ current situation.

Why should I die yet again for this Bigger Picture bullshit when everything else is complete and utter shit?

I never got an answer to this question and I decided that it wasn’t necessary then.

I know this sounds petty. I know this sounds like I was having a temper tantrum. But the one thing I cannot illustrate enough is how much that first death traumatized me. I was passive in that death; I allowed it to happen without a peep, without a cry, without fighting back against it because I wasn’t ready. Even if I was unsuccessful, I often think back and castigate myself for not fighting back.

I should have fought back.

Rebirth

All your words of comfort cannot take away my doubt. I’ve decided if it kills me I’ll find out what you’re about. I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. – The Stranger by Lord Huron

It would be nice to end this entry here, to lay blame in its totality at the feet of the gods. But I, too, must admit to my culpability in what went wrong that year.

The years preceding had been dedicated to the hard work of creating an open forum community, primarily taking place on Tumblr but in other areas (WordPress, FB groups, etc.) of the web as well. The hard work had sort of paid off because we had managed to network a wider arena with more and more people joining our shared tags as time went by. It was nice… for a while.

My primary issue at this time was that there was a lot of growing pains going on for the wider community. I watched and aided as I could in these growing pains – growing pains that occur with every major group – but some of the things I saw, sitting on the sidelines, made me vastly uncomfortable. There was a growing group of voices that seemed to have negative points of view relating to spirit work, god spouses, and various other “woo” related arenas that made me distinctly uncomfortable.

The totality of 2015 for me was, well, “woo.” It had been forged with “woo” and it was supposed to end with “woo.” Spirit work was the name of the game in my world and the constant negative comments coming from wider and wider quarters left me feel disenfranchised with the community at large. I began to feel like I needed to keep my experiences to myself instead of sharing them just so I wouldn’t have to deal with any negative backlash.

You see, I was nay-saying my experiences all my own; I didn’t need to see it coming from some other quarter. I had my own issues related to all of this. How can this be happening? How can this be real? Even with outside divination, intuition, lining up “upg” from other sources, and a variety of other confirmation sources, I doubted heavily what was going on. I didn’t need another negative voice to add alongside my own.

Beyond my personal doubt regarding what was going on with my religious shenanigans and the fear of hearing my very own doubts parroted back to me, the community continued to grow and with it, more and more people with a historically informed background began to show up. The issue I found with some of these people is that they often came across as exceedingly condescending when I would get into both private and public conversations with them.

While I understand that being classically trained in various areas will give you a leg up in certain areas, this doesn’t mean that the people you are communicating with who aren’t classically trained are stupid or unread or unlearned. It just means that they’re coming at it without that background and because of this, they’re probably taking away a completely different perspective because their focus is in other arenas.

I didn’t need to be condescended to. I didn’t need to be talked down to or talked over or shouted at in public group messages because I disagreed about a variety of things. It only lent credence to my belief that I needed to effectively embody the hermit card from Tarot and isolate myself from the community at large.

So I did.

I not only distanced myself from the community at large, but I effectively cut myself off from those who didn’t make me feel like I was some sub-human waste of space with my woo and my different opinions. I compartmentalized so much that I stopped talking to even those of my friends who weren’t part of the community and wouldn’t make me feel like I was losing my mind if I revealed all the stuff that I had gone through earlier in the year.

It was just easier, I told myself. It was simpler to keep to myself and just keep trucking on with my fallow times and my worry that I was probably making up all the woo from earlier in the year. Better to hide away from the wider world than to engage and possibly be judged false.

I should have told myself to fuck off instead.

Bees

But I know what you want and why, Of all the strangers you’re the strangest that I’ve seen. I’m not afraid to die. I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. – The Stranger by Lord Huron

To be fair, the year as a whole wasn’t that bad. I had come to accept that I had woo though I did run away from it later for both of the above reasons listed. I had entered into a marriage with a god, which has been in effect for the last three years and seems to be going well. I had found out who my friends were because we’re still going strong three years later.

I could catalog the good things to counter all the pain and suffering, all of the hopelessness that had been intermixed with it. But at the heart of the matter, the year was not a good one and that was exactly why I disappeared; why I went off the radar. I had taken to heart the idea that I needed to hide, to keep to myself. I no longer trusted, no longer could engage in the reindeer games. I wasn’t safe; nothing was.

I had built up the house and failed to continue the growth I needed. Both my practice and I have become inert and we both suffer for it. After reading this post by TTR, I realized that I have a decision to make much like they realized they had.

Sometimes you have to shit or get off the pot. I’ve been on the pot for three years now so I guess it’s finally time to move on.

You are not the one you say you are
Now that I’ve seen your face, I’m haunted by the letters of your name
– The Stranger by Lord Huron

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The Art of 2D Communication

Recently, my boss took myself and the other supervisors from my job on a field trip. I got to spend two eight-and-a-half hour days in an auditorium with decent acoustics so I, and my coworkers, could listen to important people in leadership positions talk about, well, leadership. The leadership conference was simultaneously boring and thought-provoking. After coming home on day 2 and being asked how it was, all I could really say was that at least I wasn’t in front of my computer all day.

There were some very interesting tidbits, but I didn’t really bother to take too many notes or pay close attention through most of it. I found much of what they discussed all but useless. Or they were things that I already knew so I promptly tuned it all out.

However there was one presenter that had a piece where they discussed, and I quote directly here, “2D Communication in a 3D World.” I found myself sitting up and actually taking an interest. That interest was not because of my job and how I work behind a computer screen every day. The first thought I had after she said that was, “the community.”

Too often, we are communicating with meat suits across the Internet separated by computer screens or tablet/cell phone screens. While this networking can be stimulating and aid us, it can also be frustrating because we live in a world where we are raised to listen to nuance and read subtle body language to determine a person’s emotions relating to a topic. They may be speaking monotonously but you can pick up by their body language or by the way they over enunciate just how they may actually feel about the topic at hand.

Pen pointed neatly above my notebook, I waited for some amazing piece of advice to resolve conflicts that may occur because of our failure to read facial and body cues. And the answer from this amazing presenter was to get up and go have a conversation with someone instead of sending that possibly confusing email.

Well, by golly gee! What wonderful advice… for people who are close enough where that’s feasible.

Since there was no great advice, no great secret ready for me to use the next time I accidentally found myself in some deep shit because of the very 2D communication problem that is very real for all of us, I had a silent fit and then wondered how I could use this. How could this complete lack of a substance from an alleged leader help me, help the community, help anyone for fuck’s sake?

Well…

One of the first pieces of advice we supervisors will give to new or established employees is to “slow down.” Too often, we have emails flying in and out of our inboxes, blowing through our work flow as quickly as possible to open us up for non-client facing work. However the desire to shoot off a quick response can cause trouble:

  1. Strategic words missing
  2. Words misspelled
  3. Run on and confusing sentences
  4. No concrete purpose or substance

Any one of these can cause a world of hurt for us, but all four taken together could potentially lead to disaster.

In an effort to prevent something horrible from happening, we tell everyone to slow down, to re-read what you’re writing, to take a moment before hitting send to make sure that everything in the email is appropriate and what you needed to say. People claim that they do this but I can tell you that the amount of times that I have gone through my employees’ emails, whispering, “what the fuck,” to my computer pays the lie to their assurances.

So the first piece of magical advice I have is: “slow down.”

As exciting and thrilling as it may be to get some word vomit out and into cyberspace, when you are working on building interpersonal relationships with strange meat suits across the world, the more important thing is to make sure that what you’re saying makes a lick of sense. From conversations about our gods to disagreements about word meanings, we all need to take the time to step back and really review what it is we’re trying to convey.

Many of us with blogs already do this, so it’s not as if it’s an impossible exercise. Most of us take the time to be clear, concise, read and re-read what we want to convey in our blog entries. Most of my entries can take a week, or more, before they’re as ready as can be to go out onto the Internet. So it’s not necessarily a difficult thing to begin to add into this step into our inter-community discussions in forums, servers, and Tumblr posts.

If we all took an extra five minutes, or even more, to re-read and think about to the list of four things above before sending out a response, we could prevent a large amount of miscommunication (or auto correct fails).

One of the second pieces of advice we give out to our staff is to have someone else read over what you’re trying to say if the need arises. In our world where our conference call recaps can span a good three pages in a Word document, we have to make sure that we are being as clear and concise about what is being done and what the next steps are for our projects. Any one of the four things listed above can cause trouble on some of our projects, but taken all together, we’re asking for trouble.

We let our staff know that if the email they’re trying to send out is long-winded or convoluted, beyond slowing down and re-reading what they’re writing, it’s always best to have someone else review the emails. I will send my more confusing emails to other staff members – both supervisors like myself or other staff in the office – to have them take a look and make sure that I’ve hit all of the salient points that need to be touched on. Not all of my staff use this either, but they’re learning more and more as I guide them on how best to communicate with our clients that I’m always willing to do a quick email review to make sure nothing gets missed.

So my next piece of magical advice would be: “beta readers.”

We all have friends in the community that we bounce ideas off of or share issues with. These are the people who you can rely on, if they’re around at the time, to review something you’re trying to get out and onto the Internet. Fan fiction writers tend to have beta readers that go through and offer feedback; why not people who are trying to work within a community entirely derived over the Internet?

When the topics at hand can be as personal or impassioned as can be, we need to take the time to find someone to read through what it is that we’re saying just to be sure that nothing gets missed. I have done this for friends’ blog entries as well as response posts when the shit has hit the fan. I have also had my friends do this for me to make sure that what I’m saying is accurate, concise, and as clear as possible. This step may delay the post going live, but sometimes waiting for that person to read through what you’ve written is more important than immediately publishing whatever comments you may have.

If we took the time to have someone review whatever it is that we want to say, it could also cut down dramatically on misunderstanding across the community.

Sometimes, I must have difficult communication with representatives, clients, and vendors that I work with on a regular basis. I am not a person who enjoys having these types of high level conversations, but occasionally we need to have difficult conversations in order to save the relationship, to ensure that the issue that occurred doesn’t happen again, or because whatever process we determined could work here didn’t in fact work and now we need to come up with a new one.

Leading up to those types of conversations, there is usually a flurry of back and forth between myself and whomever I am ultimately going to have this conversation with. And quite often, when someone thinks that their point of view is the only point of view that matters, this can lead people into a state of high dudgeon. This is when it is always best to step back before heading into that conversation.

If I walk into these types of conversations in the midst of a paroxysm of anger, I am not doing myself any favors. And I am not going to be doing anything productive with that conversation because I’m too busy assuming that what they’re telling me is wrong or a lie.

So my next piece of magical advice is: “take a break.”

When it comes to facilitating a community, especially a text-based one, I think this is probably the most important piece of advice that we can give to ourselves and to others. Tempers can snap or fray because the conversation is so close to who you are as a person or to something you deeply believe in. Arguments can stem from an emotional reaction or the reading of tone where none was meant. It is always best to step back and walk away than to give in to the temptation to either defend yourself when no defense is necessary or to think critically about what has happened and how best to respond.

If we can give ourselves even ten minutes of time to walk away from the conversation and focus on something else, you can come back to it a little bit more clearer minded. This can help you to decide how best to respond, if you even feel a response is merited at that point anyway. Taking a break can give you that extra time you need to come down and determine how best to proceed.

Communication

Unlike my job where I have the option for phone communication and in-face meetings, a purely text-based community is going to have its issues with miscommunication. No matter how often we refer to magical advice or do our best to hypothetically put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, it is going to happen; it’s inevitable when other human beings are involved.

The only magical piece of advice for when it finally does happen to you is to be able to be critical enough of the situation and yourself to think about where it went wrong. Instead of doubling down on who is right and who is wrong, figure out where you may have made mistakes when communicating and learn from those mistakes for better communication in the future.

Further Reading

  1. Boat Paddling: The Second Rule of Kemeticism

All Other Ways of Mortification are Vain…

A friend of mine posted a link last month on their Facebook that I found particularly thought provoking. The original author, whom we all know as “the Henadology guy,” has a particular way with words that will make your sluggish brain move whether you want it to or not. I definitely had no intention of falling into a pit, following thought process after thought process as they circled down the endless drain of my internal meat space. Unfortunately, one’s intent is not always the way of things.

After hours spent feeling both irritated and thoughtful, I came to a single conclusion:

Way to call a girl out like that.

Sometimes, my life is little more than an old meme come back to bite me in the ass.

The exploration of the polytheism hemisphere can often start out with almost a lackadaisical sort of defiance. Raised as many of us are nowadays in a stringent monotheism that pollutes the civic world as well as our personal lives or in a laissez-faire environment where a lack of belief can be seen as currency, the profession of belief in the many can be titillating.

We move from a world of seeming absolutes – a single deity or none at all – into a realm which offers up a platter of possibilities. Gods and nymphs, ancestors and demons, guardians and spirit: they are all there for the taking. Not all fruits of the tree are ripe, but they are all there nonetheless for people who have found the status quo of their parents’ religious lives (or lack of) stifling.

At the beginning, it is frustrating or exciting or frightening. In many instances, it is all three at the same time. As we explore religious dynamics hidden from us, we run the gamut of emotions while trying to decide what works best. We try things we shouldn’t and go down rabbit holes that lead to dead ends. But it is oft-times the act of exploration that is the most exciting of it all because we are looking outside of our cultural norms for something that may or may not be missing.

We have all looked elsewhere for answers and sometimes, those answers lay in the shadows of polytheism. Before the Internet truly took off, it was a quiet place peopled in small groups of like-minded individuals looking to find something that felt right. With the Internet surrounding us, we have found more people like us and created virtual communities so that even the misanthropes like me can occasionally feel like we belong. We have found something that feels like it could work.

But in the background, we have basic programming instilled in us that we must recover from. A tag was once used on Tumblr – maybe it still is – for those indoctrinated in their culture’s or family’s staunch monotheism to reprogram themselves from that life. It is a paradigm shift for all of us going from the one to the many, the none to the many, or the possibility of one to the many.

Some shifts are easier to make than others. Some can bounce back from that programming easily. Others find it harder to break the cycle that may in fact be generations old. I’ve always been somewhere in between, but then, I’m hardly an example to live by.

As we de-program ourselves into better devotees, we find what works and what doesn’t. We all give the same advice for new people that worked for the generation preceding them: research as much as you can, find time to introduce yourselves to the gods, develop discernment for both resources and experiences with the gods, give stuff to the gods, and don’t be a dick for fuck’s sake. With various other underpinnings based on religious preference and the like, the advice is much the same (except for maybe the dick part).

But we forget sometimes to stress how hard this will most likely be. Each relationship and path is individual even within a group dynamic. What some found easy to reprogram in themselves may be the breaking point for others. As much advice as we can give, it doesn’t usually matter to the individual burning out the cancer of a religious doctrine, or no religious doctrine, that they always found to be lacking.

We all burn through what came before, building something new out of the leftover pieces of ourselves, or we don’t. We either succeed or we don’t. And sometimes the seeming failure in assimilating ourselves into a polytheistic religion can be enough to do what we wanted all along: to laugh in the face of preconceptions that always annoyed us.

And sometimes my life is a more recent meme, busting through the door and ready to kick me in the face.

As a child, my poorly defined idea of God had metastasized into the idea of a person living in the sky. He looked down on us on Sundays because those were the days that we went to church, but he mostly went about his life doing whatever it was that he wanted to do for the rest of the week without really taking a look to see what was going on. I’m not sure where this particular idea stems from (though I could take a few guesses) but that was what I had worked out on my own.

It was with this general idea in my mind that, as a pre-teen, I decided that I wasn’t interested in appeasing this idea anymore. I didn’t want to go into a very old building (without air conditioning in the summer and not enough heat in the winter) to pray to a being who lived in the sky. A being who didn’t seem overly interested in what I had to say when I did get around to praying. In addition, I had come to finally understand the Methodist sermons and was insulted often to be told that I was a sinner and had to work hard to be saved.

It always seemed to me that if this being had my best interests at heart, in some form anyway, he should reach out to me to tell me what I needed to do to get right with him. Instead, I was being told by a man (or woman) in a pulpit that I had to work hard to be saved. The Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ weren’t sufficient in my opinion to tell me how to go about getting salvation. The whole thing annoyed me and I decided that I was kind of done with it.

The general issue I found was that I had no personalized relationship with the deity in question. I waffled often as a child between belief and disbelief. When I believed, it was a disinterested human-shaped person living in the sky who watched my life with his own disinterest. When I didn’t believe, nothing happened and we were all going to die. I suppose one could say I was a dark kid.

In any case, finding polytheism was exactly what I felt that I needed as a child. It came years later and with it, I was able to develop that personal relationship that had so eluded me as a child. Instead of being told via a book and a man or woman in a pulpit, I could go direct to the source and we could game plan together to figure out what I needed.

But the overall issue was that I needed to like… do stuff… to make this happen. Before, I had sat down in an uncomfortable wooden pew that had probably been there since the church I went to had been built and listened in barely veiled boredom to someone talk for an hour. The idea that there was some quid pro quo that needed to happen was weird, but I went into it.

And I was embarrassed.

As I cleaned off flat surfaces and purchases statues and bowls and cups, I had to like bring food to them. They needed milk or water. They wanted honey. They wanted to hear my voice. They wanted to listen to music. They wanted so many things that I was okay with doing, but there were other people in my house. They could walk in on me doing this and maybe they would make fun of me?

This was another change that I had a hard time with. I had to go about my business, doing what I did, and maybe I would get laughed at or maybe I wouldn’t. I didn’t have to worry about that when I sat with glazed over eyes in church; everyone else was just like me. But now I was entering into a realm where not everyone else is just like me. And there would no doubt be questions.

How do you answer questions that make you feel like an idiot? After going through years and years of semi-belief in a dude in the sky to no belief whatsoever to an idea that maybe reincarnation is a thing to okay so all gods are real and I’m worshiping some of them, how do you speak to what you now believe? How do you adequately explain the changes over the years to someone you care about or a complete stranger? I kept everything closeted and private out of nothing more than the possibility of being embarrassed.

This is no way to go into a new relationship with the gods, but Mr. Butler is correct.

Often, we come into this with our baggage and we find it simply more believable to go through what we think of as a mortification in a large, over-encompassing way. I’m not sure about the vanity part though that makes sense. I can say that I would be more than willing to go through with something large and dramatic than something simple and small.

I can dress it up however I want. I can make it seem like this overwrought thing is more important because it shows the level of my devotion. I can make it seem like it is more important because I need to show the gods that I am all in and the only way to do that is in big, dramatic ways. I can and would dress it up in a way that I was able to feel good about it, to agree that this was the way of it and there was no turning back.

But the smaller mortifications that encompass the profession of belief and the requirements of that belief, I.E. putting out offerings, were too difficult to even by considered. Someone might see. Someone might talk to me about it. Someone might laugh at me. How in the world could I possibly do something so small, so simple, and so less-dramatic than a near death experience especially if someone walks in on what I’m doing and demands to know what’s happening?

Well that seems like a little too much, don’t you think?

How many more times am I going to see my exact thoughts in a popular meme?

The melodrama seemingly inherent in the ecstatic moment of one’s near death experience is a fairy tale we all tell ourselves. We see these posts and comments from others, wondering how we too could have our religious lives broken down and rebuilt in a single night, a single experience, instead of asking ourselves if we cannot achieve the same thing by pouring the libations, offering the food, and playing the requested music.

It is possible to live in a state of ecstasy in the minutiae that one’s religious practice requires. The rapturous joy of those moments are as few and far between as we allow them to be, but they are there. We are too busy looking outside when we should be looking within, listening within to the emotional connection these daily sacrifices foster between the gods and ourselves.

Not everything that we do for the gods will be big, glorious sound bites fit for public consumption. Sometimes it really is as small as placing offerings at the feet of a statue, but that makes it no less important.

(The title for this entry stems from this quote by John Owen.)

I Have Driven Off A / Pep.

This past week, I had a part of my body removed because it stopped functioning properly. I tell people we removed my gallbladder because I’ve been beating it up for the last 18 years and we needed to permanently part ways, which is true. I told my gods I was sorry and I didn’t mean to and couldn’t they fix it so I could keep all parts of my body for the afterlife?

It was a very confusing time leading up to the surgery.

To be fair, it was a very confusing time leading up to the diagnosis.

Confusion

O you who emerge from the waters, who escape from the flood and climb on the stern of your bark, may you indeed climb on the stern of your bark, may you be more hale that you were yesterday. – part of Spell 101 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I don’t know why I let it get as bad as it did. The first few times I had a gallstones attack, the pain wasn’t bad enough to drive me to the ER at 1 in the morning. Google-fu pretty much told me what was happening to me (gallstones) so I cut back on fatty foods to the best of my fatty food loving ability and the attacks were minimal. I had one or two in a 6-month period that first year and swore I’d deal with it next time.

But I just kept putting it off (sometimes with valid reasons and other times with probably not quite so valid ones).

Three years is a long time to deal with an  undiagnosed health issue. But I kept assuring myself that waking up my family in the middle of the night because of the pain that would eventually clear up was not worth it. My body and I were on an uneasy keel, but I was managing pretty well.

My gallbladder had other ideas of course. Maybe it got sick of my shit or maybe three years was too long. After a meal that was not very high in fat content, the pain was bad enough to force me to the ER where the doc said, “oh it’s definitely gallstones. There’s an awful lot in there; how long has this been going on?”

It was kind of nice to get the confirmation of what I already knew, but now I had to deal with it. I read up on different ways to contend with it and found non-surgical alternatives. However they all weren’t permanent solutions; the stones always came back.

I decided to ignore the implication that I would, by necessity, have a part of my body permanently removed. The fear of the surgery itself weighed too heavily on my mind, but I was also completely freaked out by the loss of that body part. I could lie and say just losing a piece of yourself was what was freaking me out, but to be frank, it was trying to figure out how this could impact me in the afterlife that was causing my issues.

It had never occurred to me before I faced this that I had always just assumed I would be fully intact upon my death. But now I had to face the music: my poor nutritional choices had brought me to the point where being fully intact upon my death was no longer an option.

a town of memory loss

Seth … will say to him with magic power: “Get back at the sharp knife which is in my hand! I stand before you, navigating aright and seeing afar. Cover your face, for I ferry across; get back because of me…” – part of Spell 108 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

The month of June was completely overwhelming as I faced the news that I needed my gallbladder out. My liver function became less efficient and the doctors were highly concerned because my gallbladder had also begun to harden after 3 years of attacks that I hadn’t dealt with. I found myself crying a lot as I tried to think past my own fears of what was to come.

One night, I cried in the shower, begging the gods to enact a miraculous cure. I knew they couldn’t do such a thing but I was still angry when I woke up with the dull ache around my liver and gallbladder as I had been off and on since the second trip to the ER. I had known the only way to deal with this was removal but the terror that I wouldn’t go to the afterlife because I was missing a piece of me held on and squeezed at me.

That sounds almost ridiculous, I suppose. “I’m terrified of surgery because my beliefs tell me I need all of my body to get to the afterlife.” I don’t want to say that this was a crisis of faith because it wasn’t. It was more like failed attempts to correlate a belief system from early human civilization with the modern era.

This is probably quite common for those of us attempting to create an historically informed practice from an ancient religion. For the most part, I’ve moved beyond these issues and have modernized my beliefs and practices where I needed to. But sometimes, apparently, something comes up that tosses you into a tailspin.

The thing that finally got me over this particular hump was something a coworker of mine said when I mentioned how much the notion was freaking me out. “Maybe they’ll put it in a biohazard jar so you can bury it.” It was said in jest and made me laugh, which was the overall point at the time. And somehow, hearing that set me a bit at ease as far as loss of organs went.

It occurred to me that I was probably being ridiculous. As I came at the fear from another angle, I had to remind myself that people in ancient Egypt probably also lost body parts and may not have been able to keep them for whatever reason. I most likely wasn’t going to be barred from the afterlife because an organ had stopped working properly and needed to be removed before causing me any serious harm.

When I was able to see it from that angle, I felt better. I was still a little weirded out by the whole thing since, aside from canines that didn’t come in correctly, I had never had to have anything removed before. But at least I could turn my anxiety away from what my soul would uncover upon death and focus heartily on my fear of the surgery itself.

Surgery

…expel my evil, grip hold of my falsehood, and I will have no guilt in respect of you. Grant that I may open up the tomb, that I may enter in Rosetjau, and that I may pass by the secret portals of the West. – part of Spell 126 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I knew fear as an intimate companion the days leading up to the surgery. I would hear that phrase from Christian burials, “and yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” and I would sit in a haze of terror. I would shake with it and I would hold onto my apotropaic amulet and let fear race through my veins.

I broke down minutes before the surgery, whispering in my mind, I don’t want this; I don’t want to be here. Please let this be a nightmare. But it was reality and forward I went. The SO squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead, but I was still terrified of what was going to happen to me.

The removal of the organ; the death like sleep doctors were going to control while I was out; the unknown pain and recovery of what was to come after. All of it coalesced into a sort of miniature battle where I wasn’t really sure if I would survive as intact as I hoped to be.

This sounds ridiculous but it felt a bit like a battle against that entropy snake we all battle against as Kemetics. It felt like I was going into battle against an unknown and unseen enemy and I could either survive another day or I could die in the attempt. I didn’t step into the battle with courage like you’d expect from a true warrior but with tears on my lashes and a team of ladies in blue injecting something into my IV.

Split seconds before I passed out, I was staring at the ceiling and thinking that this was a bit like being drunk without all the terrible consequences. The grating in the ceiling above me did a full 180 spin and I can remember thinking, it’s like bed spin without the nausea, and then I was waking up in a green room with nurses everywhere.

I’ve felt very fragile since the surgery. It’s kind of made me realize that our bodies can easily break. I mean, I knew this in a sort of abstract way – I had a fractured elbow a few years back and I’ve fractured my ankle before – but it’s like the point had to be made real again. I feel very much like I could break completely, maybe next time it will be in half.

I’m recovering though, no matter how dark my thoughts or how fragile I feel.

The pain is weird; it comes and goes. Sometimes I feel like I could just recover on my own and then the next time I go to get up for something, I have to call for help because I can barely even think of the idea of getting up without someone helping me to my feet. I overdid it yesterday with all my trying to do this on my own and I’m suffering for it now.

My body feels a little foreign because of the pain, a little like it was someone else’s and now I’m trying to make it fit. No. No, it’s honestly like I put on a different skin suit after the surgery sometimes and now I have to figure out all the motor control again.

No. No… maybe a better description would be like being reborn…

I am reborn, I see, I behold, I will be yonder, I am raised up on my side, I make a decree, I hate sleep, I detest limpness, and I who was in Nedit stand up. – part of Spell 174 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

Boundaries.

The ancient Egyptians used to create stelae for various reasons but the main reason that always kind of stuck with me were boundary stelae. As a kid, I can remember reading through the books about Amarna, trying to envision Akhenaten demanding that Joe Blow Stonemason cut into a cliff face to deliberately mark the borders of his new city. For a long time, that was the closest I ever came to boundary stela.

After getting over the marvel that someone would just create a stonework detailing where something began and ended, I could see the value in such a thing. As human beings, we seem to like to clearly mark things as “ours vs theirs.” While the boundary stelae of Amarna were less about us vs. them, the other types of boundary stelae are very much in keeping with that mentality: they delineate fields, borders of administrative sectors, and of course countries.

I also had to admit that I kind of liked the idea behind it. There is a sort of permanence in the creation. It’s being sculpted from stone, which could and would last a very long time, gave an added dose of “forever” to the stelae. To be perfectly frank, the very idea that this piece of stone was to delineate a beginning point and an ending point all and for an eternity really spoke to me.

Maybe I have a permanent us vs. them mentality waiting in the wings or maybe I just like the idea that instead of using a fence, they carved some words into a rock. And therefore it was. It existed because the words had been carved into that rock and that would come down to us millennia later. The amount of mind blowing wonder I’ve spent staring at boundary stelae is probably obscene. But man, they sure are fascinating.

Boundary stela of Sety I

Boundary Stela of Seti I, found in Kom el Lufi

When I was a newbie Kemetic, I spent an inordinately large amount of time combing through forums. I started off looking for resources to help me figure out what I was trying to do but I also realize now that I was hoping for a mentor. I was hoping that someone would take me under their wing and just tell me what to do.

I can recognize that this is a sort of holdover from my early religious years. I was raised in a tradition where you needed someone to facilitate the relationship you were supposed to forge. I wanted something similar, though I still wanted to experience things on my own and without someone else’s experience to muddy the waters.

Around the same time that I began wishing someone on the forums would tell me what I was supposed to be doing, I began to work through a lot of the negativity I had after the “coven” I was a part of broke up. It took a while but I finally began to recognize that having an intermediary between myself and my gods was dangerous, worrisome, time-consuming, and not something I really could stomach any longer.

I don’t bring up the break up of that “coven” over and over again to finger point or anything. I’ve worked through most, if not all, of the resentment I had holding me back from that tumultuous and painful time. The reason I bring it up is because it helped me, only after working through a lot of that resentment and anger, to realize that I didn’t really want someone to mentor me any longer. I just wanted someone to mindlessly tell me what to do while I fumbled around on this weird and meandering spiritual turnpike.

As I began to actually explore, I wanted less that person between me and my gods, between me and my religion and more a community of sorts. I wanted to be able to talk through a lot of the things that I was exploring, the things that I was thinking, the things that I was feeling as I delved deeper. I clung to that forum a lot in those early years and it did help to shape my practice. It also helped to teach me who were good community people and who were not. It gave me a lot of learning points as I began to get serious about things.

Pushing Boundaries ( please view large on black )

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. – Brene Brown

One of the things the forum helped to teach me was about boundaries. This was a concept I was already beginning to figure out, but it took a while to really solidify enough for me.

As a newbie, I wanted to be let into every nuance, every detail regarding others’ practices. It wasn’t that I wanted to steal what they had to offer. I just wanted to know what things could be like if I tried hard enough. The idea of keeping quiet about aspects of my practice had never really occurred to me – that is, after all, why I started this blog. More as a tally for myself on how things had changed, but also as a place to publicly point people to how things can and do and will change as newbies delve deeper into their own spiritual practices.

I rolled the idea through my mind, trying to come to a collective decision about what, if anything, I should keep private. In those early years, the idea of keeping quiet about anything was still very mind boggling and didn’t feel right. I realized that silence isn’t my strong point.

The thing is that I want to keep people in the loop. I want people to see what it is that I am doing in the hopes that it may jump start what it is they will be doing or are starting to do. I don’t write about my personal religious shenanigans anymore simply because I need the record for my own peace of mind, but because I know what it’s like to be like, “how religion,” and not getting what I felt I needed at the time.

I’m at a stage in my practice now where I definitely do not want someone to hold my hand through my own experiences unless I make the request. I may whine and cry and arm flail about these things, but I am not looking to do that simply because I need someone to tell me what to do. I am doing all of that because that is how I work through the new things being levied at me as I wander around trying to formulate a living, breathing practice. And I have this desire to show other people what that looks like as they, in turn, go through similar experiences.

Sometimes, I feel that people misunderstand what it is that I am trying to do and when they do misunderstand those things, they breach boundaries that perhaps I didn’t carefully delineate. Perhaps I should have carved a piece of stone with carefully chosen words to explain that there are, in fact, boundaries in play as open as I may be regarding my practice. It is those boundaries that have kept me very quiet lately. Too often it feels like people are misunderstanding what I’m doing or what I’m saying and feeling the need to step in, take my hand, and point me in the proper direction.

They have broached my boundary stelae and I honestly don’t know how to handle this. I can’t help but think that because I am so open about what I’m doing and what I am hoping to achieve, that because I didn’t keep quiet about certain aspects of my practice then this is rather my fault. I also suspect that because I use open blogging platforms to catalog the things that I have done and said and felt and gone through, then I am rather asking for this.

To be fair, the people probably think that they’re being helpful, but this isn’t my first rodeo. It’s not even my fifth. I’ve been around the block a few times and I have to tell you… I don’t need or want your help unless I say, “help me.”

silent candles night

Silence is a true friend who never betrays. – Confucius

All of this has brought me back to those early years when I can remember knowing and being told that there are parts of others’ practices that I am not privy to. I am finally beginning to understand why they kept things to themselves. And I am finally having to reengage with myself regarding what is and is not appropriate to share anymore.

I’ve already begun to hold back exponentially. I often find myself wanting to discuss something incredibly personal, but being very worried about who will determine that it’s time to “benevolently” step inside my borders and tell me what they have done on my behalf, without my permission, to help facilitate things for me. I don’t want to share these items anymore because I am tired of feeling as though people who are “older and wiser” than myself have decided that I need help even though I never asked for it.

I guess I have to ask what the point in any of this is if my openness regarding what I’m hoping to achieve has seemingly made it seem to others that I need their help. Why am I doing this in the first place? Why do I keep this blog or its companion sites open if I have to sit and wonder over and over what sort of can of worms I’m opening because I’m willing to discuss these things in an open venue? Is it my fault for not posting “I don’t need your help but thanks for thinking of me” on every arm flail I post? Is it my fault for not clearly stating, “I am sharing this not because I need help but because I need to post it somewhere” or emphatically pointing out, “there are boundaries here, here, and here so don’t cross them when we discuss this”?

I can appreciate silence now and I dislike that I can appreciate it in any context. I can understand why people keep things to themselves and I hate that. I hate that I’ve become so divided in what I share and what I don’t share. I hate the fact that I’ve had drafts saved for months, going absolutely nowhere, because I’m worried what sort of person is going to try and extend me a helping hand when I haven’t requested one.

I think I need to start looking back to the past in order to look to the future.

It feels like this is a jumping off point, a moment in time where I can go either left or right on this meandering path of mine. I know that one way will lead to more and more silence, more and more moments of sitting on my laurels with drafts saved that never see the light of the day. The other turn will take me down the road to clearly mark where my boundaries lay, both for myself and for others, so I can continue down the road that I actually need to be on.

Everything starts with one step, or one brick, or one word or one day. – Jeremy Gilley

Have You Ever Seen the Rain Coming Down on a Sunny Day?

The other day, it felt as though the world had been purified and renewed in the night, leaving a mist of newness across the land. It had rained in the night and the world around me had been soaked in the aftermath. I had smelled rain on the wind in the evening before, closing my eyes and sampling the gentle soft scent that I have always associated with gentle rains in this place where I was born. There is something about that smell, that precursor telling us that the rain is coming, that I have always associated with a form of renewal and purification. I can remember feeling that way as a child and it has not left me as I have aged.

It has only become a stronger association in my opinion.

While I walked the dog, I was giddy as I made footprints in the chill water left on the tips of the blades of grass. Both my shoes and the bottom of my jeans were soaked with that physical embodiment of purification and renewal. In my mind, I could feel it climbing up my legs and soaking me with its potency. I was walking the dog through the glitter of dew drops and rain drops, thinking about this.

The rays after rain

The Rays After Rain by Masahiro Noguchi

It seemed appropriate that after the Reunion the world would begin its ever steady march in its attempt at renewal. Not only have the lovers reunited for another year, but I am entering the final month before the new year. Renewal, purification… these things are understandably on my mind as the time ticks towards the new year celebrations.

It felt almost as if the very area in which I live wanted to join me as I work steadily and slowly on building myself back up, building a new dynamic in my practice as the year marches steadily towards its reset.

I’ve felt hollowed out and alone recently while I go through this, backing off from social media and online communities. I know that I am not capable of balancing the recreation of myself and the recreation of my practice with the work that communities entail. None of this is a bad thing – these changes I’ve felt and discussed finally in my last entry – but it’s a long heavy process and I think, during it all, I will need healthy doses of both purification and renewal.

You see, I don’t always realize when I need to back off or when I’ve actually made a serious indent into the work I’m doing. I think the aftermath of the rain was a subtle reminder of that issue I have.

A common question that we ask ourselves at my job is, “are you too in the middle to see the outside?” This question is typically asked when we are discussing steps that we could have undertaken and probably should have undertaken to facilitate a repair or project. However those steps were neglected usually because we are racing at break neck speed or being pounded with the need to get shit done as quickly as possible. It impairs our efficiencies and we’re left standing back after the ticket has been closed, discussing it with other people and realizing where we made mistakes and how we could have prevented them.

This kind of goes back to the “bigger picture” talk I complain about. I don’t necessarily realize that I’ve made a major break through (or even a minor break through) because I don’t take the time necessary to step back and go through every little detail. I’m racing forward on adrenaline when I should be taking my time. Due to the fact that much of this shit is shadow work and painful in the extreme, you can probably understand why I don’t want to do that. So, I end up actually getting through the mess but then take months afterward to analyze and absorb what it is that I have done.

Just like with my job, if I had been able to stop long enough to take a breath, I could have probably have prevented the inefficiencies, but I was too caught up in the moment to do so.

It felt to me that the rain soaked grass and the leaves dripping as the sun began pouring over the landscape were all a subtle reminder*. It felt in a very personal religious way as though the gods themselves were pushing this lesson (again – this isn’t the first time I’ve had this type of a reminder, but it is one of the more gentle reminders I’ve had).

* Of course, this could all be coincidence; I’m fully aware that when it comes to omens and portents in one’s personal religious path that we need to consider that always as a possibility. But why can’t the gods use the very things that we have associations and interactions with in order to get those omens and portents across? It’s all a matter of discernment, but sometimes it comes down to needing to feel like there is just a little bit more in the moment.

As I watched the sun break through the cloud cover and begin to poke around at the world around, as the birds began doing their morning dances and chatter, as the cars filled the road with traffic to get a start on the day, I marveled at the idea that all of this was a thing of which I am part of and if I just stop for a moment, I could see the picture from the outside as opposed to the inside.

As was recently voiced over in a dream of mine, one small step for Sat; one giant leap for Satsekhem! I don’t know how true that statement really will be in the months ahead, but I find myself just a little excited by it all.

Kemetic Round Table: But Why?

As a kid, I attended a Methodist church and I can remember sitting beside my mother during the [boring] sermon on more than a handful of occasions. If I wasn’t busy trying to play hang man by myself or staring up at the architecture (it was that church, to be honest, that made me appreciate Gothic architecture as that was what it was modeled after when built), I was so busy trying to figure out what was so special about the person in the pulpit that gave them the ability to shepherd my soul and my faith onto its path to redeem the inherent sinner that I, as a Methodist, clearly was.

I got that the person in question went to specialty school and had been indoctrinated in all the things that were required in order to perform rituals and services under the teachings and dogma of the Methodist church. And I understood that the role of that minister was to take my hand (so to speak) and guide me on my path in my relationship with Jesus, the Holy Ghost, and God. But I couldn’t really figure out why I needed that person over there, pulpit or not, ritual officiant or not, to guide me. I constantly had to ask myself, but why?

While sitting at the front of the church with the other acolytes, admiring the really ornate altar that I got to light and put out the candles for, I still wondered. I went to Sunday school and when I wasn’t dawdling on my millionth bathroom break back into church, I was always trying to figure out why there had to any person between me and my relationship with God. Didn’t I have the ability to pray just as well as the priest? Was there something in the induction from any ole human to priest type human that made their prayers, on my behalf, that much more clear? Or was it all just a bunch of hype?

It doesn’t matter what answers, if any, that I may have come up with. I’ll be honest, I can’t think of any damn things that I came up with to explain why the person in the pulpit, who wore the garments ascribed to our sect, had the right and the wherewithal to shepherd my soul. I kept coming back down to the fundamental question of: but why? Maybe that makes me a bit of a troublemaker or maybe I missed something in Sunday school that I should have paid attention to. Whatever the case may be, I had nothing but the ongoing ramble of but why why why why why? in my head enough times to seriously side eye the whole fucking concept.

Frankly, changing my faith from monotheistic to polytheistic hasn’t really stopped the whole, but why?

I started looking up things about the ancient Egyptian priesthood a few years ago when I got a card reading that was kind of like, “hahaha, you’re going to be a priest!” And I just about flipped my shit and sulked about it for a while. I knew a sum total of this about the priesthood in ancient Egypt: (a) they were everywhere, (b) they got up really early, (c) there was some ritual purity standards or something, and (d) they stood in for the pharaoh for everything who was the Big Cheese as far as the religion was concerned. So, realizing that if this was going to end up happening, I decided I should look a little further beyond what I knew.

And I found out a lot things about the priesthood and none of them were even remotely what I had come to believe a priest was for. I was coming at this point-of-view, of course, from the Christian faith I was raised in. I was informed that the minister was supposed to be a sort of intermediary of sorts between myself and my relationship to God. The minister officiated at really important rituals like baptism, marriage, and communion. These are things that they did for the parishioners. Again, in my limited information regarding what I had figured out over the years, it was this shepherd thing (something hearkening back to Jesus’ image of the Good Shepherd, iirc) that the priests and ministers and whatnot were supposed to do.

That was so not even the case in ancient Egypt.

The entire point in the priesthood in ancient Egypt was to serve the gods in whatever capacity that particular priest had been hired for (or bribed to get the position for). There were numerous priests within the priesthood hierarchy – not just one guy at the top of a pulpit, preaching on about whatever the case may be. The priests who maintained the temples and completed the rituals did so on behalf of the gods that the temples were for and to maintain ma’at by providing for those gods – not to shepherd the laity on their bumbling path with their faith and offer them spiritual guidance on how to proceed. While they did complete things on behalf of the laity, such as writing things, providing healing, and/or interpreting dreams, this was only if the person had paid for those services. As far as I could discern, it seemed like how the temples’ functionaries (the priests) worked with the laity was minimal.

Another thing to consider was that since the duties of the priests were twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, there were no breaks. They did not stop and take a week vacation from their job. They had four months of doing the job and then they were off the rotation to do whatever it was their personal lives required of them. But when they were in rotation, the outside world was immaterial to the duties that they had to perform on behalf of the temple and the gods. The priests I grew up with only were around for Sunday services and the Methodist specific rituals, which in my experience tended to take place on Sundays.

Even remotely looking at the ancient Egyptian priesthood with the perspective of someone born and raised within the Methodist church was hard to handle. It was like two polar opposites had crashed head-on in my brain and I honestly couldn’t even begin to reconcile it. And that was kind of when I realized that viewing the priesthood from a Christian heavy perspective was probably not a good idea.

So, I tried to view it from a modern-day Kemetic perspective and had to admit that the nagging question come back in spades: but why?

In order for a priesthood to exist in any context akin to what had been established in antiquity, there would have to be an established temple. And frankly, I haven’t joined any of the established temples because I don’t want a theocracy regarding my religion, which would need to be the case in order for it to bear any resemblance to antiquity. I don’t want someone from on high – like the people in the pulpit – to tell me what my function was. I wouldn’t want someone to give me a position, which I may not feel suited my abilities or my personal desires for what I wanted my personal relationship with my gods to look like, and have to turn it into, well, a job. That seems like such a terrible idea on so many different levels.

If I remove the idea of an established temple and all of the possible hazards and pitfalls that could occur with an established temple, I have to admit that the nagging question of but why comes up louder and louder. If there is no temple, why in the world would a priesthood be needed? I mean, after all, isn’t that what most of the solitaries are doing?

Think about it:

They’re maintaining their relationships with the gods, seeing that the gods are pleased with offerings and any rituals they feel like doing, and doing their damned best to both live in and maintain ma’at. From that perspective, it kind of looks like those of us who fall under the “solitary Kemetic” persuasion may already be what the ancient Egyptian priesthood was… without all of the in-fighting, politics, full-time work, and bribery.

If looked in that particular way, then technically, all of us are our own priests… so then what’s all the hype about?

How often do I see people going on about priesthood like it’s the top echelon of super religious achievement? I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen people just spout on and on about how great the whole idea of a priesthood totally would be if only we could do X, Y, Z. Well, I hate to break it to all the “ra ra priest” cheerleaders out there, but it’s kind of already in existence from a solitary perspective. And many of us don’t even want to look at the fucking word priest, much less, use it in any context to describe what we’re going. The word has some serious baggage; it’s a dirty word; it’s blown up and blown out of proportion; and did I mention the baggage?

To be perfectly frank, I’m kind of tired of people looking at the whole priesthood thing like it’s something that we should all strive for. Let’s not forget that the priesthood of antiquity was a hierarchy from scribes to prophets, from high priests to cooks in the kitchen. By stating that “priesthood” is the be-all, end-all, we are definitively stating that we need to create strata within our community. And by so doing, we could quite easily make it seem like there is a clique for the haves and an exclusionary circle around the have nots, which should not be the case for a religion that is as community centric as ours. Besides, we see how destructive such things can be within the wider Tumblr pagan community – the constant battle cry of “speshul snowflake” – so why the fuck are we going to invite the conflagration to our party before we really have gotten our feet under us?

I think the more important thing is focusing on the personal path that we are all walking on and how it relates to us as human beings and how it relates to the gods to whom we cultivate these relationships for. Priesthood was a many splendored pain in the ass in antiquity from what I’ve read and frankly, I don’t want to be associated with it… even though I am, for all intents and purposes, doing precisely what the ancient priests did in my position… only without the conniving and bribing of other people (I’ll totally bribe and connive with my gods though).

I truly believe that people who push this idea that priesthood should be or will be the highest point that one can aim for on their path is detrimental to the fomenting of the individual paths we all walk down. I think that it leaves a lot of people feeling inadequate, people who may be frightened of the term priest or who may look askance and distrustful of the terminology priesthood. The focus on a religion that is so widespread and predominantly made up of solitary practitioners should be less on something that requires a temple to work properly and should be more focused on boat paddling, community, and what each individual needs from both in order to establish themselves on their path.

So if the whole point in the ancient Egyptian priesthood was to do what each modern person building a personal relationship with their gods is already doing (in whatever context that particular relationship requires or ends up becoming), then I go right back to point A, which is the question, but why?

Maybe if there was a temple that had more of a “it’s okay to be laity” point-of-view and less of a “the priesthood are super awesome” mentality, I could answer that question. In the mean time, I shy away from the word even if I really am doing the job of a priest and I continue to think that at this stage, modern priesthood really just isn’t important.

Further Reading

  1. TTR’s WP Clergy Tag
  2. TTR’s Tumblr Priesthood Tag

Place of Truth.

You ever have one of those moments where you just have this fucking thing stuck in your head? It can be a song lyric, a picture, a turn of phrase – but it’s just sitting there in your brain pan and periodically, it shoots back out at you and reminds you that it exists in there and that you should think about it. That’s what this post is about.

For weeks on end, whenever I would walk over to my altar for Sekhmet, I would hear this phrase just echoing through my meat space. Hell, let’s be honest here, this has been going on for longer than all of that – months, more like. Whenever I would go over there or pass by, which is done on a daily basis, I would just hear this fucking phrase echoing in my head and I was so very puzzled by it. It was like a little zing at first, you know? It was just there. “Boop! Hey, I’m here.” And then with each passing day that the phrase would hit me, it became more and more like an electrical shock to the system: place of truth.

I puzzled about it, you know? I thought I was making up things out of the reactionary word vomit that can occasionally inhabit one’s mind space. How often had I had moments where something would come through like this and it ended up being nothing? (Or quite possibly, it actually was something that was never solved because, let’s be real here, that’s always a possibility.) But it began to happen on such a regular basis and the zings were becoming more painful. It was like eating too much sugar after a filling falls out – a zap of pain to the teeth. Or more like a momentary brain freeze that would shoot not just into my brain, making me want to cut off the entire apparatus housing it, but throughout my whole body.

I started looking things up because, you know, I may as well give in to the reactionary odd shit my mind makes up.

I was really just expecting like a book title to pop up or have an image come up on the screen: a single pointed finger surrounded by bubbled text spelling out “ha ha ha.” That’s not what happened. The not-oracle that is Google came up with something interesting: set maat was what the ancient Egyptians referred to the Theban necropolis as. Oh, well, that was very helpful… so helpful that I looked up the bits about how the workers at Deir el-Medina were referred to as “servant of the place of truth.” And all of that was just so very helpful but not in any way, shape, or form that could possibly explain to me why the fuck I was having this damn fucking phrase puncture my brain pan every fucking morning.

I mean, honestly? What in the world did my relationship with Sekhmet and/or my altar space have to do with the Theban necropolis? I couldn’t make a connection. Sure, I had dealings with Sekhmet in the Duat, but that didn’t really relate as far as I could see to the necropolis. And I don’t really consider my altar space as sacred as, maybe someone somewhere thought the necropolis was. So, how the fuck and why the fuck and what the fuck?

I left it alone. That’s a thing, right? When things really start to aggravate you, sometimes if you just leave them alone, they percolate in the background and something might come of it.

I left it alone for so long that I told Sekhmet’s altar that it could shut the fuck up. I got more zings. I started avoiding going near her altar except for the most necessary things – offerings, dropping off jewelry, picking up jewelry, etc. I got more zings. I refused to make fucking eye contact with my fucking altar whenever I would do these in the hopes that it would help. I got more zings. I left it alone for so fucking long that I began to actually tune it out. Evidently, this was just too much to handle because things came to a head the second week of January.

The second week of the month is when I do the rites and services Sekhmet and I agreed upon (over a fucking year ago now – time flies). I usually make up the altar pretty much the same, maybe with minor changes. I clean the place up and out and spritz it down and make it damn fine. I have ritual plates that I use for the heka feast offering and ones specific for the actual food offerings I give as well. No big deal, I pulled everything down and placed the heka in the proper plate-bowl-thing and looked at it and had the volume turned up: PLACE OF TRUTH.

I stared at the space I had lovingly tended with revulsion and irritation. We were back to this stupid fucking thing again. I had finally managed to get out of that fucking gutter and I was getting sucked back in when I had things to do. So, I looked around for something while I began to get a massive fucking headache as PLACE OF TRUTH pounded through my brain pan. I found a candle and laid it over the heka meal. I stared at the plate some more and then pulled down the feather of ma’at amulet, wrapping it gently around the candle holder.

The volume dial was turned down and I was able to walk away, pleased with it.

Well.

Shit.

What the fuck.

A while later, I began moving things away and looked down at the altar space. I was pretty angry and irritated. I went to move the heka feast bowl-plate-thing with its candle and ma’at, but my hand stayed right where it was at my side. I looked at my hand. I looked at the bowl thing. I looked at Sekhmet. I looked at the feather of ma’at amulet.

PLACE OF TRUTH.

I decided to just remove the heka feast and clean the plate thing, but placed the candle and the amulet back where it had been previously. The volume dial was turned down again. I was beginning to get a very serious feeling that the bowl-plate-thing and the amulet needed to stay put. I wasn’t really sure if the candle needed to stay put, but since it’s a good focal point, I figured it could stay. Besides, if nothing else, doesn’t the place of truth deserve a little way to make some flame especially since it seems, somehow, to be related to the Lady of the Flame?

I’ve been growing more and more desperate. I can’t tune it out as clearly as I had been. I can continue to walk by; I can continue to ignore the space; I can even just go “lalalala, I can’t hear you,” with my fingers in my ears. None of it really works. I don’t know what the hell this means. Why the hell this is even supposed to be a thing?

In desperation, I went to the not-oracle that is Google and found a whole lot of the same shit I found the first time around. In desperation, I reached out to two groups for help, but have received no responses from anyone about the phrase “place of truth.” I’m clearly at the end of my tether because I can’t fucking sit around and listen to the stupid bullshit anymore. I don’t know what this means or why this means. I don’t understand the zings I’m getting or the constant feeling that there is something missing, perhaps that I, myself, am missing (clearly) or that is missing from the fucking space in general. I just don’t know.

So, because I was finally at the end of my fucking rope and demanding answers, I pulled out the Book of Doors deck.

WHAT DOES THIS FUCKING THING MEAN.

And I got a hodge-podge mess that actually made me even angrier. I was already pretty pissed to begin with – the fact that I had to turn to cards in the first place really made me snottier than usual – so the responses I got to the question, phrased differently each time, made me very unhappy. It was made worse when I realized that how I typically interpret the deck wasn’t going to work. The answers I was looking for were “woo” related, or in that realm. So, historically, I have bubkes. And technically, woo-wise, I also have bubkes but at least I know it’s related to that in some way.

This was not helping.

I sat in front of the altar and stared at the white plate. It was just a plate. I had purchased it for $1 at the dollar store. There is absolutely nothing special about the plate. It’s flat in the middle and rounds up. It’s probably more like a serving bowl or a salad bowl. There is no design to it – I wanted something nice and plain for the rites and services when I picked it out. It’s a nice enough looking bowl-plate, but it’s usefulness starts and ends at holding offerings once a month.

And yet… adding it to the altar had definitely been a good thing.

Maybe it wasn’t the bowl so much that was a good thing, but the amulet? I thought about that. And it wasn’t until the two were placed together, with the amulet wrapped daintily around the pillar candle holder, when I felt I had done a good thing. But the good thing, that feeling anyway, is still beset on all sides. There’s more here, I can fucking feel it.

I keep looking at the damn space and I keep thinking about how the fuck this can finally shut up in my head. I keep looking at the whole damn space and I keep knowing that I need to add to it. I need more than just the candle and the amulet and the bowl. There’s something here and the answers just aren’t anything more than bleariness at the corner of my eye. I keep rubbing at the bleariness but there’s nothing there but more bleariness.

What the fuck am I even doing.

I wandered back and forth to the altar. I stared at it. I looked down at the floor in frustration and then looked back up, hoping that I had taken enough time to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing. I walked away in a huff. I walked back with my hands linked at the back of my head, afraid that if I didn’t hold them together tightly that I may just slash my arm across the whole edifice and destroy it all. I lay down and watched Supernatural for a while. I got back up and stared at what I had begun and then moved back to the TV. I paced back and forth while I messaged with a friend, freaking out through my cell phone. It was a good thing really; I was finally able to say something to someone who, though perhaps they wouldn’t understand the entirety of the problem, they could at least be a sounding board since clearly there will be woo and there is already woo.

This is my truth.

This is my truth.

We talked and they made sense. The panic-streaked thoughts from the last few months faded out. They became less shaky and more solid. I could see what I needed to do in my head, but I just had to figure out how to get it there. As carefully as my son has done when building a precarious tower of blocks, I held my breath and placed pieces in the plate-bowl. I held my breath so as not to disturb the precarious balance. I looked down at my handiwork and knew that I needed more. This was insufficient and I looked up at mawat’s face and I thought to myself, what the fuck do you want from me? And then I saw it… the little necklace of the four arrows I had made a few weeks back. I looked down at my not-a-masterpiece and looked back up at her and then knew what I had to do.

They were the final piece to the finished product.

You see, the point was that I had to build myself a place of truth. It makes sense that the bowl was a good thing – a repository for the heka that I have taken on for the last year. It is a part of my truth. Each little piece placed carefully in that bowl-plate is a part of my truth: my path and where it has led me. I knew this year was going to be a bit of a doozy in the way of my religious experiences. I knew that last year when I looked to the future and saw more hardship, many more ordeals, and new adventures coming my way. I was told a little while ago that I would be judged, but you know? I judge myself, too and quite often, very harshly. I built myself a place of truth. These pieces are a part of my truth – my inner truth, the truth of my ib – and while I may, indeed, be judged by outsiders, the foundations remain the same.

Je suis prêt, I remind myself.

The Art of Balance.

I think I’ve been babied by how most of my interpersonal deity relationships have been in the last few years.

I talk about being a deity collector; I have a lot of deities that I pay homage to at any given time. Some of those relationships are more fleeting than others, which is how I am able to handle my shit without flipping my shit. Geb and Mut are prime examples: they do the “deity pop-in.” I only ever associate them with outdoors type shit so I don’t need to pay homage to them nearly as regularly as I do with other deities. Bes is only given attention when I’m at home and doing home and family centric things (pretty obvious with that one); Set gets attention when he’s told to send me a pick-me up; Anup gets attention when the akhu are involved. Hetheru, Djehuty, and the rest have all been so quiet since I flipped out on them for constantly pulling at me, trying to get me to do what they want when I had someone of larger importance already having led the fucking charge. In the end, while I do pay attention to those relationships that began when I was nervous and worrying about things, they’ve mostly gone the way of the Dodo.

Some of this is okay; the work with those deities was for Bigger Picture. I understand that now although I didn’t necessarily fully understand what that Bigger Picture was way back then. So, I had to learn to use heka effectively under the tutelage of Aset to prepare myself for the intermediary status I took on last year. I had to learn to write more effectively under Djehuty’s demands in order to make my heka more effective. Hetheru has always been there, waiting in the wings, until she felt I needed someone’s affection. (She counter balances the intensity of my relationship with Sekhmet by not being intense, at all, and not demanding anything from me except some fun periodically. She’s always kind of been a breath of fresh air.)

Thing is, they’ve all been relegated to household deities while things have seriously picked up with Sekhmet. I had made my choice; I wasn’t getting cake and eating it, too. They’ve quieted down and stopped asking things of me. I seem to have even lost that counterbalance with Hetheru, not as if it was a permanent addition to my life anyway. I don’t have the energy and wherewithal to give them any more than what I’m doing now: a daily offering, perhaps some words, the occasional, “hey, how are you,” and then I move on with my life. I was pleased and happy that I had been able to move from “active deity collector” back to “one track mind.”

Then Heru-Wer showed up and I’m beginning to flip my shit.

You see… I have never really had to learn the act of balancing relationships.

balance

Balance via Flickr

I am not very good at that whole thing. I talk a good game, but I’m very much a MUST HYPERFOCUS ON THIS THING RIGHT NOW BECAUSE REASONS and everything else falls to the wayside. This was the fundamental issue between Sekhmet and Hetheru. I always just assumed that Hetheru was around for a purpose and I strongly suspect she was only there as an escape when things would get really hard with Sekhmet. I don’t think I’ve necessarily burned the bridge, but I do think that she’s kept her distance for good reason. (I was a massive ass face when I made my decision last year.) The problem is that I don’t really seem to have that option here. Sekhmet is demanding and fickle; I bound myself to her and that is just simply what it is. However, as I’ve been looking more and more steadily into the mythology of Heru-Wer and wondering about what relationship we will have and figuring out what the fuck it’s going to entail, I’ve come to conclude that… well, he offers a really awesome balance point between HARDWORKHARDWORKHARDWORK and PLAYPLAYPLAY, which is something I need to fucking learn like yesterday.

How the hell do people do this? How in the world can you balance yourself out between two different deities that want two different things from you?

I got off scot-free, so to speak, and now I have to pay the piper. That’s… how it feels anyway. I was able to do my thing with Sekhmet and still do some things with other gods, but while it could suck at times, there was still something in the back of my mind that said I could run away if I needed to. I could walk away if I needed to. In the end, the decision was made for me anyway. The decision to end all intense relationships outside of Sekhmet’s was made and I have lived with that decision for almost a year now. I can’t tell anyone if it was a good one or a bad one, in all honesty. I think, with everything, it is shades of gray: I had to stop getting pulled in a million different directions and my loyalty was to Sekhmet first and foremost. Everyone else was cannon fodder for that Bigger Picture I was just harping about.

The problem is that I’ve been able to escape all of this learning curve. Perhaps because of my own inability to NOT be so single-minded about things, I never had to learn what it was like to actually balance a relationship with one deity and then learn how to add another. I tried it, sort of, when Hetheru joined Sekhmet in annoying the fuck out of me the beginning. And I found that I was so intensely focused on the various aspects of Hetheru that I couldn’t jump out of my head long enough to make that relationship more than an offshoot that was painful and frightening. Perhaps Hetheru knew something I didn’t back then: I wasn’t ready for this whole balance thing. In an effort to terminate that relationship, I have done everything in my power to push that particular goddess out of my life, too unwilling to stop long enough to think about other aspects of her that I needed/need to pay attention to. Instead, I have severed and strangled that connection to the point where it probably needs more than just mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate it.

That is my own stupidity, however; my own inability to work on the things that need to be worked on. I recognize that I have a lot of failings, by the way, and I know myself well enough (at least in this particular ball park) to know that I have a lot of fucked up shit that I have been very firmly ignoring. Sure, I look at it and I poke and prod at it occasionally, but what it comes down to is that all of the associations that Hetheru holds the keys to regarding that fucked up shit made it nearly impossible for me to do much more than to push her away. She got the hint long before I did, probably. I haven’t felt her since last year and then when I made my decision in October, I figured everything there was no longer available to me. Now, though, I have another deity in my life and I… well, I don’t want to be an asshole. I don’t want to strangle that connection until it is as dead as some of my other connections and relationships. I want…

That.

That.

Right there.

I want.

I want to try it. I want to see where things will head, but I don’t necessarily know how to do it. I recognize that I have limitations; didn’t I just say that? I also recognize that there is a possibility here that is very frightening on a lot of levels. The possibility though is made more possible because I don’t have the issue with my head getting in my own fucking way. With Hetheru, as I said, I was too aware of her other associations to be completely comfortable with all of it. Heru-Wer doesn’t really have those types of associations, as far as I have found. He has associations with Hetheru (which is possibly where this randomness comes from), but the things that made me pull away from Hetheru aren’t necessarily there with Heru-Wer. That, in all honesty, makes it a lot easier for me to be willing to explore the realms I need to in order to move forward and I desperately want to.

Maybe it’s only now that I am fully aware of how fucked up my shit is and how much I need to, you know, actually work on it.

But I have to ask how people do this thing. I know of quite a few people who have intense relationships with various gods and they manage to work it out all right. They don’t seem to (in my limited view into what they do and who their relationships are with) have had the issue I have where the brain pan has been too busy fucking with them. And from what it looks like, while not easy, it seems feasible. I just don’t know if I have it in me to balance anything appropriately. I know myself too well: that thing about being hyper focused on things isn’t even remotely an exaggeration. I’m a Leo, for fuck’s sake; it’s in our nature to be like GIVE ME THE SHINY to the detriment of all else.

But I also recognize that the whole fucking point about this religion is balance (ma’at). I recognize that, maybe, this will help me with the whole ma’at thing.

If nothing else, I can only hope it helps me…

Prep.

I spent today cleaning, which isn’t very shocking. I live in a small household and I have a young child; cleaning is pretty much a daily occurrence. But with Wep Ronpet coming up, I knew that I wanted to get a handle on the hoarder like tendencies that had overtaken my kitchen table and wash down the walls [in public areas] in preparation for what was coming. I also knew I needed to make serious decisions about where certain things are headed and I had to make serious room for rituals that I’ve been nudged/pushed/shoved/hinted/informed/ordered to do this Wep Ronpet [season]. So, I had a lot of fucking stuff to do and I had decisions to make.

The main decision being, not that I was going to do these things because I was going to do the things, but where these things were going to take place. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I live in a small house. I have my altar spaces in a public area (the dining room/kitchen area) so that I wouldn’t forget to give offerings daily. My house is built very strangely so I have the room to have tables just kind of hanging out, waiting around for things to go on them. The problem with this set up is that this is the only space where I can have these things, which means when larger rites are requested, such as those for Wep Ronpet, I need to consider where the hell things are going to be happening.

In a fit of pique last year, I purchased one of those shitty build-it-yourself bookcase for $20, which is where I housed the lwa and their related accoutrements. As I mentioned last month, the lwa have been missing in the last few months. I’ve thought about this issue not very much since I wrote that post because it’s painful. If I’m correct in my assumption that they’re gone, I know why (the lesson was learned) and that hurts. But if I’m incorrect and they’re just biding their time because right now is high Kemetic time, then I don’t want to be rash.

But I also need more fucking space to do things and to have things because, as much as I love the lwa and the relationships I’ve cultivated with them, my first calling has always been to the Kemetic gods. Or, to put it more clearly: they got first dibs. And their dibs, especially right now, are really fucking loud, really fucking non-negotiable, and really fucking important to get the fuck through. Maybe, just maybe, the lwa will come back with the cool air of the fall (hopefully around the same time when I start up my grave-tending services) and the winter months… since I’ve mentioned they tend to be, er, louder in winter. But, then again, maybe not.

Again, in the meantime, I need more fucking space.

With a heavy heart, I cleared off the bookcase I had purchased with the specific intent to house the lwa. I’ve turned this into my “household altar space.” Since I am, as anyone knows, a deity collector, I have a lot of fucking gods that I need to pay attention to at any given moment. Our relationships, for the most part, aren’t nearly as intense or as all-pervasive as my relationship with Sekhmet, which is to be expected. In many instances, the relationships I have had with the gods who have come poking around, looking for attention, have taken on similar aspects to the one I have with Geb (details, for those interested).

This is a real weight off my shoulders, by the way; I don’t think I can even explain adequately how overwhelming it can be to feel the need to pay attention to a dozen various netjeru at any given moment. I know there are other polytheists out there, like me, who have developed relationships or been pushed toward other deities/beings by their gods and have, in consequence, developed required attention-paying duties to said new beings/deities at any given moment. I’m actually in this boat, myself, so I decided that it would be best to kind of follow ancient Egyptian customs and just have a place where household type deities are paid attention to.

Of course, unlike the ancient Egyptians, I have deities within my “household” area that may not necessarily fit in with their dynamic. There is no Tawaret and Meskhenet holds no sway over me, either. But I do pay attention to Bes and Hetheru and Aset. I have since added the other flocks on over, telling them each morning that they can stop in for a bite and ask to share some cool water with the residents-with-icons (Hetheru, Djehuty, and Aset), if those residents are so inclined.

Seriously, this was the best fucking decision I have ever made.

In so moving my household altar space, I have also decided to open up my “hoarder fucking alert” cabinet. This is where the household space used to reside [on top]. Within the cabinet is, well, it’s a fucking packrat’s wet dream. Most of it is herbs and herb-related things for those off moments when I think, “Yes, I shall magic,” and utilize such things to get what I want. The thing is that these fucking jars are damn bulky and I would prefer to not have them in the cabinet. However, since I don’t up my stores of herbs and it can be a lengthy period of time between uses, I also don’t want them in direct light or in a public area where some yahoo can touch or where a child may break them.

(Magical parenting problems? Parents-who-magic problems?)

I decided to pull out the Tarot collection and toss it over underneath the household altar. I figure this is a good decision because then, I may be more inclined to use them again. My Tarot or oracle deck use has seriously gone down the fucking tube in the last year. I honestly don’t know if this is because I don’t have a lot of time to myself and I tend to need quiet time to read what the cards are telling me, or if it’s because I just don’t want to know what to expect or what could be coming my way. I guess that could be considered a stupid move – head-in-the-sand thing – but it’s kind of my M.O. about these things.

Also, I have decks that I either need to sell or give away. So, by pulling these out and putting them in a [more] public area, I’m kind of helping myself… maybe? I think that if I see the decks regularly, since they are on the second shelf of the bookcase thing, this might mean that I actually do something about all of that? Besides, outside of two decks that I really like, most of the Tarot are taking up space so that I can’t collect the ancient Egyptian themed decks that I actively collect with no purpose other than to own them. By getting rid of decks, then, you know, I have more space for things that take up that space.

Yes, I know these is clearly an issue, but it’s my issue and I like it.

As I began pulling out the Tarot decks, I discovered that I have a metric shit-fuck-ton of candles. I knew I had a lot because I have them hanging out all over the place in my house. This is not, by the way, packrat tendencies but concerns raised when I was out of candles during the entire fucking week my neighborhood was without power after the Halloween nor’easter. But, I have candles that don’t really aid with possible power outages… as in, I found an entire box of tea lights (white) and then random tea lights (four, scented) and then I found a bunch more tea lights (white) in a baggy. I don’t even know what I have all of these tea lights for or when I purchased them. The box has a sticker, though, which says I was planning all of this at a dollar store.

Now I have to decide what to do with them. They aren’t going to help me with this week’s ritual stuff. I have full-fledged candles already set up and I have an entire box of votive candles (white) that I have on hand for just such a purpose… on top of the smaller box of votive candles (also white) that I bought last week, sure that I had thrown out aforementioned large box.

Maybe I have more problems than I’m willing to admit.*

* This is actually quite possible. Hoarding is a family trait from my grandmother whose entire upper story was filled with useless tidbits. My mother and I have both found ourselves guilty of these things, even after swearing we would not be like my grandmother. This is why I go through my stuff, or try to, regularly and throw random things away/give things away because I swear I’m not doing this packrat/hoarder nightmare shit.

I love candles, but I think I’m at my candle limit. Hopefully, I will remember this moment and all of my candle ridiculousness the next time I am in a store that sells candles… even if they’re on sale or something.

After a lot of back and forth, I think I figured out a functional cabinet layout that will allow me to keep ritual items within it until I need them. I was able to clear space out from the drawer that I stash ritual items in (underneath Sekhmet’s space) and move things to the cabinet. Of course, though I have finally managed to get the damn thing closed with a modicum of belief that I was “successful,” I have to admit that I forgot other ritual items that will need to be housed within there. (They’re currently waiting to be cleaned.)

After about four hours of thinking, moving things, debating what can and cannot be kept out, and then re-thinking what I decided, I think I have a functional space. I also think I’m set up, mostly, for the physical things for Wep Ronpet and the Intercalary Days. Hopefully, these rites are successful and I end up happy with the end result.