The Question.

 

One of the many little parts of my daily ritual includes the pulling of a daily card. I leave it out on the window sill beside my cupful of Ma’at to soak up the morning rays or the leaden skies that are forecast for the day. Sometimes, when I pull the card, I immediately understand it. It’s a reminder, a suggestion, and push in the right direction. Sometimes it begs me to slow down and to take care of myself. And sometimes it makes no sense whatsoever; it means nothing to me at the time. Whether it means something to me later is a matter of debate.

As part of this little ritual, I select a single deck to use for the month ahead. I prefer to use the same deck day-in and day-out for the full month because it helps me to understand decks that I may not use regularly and it also helps me to rotate my various decks. I have many, many types of oracle and Tarot cards and I can never use them all as much as I would like to.

This month of January I allowed my hands to float over my various decks until I pulled out a deck that I had been gifted with last year that I had side-eyed when I opened it but have found myself enjoying using: The Heart of the Faerie Oracle.

I know very little about the fae; it’s just not an area of interest to me. I love the posts about fae politics and culture and culture that go around Tumblr, but that’s about it. That’s why I didn’t understand why the deck was sent to me, but as I’ve used it over the last year, I’ve begun to understand the draw. Sometimes the cards are oblique, immaterial, confusing; sometimes it is like a punch in the gut.

Today’s pull was puzzling.

The candle is from CottageWicks and frigging amazing.

The guidebook had this to say about the card, The Question:

Intention / Dialogue / Answers

In Faerie, questions are very important. Questions, answers, and wishes, all of those things that help or hinder us on our journey are very much a part of our relationship with Faerie. “Who am I? What is your quest? Why have you come here, and what do you seek?” are questions often asked by the individuals you meet in Faerie. They don’t as often ask you who you are. It is more important for you to discover who they are.

It is important to know why you are traveling in Faerie and to be able to express that reason. You will be asked. When you cross the border into the otherworld, you should have a reason to be there. Are you a tourist, just looking around, hoping to send a postcard home? Are you on a quest, a journey of the spirit? Do you want knowledge? Experience of the otherworld? Are you looking for love? Are you searching for something that you have lost?

If you draw the Question in a reading, try to answer those questions for yourself. When you have answered, you can ask one of your own. What is that question, and of whom are you asking it? If you are clear about your quest (in Faerie and in life) and what you seek, you will then be able to ask the right questions and be ready to hear the answers.

This was all very nice and lovely, but it didn’t really explain why this card had come up this morning. I wrote in my Tarot Journal that I truly didn’t understand the purpose of all of this and figured that either I would eventually come to an understanding, or I wouldn’t. Sometimes I’m lucky and something pops up that allows me to connect the dots and other times, I’m left with a puzzled frown on my face, trying to understand what the cards are trying to say.

I was lucky that I was able to figure it out a bit after settling down to read through my WordPress Reader. I had a number of outstanding posts that I had been saving up for when I had a free moment and I had nothing to do for a bit while I waited for the world to wake up. The last post I had to read through was a post by someone I’ve known for years. I found myself at first uncomfortably interested and then visibly intrigued by what they had to say.

As I sat back, phone on my lap staring at the ceiling, I could understand what they had been going through. I, too, have watched as others have managed to bring to flesh their religious practice in a way that I cannot fathom. It is as if the language those people with fleshed out practices speak is so close to my own and yet, it is nothing like my language. I, too, have found myself envious and admiring of what those people have posted and wondered what that would look like for me.

I’ve known for a long time that the practice I’ve been kind-of dealing with hasn’t been enough. I knew it wasn’t enough four years ago, but I kept sticking to it because Kemeticism is what I knew and what I wanted. I can admit that it is still what I want; I want the relationships with the gods that I have and I suppose I’m amenable to exploring the relationships pushed upon me by such gods as Osiris and Ra. But I want flesh to cover the bones.

I want to be able to sink my hands into the dirt of my practice and feel it soak through my soul. I want to see it and smell it like a verdant garden, ripening eternally in spring-like splendor. I want to hear it and touch it. I want to know that it is there and it is made not only myself whole, but my life whole. I want to feel the ecstasy of release and the comfort of it all. I want.

I pulled my phone back up to my face and carefully typed a response to the post, “I’ve had similar issues myself. I can feel and see the bones but the flesh isn’t there. It’s been an ongoing issue for me for, well, a long time. Part of that is because I’ve felt very adrift lately.”

After leaving the comment, I put my phone down and stared at the ceiling some more. (This is actually something I do often when I’m lost in thought. I’m not sure that a ceiling has ever been able to answer questions, but it has been able to form the questions I was looking for.) The Question was there buried in the meat of my mind and it finally took form: “What would it feel like to have a fleshed out practice? What it would it look like to have something with tone and form and more than just tossing a dart at a dart board? How would I even do that?”

We don’t see this sort of stuff in Kemeticism; not really. The only person who really talked about it was TTR and they’re gone for the most part. I don’t doubt that there are Kemetics with something that is concrete and comfortable and livable, but if they’re out there, I haven’t seen them. Oh, I see people effect that persona and make it seem like that’s where they are, but I can see through the veneer. They’re no better off than I am.

When I compare what I do with what others have done, I see the difference. My practice and the practices of many other public Kemetics appear to be charcoal drawings. Others’ practices from other faiths look as if they have been shaded and painted and have a form that I can only marvel at. I want to know what that would be like for me, but alas.

Personally, I’m just cruising around, letting the flow of the world around me push and pull me wherever it decides I should go. That’s normal for me; I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person and (contrary to popular misconceptions) I don’t like to cause a fuss. I just want things to be smooth, simple, easy, and ready for the taking. I’m just a little lazy that way.

But it doesn’t feel good. And as I’ve mentioned a time or six, it doesn’t seem to be working. As usual, I have to decide what’s best and where to go from here and I have to admit that fuck if I know. Fuck if I know.

So… well… This day started with a card pull; I should finish it with one.

The deck is the dual deck The Hidden Path & Well-Worn Path Deck which is a Raven Grimassi deck. I’ve had it since long before I learned how to better vet things and people in the pagan sphere.

I decided on this deck because it was always the one, back in those early 20-teens days that I could turn to and find a form to what I was looking for. It was the stop-gap when I felt like I was going off the rails. I needed to feel that foundation again; that feeling of knowing where I was going and what I was doing and using the very deck that steered me so well back then seemed to make the most sense.

I chose the ten-card spread called The Cauldron Spread from the book. The ten positions are listed below along with the cards I pulled for each:

  1. The Present Situation – Yule
  2. The Challenges Ahead – Ostara
  3. The Underlying Root – Tree in Summer
  4. The Querent’s Appearance in Relation to the Question – The Altar
  5. The Influencing Aspects – Faery Door
  6. Aspirations and Concerns – Wheel of the Year
  7. The Probable Course – Between the Worlds
  8. The Possible Alternative – Earth
  9. The Final Outcome – The Old Ones
  10. Transform the Outcome – Oath

I found it interesting that the card that represented my personification of this spread was The Altar. This card tends to mean a balance between the divine and yourself, which is the basis of one’s altar. The Altar is the direct interface, according to this deck anyway, between the divine and yourself. It is that physical connection that allows you to develop those relationships in many, many ways.

The reason I found this an interesting card for myself is that, no matter how many times I try to push it away, I keep coming back to that post from TTR, Ma’at Shines Through my Body and how it should relate to the utilization of one’s body as an altar-of-sorts for our gods, for our religion, and everything in between. Based on the card, I am a confluence of the physical and the divine.

The second most interesting card was the card, Between the Worlds. In effect, the card tells you that your vision isn’t clear and that in order to manifest what you want, you must have clarity of thought, clarity of vision, and cut out the distractions so that you can focus on that which you manifest.

The reason this was interesting is that it was low-key calling me out on my bullshit. I have a tendency of saying, “I will do this,” and then just not doing it. I did my Ritual365 last year, but I cut it back, cut it down, and didn’t bother to finish any of the entries I had originally intended on writing last year. Part of that is work and that nonsense, but I could have made more of an effort… which ties into that whole lazy thing I mentioned above.

And that is the crux of my issue, card reading or otherwise: I am a lazy creature. I do not want to do. I want it handed to me if it can be. That doesn’t mean that I won’t, it just means that I will put off until I cannot put it off any longer. Perhaps lazy isn’t the best word for it but that’s what I’ve always assumed it was. (That’s what all the adults told me when I was a kid. But it really goes hand-in-hand with the genetic heritage of sticking one’s head in the sand when big things happen, hoping that they will go away.)

To start, I suppose, I should solidify my vision. I should make a sort of vision board to give me clarity, to focus my desire in a specific arena that I want to flesh out first. But where? I’ve had so many ideas in the last year alone – reading subject matter that has little to do with Kemeticism but explores other avenues of religion so that I can try and figure out where I go from here – that I’m not quite sure which ideas make sense to include and which ones don’t.

I think I’ll just start with writing out the things that I want to include in my practice and see where that leads.

Dusk.

The Dream.

I was running through the woods. Sometimes I was running through an abandoned building, but mostly I was outside in a heavily wooded area. It would have been beautiful if I wasn’t so busy running and gasping for breath.

The arrow pierced through my coat. It didn’t hit me but it could have. I didn’t know where it came from except somewhere behind me. It flew through the coat and cracked against the tree in front of me. That’s when I realized I was being hunted, so I woke myself up.

When I went back to sleep some time later, I was back there again. But instead of arrows, the hunter was using a rifle of some kind. I’d hear it cock and the bullet go whizzing by when I zigged out of its way. The hunter wore all black, no camouflage, and stepped out ahead of me, gun aimed at my chest…

I woke up again and it was close enough to the time to get up that I didn’t go back to sleep this time. It was many hours later that I looked up hunting in my preferred Dream Dictionary. It’s not the only one I use because I have a personal one for repeated themes, but I had never been hunted in a dream before. I didn’t know what this meant.

To dream that you are being hunted indictates that you are being overwhelmed by life’s challenges.

Yeah. Yeah, that sounded about right. I couldn’t deny that.

The Dog.

My pet is a 14-year-old tweenie Dachshund. Her mom was a mini and her dad was a standard, so she’s in-between the two common sizes people see.

She’s had health issues with her back since she was 5 or 6, which is common. She has IVDD, the disease of all long-shaped dogs, and we manage it when she has a flare. If anyone knows Crusoe, the famous Dachshund, he had a flare some years back that left his back legs paralyzed. Wth medication and physical therapy, he came through. Jazz’s flares aren’t that bad, luckily, but they sure suck.

She also has very Bad Teeth. This is my fault for not getting her used to teeth brushing as a puppy, but we manage as well as we can now. She periodically gets an abscess that leaves her more crotchety and stubborn than the usual Dachshund crotchetiness and stubbornness.

In late September, she had an abscess that we dealt with via medication. She is old enough now where the vet has major concerns about putting her under to remove her teeth. The meds worked and she was back to her usual round of Dachshund stubborn in two days. That’s when she had an IVDD flare.

I had picked her up and then she was crying in pain. I brought her to the emergency vet room and we waited a very long time to see the dogtor. I went in knowing what we needed because of previous visits and the doc didn’t disagree. Since the pain was more in her neck than her back, the dogtor warned me that this might be a bigger flare than we were used to; evidently neck flares can sometimes only be treated with surgery.

Jazz was pretty pissed off with me for all the poking and prodding she went through. She snubbed me twice in the office and then again after we left. She was also quite high, which leaves her wanting to become one with my lap. It was an interesting ride home at ten o’clock that night.

After a few days on her anti-inflammatory and pain meds, she was moving around a lot better. She wasn’t running around just yet but she was able to move her head again. She was loopy, as she gets on gabapentin, and slept the entire day away while I was at work. I knew she was feeling better when she tried to walk up the stairs (a big no-no for Dachshunds) and jumping on the couch (another big no-no) when no one was around.

She finished off her meds last week and I did a placebo test to make sure she was 100%: I pretended to sprinkle her meds on her medication-laced-cookie-of-choice (cheese) and saw she was still ok. She’s back to being her usual self and I’m glad this flare is over.

The Dread.

I realized my mom was MIA on social media in early October. I checked her FB profile and saw her last posts were in late September. My mom’s only form of communication is social media so I texted her, but received no response. This isn’t weird because she is agoraphobic to a degree, has anxiety about talking on the phone or texting, and usually gets back to me when she’s ready.

I texted again last week, which is when my brother messaged to say something was wrong. After talking it over via messages, I managed to get him to take her to the ER because everything he said was a major RED FLAG that something was wrong. She wasn’t taking care of herself or her dog-daughter. She suffers from severe depression and while she may stop taking care of herself for a bit, she has never stopped taking care of a pet.

They took her to the ICU because she was Very Ill. They managed to stop the original symptoms of what sent her to the ICU and stabilized her enough to go to a regular room. But every day there is more Bad News and every day, I’m left kind of numb at the end of it. They think they may have finally figured out what caused the change in her behavior but we aren’t sure yet. They run test after test and ask question after question. I’m tired and worried.

I’m waiting for The Call the child gets when things go down. That Call. I honestly don’t see her leaving the hospital, healed and better. Based on al the positive vibes they tell me I suppose it’s possible. She could come out of this, but I don’t think so.

The Dilemma.

So when does the child pack a bag, hop on a plane, and fly 3000 miles to watch her mom in a hospital room? I could fly if I need to (I have a fear of heights) and my boss says she’ll give me time off if needed. But do I go down there to start wrapping things up now, or wait until a prognosis is given?

I don’t know what is to happen here. I’ve spoken with my brother about what we do if this ends the way I believe it does. We always had a plan in place because my mom has never been the healthiest person on the planet. But I can say that I thought this stuff was 10+ years away.

She’s only 63.

Good Enough.

Alternative Title: The Kemetic Community needs to up its content game.

This past week, I attended a leadership conference through my job. This is the second year that I’ve gone and as a result, there will be a few posts based on things I learned about at the conference. As always, as I listened to the various leaders from various countries and background present, I took studious notes, not necessarily for myself, but because I wanted to take what I was learning and use that to help the wider community.

TTR is right – the community does need to do better. And if that means I can impart, perhaps, some form of wisdom to one person at the very right time because I spent two days wearing uncomfortable clothes watching people talk about leadership? Then, I’m fine with that. I’ll go next year and the year after until I finally can go no more because I have died or because I am no longer with this company.

Create

The first presenter talked to us about cost benefit analyses. For those of you who work in certain businesses, like I do, those three words make sense to you. You may have even had to do one or two at work or maybe at home to determine if the cost of something would benefit you or your job or a project in the long run. While the phrase tends to pop up more in investment circles, an analysis of this type can be utilized in many different environments and for many different things.

Recently, someone on my team had completed a review for a site to see if it made sense to make some technological changes for them. As it stood, we found that if we could make the changes we were recommending, we could actually bring back a total savings of about $2500 a year. That’s a really good savings we could bring them and we were all about it.

But as we went forward with this project, we soon learned that there were other factors beyond what we had already studied that put the project into jeopardy. In order to make the tech changes we were recommending, we found that the site would require close to $2000 worth of work to make it ready and capable of accepting our changes.

The cost of the work we needed done to get them to where we needed to make our changes would eat up almost an entire year’s worth of savings. The costs that we were asking for didn’t outweigh the benefit of making the changes we recommended. So, we pulled the plug on the project.

This happens at my job periodically. A client will have an idea that sounds excellent on paper, but we have to help them to see whether or not there is a benefit in proceeding. Sometimes there is a benefit and we don’t find any extraneous costs as we complete our analysis; sometimes we find that the costs are high but so too are the benefits so we move forward; and sometimes there isn’t a benefit and we scrap the project in its entirety.

Now, in the presentation, the presenter had a little graph and his example was the time he spent on one of his speeches or sermons (he’s a pastor). I did my best to recreate it above.

As you can see from the example, if he spends 3 hours of time on something, he can get a decent way up as far as quality is concerned on the graph. He indicated that at this time frame, maybe his sermon or speech was at 75% on the quality scale. He knows he can get it better if he spends a little more time on it, so he does so and gets to the second dot on the graph, which he indicated was probably about 90% or so. If he spends more time on it, the quality of his speech or sermon would more than likely significantly start to decrease and bring the quality back down to the third dot, or what he indicated was probably like 80%.

The point that he spent a decent amount of time talking about was that dot after 5 hours spent, or what he indicated was about 90%. This point was what he called the G.E.T.M.O. point. (I literally thought he said Gitmo the first time he said it out loud and was very happy when he explained what he was actually saying). The G.E.T.M.O. point is the Good Enough To Move On point. This is the highest point you will achieve as far as quality and time spent, so it’s time to put the speech or sermon down and move on with your life.

Too often, people get stuck in this idea that the more time you spend on something, the better the quality. Nine times out of ten that is not true. Much like the bell curve that teachers and professors grade students on, there is a declination point on a cost benefit analysis. The difference being that after a certain amount of cost, the quality of the product, the project, the whatever it is will start to decrease.

Let me tell you a story.

I have a ton of drafts in my blog’s draft bin. I have about 20 right now and some of them go as far back as 2013. I had ideas and I wanted to work on those ideas, to get things out there that I felt needed to be spoken on. My issue is that after 6 years of working on some of those drafts that started in 2013, I have found myself frustrated and irritated with the overall point. I’ve scrapped and re-scrapped the entries so many times over the years that they no longer look like what I had originally envisioned. And frankly, they’re still drafts because they’re just not good.

I should have gotten the drafts to the GETMO point and pressed publish. Instead, I hit save and kept going back to it over and over again until I hated everything that I typed, hated everything that I had said and re-said and re-phrased. Those posts will probably never see the light of day because now, years later, I can’t even remember what the fuck I really wanted to say so the GETMO point has long since disappeared.

I suspect that my story above may sound familiar to some people. Perhaps they had an idea that they wanted to get out and into the world, perhaps to have others comment on or perhaps just to get it seen for future content from someone who was bitten by the bug to write about it. But maybe they hit save instead of publish and now that post will never see the light of day because it doesn’t look good after hours, weeks, months, or years of trying.

If I do it as a person who has tried diligently to bring content to the wider community, then I have very little doubt that there are others out there who have done the same. Or maybe someone has toyed with the idea but assumed they would never even get it to the GETMO point and jettisoned the idea of writing it in the first place.

November-Blues 2

The Kemetic community suffers from a lack of content creators (oh, boy, finally at the point of this post, eh?). Part of this is because of the breakup of the wider community whenever that was: 2015? 2016? Content creators came down on both sides of the split and that meant that the people who were creating before had to create that much more to fill the void. The problem being that more content creators didn’t fill the void.

As someone who was one of those content creators, it is very tiring to sit down and right a post when you know that it more than likely won’t go anywhere. Sometimes your brain turns on you and asks why bother? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down at my laptop to write something and eventually deleted it because I talked myself out of it.

But even with that, I knew that there were ideas and thoughts that I needed to get out there. I would see TTR banging away at content and trying to get people to interact, to think, to come up with their own ideas and I did my best to emulate that with what I had available. But the interaction and follow up that we had once seen happen frequently seemed to dry up. Fewer and fewer were posting their own content or responses to our content and it began to feel very much like we were talking into the void (still does actually).

I can tell you that when I first started this blog nine years ago, I wasn’t writing for anyone but me. I didn’t care if people saw what I said. I didn’t care what the hell the wider community was doing. I needed a place to write down my thoughts and ideas, to figure out what worked and what didn’t while I explored my Kemetic path. When I started to network, I cared a bit more about putting out content because I was Having Ideas and I wanted to share those Ideas with People.

Whether those Ideas panned out or even went beyond a few conversations wasn’t the point necessarily. I wasn’t writing them down simply to write them down. I was hoping to have someone read it, get bitten by the Idea, and move it forward or rework it or maybe say it sucked from start to finish. The hope was that eventually another future content creator would see it and do with it what they would.

I have watched the community silently pack up shop seemingly on the idea of good content. Part of it is no doubt fear. “The thing I want to write is stupid.” Or maybe it’s a fear that assholes are going to do what they do best on the post in question and be assholes. Sure, those are valid fears. But you shouldn’t let them get in your way.

Write the post.

Write the ritual.

Write the rubric.

Write the hymn.

And then hit the word publish instead of save or delete.

Get it out there. Forge ahead on the path that you want to create for yourself, but let others see it.

If they see you making the posts that you want to see, I can assure you that someone, somewhere will see that and get an idea based on what you say. Or they’ll have a response post that they make to what you were originally saying. Or it will shove them into a niche area that they research and put out the content of what they found when they looked into it.

Yes, it’s a terrifying prospect. It is wholly possible that the thing you worked on to its GETMO point gets flipped and destroyed, no longer looking in any way like what you had hoped it would be. It is possible people will dogpile on it and try to shout you down. All of this is possible; absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that what you have in your mind doesn’t need to be said.

Look. We are all of us a long line of Dominoes ready to be pushed over, but only if that one finger pushes the first one over. And the only way to get shoved over is if you write the post and hit publish instead of talking yourself out of it. So go out there, get your idea to the GETMO point, and hit publish.

(Please note: the presenter referred to above is Craig Groeschel. I am in no way affiliated with him or his church. I just find some of what he says on leadership interesting.)

Loss of Faith: Polytheism Edition.

As a birthday present to myself, and after a recommendation from TTR, I picked up The Grief Recovery Handbook and immediately began reading through. Grief, as discussed in this book, is defined by the opening statement in the first chapter: “Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind.” The authors make no specific distinction about what caused the loss, pointing out the most common (death, divorce, financial change, etc), but they make the point that any major change can cause a loss of some type.

The overall point in the first part of the book is to illustrate that we have all been “socialized to believe that those feelings are abnormal and unnatural.” This should not be the case for anyone as it means that we have not been given the tools necessary to contend with the very real emotional reaction humans have when it comes to loss.

The authors go on to stress that it is no one’s fault that they were never given the necessary resources to recover from their grief. Society as a whole is responsible and the only way to overcome this is to educate ourselves and therefore, eventually, be able to educate others, on how to recover from this.

During my reading, I found a specific section on faith that I found particularly interesting:

In 1969 John’s younger brother died. John remembers being told, “You shouldn’t be angry with God.”

John knew he shouldn’t be angry with God, but he was anyway. No one knew to tell him that anger at God is a typical response to an untimely death. We’ve relied on intellect for years, so we search for understandable reasons for events. When we can’t find a reason, we assign blame to God.

As someone who experienced the loss of their father at a young age, this particular passage made a good deal of sense to me. At the time of his death, I was too young to understand the full cause that resulted in my father’s death. I now know things I couldn’t understand or be told at 7 years of age, so it no longer seems like a reasonless death. But as a child facing the seeming untimely death of their parent, I assigned blame to God.

But placing blame on God for an event that seemed to have no reason is frowned upon. We’re told contradictory things like “God has a plan” and “Don’t be angry with God” and are never really allowed to voice that anger because it is seen as taboo or wrong. To voice our displeasure at God can be downright threatening for some people to hear and in general, such sentiments are shushed into oblivion.

The authors continued this passage with the following:

This anger will pass if we’re allowed to express the feeling. We have to be allowed to tell someone that we’re angry with God and not be judged for it, or told that we’re bad because of it. If not, this anger may persist forever and block spiritual growth. We’ve known people who never returned to their religion because they weren’t allowed to express their true feelings. If this happens, the groover is cut off from one of the most powerful sources of support he or she might have.

To reiterate the point, if we bottle these feelings up because we are either taught to keep them quiet or talked over when we voice them, we may never experience spiritual growth again.

Reciprocity

While the above quotes did spark a series of thoughts relating to myself and my father’s death, it was not in fact his death that I first began exploring. I had already know about my anger with God at age seven and have managed to, for the most part, deal with it. My thoughts actually began rolling to when pagans lose their faith and my own experience with it.

For those who have only recently started reading this blog, I used to be an obnoxious “have faith” kind of person. By that, I mean that I loved my gods and my religion. I was here for it everyday and I worked hard to both maintain my faith and towards the common goals my gods had given me. I often thought of my faith as a shining gold blanket, thick and luxurious, and it made me feel comforted and happy. I suspect the reason I was this person is because my mother often told me that she cared not for what religion I followed, as long as I had faith. So, perhaps to overcompensate for the years where I had none, I was full of it.

But in 2016, I began to have a crisis of faith.

A crisis of faith is typically defined as when you seriously question whether what you believe/how you see/what you’re committed to is actually true. If you read editorials from pastors, reverends, and priests, many of them will say that a crisis of faith is a good thing. But while you are on the midst of one, and if your religion doesn’t have spiritual leaders to discuss these issues with, it certainly doesn’t feel like a good thing.

My issue was reciprocity. The word is commonly defined as “mutual exchange” and was a part of the ancient Egyptian religion. It was seemingly practiced by both the upper echelons of ancient Egyptian society and the laity. I felt like the gods were not holding up their end of the bargain.

I had made extensive strides in the areas I had been asked to, but the return I was expecting failed to materialize. It felt very much like the gods had welched on their part of the contract between us and no matter how many times I pointed out that their lack of fulfillment was both upsetting to me and concerning me on their behalf, I typically got the message equivalent of smashing the keys of a keyboard in answer.

When I spoke about my anger at being, seemingly, forsaken, I was told by many that I shouldn’t be angry. I shouldn’t rage and rant at the gods. I should effectively suck it up and keep on going about the work I was already doing because “the gods have a plan”.

Eventually, I brought it up less and less because the voices trying to drown out dissatisfaction and discontent grew steadily louder. Those who once commented on the things I said about being angry disappeared for fear of an eventual dog pile from those who seemed to be threatened by the idea that people could be angry with their gods. The discussions were eventually shushed into oblivion.

Sound familiar?

These statements and arguments kept cropping up whenever anyone mentioned feeling like I did on the matter and compounded an already stressful situation for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that many who say things similar to what the authors mentioned in the Handbook have taken the same point-of-view of many Christians: the deities are at a higher level than humans and we should simply be content with an occasional glance.

I suspect that people who shout down other polytheists with this negative rhetoric are still very much entrenched by the religious backgrounds they come from. While that is not necessarily their fault if they’ve not been given the means to recover from it, it makes it difficult for people who do not suffer from the same backgrounds or who have been successful in recovering from those previously held beliefs.

I also strongly believe that these same people are scared. They’re terrified of someone upsetting their status quo. And I understand that rocking the boat on the open ocean can be terrifying but sometimes you have to in order to grow.

Whatever the psychological or emotional reason behind this need to shout over the disaffected and grieving, they need to remember that they are speaking to real, living people going through some of their own shit. And they need to keep in mind that, more than likely, what they’re talking over or trying to shut down may in fact negate some of the basic tenets of their polytheistic religion. (Or in the words of Jake the Dog: they need to “go sit in the corner and think about your life.”)

Reciprocity in Christianity culminates in the Golden Rule more often than not. Reciprocity in the ancient Egyptian religion, at least, extends to include the gods and that means that I have a perfectly reasonable expectation to assume I will eventually be given what I have asked for especially after years of faithful service.

The idea that they could not or wouldn’t abide by what I expected threw me into a tailspin. This tailspin was further exacerbated by people who, perhaps thinking they were “helping,” voiced the same types of comments the Handbook authors specifically refer to as detrimental especially when someone is experiencing a loss.

And make no mistake: I was grieving for my loss of faith. I had blindly and lovingly followed for years and now, what I knew to be true about my gods and our relationships was thrown on its head. I could no longer view them with love or faith; I could only see them as capricious beings who were using me or figments of my imagination.

The situation never cleared up for me, not really. I just stopped talking about it, no longer willing to defend myself while I tried to work on my grief at the loss of my faith virtually alone.

2016 was a hard year.

abandoned churches

So how do you recover from grief when, seemingly, everyone wants to shut your natural reaction about said grief down? How do you come out the other side, feeling better about it all? I must have done something since I’m back at the religion table again, doing my due diligence and trying to forge ahead as always.

I can say that I’m not sure. In the last three years, I have truthfully spoken to one (1) person about this in an unedited fashion. TTR seemed to be the only one who understood what I was saying, but at the time, they didn’t have all the tools necessary to be much more than the vent hole I needed when I was angry or upset about it. And besides, they too had had their own similar experiences regarding reciprocity and understood things from a similar perspective to my own.

I can truthfully say that I am still grieving. I can often look back at those years where I felt secured in my golden, fluffy blanket of faith and grieve for it all over again. This isn’t always the case, not by a long shot, because sometimes I look back and I am so angry that I once so blindly believed as I did back then.

I was able to at least come to terms with it, which isn’t the same thing as recovering. I was able to come to a point where I still viewed the gods as capricious beings that played games with people like me, but I stopped worrying that I was making it all up, that the omens and signs were coincidental and that I was imagining things.

I’m hoping that my reading of this book may better help me. Thus far it’s taught me what not to say when someone experiences a loss of any kind. The next section appears to be given the steps to come through one’s grief, so perhaps I will eventually be able to say that I have recovered.

Things will, of course, never go back the way they once were. I knew that two years ago when I started to say that I missed having a religion and went back to the gods I knew already. You can’t fill the hole of one’s loss and assume it will be as good as new. The myriad of patch jobs a city does on its potholes is all the physical reminder of this that anyone needs. But like a fresh patch job done well, the hole can at least become functional again for a time before a new patch is needed.

I am hoping the book will give me more than a patch job; maybe stitches to knot the edges of the hole together. I suppose I’ll find out.

The Day the Music Died.

Two days ago, TTR announced an indefinite hiatus for mental health reasons. I saw it coming before it happened. I speak with them semi-regularly and our conversations had started to have less and less content, more and more silence between our messages (to be clear, this is not just on TTR; I have also been less communicative). So, I knew that they were pulling themselves back within themselves and I knew that they would eventually make a post somewhere detailing why.

I was out dealing with boring things when it popped up on my feed as I was waiting for what seemed like forever for someone to help the husband and I with something. I saw the title and felt a little flip-flop in my stomach, in my heart. I had expected this to happen but I hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. I didn’t get to read it all right away because the person we had been waiting on finally showed up to help us out and I had to focus on that.

When I got home, while the SO was doing what I had asked him to do, I read through the post twice. I read it first quickly and made a quick comment. This is my usual protocol for deep entries or even posts people make about their religious lives. They make the post, I read it quick, and I’ll comment based on that first reading. But then I go back to it later or immediately after I comment and I start over again.

As I read through the post, I felt a plethora of things: guilt for being a terrible friend; annoyance with TTR for doing this without warning me; irritation with the wider “community”; worry that their mental health would go off the rails and I’d never know what happened to them (like another friend of mine from eons back); relief that I knew where to contact them should the need arise… But above all, as I read through the entry a second time and then a third, I felt a wave of complete and total sadness. It was so much that I felt tears in my eyes, which I blinked back because, I don’t know if you know this about me, but Strong People Do Not Cry and I am a Strong People.

It wasn’t sadness merely because of what they have been going through or because they would not signal boost my posts anymore (I always knew when a post was reblogged by them because I got a lot of fucking notes after that). It was sadness because it felt very much like what I assume the Day the Music Died must have felt like to Americans everywhere.

Maybe.

The Day The Music Died

A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance… And maybe they’d be happy for a while… – American Pie by Don McLean

I have known TTR for a very long time. I think it’s been at least 8 years, although it could be closer to 9 for all I know. (My memory is not what it once was. It’s full of random facts and famous faces I saw once in a movie.) We haunted the same message board for pagans.

I remember reading their posts on that message board and marveling at how very together they seemed with their practice. I can remember reading through the posts of those Kemetics who were far more “advanced” than I on this whole roller coaster ride of religion and I can remember TTR holding their own against those people and their arguments or their statements of seeming fact. I remember how they made me nervous, made me fearful because I strongly suspected I would never get to the same point that they seemed to be at that moment in time.

When I left that message board in a flounce of all flounces, somehow TTR came with me. I honestly don’t remember why. They still posted there and sometimes we’d chat about the new goings-on when it came to the posts that were being made there, but I never went back. They began to tell me about their plans, the push from the Big Redhead about community. And I can remember thinking that while I couldn’t be sure I could really help in any of that, I was willing to give it a shot.

I was always under the impression that what I was to do was to be solitary, and to a point, it is. I’ve come very far since those early days where Kemetics were likened to being islands and the starter posts being published about boat paddling in an effort to connect those islands. But when those posts were coming out and TTR, along with other Kemetics who have long since passed out of our realm, were talking about connecting those islands to unify the wider Kemetic community, I could stand behind their desires and raise up those words.

The community, back then, was very different from what it is today. Most of the things going on were presented on the various message boards for different types of Kemeticism. There were the KO people, the people on tC, the ones pushing out into individual blogs on Blogger and WP, and of course, the FtS message board for the LaBordians. TTR haunted the spaces in between, trying to find a way to unify everyone in the way that Big Red told them to. It was a lot of hard work and it was completely thankless.

We started making forays into other blogging platforms, notably Tumblr. There were all of maybe 5 of us there, boosting up each other’s posts. The handful of existing Kemetics, or Kemetic curious, persons on Tumblr found us and began to haunt our posts. We talked about our blogs there, trying to push other Kemetics from other platforms to Tumblr, hoping to use that place for the visions of community that TTR and Helms had cooked up in their late night chat sessions.

We mostly spent our time in other established polytheists’ circles because we had no circles, at first. We were friends with Hellenics and Heathens and we all intermingled a good deal more than we do today. I suppose you could say it was the heyday of the Kemetic community; even though there were so few of us trying to make the kemetic tag popular, we felt like we were really doing the hard work of cutting back a swath of the wider polytheistic realm for ourselves. We spent our time joking and laughing, or running in circles around various concepts and ideas, agreeing and disagreeing with one another, in an effort to make something that really worked.

It wasn’t all fun and games. I could remember TTR growing worried about various things that were happening on the message boards, concerns they had always had but were beginning to bubble up more and more. They saw the shitty behavior of KO and FtS and tC members because they had the access to all of that. They explained the ins and outs of the different types of Kemetic message boards, carefully outlining the faults they had found and lifting up the good that they had seen too. They did their best to boat paddle and I lifted up their voice when I could, snapped at people when I lost my patience with this whole boat paddling stuff, and then came back to it to start again.

You see, I believed wholeheartedly in that vision. I worked hard to be a good little boat paddler. I sat back more often than not on posts that made me go, “eh what now”, and tried to emulate what TTR would do to the best of my ability. I still snapped. I still lashed out. But I tried very hard to be calmer, cooler, and more collected as I helped them foment the growth we both talked about seeing.

The vision was beautiful. In my head, it was all sparkling gold and silver with precious stones and gemstones winking in candle light. It reminded me of a dream I had had in 2013 and I wanted to see it come to fruition. So I helped as much as I could and for a while, things seemed okay.

But sometimes being the beacon of light in the darkness can gnaw at you. The posts are there. The sources are neatly gathered together in a good place for people to poke through, but they always asked the same questions. I don’t know if they tried to find the resources or if they just wanted it handed to them. How many times did TTR or myself get the same damn questions over and over? I don’t know if you realize this, but it kind of gets to you after a while. It makes you begin to feel like you are stuck in a maze and there is no exit because you keep rehashing the same things. But TTR kept doggedly going forward, putting themselves out there over and over again.

They had the vision that Big Red had given them in their head, the push from him to keep moving forward because it was within reach. And they followed that idea, that vision in the hopes of one day coming to the finish line.

But nothing is forever and we had problems. Slowly, we watched the hard work that TTR had mostly pioneered on their own, boosted up by the voices of others, start to fall apart. We watched as divisions within our community began to rise and we started to realize that the vision we had had may not ever be achievable. We could never get out of the rut of 101s, we could never get out of the rut of constantly having to explain why racism/sexism/transphobia/homophobia/etc had no place in our religion, we could never move beyond the establishment of the same old shit we had already twice, thrice, quadruple, etc established.

It can tire out anyone. I didn’t get involved nearly as much as TTR did, but I saw the toll it took. I saw what it all was doing and maybe that’s why people were so shitty to them or maybe it was just their own jealousy that TTR is a good and honest person who can form sentences better than most. I don’t know. But it ate at them and one day, I kind of sat back and thought that they might implode.

I don’t think anyone is aware of just how hard they took it when the division within the Tumblr community happened. To them, it felt like a personal failing. It wasn’t. There are always going to be shitty people and sometimes, they are going to gather together with other shitty people and snatch up the young and impressionable to be taught to be just as shitty as the first round of shitty people. I think it’s human nature, honestly, but TTR was greatly upset by the break up of the vision that they had so carefully cultivated with Big Red.

I had given up already, no longer willing to be a part of the whole. I couldn’t bring myself to become a part of it when the things I needed to discuss were either ignored or I was talked down to about it. While TTR kept holding my hand as I thrashed and grew disenfranchised with my whole religious life, I pulled myself away and away and away. I boosted up their words, jumped in if I felt that I could help or assist, but I kept to myself. Maybe I was TTR’s last bastion of sanity amid the chaos and I pulled out of it all, unable to go on publicly.

They kept going on, maybe seeing the vision of boat paddling within their mind as they kept trying to push forward. But it ate away at them and I could see when they began to stop believing in that vision. I wasn’t surprised when they began posting original content less and I was even less surprised when their queue was just full of other peoples’ posts. They tried again to push themselves on but with everything else going on in their life, they found it hard, harder, hardest.

Maybe they’re at the point of giving up, or maybe they’ll come back. All I know is that I’ve watched as my friend has slowly been eaten alive by one thing and another. They have their issues; they’re not perfect. I don’t want anyone to assume that is what this post is about. This isn’t me starting a cult of personality. This is me saying that I can understand why they needed to break.

And this is me saying that it also kind of feels a little bit like the death of a vision we had all once wholeheartedly shared.

rotten

I can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride, but something touched me deep inside the day the music died… – American Pie by Don McLean

The vision of the community that TTR had wasn’t just a cool hangout for kids to get together. I know it sounds like that was what it was. But we were all trying to actually form a community: a place where people could belong together based on their similar religious leanings, but could also form friendships and relationships and work together towards the common good of the community. That means being sounding boards for weirdness and being there for someone who is going through Some Shit.

I’m sure there are people that have come together because of what TTR had begun and are good friends today. They are people that can get together once a year in person or maybe do group ritual online together. Maybe they can talk about their problems and not worry that it’ll get spread around to smear their name, or feel confident with the advice they are given. TTR doesn’t have that; I am part of that failing, a part of that problem.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s just because we’re too old Kemetic fossil types (it’s a joke) and that’s why we sit back and kind of stare at what’s been going on in the wider community, unable to even begin to become a part of it again. But I think the damage may have been done with the wider division happening a few years back, and I think it has continued to be done because maybe the whispers that we’re not smart enough, capable enough, too embittered, or what have you has been listened to one too many times.

I look in my shrine room and wonder if I can handle that. I think I can because as I said above, my path was never really supposed to be community oriented. I was always supposed to go solitary, which helps because I’m getting into things that are just not discussed (sadly) within the Kemetic community, things that have little to do with Kemeticism as a whole, and more to do with personal religious shenanigans. I’ve always kind of known that I would be on the wayside, watching shit go down and maybe wishing I could be a part of it, but mostly knowing that I could not, should not, will not.

TTR on the other hand had always looked to the vision of the community, looking to call the place home. And that home has, basically, kicked them out. They created it, put the foundations up, and started working on all of the design space of the interior and exterior. They even started to decorate before they got tossed out on their ass on a place they had very lovingly tended to for years.

It is my sincere hope that one day this community will reach the potential that I know it can. We must do better about letting people slip through the cracks. We must do better at fostering ma’at.

We must do better.

As quoted above, TTR said in their post of farewell that the wider community needs to do better. They are right. We all need to do better. We need to be able to create the vision of what the community needs to be, police ourselves much better, pointing out the faults of the hateful and wrong, and be there for each other.

We need to do better.

We must do better.

 

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

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