You’re Toxic.

Alternate Title: The toxic a-holes of the Kemetic community won.

On the first day of the leadership conference, the second panel was a Q&A panel. They do these to break up the 30 – 50 minute talks along with the breaks. The Q&A panels are usually pretty good, but my team and I were especially looking forward to this one because the topic was toxic work environments. After a year of having to deal with just that very thing, we were very interested in what Bozoma Saint John had to say on the topic.

After the session, we could all agree that the panel would have been better if she had been able to speak freely. She would begin to go down a specific rabbit hole related to the topic and the host would gently nudge her back to the primary topic, or force her to go off into other directions when we were interested in what she had to say on what she had just been talking about.

I also really enjoyed her energy. She was… vivacious and she grabbed your attention. As I was taking notes and processing what she had to say, I kind of got the feeling that no matter what Bozoma was talking about, everyone would have been entranced by her subject matter.

The reason she was invited to speak on this particular subject was because Bozoma went to work as the Chief Brand Officer at Uber. She had heard some of the horror stories of what was going on in 2017 for the company, which was having a bit of a bad year. After hearing what was going on over there, she left her position as a marketing executive at Apple Music to go to Uber in the hopes of helping turn the company around.

While I don’t know much about Uber or its current state, it kind of sounds like she wasn’t as successful as she had hoped. It sounds like the toxic environment of the company was all pervasive and while she made some changes, there were more people stuck in their ways than there were people willing to make the change.

power plant

When we think about the culture of a workplace, we start to think that the overall dynamic is created by the HR department or the CEO’s office. But that is a misnomer. The culture of one’s work environment can be found first in your cubicle or work station, and next in the cubicle or work station beside you. The CEO and the people of the HR department are, of course, part of this but it isn’t their rules or regulations that necessarily create a toxic or not-toxic work culture: it is the attitudes of the people that make up the company as a whole.

The problem is that a toxic work environment typically is created because there are multiple people coming at things from a completely different point of view or basis of an idea. Instead of everyone being on the same page about X, Y, Z thing, they all come at it from different directions.

Just like a school of fish, everyone in a work place need to swim in the same direction and together. When you have multiple fish going in a million different directions, it causes chaos. And this in turn will cause issues across the whole school, or in reality, within the work environment.

While competition between coworkers can be healthy as it can promote new ideas and growth, this doesn’t mean that people should be pitted against one another. Worker 1 and Worker 2 who have the exact same title and position would work better together as opposed to working against each other in the hopes of being recognized for one reason or another. They would be able to go further and make the job better for themselves and by extension, for the other people at that work place, if they are allowed to bolster up one another and work together towards a common goal.

Another way to ensure that the work environment is not-toxic is to ensure that you are empowering those who need it. Bolster up coworkers on a bad day, on a good day. Whenever and wherever you see a need for empowerment, give it to them. Work is hard and tiring for everyone more often than not and we need to be willing to bolster up others to promote a healthy and happy work place for everyone.

As the Q&A panel progressed, the hosted asked Bozoma what were three things that can make a work environment better for everyone. Her answer was:

  1. Empathize.
  2. Diversity.
  3. Inclusion.

You have to be willing to empathize with others; not sympathize but to have empathy for your coworkers and the situations that they are in. If you look at a situation and fail to empathize with the person in that situation, you are cutting yourself off from them. This can and will cause work place issues in future, which will only snowball from there.

You have to have diversity within your work environment. Everyone must be invited to your workplace. Whether its an after-work get-together or the workplace itself, diversity helps to promote growth, positive change, and everything else you want to see in the place that you spend at least 40 hours of your life in every week.

You have to be inclusive for everyone. There can be no us vs. them, or me vs. the whole in a workplace. There must be inclusion for everyone. As Bozoma indicated, it’s like going to a school dance and standing on the sidelines, waiting for someone to ask you to dance. You’ll begin to feel badly if you continue to sit it out. You have to join and the other works have to allow you to join in order to make the work environment a good one for all parties.

The last thing that was discussed before the panel came to an end, albeit briefly, was branding. This is something that TTR has already discussed and I won’t be doing the post justice by either summarizing or rehashing it. But the point is that Bozoma indicated that branding is everything – just like TTR’s opening statement on their post – and that branding must also include the internal work culture of the company.

If the company is toxic, but you’re trying to brand it to look like it’s a good placed to work, you’re promoting dissatisfaction and lying to potential employees. Word will get out that this isn’t a good place, no matter what the branding online will tell you, and you’ll lose both potential and current workers. It’s better to ensure that the internal work environment has been cleaned of its toxic veneer in every way possible so that you can be the branding that you’ve put out into the world. This will attract the right type of people for the jobs available and promote growth of the company, which benefits everyone.

Brand

When I was listening to Bozoma discuss toxic culture in the work place, it is little wonder that I first thought of our Kemetic community. We have had a lot of problems in recent years. Some of it is simple growing pains – the more people who say they are a part of the community, the more problems are going to arise because of a variety of things. It’s a people thing. But beyond simple disagreements about how to do something or the way to go about introducing yourself to the gods, there have been Bigger Problems. Our community went toxic as hell and we never really recovered from it.

No matter how hard we try to make a welcoming community, there will always be people who get sucked into the racism problem that is prevalent within various pagan and polytheism communities. And as they slip down that rabbit hole, they change to fit the dynamic that their racist circle requires or desires to see in them. This will continue to happen as long as racism continues to be a problem within our communities.

Sometimes you can educate those people out of those circles, but as we’ve seen in our community with its issues, educating others tends to have them doubling down on their problematic rhetoric because “the loss of privilege often feels like oppression”. There will be people who can learn beyond what they’ve either been raised to believe about racism, or have been re-educated to believe about racism, and there are those who prefer their power and comfort over everything and everyone else.

We must be willing to understand that not everyone is going to be willing to examine themselves and their privilege. And if that is the way that they want to be, then we must do everything we can to police them, to make it difficult for them and their ideas to proliferate in the community. We must be willing to point out their wrong-doings, warn new people away from them, and everything else that we must do to ensure our community doesn’t turn toxic again. We must make it difficult for their shit to continue unabated; we must make them unwelcome and unwilling to continue to gain the foothold they are hoping to have.

The problem is that we all saw warning signs. I know that I did. I know that TTR did. I can remember having private discussions on what to do when we saw concerning behavior begin to manifest in various discussions. When we finally started pointing out the problematic behavior, it seemed to cause more headache than do much because there were so few of us willing to police it.

And I can understand why not everyone was willing to do anything about it. It can take a form of bravery that not everyone has, but part of the problem is that there were so few of us willing to speak up, to speak out. With so few of us willing to stand up and say, “no, this isn’t okay,” it became easy for the problematic people to simply block us. We couldn’t speak up unless we took the time to screenshot shitty behavior.

If a community is what is desired, then everyone has to be willing to think to the three points Bozoma made and do what needs to be done to see it happen:

  • Empathize.

One shouldn’t be capable of empathy for a racist piece of trash. I’m going to throw that gauntlet down now. You can pity them for their misinformation and just generally being wrong, but you should not be able to empathize with them. They have no legs to stand on and therefore, as far as we as a community should be concerned, we cannot and will not attempt to see things from their point of view in any context.

It is more important that the minority members of our community be safe than the privileged and racist few who demand the same sort of “respect” that they see us give others. It is the minority members of our communities who should have our empathy, not the assholes who preach hate either overtly or subversively.

And it is the privileged person’s job, through the empathy we should all have with our minority, to speak over the racist pieces of trash in our community and refuse them a platform to speak from. If that means we get blocked, then so be it. We must make the racists as uncomfortable and unwelcome as humanly possible to ensure that the people who we need and want in our community are safe from that shit.

  • Diversity.

We want to invite everyone – except racists – to the party. Everyone should be able to join us. Whether we agree with all of their ideas about what things are, or how things are defined, we want to extend an invitation to everyone that we want to see in our community. We cannot simply be a white, cisgendered person’s home away from home: everyone should be able to jump into the water and be able to stay. They should all feel comfortable and welcomed.

  • Inclusion.

And in the same vein, we want to ensure that everyone – except racists – feel as if they were invited to the dance. We don’t want anyone to feel like they don’t belong. A newcomer will already feel overwhelmed with all of the resources and 101s that we’ve put out there. We don’t want them to feel like they shouldn’t be willing to post in our tags and be able to get helpful, thoughtful, and kind responses in return.

Thursday - 042210 - Day 61

I know this is long, but for those of us who have stayed with me, thanks.

The community fractured because of the toxic environment it became and it has never recovered. We’ve all seen it.

The content creators are tired of the same old shit and tired of creating. The people who see shitty behavior going on openly in the tags aren’t willing to speak up about it. The new people who joined us after or during the toxic foothold in our community learned to keep quiet and to keep to the shadows, not posting in the shared tags, because it was too easy to get their content derailed by inter-community fighting or policing. The behaviors of the few continue to negatively impact a place that all of us are constantly looking for: a place to call home when it comes to our religious paths.

The toxic assholes won.

Our community broke down and we haven’t done a damn thing to fix it. Some of that is because we’re tired of fighting and policing. Some of that is because life gets in the way and we have things to do. Some of that is because people left, not willing to step a toe into our shitty environment considering the shit that was going on when shit was going down. Some of that is because people are scared to speak up. Some of that is because some people are just selfish.

Whatever the reason, we need to cut the shit and think critically when it comes to our community:

  1. Do you want to be a part of this community?
  2. Are you willing to speak up about concerns you have?
    1. Or. Are you willing to point out problematic behavior or call someone out if the need arises?
    2. Or. If you are worried about calling someone out, are you willing to say something to someone who isn’t worried about calling shit out?
  3. Will you be able to help out the prolific content creators and put things out there?

If you can answer yes to these questions, awesome. Welcome aboard. If you can’t, then maybe it’s better if you go before the going gets rough [again]. This may sound harsh, but if community is what is wanted, it means that you have to put the hard work in and continue to put it in. But everyone has to do their fair share. You can’t rely on the few to do it all; we all have to partake and be willing to do what needs to be done.

Otherwise, there is literally no point in trying.

Related Content

Note: While I am specifically addressing the racism that was prevalent from the toxic shitheads that made our community anathema to many, please note that they also partook in sexist, ableist, and other shitty behaviors. While I may not specifically state that, please know that it is true and that we also must ensure that shit doesn’t get a foothold in our community either.

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.)

God Bothered: A Guide.

I get bothered by gods, well, fairly frequently I suppose. I don’t personally see it as such myself, but that’s what happens when you live in the thick of it. However from an outsider’s perspective looking in on the vague posts I make, it could seem as though my entire life is a giant way station for some new god to appear and go, “hey, hi. I’m here,” or something like that.

I can definitely say that things used to work that way; they don’t anymore. It seemed like once a month or so, some deity was jumping off the train with some baggage and a sign that said, “Satsekhem: look at me!” At first, I tried to accommodate and wound up in that deity collecting phase that drove me up a flipping wall. I would take one look at whoever the new deity was, roll my eyes as theatrically as you please and just mutter, “jfc, not another one of you,” and begrudgingly wound up attempting to do the thing.

But I began to realize that this was partially my fault. I hadn’t set clear boundaries for these gods so when they showed up and without those crystal clear boundaries, I found myself constantly out of my element. I had yet another new god that I had to deal with and learn about and figure out why the hell they were hanging around. It caused a large amount of stress and a long series of headaches that left me floundering.

That is absolutely no way to live a life or attempt to be a devotee. While not everything may turn out badly for both the god and the devotee in question, I can assure everyone that it doesn’t exactly leave the best taste in your mouth. It leaves you feeling bogged down and just generally irritable with the whole kit-n-caboodle. I wound up realizing that if I was going to appear as a sort of beacon into the night that gods would home in on, I needed to be clear with myself and with those gods coming in on the midnight train.

Boundary

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

Boundaries can be difficult to set up for yourself. There are a lot of various aspects that you must take into consideration when formulating them. While you may be thinking about how this will benefit you, something we need to keep in mind are the current relationships we have with our gods and what their particular plans for those relationships may entail. There is also the messy business of promises, agreements, contracts, and oaths that may need to be considered before setting a boundary.

In my case, the only promises I had made before setting up the boundaries was to Sekhmet and they had no relation in allowing new gods to stay or not. But this isn’t always the case. Some devotee-deity partnerships include being loaned out to other gods, being sent to other gods for specific reasons, or various other items that may lead to developing relationships with new gods.

The best way to figure out if both you and your existing deities will be okay with these boundaries would be to focus on the primary concern for creating a boundary: why am I setting up this boundary in the first place?

This might sound like one of those “no duh” questions, but asking yourself why you feel you need to do something will open up avenues of thought that you may not have considered. Just deciding that you want to make some space for yourself isn’t going to give you the ability to delve deeply into the matter at hand and determine the best design for you when it comes to the limits you’re setting.

On the other hand, this will aid in presenting the idea to the gods you currently have relationships with. It’s a give and take situation when discussing the possibility of a boundary with your gods and compromise may be a word used often when formulating a game plan.

When I broached the subject matter with my gods, they were all very supportive but there were certain stipulations that needed to be taken into account. While at that particular moment, I was flustered and flummoxed, they let me know that they may need to parcel me out elsewhere on occasion and they would let me know when that was the case. Since I felt that was fair, I told them I would do the thing if it occurred though I wouldn’t necessarily do it with grace or humility.

As I sat around determining what would work best for me, I kept focusing on the idea that my best interests were the heart of the matter. And they were; they are. I was setting up the boundary specifically because I was flustered by this seeming revolving door of deities and needed some peace. If you constantly have an influx, it’s damn hard to do the research you need to do to figure out what’s happening or determine why.

However, there are a million reasons that may come up for yourself when you ask yourself why this is so important now when it may not have been important before. When those reasons begin piling up and after all parties agree to a sort of informal agreement, it gets easier for you to determine the next stage of the process, how closed off do I need to be? Should I limit myself to no new gods? Or should I limit myself to a specific pantheon?

Going back to the gods with what we think would work best for ourselves is also important. I had tentatively put in the idea that I needed no new gods, but I was told that wouldn’t slide. New gods were coming whether I liked it or not; I just had to limit the influx to a number I could handle.

When new gods from outlying pantheons show up, it can be difficult to not just complete the research you may need but to also network with devotees of said deities. While not everyone will take the time and delve into the research with a level of detail as others, I do need to do both research and networking if a deity not-of-my-frame-of-reference shows up. And it can be both tiring and confusing to delve into arenas that often wind up looking an awful lot like gibberish.

From a Kemetic perspective, I know where the source material is and what to pick up if someone just jumped off the train. If a god from another pantheon shows up, I may know where to look generally for information but the question that begs is whether or not it’s worth learning about.

When it came right down to it, knowing as I do regarding resources for various other polytheistic traditions, I figured it was wiser to limit myself from the outset: Kemetic gods were a maybe, depending on situation and the feedback I received from my existing relationships, but gods from other pantheons were a no-go. This left me feeling a little more secure as the months passed; I had a general system in place and it worked.

This isn’t to say that gods from other pantheons stopped showing up. Oh, of course not. This clearly defined border only meant that I had to be firm when they annoyed me, which is why I wrote this entry about saying no. Just because you’ve set a limitation for yourself doesn’t mean that the gods will necessarily respect it or be aware of it.

Setting this boundary benefited me in the long run and also my relationships with my gods. I was able to spend more time on the things they wanted and when new deities appeared, I was better able to handle researching them, networking with existing devotees, and figure out what was going on, if I chose to look into the deity.

Yes/No

The strongest and most effective force in guaranteeing the long-term maintenance of power is not violence in all the forms deployed by the dominant to control the dominated, but consent in all the forms in which the dominated acquiesce in their own domination. – Robert Frost

Just as having your gods put their stamp of approval on boundaries you’re setting for yourself, so too must we put our stamp of approval on a new relationship that we are considering entering into.

Consent is one of those things that can cause pagan drama for days. Some people believe that our ability to say yes or no to a god is immaterial; others believe that ability is a necessity. I am a big proponent of consent, however I have to admit that it doesn’t always look quite like what we would expect it to.

In my experience, gods need some forms of affirmation to begin developing a relationship. A hearty yes is going to be the least ambiguous confirmation however, it seems to be the least common given. Gods have been known to get your approval through shady dealings and may even bug you until, in a fit of pique, you give in. This kind of goes back to the boundary question above: how well defined and high is the boundary?

I’ve noticed that while begrudging cooperation will work in a pinch, willing cooperation will make the experience easier on all parties involved. But again, this isn’t a black and white area; as with all the gods, it’s shades of gray. The point I’m trying to convey is that, out of all of it, while the form of consent may not resemble what we would prefer, some form of it appears to be needed to get the ball rolling.

A recurring theme I’ve picked up on is when people mention that X or Y deity is about, sometimes the advice given neglects to keep in mind that our consent is something that’s required. Often I will see something along the lines of, “you may as well just do it because it’s not like you have a choice.” I grow concerned when I see this out there; it seems to be neglecting the very reality that consent needs to be given in such situations no matter who the deity is or the reason they may or may not be hanging around.

So, let me state this emphatically: no matter what deity is poking around or why they are poking around, you always have the ability and right to say no. It doesn’t mean they won’t keep pestering you. It doesn’t mean that no will automatically filter through and they fly off to bother some other unsuspecting possible future devotee. This only means that you have the right to say no and that you do not have to give in, no matter what you may see floating around the Internet under the guise of advice.

Over the years, my default position for new deities has been to say no. Obviously, this isn’t always the case but it’s pretty much my fall back in any given situation unless directed otherwise by the deities I have relationships with. And even when directed to look into X deity, I always have the choice to tell them that I won’t do it or that now is not a good time.

As an example, Sekhmet pinged me a few months ago and requested I look into Tutu. I was able to do a cursory look but had to admit that, while I found the information available interesting, I did not have the necessary time to look deeper. She let it go and while she does check in to see how I’m doing, she knows that my focus elsewhere is important. In same vein, both Hetheru and Heru-Wer have asked me to look deeper into Ihy than I have and while I would like to, again now is not the time.

They respect my choice and I appreciate the carte blanche they have given me regarding these requests.

On the flip side of this, Sekhmet had mentioned that a certain Hellenic party guy would be beneficial for me some time back. Since I knew enough about him to be weary and because of the boundaries I had set, I was able to tell her that I wasn’t interested and she understood where I was coming from. It took a bit longer than that for that deity to buzz off, but he eventually went on his way.

It’s not always simple. Sometimes a deity is around for a reason and you have to weigh the pros and cons about entering into a relationship with them. When Loki arrived for me, I spent a good few weeks going through the benefits as well as the possible negatives before making a decision always with the knowledge that saying no could make things worse for me. Snap decisions are all well and good now and again, however sometimes more information is needed in order to make the best determination for yourself.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes a deity is persistent and refuses to take no for an answer. That doesn’t reflect on you; it reflects on them.

But at the end of the day, it’s your decision one way or the other. And you don’t have to enter into the relationship no matter who is poking around or why. So long as you have enough information to make a decision – why they’re around, what would happen if you do and do not enter a relationship, etc. – it’s entirely up to you.

Further Reading

  1. Gods, Boundaries, and Consent
  2. The Nuances of Non-Physical Relationships
  3. A Good Horse
  4. Breaking the Narrative
  5. Consent for Spirit Walkers
  6. Setting Boundaries with Your Deity

Poor-As-Fuck Polytheism.

As some people may already be aware, there’s been a shit storm this weekend. I’ve been watching it from my couch in between bouts of coughing and high-grade fever. It’s been entertaining and interesting to see all the various blog posts, finger-pointing, and general comments flying back and forth. I’ve enjoyed it while I attempt to recoup as much energy as I can before heading back to work tomorrow and contending with the energy requirements of Christmas Eve and Christmas. I will admit that the original post that began this latest firestorm really did get to me. I even commented on it – not that anyone clicking on that link would know. Tess wasn’t willing to approve my comment, which is her right. It is, after all, her blog. However, I pointed out that since the original post she was referring to was actually based on a Kemetic standpoint, more specifically the god Serapis asking for some low down from someone, that her libations statement was incorrect. But, of course, it’s okay! She put a parenthetical statement that said “it can depend on context.” However, if you’re going to start making posts regarding someone’s attempts at starting a relationship with a new god, then you should probably refer to the relationship building in terms of the culture that god stems from.

It’s a novel concept, but I digress.

What came later was a lot of shit flinging from the on-high polytheists that usually end up doing this. Tess Dawson followed up her middling to fair post with a true gem in which she makes racist comments and bitches about poor people. She decided that poor people shouldn’t have “nice things.” Apparently, owning a newfangled cell phone is above and beyond the poor; having an Internet connection in your home is seriously pushing your budget; you should only buy your clothes in second hand shops; and last but not least, you can definitely pour out a few drops of wine, milk, water, etc. to the gods in question since people “living in an inner-city ghetto in a gang war zone can manage on occasion to pour out a 40 to his homies.” Ouch. That’s a lot of assumptions and broad generalizations there. It was these comments as well as her absolutely staunch believe that she knows the financial situation of every poor person who happens to be a polytheist that really got people up in arms. Of course, her posse purposely misunderstood why people were upset.

Galina waxed poetic about having been poor once and then shamed poor people into giving offerings because they can afford food. And of course, Dver kept it classy by defending Tess’s racial statements and then proceeded to bitch at a Latina for having an opinion before she and her cronies bitched out a Haitian descendant for having an opinion, as well. I think we can just slow clap this one down in the history books.

Not only did these people completely miss the point that the working poor polytheists out there were making, but they really made themselves look about as classy as a three dollar bill. What makes all of this worse is that they really and truly believe their way is the only way. Since quite clearly, it takes all manner of people to make the world go ’round, the same applies to polytheistic traditions. If Tess hadn’t made an attempt to make an “all-encompassing polytheist guide” to the polytheists out there, this probably wouldn’t have been such a huge issue. The problem with these people – and their pet pit bull, Sannion – is that you cannot speak about polytheism an “all-encompassing” anything. The only similarity between my flavor of polytheism is that we all believe there are a lot of gods – and that’s it. My practice is not their practice is not your practice is not Joe Blow’s practice is not anyone else’s practice. It is unique and personal and wholly mine just as the same applies to their practices and to yours. There is no right way; there is no wrong way. There is only a practice that is what each individual makes of it.

The real issue with these types of ignorant statements about what poor people can and cannot do or what they can and cannot afford is the fact that they just simply don’t know how fucking poor we all are. Unless they take a poll of each polytheist who professes to be poor, they’ll never know why they have nice things. Perhaps the nice things were purchased when times were easier. Perhaps the nice things were after saving hard for the item in question. Or perhaps the nice items were acquired because sometimes the “bad decisions” poor people make actually make perfect sense. Whatever the case may be, they’re only taking a single and very narrow viewpoint about what poor people should be like and ignoring the majority of what poor people are actually like.

Another thing that they are not taking into consideration is that being poor isn’t just about financial status. It isn’t just as simple as making money or not making money; being on assistance programs or not being on assistance programs. There is no neatly defined specifications of what a poor person is or is not. But every single one of us have something in common with one another. You see, the thing these people are forgetting or merely just don’t know is that being poor isn’t only about the money, but it’s also about the mentality and emotional state that goes along with it. It’s about being poor and being poor. There’s a certain mental state and emotional frazzled state that goes along with the burden of being poor and that is something that is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to fight against.

With each day, if a poor person has a job, they go out and they do the job. In those instances, if they don’t have anything that can take their mind off of their financial situation, then they’re thinking about what bills haven’t been paid and how long they have before the electric company will turn off the electricity or where the next propane gas tank payment is going to come from. If they’re lucky enough to shut that shit down at work, then they get to go home and return to that careworn and frazzled state that they left that morning. It’s harder when they’re at home to ignore all the pending crises that could be sneaking up on them because they’re at home, whether that’s with a steady roof over their head or in a shelter. And they have to face their state over and over again. With that comes guilt, horror, shame, failure feels, and a myriad of other mental and emotional pinpricks that can get under the skin deep enough and far enough to make it nearly impossible to keep from losing all hope. Dante had it right, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate,” but it’s not just about the Ninth Circle of Hell: it’s also about being part of that classification of being poor.

And with all of those dangerous and painful feelings comes the ongoing blather from the mind.

I have it pretty bad. I’ve been scraping by with my job. I actually made more money when I was unemployed. I’ve only recently been granted food stamps again because I am about a thousand dollars a month below the federal poverty level for a family of three. Let that sink in for a minute: as the only person working, I make about a grand less than the federal poverty level each month. And with the money that I do have, I have to pay all of the bills and all of the extraneous and silly items, like gas to get to work, on that income. What makes it worse is that I have a son. I have a beautiful little boy who really and truly makes me feel loved and like I can do no wrong, but in my off moments, I’m often wondering how I could have brought him into a life like this. On top of the usual terrible feelings of failing and shame, I get the added bonus of feeling like a really shitty parent because I can’t afford to get my son new clothes, I can’t afford to let him go on any school field trips, I can’t afford to give him nice things like some of his friends have. But he looks up at me with those love filled eyes and for just a moment, I know it can be okay.

I’m lucky that I have a child because sometimes, the feelings go away.

I know there are plenty of people who don’t have an out like I do. I know there are a ton of people who can’t shut their mind off at work. I know there are a ton of people who don’t have distractions handy to forget the horrible situations they’re in. So, in that regard, I’m lucky. What else makes me lucky is that I still have my faith. I may be a poor polytheist by the Piety Posse’s standards, but I know that I’m not. I know, strongly and without doubt, that what I do and how I do it is okay. It works. They’re pleased with it. And I think that if others can kind of use what I have in similar situations, then maybe, just maybe, the horror of their situations may just fade, just a little bit and for just a little while. So, let’s get to it. Here we go.

  1. Food and beverage offerings.
  2. Food is pretty expensive. I spend a lot of my time in the grocery store, hemming and hawing over what I can afford versus what I actually need. The two lists don’t usually meet down the middle. Sometimes, I can get things like vegetables in my house because the frozen vegetables go on sale. At my grocery store, last week, I was able to get those really expensive name brand, individual vegetable portions at a buck a piece. I sure as hell stocked up. But in my house, we’re big on fruits. And outside of bananas, which are pretty cheap, I end up holding back a lot when I would prefer to go wild. I would like to buy pomegranates for Sekhmet and I would like to buy grapes for Djehuty and I would love to be able to figure out how to purchase a pineapple for Papa Legba, who has been asking for some months. Instead, I look at the prices of the apples and the pears and the grapes and I usually end up with a bunch of bananas and two apples and maybe an orange if they’re on sale, too, and my son, TH, and I end up eating them. They rarely go to the gods.

    When it comes to other items to offer, I’m on even less of a good scale here. The idea of leaving bread out for even a second is anathema to me. My son is at a piss-poor nutritional phase right now. That means that bread and peanut butter are all he’s willing to eat without serious arguments. So, we go through a lot of bread and I’m not usually the one who ends up eating it. I’m not going to take away from my son’s daily routine just so that the gods can have some bread. I’m also not going to remove a piece of steak from my mouth or my son’s mouth just so the gods can have some once in a while. None of them seem particularly interested in chicken, which is one of the cheapest things I can afford right now, no matter how many times I offer it. And now that things are as hard and as expensive as they are, I don’t dare sacrifice even a hint of food to them. My survival and the survival of my family is first and foremost. Besides, if I’m suffering from malnutrition because I’m too busy loading food off of my plate to the gods’ plates, then what good am I really doing? I may look like a totally “awesomely devout” polytheist, but point of fact, I would just be emulating a bunch of selfish twatwaffles who don’t deserve the time of day. So, why bother?

    Besides, the gods don’t seem to want me to take away from myself on their behalf. It isn’t so much about sacrifice in an attempt to look more devout, but about the intent behind what you’re offering. And if you’re so worried about money and how not to waste things, then the intent isn’t going to be there. There are other ways around this, whether you eat your offerings or not.

    A while ago, I was crying to my netjeru about money. I was feeling awfully low and feeling like I wasn’t doing my duty as their devotee. I mean, my offerings were very sparse and far between. I felt like a heel for failing to give them food stuffs. I thought that I could maybe bake for them, but even scraping together the money for eggs was pretty hard. So, I was just coasting. And that’s when I remembered votive offerings. Now, Devo is probably the best known Kemetic who does this. She uses Re-Ment to provide food offerings of varying quality to her gods. Votive offerings were pretty big in ancient Egypt, so it’s historically attested. When I waltzed into the Hobby Lobby near me and saw that the dollhouse food items were on sale for less than a buck on payday, I figured that it was a sign to go ahead and do so. It’s not the quality of the dollhouse food items because, really, they’re pretty crappily made (as someone whose family did the dollhouse stuff when I was a kid – I know the difference between the “good stuff” and the “cheap stuff”). But the intent was behind what I was aiming to do.

    The really neat thing about this is that we don’t even need to buy things like dollhouse food stuffs or Re-Ment. If a polytheist is even remotely good at drawing, they could maybe draw up an offering plate of bread and butter and meat and whatever else comes into their minds. Even if they’re not, they could simply write down the names of what they wanted to offer. It would still be considered a votive offering of the items in question because the intent is still there. Yeah, sure. It’s nice having a physical reminder of what you want to offer your gods – an image of some sort – but even words are good enough. If there are polytheists who can get by on providing nothing but prayers to their gods, then I think we can get by with writing out what a full meal would look like or be comprised of in order to make ends meet.

    A lot of people end up only being able to provide beverage type items in offering to their gods. Before I managed to find the cheap ass dollhouse food, I was in that boat. While the idea of being able to give shot glasses of booze or cups of milk or maybe some juice, even, sounds like a good idea, the money problem comes up again and again. Each cup that we may leave out, even for a second, could be taking away from what we need and what our families may need. Sharing a cup of tea with the gods is one thing but if you don’t even have the money for tea bags? Well, it goes beyond sacrifice and moves into the realm of “nope.” Of course, reversion of offerings stands here along with food, but the idea of leaving it out for an untold amount of time while the gods drink up what they want kind of squicks me out. It’s one thing to leave out a glass of juice for a few minutes, but there’s something less than pleasing about drinking a cup of milk after it’s already been sitting out for five minutes. (Personal preference here, maybe?) Whatever the reason – I’m not going to remove a cup of anything from my stomach, my son’s stomach, and I’m not going to discuss it. So, what else did that leave me?

    Before the dollhouse food, I was only giving cool water to the netjeru and nothing else. I just couldn’t bring myself to sacrifice the food, so I gave them cups of water. I’m not a huge fan of water, but I also understand that conservation efforts need to be made. We can’t just assume that the resource will always be there. If there are states that can send people to jail for collecting rain water, then maybe it really is a pretty hot commodity. Whatever the reason, we need to think about conservation here while also being able to provide beverages, right? We can always re-use the water in some way, too, though. I actually end up re-using the water in my dog’s water dish every day. I give her the cups of water after the gods are “done” with it. I’ve also reused it to water plants in my home as well. However, water is free for me. It goes along with my rent. And I know that not everyone has that luxury. I used to have to pay for water in the apartment I lived in down south and there may not be a lot of landlords/landladies who are willing to throw in any bonuses in this economy. So, what to do?

    Again, we come back to votive offerings. If the above example of dollhouse foods or Re-Ment is used, then we can go ahead and have more than just a simple cup of water to give. There are wines and beers and milk and juices to provide for the gods. And in same vein, as said above, if push comes to shove and the purchase of votive offerings isn’t something that can be done, then write about it or draw it.

    What if, however, the polytheist is too poor to afford paper? Paper, like food and water, can be pretty expensive. You may not have ink to print something off and be unable to afford it. You may not have the ability to rub two pennies together so owning a pen and paper may be hard, too. What about speech? I realize I’m coming from a Kemetic viewpoint so my point-of-view regarding how powerful speech is goes beyond what other polytheists may believe. But even in ancient Egypt, the act of speaking, the words themselves, had power to them. And if you used your heka just right, you could probably just get away with speaking what you wanted to provide for the gods and they would be okay. I don’t know if the other cultures have similar views about words and the power of speech. But I bet if a polytheist inquires after the gods and how they feel about the power of speech, they may give you a good idea.

    And if they prefer the votive food offering, on paper for instance, maybe borrowing pen and paper from a friend or from a center could help. I know that when I have to go to my local food stamps office, there is paper and pens everywhere. And sometimes, I walk away with those pens. (Not on purpose, but because I stick them in my hair and then leave.) And there is scratch paper left behind from various others who have needed it to figure out their finances or needed to write down extras that the little paper applications don’t have room for. So, maybe surreptitiously taking the paper from an office like that, maybe that could go to providing the libations and offerings that you want to give to your gods. Besides, if a resource that is available to the poor is willing to leave things like that out, then maybe they really mean for you to have the things in questions like spare paper and pens. Whatever the case may be, if words aren’t sufficient, I think paper and pen can work just fine in a pinch.

  3. Non-perishable offerings.
  4. Offerings aren’t just about the food and the water, though. As much as people make a big deal about those things, they’re not the be-all, end-all. A lot of people forget that offerings, at least in antiquity, weren’t just about the pile of food that the priests or the people could provide for their gods. While the offering formula, at least of ancient Egypt, talks a big game about food, there were other things that were offered. Specifically, the formula says, “He gives invocation offerings of bread, beer, oxen, birds, alabaster, clothing, and every good and pure thing upon which a god lives.” And sometimes, it would end with something like, “Every good and pure thing that the sky gives, the earth creates, the inundation brings, on which the god lives.” This wasn’t just about the mountains of food that would be reverted to the priest, but about other items as well. So, how would someone who is poor be able to offering things to the gods as well? And what other types of things could they offer, perhaps even in lieu of food?

    If we look at relief, then we know that it wasn’t just about the food that was provided to the gods. We have images of them offering ma’at, we have images of them offering gold and semi-precious stones, we have images of the people offering every “good and pure thing” that the god may desire or need for life. Things have changed in the last thousand years, I can tell anyone who is willing to read this. What was once “good and pure” may not be so anymore. And in same vein, what once may never have been thought to be “good and pure” may be now. I’ve looked around my house and at the accrual of things that have happened in the last thirty years. I have a lot of things that can be easily and obviously changed over into one of those “good and pure” things that the gods may desire. I use them as a kind of back up or instead of when it comes to providing food to the gods.

    I have repurposed stones given to me to the gods. I have a carnelian rosette that I give to Sekhmet every day. It used to be a pendant on a necklace. I have a quartz pyramid that I bought when things were easier on me and I use that as an offering to Hetheru every day. I gave a pair of winged earrings to Aset just last week. I have books aplenty and each book can be provided as an offering to Djehuty. I have pens, too, that I keep on his altar in offer since reed pens and ink are no longer the way, but it seemed silly to prevent him from having some form of writing implement to give to him. I have Tarot cards that I’ve been given over the years and I’ve used these as offerings to them, as well. I have a huge store house of incense that I have been given or I was able to purchase in the good years. Since I use the incense so sparingly, I have a lot left for giving to them during the “big rites.”

    These are all obvious items to give to them, though, right? They all, in a way, hearken back to bits and pieces that they would have been given in antiquity. While my practice is definitely historically informed, it’s not the only bit in there. I’ve given other modern type things to the gods as well. I found a needle and thread, which I gave to Hetheru. I have a hand broom which I gave to Bes once. My laptop is an object I’ve given to Djehuty more than once. I’ve given dandelion pollen to Geb. The Ouija board mints that Devo gave me, I give on a daily basis to Aset. I give candle stubs to the gods, as well. Anup was given a huge three-wick pillar candle that I’ve owned for years and he loves the smell. My son gave me the gaudiest fucking Dachshund ornament last year for Christmas and I gave that to Anup as well. It was a joke, at first, but it’s because a real thing since then.

    All of these things are “good and pure” because they are all things that I’ve appropriated to incorporate in what I give to the gods. It’s not the object that matters. It’s not what other people that think about the object that matters. All that matters is the intent behind why I’m giving it. If I think it’s a good idea, and I don’t immediately get smacked with laughter, then it can’t be all bad. These are things that people tend to forget about. It’s easy to take something that we have been given from others or by others, things we have lying around the house and utilize them in the context of our devotions. Everyone gets hung up on the things, though, and there are other things that can be provided to the gods.

  5. Devotional acts.
  6. Being devout isn’t just about things and stuff. A lot of posts seem to focus on the things and stuffs. I get it. In a poor person’s mind, it’s the accumulation of things that makes us not poor anymore. In my house, the accumulation of stuff is just a testament to how much of a pack rat I may actually be. Things and stuff are all well and good, to an extent, but there are other ways to go ahead and show your devotion to the gods: actions. Actions speak louder than words, or so people say. I don’t know if that’s really true in this day and age where the Internet is based entirely on the words people are using. Whatever the case may be, just because we live in a world where the written word is probably far more important than it was a hundred years ago (and back then, the written word was all about conveying opinions and learning things), it doesn’t negate the fact that there are still actions that can be taken to show the devotion one has for their gods. It is through those actions that we live our lives, in some cases, and through those actions that we can live another day. Devotional acts, I think, are not really as properly discussed as they could be. And I think they should be paid more attention to because, you know, when you’re poor, the things and the stuff aren’t the entirety of a person’s practice.

    Devotional acts can take all forms. Some people give their time to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Some people donate books to their local library. Some people donate gently used clothes to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. Whatever the case may be, there are a lot of people who will go ahead and do something that is entirely dedicated to their religious practice. But when it comes to poor people, we don’t really have the time and energy, a lot, to go ahead and do that kind of a thing. And in some cases, we may not even have the items to donate, either. I can donate clothes to my local shelter because I have a kid who is constantly fucking growing like a weed and he is always in need of new clothes. But that’s the extent of what I can provide to them. But that, honestly, isn’t a devotional act to me. It’s a basic human act for me. To me, honestly, a devotional act is something that I do on a daily basis and give it with intention to my gods.

    I clean my house for Aset and Hetheru and Bes. I read a story to my son for Bes and Djehuty. I wash the dishes for Sekhmet and cook dinner for Aset. I neatly rearrange my books for Djehuty. I walk in the grass, barefoot, for Geb. I watch the clouds float by for Khonsu and Re. These are all things I would normally do in my day, but occasionally, I dedicate them in the name of the gods. It’s not only an attempt to provide them with the “good and pure” things that coincide with my living in ma’at but they are also attempts to bring my gods more fully into my life. Too often, I think, people who are in dire circumstances forget to have faith, forget to have hope. I’m one of those people. So, especially during the hard times, I will do something obvious and something that I may do on a regular basis and dedicate that action to a specific deity. That way, I can remind myself that they are there, they are in my life, that I have faith, and someday, maybe, things won’t suck so badly.

I’ll tell you what – being poor is hard. Being a poor polytheist is hard. We don’t have a ready-made group of people that we can turn to in a lot of circumstances. Some polytheists can go to the local UU and have a community that may be there to hold their hands. Some of us aren’t so lucky or aren’t capable of finding that type of community to turn to when things are rough. In many instances, the only community we have is the one we’ve forged through our Internet relationships. In cases like mine, where the only community I have is the one I have online, it can be quite painful to have people like the Piety Posse tell you how much you suck at being a devout polytheist because you’re poor and won’t “sacrifice” like they think you should. It can be really fucking hard because they’re making broad generalizations about individual circumstances that they know nothing about. But that’s the thing about them – they’re always making broad generalizations about polytheism when each polytheist’s practice is unique and individual, no matter how much cross pollination there may be.

What these kind of people really forget, though, about being poor is that it isn’t just a matter of what you can give or why you can’t give something. It’s a matter of having the ability in all instances – monetary, mental, and emotional states – that can cause a lot of poor polytheists’ problems. If your heart isn’t in it, then don’t do it. And when you’re poor, a lot of times, your heart isn’t going to be in it because you’re too busy worrying about where the money for things are going to come from or where the energy to clean your house is going to come from after working 12 hours and coming home to tend to your children. That’s fine. That doesn’t make you any less than me, or Galina, or Tess, or Dver, or Sannion, or Devo, or GLE, or Desh or any other polytheist I can think of, no matter where they stand on this particular issue. It just makes you human. It makes you human and it makes you have a religion and it means that you are going through some shitty fucking circumstances.

Maybe those circumstances will change and maybe they won’t.

But don’t let your situation make you feel bad for having the practice that you have. And certainly, don’t let anyone who thinks they have the high-and-mighty ability to pass judgment on others make you feel bad about your practice. Whatever you do and however you go about is good enough. Otherwise, the gods probably wouldn’t stick around. Of all the beings you know who should care about what your practice looks like? It’s definitely going to be the gods you work with that matter most. And if they don’t mind you cleaning out the lint trap of your dryer (if you have one) in their name, then why the fuck should anyone else care?

Kemetic Round Table: Shrine 101.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. For all the entries relating to this particular topic, take a peek here.

In a way, one of the easiest beginner question to answer is altars. The reason being is that it comes down to have a blank space for deity-related items, in a nutshell. Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, but you could easily start off with an empty table, cabinet, or shelf and you have a functional altar. However, no one really asks about shrines. No one seems to understand that an altar =/= a shrine. Here follows a quick 101 to discuss the differences and how you can set up a shrine if you are so inclined.

What’s the difference between a shrine and an altar?
There’s a world of difference between altars and shrines, which is not made apparent to a lot of newbies running around. There are some people who will use the words interchangeably. However, I don’t recommend this. And the reason is all in the definitions of both of these words. They really are two separate items and they are for two entire separate types of worship.

They can both be categorized as a place in which something sacred goes, however, the difference stems in what happens at the location. For an altar, it is a place in “which religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to gods, ancestors, etc.” (Source.) However, a shrine is not a work station where things are to be done, but a “structure or place consecrated or devoted to some saint, holy person, or deity, as an altar, chapel, church, or temple.” (Source.) It is a realm of piety, of devotion, and of prayers.

Why would I create a shrine instead of an altar?
In some cases, someone would choose to create an altar for the netjer because the deity in question has requested it. I know of at least two Kemetics that I can think of off the top of my head who had their deities request that they create a type of shrine for them. In both cases, the god resides within that closed off sacred space 100% of the time. This, to me, shows that the relationships they have with their gods is more dedicated and more serious than some of the other relationships people can and do have with the netjeru.

In other cases, a person decides to begin building a shrine to their deities because they have a priest-like relationship with their gods. The thing about having a shrine instead of an altar means that there will be more hard work, a lot more devotion, and an exceptional amount of hard work in the actions of maintaining one. In the morphing an altar space into a type of shrine, you are accepting more responsibility with your religious practice. The only people in ancient Egypt who were granted access to shrines were the priests themselves, which is why I tend to equate the practice of having one and the work put into making it and maintaining it as a kind of entrance into a modern-day priesthood. The rules change, in my opinion, when a shrine is put together for your netjer of choice.

Personally, I only have altars around my home. I do not have a shrine to any of my gods, although I have put serious consideration into having a shrine for Sekhmet and altars for the rest. And while some of my altars are too small to actually be a devotional work place, they are still altars. I don’t do the shrine thing because I am not a priest, nor do I wish to be. And I’m not ready (and probably will never be) to do that.

How would I create a shrine?
In this, one must first look to past resources for ideas on shrines. The ancient Egyptians had an entire temple for their religious observances, but there was a particular section that the status of the gods was kept within (the shrine area) and only consecrated priests could enter its domain. As you can see from this Ptolemaic era travel shrine, they utilized a cabinet with doors. If you do a Google image search, you will find similar representations, both modern and ancient. So, your first step is to find a type of cabinet that reflects what you think your gods would both prefer and that any icons (pictures, statues, representative items) would be able to fit within. An excellent modern example is Devo’s shrine entry at Shrine Beautiful.

As shown from the above linked article of Devo’s shrine, you can see that the items she has for that shrine are exceptionally plain. The doors are opened and she gives them sustenance in the form of her votive offerings for the day. The doors are then closed and the offerings are left within the shrine until the next time she goes to visit her shrine. There is no decoration. There are no flowers. There is nothing but a very immaterial and streamlined shrine. Personally, when I look at shrine porn, the more minimalistic a shrine the better.

However, not everyone is going to enjoy minimalism when it comes to their personal sacred space to their netjer. The thing is that one must reflect on the fact that a shrine is a sacred place. A shrine is a place for offerings and for worship and, in my opinion, little else. Cluttering the area with things like rocks, pictures, and the like may prove harmful in the long run. Giving those items as offerings and removing them when you are either done or the next day when you go back to renew your offerings is one thing, but keeping extraneous items laying about all day, every day may end up taking away from the connection you are attempting to solidify with your netjer and also detract from the overall goal of sacred space.

Where should I set up a shrine?
The thing about putting a shrine together is that, if you are going to take into account the ancient Egyptian standard that we have to work from, then the shrine is going to be placed in an inner sanctum of sorts. The temple precincts for each deity were wide and varied tracts of land – a kind of city-state unto itself in later dynasties. We don’t have this option, for obvious reason, but you can easily choose a quiet, inner room to place your shrine in. In some cases, people have entire rooms dedicated to the wants and needs of their gods and their spirits (I’m thinking, specifically, in regards to the lwa here but this works for relationships with the netjer and other gods as well). You can think of opening the door to that room as the outside precincts of the temple in question and then the shrine area as the private place for your shrine.

However, if you are like me, then this may not work out so well for you because you may end up forgetting the whole “daily offering” thing.

Part of the reason why I have altars instead of shrines is, also, because I need to have them placed in a public space. This has helped me to facilitate the daily offerings that I believe I should be giving on a regular basis. As I discovered when my altars were in my inner sanctum, I’m less likely to go about and get the daily offerings because of not having the altar spaces in my face. In effect, laziness grabs hold and I end up saying, “I’ll do a double offering tomorrow,” and then that tomorrow never actually manifests and I’m six months behind on daily offerings and in a fallow time. So, for me, if I were to go the shrine route, the shrine in question would be in a public place. Point of fact, if I were to ever convert any of my altars into shrine areas, I would probably place the shrine on top of the working altars I have currently so that I can work for the gods at their sacred work stations and then also open up their shrine doors for daily offerings.

I believe that the few people whom I can think of who have shrine areas also have their shrines in public spaces. They may do this for the same reason as me or for lack of space in quieter, out-of-the-way parts of their home. No matter the personal reasoning behind where you place your shrine, it is an inherently personal decision. If it’s in a public place, then that’s where you need it to be. If you’re not a lazy as me and you have the room/ability to place them in an inner area, then that’s where you need it to be.

When will I know that I can handle a shrine?
This is, again, another personal decision for each practitioner. As I mentioned above, I know that I am not ready and probably will never be really ready to handle a shrine area. It is a very large decision to go ahead and start manifesting something like a sacred space, such as a shrine, and maintaining that sacred space. If you think you are ready to take on the duties that lie within a priesthood infrastructure, then you could quite easily be ready to create and maintain a shrine space. However, the responsibilities of a priesthood caste are incredibly large and occasionally back breaking. In my opinion, there is less time for fun and adventure (such as Roamin’ Gnome shenanigans during festivals) and more time for devotion, prayer, and introspection.

If you think you are ready to carry the mantle of the priesthood, then you are ready to attempt the building of a shrine. Just ask the netjer that you want to create the shrine to first and go from there.

Kemetic Round Table: Doxa/UPG.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. For all the entries relating to this particular topic, take a peek here.

I leave these entries to the last-minute because then I have a deadline and while I normally ignore deadlines, I actually enjoy this blogging project so I meet the deadline. The problem with this particular post, thus far, is the fact that we’re using the word doxa. Outside of a very limited community, I really don’t see this word used and I definitely do not use it. Point of fact, I had to look up the definition of the word – herm, not on Wikipedia – to figure out if it meant what I’ve always thought it to mean. According to Grammar About, the meaning is, “in classical rhetoric, the domain of opinion, belief, or probable knowledge–in contrast to episteme, the domain of certainty or true knowledge.” Honestly, I think this word is pretentious. We could just use “belief,” right? And we would say the same thing?

But, this particular post isn’t just about belief. It is also about our commonly thrown about acronym, UPG. This acronym means “unverified personal gnosis.” This term means that we have been given knowledge, or smidges of intuition, that we have incorporated into our practices. These bits of knowledge can just be things that we feel or items that the gods themselves have told us. For example, I start getting really powerful cardinal imagery when Hekate joined my household. It was later that I learned she actually is associated with cardinals in some way, but before I knew that, I considered it a bit of knowledge gleaned from communication with this particular deity.

Now, the thing is that in some circles, you will find that the term doxa is synonymous with UPG. However, I have to disagree with this. I feel that the two of them are not mutually exclusive. To me, one is based solely on believing in something while the other is based solely on knowledge gleaned from various arenas. While I can see the similarities between the two – with the various consensus among many polytheists being that the start of doxa was someone else’s UPG – I find myself incredibly leery of this frame of mind. Call me an outsider, or a weirdo, or just plain strange, but this isn’t how I go about my practice at all. I believe in what I do, but I also have outside knowledge gleaned from the gods that I have incorporated into my practice.

I suppose I’m just lucky that I don’t have to really start at the beginning to create a religion.

The thing about either of these terms, though, is that quite often in the Kemetic community, you get laughed out of a discussion if you use UPG or even begin to discuss beliefs. We can get down and dirty with our communal discussions about various items and nothing gets laughed out harder than even thinking about heading toward the “woo-woo” with said discussions. The problem here is that, all jokes aside, mysticism and “woo-woo” are part and parcel to reconstructed religions. Mysteries are often discussed, dissected, and discussed again in different polytheist circles. However, for some odd reason, aside from a few random comments about the Mysteries of Osiris, there doesn’t seem to be as much discussion on them in Kemetic circles… Huh. Maybe I’m just not around for those discussions.

In either case, Kemetics seem to be very dead-set against having “woo-woo” in their practices. I don’t see why this is the case. I’ve met up with quite a few Kemetics, who make up my community as it turns out, who do have “woo-woo” going on. They’ve mentioned that discussing it outside of our community is definitely “not a good idea” as they’ll get laughed at. They’ve either watched it happen or they’ve heard about it from other people. It doesn’t really matter who did what when or even why; the problem is that this frame of mind is exceedingly prevalent in the recon world of Kemeticism. And it really has no justification if we’re practicing a reconstructed ancient religion, which included “woo-woo” back then and should probably include “woo-woo” right now. Just because we can’t find what that “woo-woo” happened to be back in the day doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist or that the “woo-woo” being practiced today is any less valid than what was practiced thousands of years ago.

Now, I can understand walking into someone’s blog and reading a passage like,

I entered the Cave of Snot with a horse hide upon my back, a mace of frog legs in my hands, and ruby red slippers plus ten on my feet. I knelt before the god and said, “I am your servant.” Blah-di-blah. A bunch of “woo-woo” stuff enters here. Things so crazy and weird that you are just like, what the fuck am I reading? And you’re just like, what the hell man?

So you enter someone’s blog and you read a bunch of weird shit that just makes your rational brain sit up and say, Cut the shit. The thing is that whatever that entry is talking about, as crazy and weird sounding as it may be, it really doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is any less valid that what you may be doing. They’re practicing their “woo-woo” and you just happened to get to read about it. Does that mean we should laugh at them? No. Does that mean we should leave mean, snarky messages on their blog making fun of them? No. Am I saying that everyone with blog entries even remotely like anything wrote about in that quote is telling the truth? No. I believe there are con-artists in polytheism just as much as there are outside of it. However, until you can tell me that you have powers that let you know a con-artist upon meeting them, either in person or online, then you really shouldn’t say a fucking thing.

By making those snarky comments, you could be completely destroying an entire mystical practice in one fell swoop and possibly angering the god whose mystical practice that was.

Now, as far as allowing others’ “woo-woo” to influence your own, I think that’s kind of up to each particular practitioner. I really can’t say one way or another if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I know that when I read about others’ “woo-woo,” I think something like, Wow. They have a fulfilling practice, but it doesn’t have much bearing on what I do or don’t do. Mysteries aside, my “woo-woo” is incredibly fledgling and while I’d like to say that I have a rounded out and beautiful practice across all boards, I’m still learning.

And can’t say that in any context.

Vacationing OTHERS™ (PBP).

A quick note before I begin: I would just like to apologize for my dearth of posts this week. I just started a new job as a temp at a local insurance claims facility and it’s kicking my ass. It’s not because I’m not still religiously oriented or that I’m having a Fallow Time, it’s just that time and energy are escaping me while I get back into the work flow.

Sometimes, as a polytheist, you get to a point where the OTHERS™ you have a working relationship with take a kind of “vacation,” of sorts. A lot of times, personally, I tend to misconstrue this as a Fallow Time – one of those periods where religion takes a backseat. However, when an OTHER™ is taking time off from you, this doesn’t necessarily mean you or I are in a Fallow Time. So, let’s talk about what happens to me (and so, you know, you can base yourself off of this if you so desire) what happens when the OTHERS™ take a vacation.

When will an OTHER™ go on a “vacation”?
This is one of those questions that are actually specific to the OTHER™ in question. There are numerous responses that could be considered appropriate and numerous responses that could be considered wild guesses in regards to this query. The thing is that we don’t know when something like this will happen. We can assume it will, at some point in our lives, but we cannot always know when it will actually occur. Unfortunately, as much as divination may be part and parcel to the religion you practice, you can’t know in the future when an OTHER™ will be taking a break from you. If they wanted you to know in advance, they’d probably send you the OTHER™ version of an E-mail or voicemail about the thing. In the mean time, let’s talk about the “when” question and cycles.

You see, I’ve come to notice that when it comes to my OTHERS™, I have specific times of the year where contact is more pronounced, or louder, if you will. (What I mean by louder is that Papa Legba gets quieter in my head as opposed to leaving off entirely.) So, in my practice, I tend to find that the communication thing goes in and out via cycles, which are directly related to the time of the year. Now the specific reason behind this cyclical thing, I’ll get into later (or at least, theorize about it later), but in the mean time, I can tell you that I hear from Sekhmet and Hetharu less and less as autumn and winter culminate. In the mean time, I’m lucky enough to have “off time” OTHERS™ to take up their spaces, in the forms of Papa Legba and Hekate. So while Hetharu and Sekhmet get quieter and quieter or their communication becomes sparse, the other two fill in the hole.

Now, not all OTHERS™ are obviously cyclical. For example, I honestly don’t understand why I hear Papa Legba more pronouncedly in the winter time than I do in the summer time while I understand the slack in communicate in winter from my goddesses. Again, I’ll theorize about this further on, but in the mean time, I just wanted to get out there that sometimes, the OTHERS™ don’t really have a rhyme or reason as to why they go on a vacation at specific time.

Rest assured that it isn’t just you. They have their reasons and they’ll either tell you about them or otherwise when they get back. Now as for the OTHERS™ that don’t hold to specific cycles as clearly cut as mine do, there could be a couple of reasons for this. However, the one thing I want to get into specifically in this section here is that keep calm, cool, and collected here. Just because an OTHER™ goes off on walkabout doesn’t mean that you are doing something wrong or that you fucked up along the way. It just means that they went on walkabout.

When can I expect my OTHER™ to come back?
Unfortunately, this is yet another one of those questions that people have that are pretty much unanswerable. As I said above, as much as divination may play a large part in your religion that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be given even a second of an inkling as to when they will leave or when they will return. They will come back or at least send you their version of the E-mail, as I mentioned before. (I tend to think of OTHERS™ as not very rude, but big sticklers on formality, which is why I mention that they will probably let you know what’s going on at some point or another. Whether or not you realize that you are receiving a message, well that’s a whole different ball park.)

The thing that we tend to forget about the OTHERS™ is that they are, you know, more powerful beings than we are. So, while we may have a perceived schedule of events in regards to our religion, they don’t even remotely care. It’s not because they don’t have emotions in regards to us or that they’re emotionless creatures that are just levels above us (as evidenced, clearly to me, by the Greek gods, themselves…). It’s just that they are indefatigable in what they are doing that we may not be aware of and that they are, well, you know, OTHERS™. And that does, indeed, mean that their motive may be miles and miles above where we are on the ladder of life or whatever you want to call it. It’s not that they don’t care, okay?

So, again, I have to rehash what I said above. When an OTHER™ disappears, don’t just freak out that they’re never coming back. Don’t immediately assume that you did something wrong. Don’t immediately start crying and freaking out at your altar or in prayers (or both). The OTHERS™ are the OTHERS™ are the OTHERS™. They do what they want and when they want it. So, as much as we may have a perceived timetable, they probably aren’t going to abide by it. They will come back when they come back.

How will I know an OTHER™ is going on “vacation”?
I don’t really think that there is any sure-fire indication than an OTHER™ will be taking a time out. It’s not a very clear-cut process all the time. I consider myself very lucky in this that I have gods that are cyclical. (And of course, as I said, I will get to that later.) However, sometimes, it just happens.

Obvious signs are obvious: lack of communication, feeling like you’re in a case of the druthers for that lack of communication, etc.

Whenever I start to feel like my goddesses are doing their vacationing thing, I have a kind of depression for a week or so. It’s not that they aren’t there to hear me out or anything, but I just feel less connected than I usually do. And this ends up leading to a kind of depression period that tends to last about a week [for me]. Some of the other signs about this can also be directly related to real life. One of the things people tend to forget when the mundane gets in the way is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to head into a Fallow Time. It could just be a type of signal from your OTHERS™ letting you know that you have to take care of A, B, and C before you can get back on track.

Other signals can and do include communication via your divination weapon of choice. I use Tarot cards and oracle decks almost exclusively to work with my OTHERS™. So occasionally, I’ll get a bunch of cards that mean it’s time to take a step back, rethink some things, and then come back to it from a different perspective. I’ve never gotten a card, specifically, that said “HEY I’M TAKING A VACA; I’LL CALL YOU WHEN I GET BACK,” but you never know. Pulling runes or using other types of divinatory oracles are another avenue you can explore when it comes to getting that precog moment where you realize it’s getting time for the OTHER™ in question to take back.

As a side note to signals and signs: I feel that I should add that you cannot discount messages from outside sources. I’m not talking about the divination in as much as I’m talking about some random person contacting you out of the blue and saying, “Hey, OTHER™ X just notified me that they’re taking a break from you for a while.” While I have had some of my UPG verified by outside sources in various capacities, I’ve never had one of my OTHERS™ utilize another as a conduit for communication. (But wouldn’t that be kind of neat if they did?) However, I have known of it happening to people, both as conduits and as people who have received messages from outsiders. So, while you would probably prefer to stick to yourself in regard to this situation, don’t necessarily discount outside messengers.

Why do the OTHERS™ go on a “vacation”?
Okay, so this is really the meat and potatoes of this post. Whenever it comes to the OTHERS™, one of the main types of questions some of us older practitioners tend to receive are “why”. And who doesn’t want to know why? We get these types of questions from kids all the time. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to go to bed?” “Why can’t I paint poop on the walls?” Lots and lots of times, you’ll hear or see me go, “why is this happening?” I think it’s pretty much natural, as human beings, to constantly ask why. So, let’s wade through this mountain of possibilities.

As I said, my OTHERS™ are almost entirely cyclical. My two main deities, Sekhmet and Hetharu, are solar deities. So, it tends to make sense that these Kemetic goddesses would be more able and intense in their communication with me when it comes to spring, summer, and early fall. The sun is shining; the heat is profound; and everything is in bloom. All of these are aspects that I tend to associate with my goddesses anyway, being solar deities. Especially in regards to Sekhmet, who is an Eye of Re (also known as the super solar deity), it makes absolutely perfect sense that I get a deeper and more fulfilling connection with her in the summer months. In like fashion, we have Hekate who is an opposite of sorts to my Kemetic deities. She tends to be more associated with the autumnal and winter months, so when it comes to communicating, it seems to make a lot of sense as to why I have a more intense connection with her (and darker deities, besides) in the winter months.

As I said earlier, in the land of Papa Legba, I’m unsure. I have my theories, but I really can’t comment. As a crossroads lwa, he serves similar function to Hekate. However, he is lwa and I haven’t read too much on them being specifically associated with timing or cycles. I mean, certain lwa will obviously have a more direct connection with nature and so, therefore, it’s possible relationships will end up being cyclical. However, Papa Legba is a kind of alpha and omega in the lwa world. He opens up communication with other lwaas well as stirs shit in your life. So, aside from his perceived lack of cycles, my only possibility is that I tone him down in summer months so that I can pay more close attention to Sekhmet and Hetharu. It’s a guess, of course, but it is possible to kind of tune out some kinds of OTHERS™ so that you can focus on communication with other kinds of OTHERS™.

Now, so, we can take perceived communication outages as cyclical. Obviously, your mileage may vary and it really does depend on the OTHER™ in question. Some are more clear-cut and obvious than others: Persephone, Demeter, and gods that are inherently tied to cycles. However, there are deities that aren’t so neatly tied up and wrapped into a bow. In cases like that, we have to start sifting a little deeper for the reason behind this.

I tend to view it in a general sense. Since I do work with cyclical OTHERS™, I have less need to take a broader view here. However, I tend to believe that when an OTHER™ goes on vacation, we should probably also pay attention to how wide-spread their following is. While we read a lot of blogs about Loki followers and the like, we have to assume that Loki can’t be in all places at once. (Then again, when it comes to Loki, one never really knows.) I think a large problem here is that we tend to come into polytheistic belief systems from an Abrahamic background. This makes it difficult to disassociate the OTHERS™ with the omniscient, omnipotent YHWH from the Abrahamic side of things. We can’t just assume that the OTHERS™ are able to be in all places at once, able to know things at all times.

And again, maybe they need to take a break. We don’t know what happens on their plane of existence. We don’t know what they’re going through, who they’re hanging with, how many followers and worshipers they may have. We just don’t know. And even though you may have a more personal relationship with the OTHER™ in question that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not going to need to take a time out.

So to sum up: OTHERS™ take time off. They do so for various reasons. They will come back when they so desire. And at some point, they will probably let you know in some form or another what’s going on. It’s just a matter of keeping your mind open, your eyes peeled, and keep on keepin’ on when things go quiet.

Newbies Make Mistakes.

Evidently, after my patented “Newbies Need Help” post, the message was received by all the people who agreed with me. This is great! That says, to me, that there are people out there with a like mindset, that helping is infinitely preferable than coming off as a raging douchecopter. Unfortunately, the post didn’t reach as big of an audience as it should have because there are still people out there who think behaving like raging douchecopters is the way to go. They think that treating people like shit will get the point across just as effectively as sending a quiet message to try to encourage the person to see the light of day. I’m sorry, but running into a situation with your holier-than-thou stick is not the way to teach kids the lessons they would have learned if not practicing a solitary, pagan practice. So, let’s get to the point here.

Newbies make mistakes.

I know this is kind of shocking and surprising, but it’s the absolute truth. A lot of pagan newbies are running around without any kind of sources aside from what they may find in a local library or what they may find online. We all know that everyone and anyone can make a website nowadays and fill it with whatever information they so desire. This means that dissemination of information may not be up to the standards of some of us older, more experienced pagan solitaries out there. But, you know what? The newbies really don’t know any better. I’m sure they are consciously aware that anyone can make a website and fill it with whatever filth and shit they may desire to put on there, but they’re not going to be aware that the website they’re getting their information from is incorrect or just completely stupid if you don’t tell them. And why is that? Because they make mistakes.

And as I’ve mentioned a time or two before, it’s pretty fucking important to learn from our mistakes, but to also go into this knowing that you’ll make them. It’s a part of the learning process. However, not part of the learning process is this sudden desire to “stick it to” the person who is the middle of the mistake. And really, it’s not quite that these pagans who are older, wiser, and so should, therefore, know better, are “sticking it to” the mistake-wielding newbie but that they’re so gung-ho on teaching in the most asinine, horrific, and morally reprehensible way possible. I’ll cite an example I watched unfold before my very eyes.

A very young Wiccan made a broadly generalized declaration that the reason they loved paganism so much was because it was must more free and truth-filled than the fake Christians they are used to associating with. I thought the post had a bit of merit, but I also felt like, you know, it wasn’t all the truth. Still, whatever. The Wiccan made the comment and then a bunch of older and wiser pagans decided to leap down the person’s throat with the intention of showing them the mistakes. They came wielding baseball bats when a simple, “Hey, that’s not exactly true. Assholes come in all different shapes and sizes and religions,” would have sufficed. Since the young Wiccan was attacked, the Wiccan backslid and apologized. This galvanized the older and wiser crowd to come back down upon them with bigger and heavier and harsher words. This made the youngster backslide further and then try to explain the viewpoint they were hoping they had shared. This was, again, not taken very lightly because yet more people bitched the poor thing out instead of saying something firmly like, “Assholes come in all different shapes and sizes and religions.”

In this particular instance, the real mistake was that the Wiccan made a broad generalization because they are not able to communicate effectively with local pagans. Since this person cannot co-mingle with other pagans and Wiccans, they are unaware that pagans can be assholes and fake just as much as any Christian out there. The further mistake was when the older and wiser crowd felt the need to punch that person in the face with the knowledge that assholes truly are alive and well in every religion, including paganism. They made this apparent with their holier-than-thou sticks ready to wield as weapons instead of calmly correcting a mistake. This is not how you fucking teach someone from their mistake. And in fact, is probably the best way to get them to stop practicing because all you’ve done is shown them that co-mingling with other pagans may not be in their best interest because if they make a mistake, they will be called to the carpet when a simple explanation would suffice.

As a parent, I can tell you that this is the most ineffective and asshole way to teach your kids. And as an older and wiser pagan, I can tell you that this is the most ineffective and asshole way to teach newbies in the field. When my son thinks it would be interesting to touch the wood burning stove in my in-laws’ basement, I explain to him firmly why this is not in his best interest. I don’t come down on him like a ton of bricks and beat him senseless to try to convey how worried and fearful I am about him being around a wood burning stove. In all likelihood, he will probably make the mistake of touching said wood burning stove. And while he will be punished for not listening after I have told him something, I’m still not going to take out a baseball bat and beat him senseless for not listening. I am going to correct the mistake as a parent. That’s something that older and wiser pagans need to take into account. Otherwise, I really despair, not only for the youngsters entering paganism and being taught in such a horrific way, but also for their children.

The thing is that youngsters make mistakes. They touch the wood burning stove after being explained why they shouldn’t. They spout out broad generalizations because they are excited and think that this bubble that they are in is the way it is for everyone.

Young pagans don’t know that not every pagan is open, honest, and truthful. Young pagans don’t know that because they chose Wicca as a religion then they don’t have to eschew colors and become goth. Young pagans don’t realize that not every pagan religion is the same. Young pagans don’t realize that website or forum X may not be the best place for them to congregate because the information is full of bullshit or is beyond the 101 they need. Young pagans don’t realize these things because they are young and they are new and they need someone there to hold their hands and explain this stuff to them. Not to post asshole pictures stating what some older and wiser pagans would consider “the obvious.” Not to post snarling, snarky commentary about what a fool they are for making X statement. Not to post bitchy, self-entitled rants about how stupid someone is for doing X in a spell when “clearly” that’s not how it should work. By doing this, you are doing a disservice to the new person in question and you are doing a disservice to yourself.

You’re coming off as an asshole.

We should all stop and look and help and prod the younger generation. Personally, I do this because it feels good to be able to give information to younger pagans. I love it when I get questions about where to research information on the Internet and what books they should consider purchasing. The feeling I get is beyond words. I feel good about myself and about my practice that I am someone who someone else can turn to, ask this question, and get substance in a response instead of fodder. And if the feeling good part isn’t enough to make some of these older and wiser pagans to sit up and help out, then think about it this way.

Most pagan religions are too young to have had generational followers thus far. I was born into Catholicism and raised Methodist. Other people I know who are practicing pagans are also coming from one of the Abrahamic faiths, seeking something more fulfilling. By being a complete and utter fucking douchebag to these newbies, you are scaring them off. You are sending them away. You are making it so that your own fucking religion will not survive. You are suffering from misanthropy instead of helping to foster a community so that we can stand together and face down all the asshats that think we’re evil Satanists that promote, well, more evil. In all honesty, all you’re fucking doing is killing off everything you’ve been fucking working on for however long you’ve been on this fucking turnpike.

So, my advice here is to get off your high fucking horse, eat a bar of chocolate, and stop thinking that your shit doesn’t stink.

You made mistakes just as much as any newbie you’ve verbally assaulted.

And that’s part of the whole fucking learning process to begin with.

Kemetism 101.

So, since I put myself out there, I’ve gotten a few people asking me how to go about this religion thing. I get questions about general religions (how do you know…) as well as questions specific to Kemetism (where do I start…). I’m actually, always, startled when I get asked this question and then go stupid for twenty minutes. But since I am one of the few vocal Kemetics out there, it makes complete sense as to why I get asked. What makes less sense is that I don’t have a starter going yet. So, based on my own experiences with this, I’ve gone ahead and done the cray-cray: Kemetism 101.

Where do I begin?
I’m going to sound like an old record here… or like a CD with scratches all over it for those of you too young to remember records skipping, but the biggest and most powerful bit of advice here is research. Now, this particular bit of advice can be used in any context when you’re first entering a religion. The reason I’m touting about it now and being such a pain in the ass about this is because this (where do I begin?) is pretty much the first question someone is going to ask themselves when they discover a new religious path that they want to follow. And how are you supposed to learn anything if you don’t do the basic legwork of researching the religion in question? While I can’t comment much on Norse or Celtic based religions, I can, of course, tell you about my journey and path into research when I first became entranced with the idea of Kemetism.

Part of the point in this research shtick, too, is to make sure that Kemetism (or Celtic polytheism, druidry, Asatru, Hellenismos, et al) is really what you are sure about practicing. I might sound like a preach-y preacher here, but up and changing your religious practice every couple of months because it doesn’t feel right has got to get old and tiring after a while. And, you know, quite possibly expensive if you feel the need to buy stuff relating to X religion all the time only to change your mind months later. I’m not saying that adding aspects to your [set, solidified] practice is wrong. And I’m not saying that people who delve into other areas of study to further their current practice is wrong, either. What I am saying is that you can’t look at this as a form of “play acting” or as a form of “this will do.” You have to be sure. You aren’t just looking for interesting things to fill up your time; you are creating a RELIGION for yourself. That takes a lot of hard work. That takes a lot of guts. That takes time and time and time. Ask anyone who has been doing this for a while and we’ll all tell you that this isn’t easy, that this isn’t simple, and that this is a years’ long process you will be starting out on.

Just by looking up the mythologies associated with the ancient form of the religion you are interested in, you can get a pretty good idea about whether or not you want to delve any deeper. I knew from the get-go that ancient Egypt was where my religious practices were going to lie. This is because, since high school, I had been obsessed with learning about it in some form or another. I had books upon books about the 18th Dynasty filling up my historical library. I loved everything about it, so I knew that ancient Egypt was going to be a big figurehead when I started out. But, not everyone is as obsessed with history as I can get. (Yes. I am obsessed with history. I used it all the time in various conversations and to prove points people don’t realize can be made.) So, by looking into the mythologies, you can get a feel for the gods you are looking to worship and you can decide if they are beings that you feel comfortable working with.

And that is very important, by the way. You shouldn’t choose gods because everyone else is doing it. You shouldn’t choose gods because you think it’s the cool thing to do. You shouldn’t choose gods because you have an ancestor or three who worshiped them. You should do it because you are comfortable giving your time, energy, loyalty, love, hatred, sadness, pain, happiness, and any other combination thereof to these gods. (Yes, it is possible to go through a point where you absolutely hate what it is the gods want you to do and you take it out on them. I know I’ve been there and I’ve done that and hey, look at that. I’m still a Kemetic.) This path isn’t about what your friends are doing or what you think may be a good idea. This path is about you.

I’ve looked at the myths and this is for real; where do I go from here?
Guess what? It’s time for more research. I really wasn’t joking when I said I was going to be repeating myself quite a bit here.

Now, when I first started out, I had no idea that Kemetism was an actual religion. I started out with the idea that because of my general obsession with ancient Egypt to that point, I wanted to use it in some context. Let’s also remember that I was coming into this with a Wiccan context as opposed to a recon context. In looking up Wicca and whatnot, I stumbled onto the Wiki page about Kemetism. And this opened my eyes to whole new avenues of what to do. There were temples. And this said, loudly, to me that I wasn’t the only person in the history of ever that wanted to have a religion that was a construct, a revival, or a reconstruction of what had come before. I’ll tell you, the moment I discovered that I was near ecstatic and pretty damn awed, too. I believe there may have been dancing involved. I do, in fact, know that I was so very excited and I had no one to share it with. This is part of the reason why I have a blog now, but that’s a story for another day.

(Now, someone reading this in passing may wonder why I didn’t know anything about this prior, I’m going to admit here that at the time of discovering this, I lived in a small town of a very Christian background. I had been told about Wicca from a police officer friend of mine who didn’t like the male-oriented religion of his southern roots. And apart from this, I had been raised in a family with heavy Catholic roots and went to a Methodist church as a kid. So, aside from the Internet, I had very little access to books or people who would have like-minded viewpoints up to this point.)

So, from there, I had whole avenues to explore. There were temples to look into, Wicca-basis to look into, and a solitary approach to look into. In doing basic Google searches for Kemetism, I found forums of like-minded individuals, more specifically The Cauldron, AKA TC, which had a plethora of information on this stuff. So, at the beginning, you could say that while I had a general feel and idea about what I wanted to do – work with a religious frame work that had to do with my obsession with ancient Egypt and its gods – I didn’t know quite what to do from there. Did I want to join a temple? Did I just want to e-stalk forums? Did I want to go my own way? So many possibilities, but I wouldn’t have known about them if I hadn’t done one measly Google search to get me going. And that is why doing the research is very important.

What do I decide now?
As I said, there are a lot of different types of Kemetism out there, which means that there are literally hundreds of different ideas and beliefs out there that relate to ancient Egypt in a current religious frameset. It comes down to what works for you and what won’t work for you. And again, I hate to say it but I’m just going to keep repeating myself until I’m blue in the face anyway, it’s time you did some more research.

When I first discovered that there were actual temples out there, I immediately felt that I should head in that direction. The main reason for this is because I knew that this was going to be a long process, but I am inherently lazy. (There’s part of the reason why it’s taken me three years to hammer out a calendar for myself.) In working with a temple of some kind, I would have a community to rely upon, ideals already set in place, and other aspects that I cannot enumerate on because I do not associate nor work with temples. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the reason I fell out of this belief is because I looked up each temple.

Now, some of them, I could reject out of hand – there’s one about the Aten (Akhenaten’s supreme god that I already knew a lot of since, you know, obsessed with the 18th Dynasty here). That didn’t fit what I wanted. If I wanted monotheism, I would continue with my exploration of the Abrahamic faiths. Since none of those were interesting to me, I didn’t think that even a slight change to the program – an ancient Egyptian deity in place of YHWH or God or Elohim – was really up my alley. I believe another temple that I stumbled on had to do with black supremacy in regards to the ancient Egyptian religion. As a white woman, this didn’t seem like it would work for me. But, there were other temples to look into as well: KO, Church of the Eternal Source, and the Akhet Hwt-Hrw.

After looking into all of them, there were various reasons why I rejected them. However, this may not be the case with others who are looking into this path as a serious religion. You may see something on the House of Netjer website that fits for you. You may see something at Akhet Hwt-Hrw that you find interesting. (I tried to find the link to this website so that people could look into this after reading this post or while reading this post, however the website listed on the Wiki Kemetism page is shown as “being suspended.” You can also do Google searches for Kerry Wisner and the books out should, at least, pop up.) In every possibility, there were things to look into and research. That’s something that is entirely based on what you, as a neophyte, is specifically looking for.

What if I want to do a solitary practice?
As someone who is solitary and who knows a lot of solitaries out there, I’m going to tell you that this is pretty damn difficult path you are choosing. I’m not saying it’s impossible because myself and others have managed it and are proof that it does work, but if you are really serious that nothing related to any Kemetic temples out there holds you, then it’s time to get ready to get your hands and mind dirty. I tend to feel that a solitary practitioner is getting ready to not just walk the path of our religious lives, but to also go running around in mud puddles while we’re at it. It is a very dirty path and there is a lot of hard work involved.

Now, I’m not one to feel the need to go against older and wiser, so I’m going to link you to this resource page from TC. I’m also going to link you to Devo’s book list since a lot of the books for Kemetism she has listed are excellent reading material and they can really help you flesh out your practice for yourself. One of the books that I recommend to everyone who is even slightly interested in Kemetism is Eternal Egypt by Richard Reidy. This book is an excellent way to try and practice rituals in this day and age, as well as to judge whether or not some of these more ornate trappings are what you want to do.

As for trappings like holidays and gods and specific beliefs and whatnot, this is something that each person is going to have to come at individually. I can’t tell you how to worship a god; I can’t tell you how to hold a festival; I can’t tell you what offerings are more appropriate; I can’t tell you any of that because one of the main things you are going to have to sit down and think about is how far you are willing to take this in regards to your individual desires.

Another thing I will sit back and talk to you, slightly, about with all of this solitary stuff is that one of the earliest questions you will have to ask yourself about your solitary path is whether you want to be a revivalist, a reconstructionist, a Wiccan, or your own whatever-you-may-want-to-call it. I’m not talking about titles about your practice, either. This is when you have to sit down, talk honest with yourself about what you are hoping to achieve with this creation, and work from there. Do you want it to have a slight basis on the past? Do you like what you see in Wicca and want to form it with your ancient Egyptian ideals and gods? Do you want to have a more firm grasp on your religion from a historical basis? These are all things that you have to ask yourself when you do this work because if you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you’re going to stall out.

Part of the reason I decided that solitary recon was something that interested me was because I met a lot of fellow Kemetics on TC (linked above) via their forum. And in seeing how rich and full their practices were, without a temple background and just with having done the research knowing they wanted a basis in history, was enough to get me into realizing that that was something that I wanted, as well. It should have been obvious; considering I refer to myself as “obsessed” with history, but it really is one of those questions that you have to ask yourself and debate over. I’ll let you in on a little secret: while I was working from a recon slant from early on, it wasn’t until this last year that I realized I preferred to be considered more recon than revival or eclectic. So, while this is an important question, it’s not the be-all, end-all to your practice or crafting of a religion.

And yes, you can still work on what your religion will ultimately be while you debate this with yourself. As I said, it was only as I was already in the middle of working on a religion for myself from a historical context that I realized, oh, yeah, I’m a recon. (Just because I’m one of the more vocal Kemetics out there does not mean that I am the smartest at all times!)

This is all very overwhelming.
Yes, it is. I really wasn’t joking when I talked about how much hard work this is going to be just to define, craft, and decide on what practice works well for you. The thing is that a lot of people come into this with the idea that it’s something to do, but in crafting a religion, there’s a lot more than holidays and worshiping gods. There is a daily basis that people forget or don’t take into account when it comes to this whole religion-crafting thing. I completely understand the whole overwhelming part, though. I have spent many an hour wanting to rip my hair out because I want to iron out some belief or concretely claim X in my liturgical side. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent trying to research the most basic nuggets of information so that the festivals that I do celebrate have even the slightest historical basis.

There’s a lot to take in.

So, when it comes to deciding that you want to go down Kemetism (Druidry, Asatru, Hellenismos, et al), don’t take it lightly. You’re in for the long haul and that haul? It sure as hell ain’t light. Once you make the decision that Kemetism (or other religions) are the ones for you, then where you head from here is entirely up to you. I can only take you so far; the rest is up to you.

Recon Versus UPG: A Small Guide for Newbies And Solitaries. (PBP).

So, I asked a question regarding a common practice in KO households that has kind of turned into a debate regarding UPG versus recon practices, specifically the information gathering from public sources that could have both UPG and recon/ancient sources. Maybe debate is too hot-headed of a word, though. It’s more along the lines of an opening up of eyes from a solitary’s perspective (mine) and, hopefully, from a KO perspective (theirs). How I go about things and how they go about things are entirely different. Then again, this isn’t so surprising. They have the background of a solidified religion and temple aiding them while I’m floundering around in my little boat of reeds, looking not just for outsiders’ perspectives (because the differences can be so neat) but also a solid foundation, preferably based on some ancient source.

Now, the basis of this experience in my little Kemetic misfits group centers around the wiki page of KO creation: Wepwawet Wiki. This is a source of information, which seems to be a haven for KO info gatherers. And now, I came to this page prior to knowing as much about KO as I do now. I didn’t use it heavily but I did think the offerings listed, like stones, were pretty nifty. At that point, I was less interested in recon so things that were a little less than historically accurate (such as soda or potato chips) weren’t so unappetizing as they can be for me now. But the ‘debate’ is at my recommendation that UPG based info (such as modern-day foods the ancients did not have) be marked in some way. I mentioned that solitaries, such as myself, may prefer the distinction based on their preference in practice, in affect UPG versus recon.

As a website that pops up in Google searches, there may be people who take it literally (I know of at least one person who has admitted to such) and I know that I fell into that prior to learning more about its inception. But all of this got me thinking about how important sources are and how it is important for those sources to be very clear and very specific about where the information comes from. Is this something that is unverified and personal gnosis, shared and personal gnosis, stems from an Egyptological tome, or is found in ancient sources discussed in an Egyptological tome? These are all aspects that we need to take into consideration because it could make or break a personal practice for solitaries. (I’m sorry, but since I am a solitary and I know quite a few Kemetic solitaries out there, while I appreciate the fact that there are groups of Kemetic Wiccans and other temples out there, this is primarily for people in similar straits as myself.) It could be the very foundation! And how would a solitary feel, discussing this stuff with someone else with like mind, only to learn that their foundation is based on someone else’s UPG?

I would personally be both horrified (because technically, aren’t I stealing?) and disappointed (because seriously, how difficult is it to claim that the information is UPG?) and vastly upset (because everything I had started was based on a lie). And I have to assume that other solitaries in my shoes would feel similarly.

So, let’s get this ball rolling…

I am a huge proponent in telling you to do some research when you start deciding you want to go Kemetic. This isn’t because I’m a bitch and I don’t want to help, but mostly due to the fact that I will not do others’ work for them but also because what I take away from a certain text may not exactly be what you take away from a certain text. I also say this because I feel (and some others like me) that in trying to get to know a new pantheon, a new religion, and a new OTHER™ the best way to go about doing this is to go to the ancient sources.

How we view a deity in today’s terms, such as Sutekh being the equivalent of the Kemetic devil or Loki in similar guise, is probably not how they were viewed in the ancient civilization and myths. While I can’t do much more than comment that it is possible, based on Sutekh’s history, that Loki is misrepresented, I can clearly say (and have) that Sutekh’s current iffy status in Kemetic practices is partially due to the vilification his appearance went through over the centuries. So, in said case with Sutekh, the older the mythos and cult status, the better off you may be in getting a full picture instead of just a slice of the picture. In other words, you could navigate across the globe with a full map of the world instead of just sticking to a map of the waterways around the Mediterranean Sea.

When you start doing research, I’m not telling you that you have to go into this with the end result being a thesis based on the pantheon, the culture, and/or the myths. What I am saying is that the more research, the better off you are. The biggest issue I tend to have when it comes to my personal practice is that there are next to no sources about how the little man, the standard ancient Egyptian John Doe, would have practiced the religion. There are, however, books, tomes, websites, and papyrus dedicated to how the clergy performed their practices. And it is on this, for the most part, that most recons are going to base their practices off of. All you have to do is start looking and take a note of the sources on the website you end up on.

Now, that’s something that you need to pay attention to: the sources. If a website has citations for their sources, you can almost entirely assume that they did at least some of the research and are telling you where else to look. Websites without such citations need to be taken with a large grain of salt. In the above case of WW Wiki, there are absolutely no sources listed whatsoever. Based on this and this alone, I am going to have to assume that most of the things listed here are based off of either unverified personal gnosis or shared personal gnosis. (The difference being that one person claims X happens with no one else claiming that this is true or multiple people claim X happens.)

This is the case in KO when they claim that you cannot offer Sutekh cool water. This is based off of something that happened in their temple or during a ceremony at some point or another and has since become the standard practice (shared personal gnosis). This is also considered, by me, to be similar to those people who claim that you should not give blood as an offering to Sekhmet: this based on their UPG. I read somewhere, I believe it was a Wiccan website actually, that she had come to a priestess or something and said that doing this was a big no-no. She has never come to me with this so I have to assume that since she enjoys my blood donations that this is UPG being claimed as “the norm.”

Now, am I claiming that UPG is an inferior way to begin working with the OTHERS™? No. I am not that kind of person. I do not believe that there is any one right way to doing all of this religion stuff. While I may scoff at someone else’s UPG in regards to how it may or may not (usually not) effect my practice that doesn’t mean I think I’m doing it any better than the person who is claiming the UPG is accurate and true. The only issue I have then is the fact that they want to make it a standard practice. In regards to the cool water offering, how in the world does that make sense? I mean, water is the basis of all life and was one of the most sacred things to give to gods in ancient Egypt, it being surrounded by a desert and dependent upon the life-giving nutrients of the Nile. (That’s pretty much the totality of why I have an issue with this cool water business.) Again, while I believe that everyone can practice however they see fit in their own way, I don’t think we should claim it as an absolute.

To each their own and all of that.

But what if you’re so new to all of this and you don’t know what you want to practice? What happens if you look at others’ blogs and posts in public fora that demonstrate how very time-consuming and occasionally head-desk a recon path can be? And that turns you off? What about all of that? Isn’t it okay to use UPG then?

The thing is that even if you aren’t sure what kind of practice you want to follow, whether it ends up as eclectic or as far from Kemetism as possible or deep in the recon thick of things, you should still do some research. This kind of goes with cultural appropriation (which I’ve discussed and won’t get back into). The thing is that some people read about a practice, think it’s neat, and usurp it for their own purposes. This was, also, common in ancient cultures as well, as clearly shown in the fact that the Egyptian pantheon picked up a few Semitic deities. However, if you just read about doing X and you don’t understand why you’re doing it, something is getting lost. Also, it would help you in future in doing the research because, at some point, someone may accuse you of cultural appropriation, which tends to base the argument that you saw something shiny and decided to add it to your practice. By, at least demonstrating where the practice came from, you could, quite possibly, make your life a little less dramatic in future. Also, in knowing where the practice comes from and how it came to be, you’ll enter a level of appreciation you may not have if you just see it and decide to use it.

Again, I’m not saying that using UPG is “wrong.” While I may point fingers when it comes to my son not picking up his toys, I don’t do that in others’ practices. Some of the parts of my practice are UPG. For example, I can’t tell you where the sudden urge to pick up a cardinal (bird) statue for Hekate came from, but I just had to do it. I’ve found the correlation after I did some research on the symbolism of the bird and whatnot, but I doubt this is something we can consider as widespread belief forms in the relationships and practices of others with Hekate. I can’t tell you if she likes stars or not, but her altar is filled with stars. Not the pentacle or pentagram, but just regular old stars. I consider that UPG, in my practice.

I think each practice should have a basis even just a basic precursor of research. If UPG comes up while you’re working with an OTHER™, then use it. They’re telling you to do it for a reason or you feel like it will make your life easier. (Such as my using Tarot and Oracle decks to communicate with my OTHERS™, I doubt that is historically accurate…) But I still think that in doing research not only will it help you to understand and feel more well-rounded in your practice, but you could surprise yourself be finding that what you thought was UPG was actually something they practiced way back when.

The last thing I want to touch upon is the mistaken belief of some people that newbies should “easily” be able to tell the difference between UPG sources and ancient sources. The statement I’m referring to, I felt, was a little over-the-top and kind of bitchy. I’m not going to represent that statement here, but in effect, the person made a remark that everyone should “be able to use basic intelligence” to differentiate between what is UPG and what is an ancient source. The problem here is that with some aspects, yes it will be very easy. We all know that the ancient world did not have diet Coke, Sun chips, and Red Bull. We can pretty much decide based on what is obvious – such as mordern day comestibles and technology – what is and is not UPG.

However, of course there was a but in there, the thing is that not everything is so obvious. The cool water example I keep using in regards to Sutekh. The blood offering example I keep using in regards to Sekhmet. These are aspects that are UPG but can be easily misconstrued as stemming from ancient sources, especially for people who are new, uncertain, and don’t know where to begin. So, while I can definitely say that using common sense is key when researching via the Internet and blog posts, if you are ever uncertain or are just curious, then ASK SOMEONE.

There are no stupid questions. Remember that when you embark down this path: there will be a lot of questions, but none of them are stupid.