You Are Not the One You Say You Are.

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

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

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

Saturn Return

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

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

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

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

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

I had faith.

I had belief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I should have fought back.

Rebirth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I did.

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

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

I should have told myself to fuck off instead.

Bees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Art of 2D Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communication

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

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

Further Reading

  1. Boat Paddling: The Second Rule of Kemeticism

The Community Drug of Choice: Popularity.

Outside of the raging drama mongering that happens amid the pagan and polytheistic communities, the actual discussions regarding the whole community shtick can get pretty intense. I’ve talked about it so often that I often feel like a broken record. However, the thing is that even though I may go on and on about it, and I may repeat myself ad nauseum about it, I really think these constant entries are going somewhere. More and more often, I am finding people who are agreeing with what myself and other boat paddlers have to say. More and more often, I am seeing newer faces reaching out with similar items to discuss as myself (and my fellow boat paddlers) on the topic. And more and more often, a shift in mentality and attitudes regarding community appears to be happening in the widespread pagan and polytheistic colonies. This is excellent. I think we’re finally making a breakthrough in the last year from “there is no community” to “there is the formation of an actual community.”

While quite often my topics tend to be regarding, more specifically, the Kemetic offshoot of the pagan umbrella, many of my words are reaching out to people beyond my specific sphere of influence. I am seeing pop culture pagans, Hellenics, Asatru, fae-specific, and various others harping on the same lack of community and what we can do to change it. As time goes by, just in the last year, I am finally beginning to see some very positive changes in many people and many peoples’ approaches to the desire for a community and what to do in order to foster that community. However, just because the changes are in the air and we seem to be beginning to get somewhere that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re over the slump we were in. On the contrary, the fact that these changes are finally making themselves known and felt means that we still have a long way to go. One of the things that I think we need to discuss is popularity.

I will admit to a certain bias against the whole popularity thing. I was never popular as a teenager. Point of fact, I was pretty universally disliked by many. While I still find myself quite puzzled by this to this day (I seemed to have been disliked from the get-go upon entering high school and didn’t actively cultivate a “fuck you” attitude until my sophomore year), I still have quite a bit of derision for many people who can qualify as “popular” in their various communities. If I get to know them on a personal basis, I tend to find my viewpoints change of them. I’ll admit it: I fall into the belief of those stereotypes for people who fall under that popular tagline. So, quite often, I will be absolutely surprised by the person behind the mask (as I would hope and assume happens to people who see me and instantly think, “loser,” about me) I believe they are wearing. However, one thing that I do find quite often with people who fall under the drug-like headiness of popularity is that they don’t really tend to do anything with it.

As a prime example, let’s take a look at the larger Tumblr pagan community.

There are many on Tumblr who are considered a type of elite caste among many of those who fall under the pagan umbrella and the more moderate polytheistic umbrella. Quite often, these are the users that are asked the most questions about various items. For whatever reason, they are given a type of popularity that could be easily conflated with the popular clique members we all remember from high school. I am not saying that they, in some instances, do not deserve this type of near idol worship. In many instances, they are quite knowledgeable in their particular fields and they are the best for answers in all manner of queries from magic to deities to divination to pop culture paganism. In each instance, quite often when even I have a question, I will scroll through these elite members’ blogs in the hopes for an answer to my [seemingly] silly question. Being people and having interests outside of their particular religious persuasion, quite often they will start posting items outside of religion, particularly in the most popular topic of Tumblr: social justice.

Even MacGyver is confused by this trend.

Even MacGyver is confused by this trend.

While I don’t feel that we should limit what we post on our blogs to simply everything relating to our religion and nothing else, I do find it quite interesting that these popular people are constantly going on about things that need some change and do very little else to see that change through. As popular people, they are looked up to and emulated. Their arguments against racism, cultural appropriation, rape culture, pro-choice, and other items are usually regurgitated all across the website. However, outside of screaming profanities or “bitching out” people who they feel are guilty of whatever particular social cause they feel strongly about, they don’t do anything else.

However, as popular faces among the Tumblr pagan community, they have the influence to do much more than complain about people who are guilty of X, Y, and Z. They have the power and the popularity to do things like letter writing campaigns to state representatives, starting petitions among like-minded individuals, and generally and actively attempting to make the changes they are so often complaining will never happen. While I’m not saying that starting these types of things isn’t going to immediately get people interested in actively working toward the changes they all are hoping to see, it will take as much hard work as the slowly, but surely growing desire for a community that isn’t full of a huge pile of rotten dicks.

But, appearances are everything and the appearances of those elite members seems to be this: they have a pretty face, some nice words, and they spew those aspects into the Internet ether. They do not use their popularity for good, but just sit around and let it boost up their egos.

Here’s the thing, if people like Galina Krasskova can openly infer that she has causes that she supports, then why in the world am I not seeing that with other elite people? I don’t even really like Ms. Krasskova, especially after the drama regarding the pop culture pagan debate. However, I have to admit that it’s a little interesting that she at least has gotten the clue about what to do with your popularity: use it for some good. While it’s possible that not everyone who visits her links page finds an active cause to work with or to donate to, those links at least are there for the offing. And while I didn’t find too many posts regarding the causes she has listed, there were some post regarding different political interests.

Why is it okay to whine and moan about misuse of things and not attempting to assist or make changes? Why is it impossible for people to step away from the computer and go to a protest? How come we are more interested in pointing out where people are wrong and not in trying to make the changes throughout the nation so that those people who are wrong become fewer and fewer?

I’ll tell you what. I’m not popular in the pagan umbrella and I think my page counter is completely wrong. Be that as it may, I am also guilty of not mentioning (here) about the active causes that I support. I will tell you what I do, however, in order to effect the change that I want to see. I donate blood every three months. I use Planned Parenthood for all of my heath services. I donate money when I can. I stay up all night watching a gutsy Texas senator attempt a filibuster. I donate my junked cars to children’s cancer societies. I sign petitions for pro-choice items. I give clothes to a place affiliated with a battered women shelter. I would go to rallies if they had them in my half of the state and if I buy a new car, one day, I hope I can make it to one in Boston. I vote for people who have my interests. I donate food items and money (if possible) to my local, no-kill shelters. I do spells and pray against the conservative GOP. I’m hoping to (one day) open up a rape survivor support group for women and men to have a safe place. I post news links on my Facebook feed and on my Tumblr feed in the hopes that someone else will see what is going on in the world at large and in our country, take up another pitch fork alongside mine, and go to town.

I don’t have the clout some of these other BNPs and Tumblr elite have, but I do what I can, when I can, to help facilitate the changes that I want to see in the world my son will be growing up in.

And just as a reminder, even the both loved and hated Ke$ha uses her popularity for something other than singing about having some fun.

Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Finding Balance.

Seriously. This is me, in front of my laptop, like every day.

Seriously. This is me, in front of my laptop, like every day.

Every day, I open up my laptop with the intention of adding a bit to any number of my various drafted blog entries. I wake up in the morning, full of ideas and insights that weren’t there the night before. And I have the intention – the good, good intention – of adding yet more food for this blog and its readers. When nothing gets accomplished in the morning for all very good reasons, like my son waking up too early or the ideas not coming to fruition for whatever reason or feeling like warmed over death, I decide that I will come home and do all the things that I need to do. But, when I get home there are yet more very good reasons as to why I can’t get the time in to write a new blog entry or add to the ones that I have planned. All of these reasons are wonderful and fantastic and they are legitimate in many instances – such as the day before yesterday when I came home and snuggled with my not-feeling-so-hot son and then fell asleep for nearly twelve hours. That’s a pretty good reason, but it doesn’t help me or what I’m trying to accomplish. And as I sit here with The Breakfast Club in the background, I am still faced with the exact same issue I had yesterday, the day before that, the day before that, and the day before that. I have content that I want to get out there – whoosh – but I just have all of these very good reasons as to why nothing comes of it.

While pondering this lack of energy this morning, I began to wonder if I was getting sick with something. My son was ill with a kind of stomach bug the last two days that left him listless, cranky, and napping throughout the day. Some of my symptoms were similar: listless, cranky, and desiring to sleep a lot. This line of thought made me, jokingly, decided I was suffering from mono or something. However, I have to admit that I don’t really get sick. I have a bi-yearly chest cold that comes around because I am a smoker. (Yes, everyone; I kill myself one nicotine-filled drag at a time.) But aside from that, I really don’t get sick very often. And I have to, also, admit that I have no way to actually contract mononucleosis so that’s definitely not an adequate cause to whatever listlessness has been plaguing me in recent weeks.

My thought train, on the way to work, shifted back to the thought that perhaps I am suffering from depression. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to do and after my weekend-filled fit Memorial Day Weekend, things have been pretty much on the up-and-up. All in all, if this is a depression thing, I legitimately can’t figure out what the cause would be. I can usually, after a bit, figure out what the cause is. I’m fairly good at doing reviews over my mental health and figuring out what any cause to any oddity in emotional output or mental output that I may have. Years of suffering from depression have aided me here in being able to pinpoint, fairly quickly, what it is that is happening to me at any given moment. And I have to admit that while I did my minute check this morning on the drive to work, I had to come up empty-handed. Things aren’t perfect in my life – not by a long stretch – and there are bits of connections that have been burned to keep myself sane enough to salvage things at a later date in time. However, even without those intense connections, I can say that depression isn’t the cause of all of this.

Whatever it is that has been causing my lackadaisical practice lately has nothing to do with depression or illness. While blogging isn’t necessarily a key portion to my religious practice it is, in fact, a decent part of it. I have a compulsive need to get the information out there, not just for my own records but also for the edification of everyone who reads this blog. It was something I had decided on when I began working on this religious path to begin with, when I decided to start a blog for that path, specifically. So, really, the issue here isn’t a matter of not having the energy, not having enough spoons, not being able to get the words to come forth and whoosh into the world for myself and others. There’s an issue with the religious path itself or something related to it in some form. If I can’t get the words out to discuss what I’m doing or to instruct others in things, then there’s got to be some bigger picture thing that is impacting me.

I have to admit that I think one of the most difficult aspects to having a new religious practice is that you don’t necessarily turn to that religious practice when either your life massively implodes with all of the things that can make it do so or when your life is calm, cool, and quiet. I know that I am guilty of this and I also know that I am not the only one. I’ve gone on, and recently, about how we need to prevent major hiccups in our lives from allowing us to continue our practice. The thing is that just because you know you should continue to turn to your gods – even as the Christians can and will do – it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to maintain it. There’s a lot of hard work and energy one must put into the relationships we have with the gods and in some instances, we don’t think that maintaining our relationships when things are too huge is necessary. Or, in same vein, we don’t have the energy or drive. Or, we are too distracted by those major hiccups to even give the time of day to the gods. Or, in this particular instance, when things are so even-flow and quiet, we need to remember that the gods are around and what we do to maintain those relationships with those gods is just as important now as it was a week ago, two weeks ago, last year…

We just need to stop getting complacent, I think. And I think it’s complacency that is my problem here. I’ve been so complacent with my practice and what I do to maintain it that I always just figured it would just, well, be there. I could have major hiccups and minor hiccups or no hiccups at all and everything – the gods, the practice, the fulfillment – would just be there, waiting, for when I was ready to come back.

The problem is that there is no guide book, no manual on how to do these things. Many of us will look to the ancients for some kind of indication of what we need to do and how we need to do it. (Obviously, not everyone does this because not everyone is recon-oriented.) We will comb through our sources and try to find some indication of exactly what living in ma’at is all about and how we can bring this remote, un-American, un-English, un-Western idea into a land of possibilities, of realizations, of actualities. The thing is that we can look to the ancients as much as we want. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be some ah-ha moment and everything will click into place. And point of fact, many of us are trying to utilize this whole living in ma’at concept from the layman’s perspective. For the layman ancient Egypt, it wasn’t a philosophical practice; it wasn’t something to be discussed. It just was. But we modern-day practitioners are not so lucky in being able to accept it just being and therefore, doing it. We have to think, to ponder, to decide, to theologize, to philosophize, and to finally decide what it is to each one of us. When we finally get to the point where we can finally say, it is this thing, to us, then we get to enter the realm of magically putting it into practice.

And for me, living in ma’at is what I’ve been discussing in these range of posts: it is doing before thinking; it is action items; but above all, it is a balancing act. And there in lies the very issue, the very point to this post: I’m not balance. I have found an imbalance and this particular one has to do with my religious practice – the blogging, the grave-tending, the rituals, the heka, the celebrations, the educating – taking a significant down swing.

And it shouldn’t.

I can come up with a rash of excuses off of the top of my head to explain why it is my religious life that is the down swing now. I can tell you about how busy my life is, which it is. My work life has taken off to the point where I am exceptionally busy every second that I am at work. There are many, many new projects that have finally come down the ever looming pipe line to plop into my life. I’ve taken on more responsibility now and that is also a part of it. My relationship nearly dissolved because of a lack of communication and a lack of spending time with one another (among other personal items) and that was just not okay. My personal life, specifically the life I am weaving with my significant other, has taken on a more important role and cuddling, talking, bonding, and making stupid jokes with one another has taken a seriously important place in my life as well. I am constantly busy, thinking of ways to keep our relationship on track with an ever-present fear that things will go back to the way they were and I will be alone. All of these items could be considered acts of my religious life and if I’m looking into what living in ma’at actually is then they are all aspects of it. But they don’t feel like they are part of my religious life: my significant other does not share my religious life with me in any way (being an agnostic) and my work life is difficult to incorporate into my religious practice (even with Djehuty being the de facto god of telecommunications) because my boss is very, very Christian.

What have I laid out here, folks?

Excuses.

I have to admit that they are pretty good ones, but it comes right on down to being yet more excuses for something that is a problem.

And let’s face it, this whole imbalance is a complete problem. If it’s so prevalent that it is preventing me from being able to spend time with my blog – my beautiful, wonderful, heartfelt project – then I have a very serious issue. But, what makes this issue even worse is that I didn’t realize there were problems coming down the turnpike until I had begun to manifest issues with my blogging. This says to me that while I may inculcate that ma’at is a form of balance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have been able to work on exactly how that balance works. And this is something that not only do I have to start working on, but I think there are other Kemetics who have been in similar situations or who are currently in similar situations who also need to figure out exactly how to balance one part of our lives with the other.

The first step, I would say, would be to stop disassociating the two, three, or four aspects of our lives. Somehow, Christians have been able to incorporate their beliefs into their work lives, their personal lives, the educational lives, and their religious lives. While not every single one of them are successful in melding them into a functional format, I know that there are some who have easily been able to overcome this task – maybe not easily, but at least have done it – and are living fulfilling lives across the board. So, how does a person who belongs to a very minor religious movement begin to balance out everything and mesh into something workable, functional, and in some cases, quietly so as to prevent being fired or ostracized?

I haven’t figured that part out yet. But, when I do, I’ll be sure to tell you.

Related Posts

  1. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at.
  2. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at II.

Once More, With Feeling.

Anon, I say; to the shenans!

Anon, I say; to the shenans!

I think one of the hardest and most common of things that pagan bloggers discuss is the community thing. These entries are difficult because we’re trying to throw items out there to a wide, non-inclusive environment to get the community ball rolling. And this topic comes up about once a month in the pagan blogosphere, making it probably one of the hottest topics out there. I’m not joking when I say that I’ve harped on this topic quite a few times and so have numerous others of my friends on their blogs. Frankly, I think we all get tired of writing about it and I bet that the readers get tired of hearing about it. The problem with this attitude, from both perspectives, is the fact that we need to discuss these items as often as we do because, more and more, we are hearing and reading of other pagans’ deep held desire for a community feel to their practices. But, unfortunately, just as often, we end up hearing and reading attitudes, platitudes, and regurgitated word vomit from others, whether they be a Big Name Pagan or otherwise, that denote just how low on the priority list fostering a community is.

And this is a problem for myself and for all of the members in my integral, core community.

The pagan community is not allowed to have nice things.

The pagan community is not allowed to have nice things.

This morning, I woke up to a blog entry that was making the rounds because my friend, Devo, was featured in it. The title immediately put me off, though there are probably people out there who would or will get a kick out of it. “Saturday is Now Pagan Fight Night” by Sannion is an attempt at either trying to commute the hot-headed debates that went around because of his commentary on pop culture paganism or to continue to get hits on the blog without original content. In either case, this is yet another sterling example of just the type of over-the-top, childish, and ridiculous behavior people like Devo fight against when they start fostering community. On a more personal opinion regarding this debacle, I find this on the same level as my five-year-old son’s attempt at misbehaving to garner attention. In my son’s case, however, I know he will learn a lesson, but in this case… maybe not.

The actual point here is that Sannion is a bad cookie and as a supposed Big Name Pagan should be held accountable for his behavior. However, maybe he shouldn’t be. In response to ginandjack‘s comments on that iconic PCP morass of his, Sannion straightforwardly explains, “I think I’ve made it pretty clear over the years that I don’t consider most pagans to be my co-religionists.” This is borne out in his “what’s the point” entry, in which he states, “I mentioned that I am a fundamentalist in that I believe that the gods exist and they are many and anyone who believes otherwise is wrong. End of debate.” By his own words, he is not a part of our community. And as I’ve mentioned here, assholes need not apply to my community.

I think on occasions like this, of which more will come down the turnpike, we need to all re-think what our responses will be. I’m sure that, in this particular childish moment of Sannion’s, more and more bloggers will begin to comment as it hits the pagan gossip trail and more people decide how they feel about this particular instance. And while I think being honest about your opinions and feelings is important and necessary, I think that the bloggers in question need to be held accountable for their actions. I think they should be shamed and humiliated for seeking the lowest common denominators and jumping on that particular raft of ridiculous wholeheartedly.

Justice must be done!

Justice must be done!

Instead of staying up and requesting clarification to posts that are pretty obvious in their content, I.E. the “I’m right and you’re wrong” variety, we need to explain to them that we will not stand for such behavior from people who are touted as “hot shit” in the community. Just as we hold our children accountable for misbehaving, so too should we do so from people who would paint us all with a bad name. We need to make it quite clear that they will not receive any sort of positive reviews from us, that we will not send practitioners with questions in their direction, that we will not assist or foster “debates” with them regarding whatever subject matter, and that we will not tolerate gross behavior from people who will be lumped within the same pagan category as us [by outsiders].

I think we all need to pay attention to behaviors like this as a kind of telltale sign of what not to do when you want to foster a community, but I also don’t think we should allow such ridiculous behavior to continue unchecked. By allowing such things, we are complete misrepresenting what the pagan umbrella is about and what it is that we want from our religion. We are also giving yet more fodder for the larger religions to continue to treat open pagan practitioners with contempt and bigotry. And at the very, very least, we are teaching future generations of pagans and polytheists that it is quite all right to be a dick.

So, to review, being a jerk is not okay. We need to make it quite clear that this behavior will not be tolerated. Also, behaving like you’re some pagan version of a reality television show is not okay. And treating people like they’re fodder for your personal amusement is not okay. As a group of people who have our own demons to fight on a daily basis, it is perfectly okay to call someone out on their monstrous ego and explain to them that this is not okay, will not be tolerated, and should be frowned upon by the larger community.

Pop Culture Paganism.

Disclaimer: This is one of those posts that will piss someone off, somewhere.

My son has this really ridiculous habit of requesting people refraining from doing something because he doesn’t like it. My son is five, so I get these ridiculous requests quite often. In every instance, I’m sure to say a variant of the following, “Is it hurting you? Is it hurting other people?” The answer, in each case, is that whatever he wants someone to stop doing is definitely not hurting him or anyone else he knows. It is at that point that I point out to him that not only is whatever it is not hurting him, but that it doesn’t impact him in any way. He gets the point but the ultimate lesson of “mind yo’ beeswax” is kind of lost on him because he’s five.

The reason I mention this is because this is all I can see with the sudden influx of pop culture paganism (henceforth, PCP) debates goin’ round the blogosphere. In those instances, I am instantly thrown back to a moment where I am continuously attempting to teach my son to mind his own business. Whenever someone starts waving around, pointing fingers, and generally being an asshole about PCPs and their practice, this is all I can see and think. However, instead of an adorable five-year-old’s face with two missing front teeth, I see the pagan sphere as a kind of overblown version of that iconic movies scene of torches and pitchforks, each citizen intent on catching Frankenstein’s monster. Only in this instance, the form of this legendary beast has suddenly taken the form of the not-so-mythic pop culture pagans (henceforth, PCPs) and the egregore that they have relationships with.

So, someone please explain to me how in the world whatever they are practicing is bringing harm to the very people so outspoken against it? Someone please explain to me how in the world whatever they are practicing is bringing harm to the pagan hemisphere in any context? If I were in an auditorium, I would literally poll every single person sitting in front of me. Unless PCPs’ practices are going to cause imminent danger to you or to someone you know, then frankly, shut the fuck up about it. I hate to break it to everyone whining against the practices therein but since they are not going to bring harm to you or to others, then they are not doing a damn thing that impacts you in any way, shape, or form. And as I tell my kid on a nearly daily basis, “Mind yo’ beeswax.”

We are fighting so hard against each other that we are forgetting that there are more important things at stake than who can or should practice what. We are so focused on the in-fighting between ourselves that we forget that we should be uniting and presenting that united face against the world at large. We are already considered crazy by many and child-molesting, animal-sacrificing dunderheads at worst. And yet, we can’t even unite long enough to win any form of legitimate acceptance in the world, at large. There are still people who are having their homes attacked as well as people who have been killed for being a practicing pagan. And yet, those of us who are privileged enough to live in an area of the world where a general acceptance of our practices are so fucking focused on PCPs and what they do that they need to write endlessly long, rambling, wordy posts about it?

Get the fuck over yourselves.

Get the fuck over the fact that people are different.

Get the fuck over the fact that each person can practice in their own way.

By excluding an entire section of paganism, you are doing the community you are praising so highly a severe disservice. Not only are you, possibly, pushing away future converts to paganism who are interested in PCP, but you are also removing the very real possibility of another part of the community that you may actually need some day. One day, we may all get together and start demanding that we be taken seriously, with placards waving and legal protests organized against the Christianization of a nation that was not founded on any one religion. And the pagan with the placard beside you may just end up being one of those PCPs you’ve been ranting and raving about on the Internet. No imagine that fake protest without them there, another sect pulls up stakes and disavows its pagan roots because too many assholes made them feel unwanted in a fractured, immature community that is nowhere near where it should be.

Those PCPs that you are busy offending could be the very reason we get accepted as a legitimate religion, one day.

Not only are you behaving childishly, clique-like, and foolishly when you are so busy ranting about what they do, which is not hurting you, but you are bringing to mind a very “interesting” subsection of American culture. They are also very exclusionary… They wear ugly white robes and have a thing for placing burning crosses on people’s lawns. I’ll let you think about my vague metaphor a moment and then mention yet another exclusionary branch of humanity. They also wore pointy hats, but their uniforms tended toward green and they had a thing about racial purity. Only instead of placing burning crosses on people’s lawns, they killed millions of whomever they deemed as undesirable.

While I would like to assume that my fellow pagan “community” wouldn’t go so far as all of that, one never knows. The propaganda against PCPs and their practices has already been written. The nasty PR is already gumming up the works and painting what was once a clear issue – don’t be a dick – with Vaseline and smearing it all up to hell. And all because a bunch of people don’t particularly care for how someone else practices their religion. (As someone from Massachusetts, I have to admit that this story sounds oh, so familiar. I wonder why.)

And as I made it quite clear in my head covering post about the drama from last year,

I came into paganism because I was sick and tired of the Abrahamic faiths making decisions about me and my body and my soul without my consent. Yep. That’s why I started out down this road. I loved the freedom that I’ve learned and discovered in paganism. And now as time goes by, I find myself more and more not wanting to do anything in this “community” because it’s turning into the exact same shit as I found when I was a fucking Christian. Before I know it, I’m going to have BNPs (big name pagans) telling me if I can get an abortion, use birth control, vote for the next presidential candidate, etc. And that really just doesn’t fly with me. The whole point, to me, in this practice is to be able to do what I decide is proper in my spiritual practice. And if that means that I feel the need to wear a white bandana on my head when I’m communing with the lwa, then so be it. If that means that I have to go running around naked under the full moon, then so be it. If that means that I have to tap dance to the National Fucking Anthem while touching my nose and patting my stomach, then so be it. This is my religious path and what I do is my fucking business. That’s what makes it MINE.

And that goes for anybody else who is a practicing pagan.

Their path, their rules.

So, metaphoric pagan police, just stop worrying about how this portrays the “community at large.” There isn’t a fucking community, at large. If we’re all so worried about what the hell other people are doing in their practice, long enough to write those blog entries about it, then we’re forgetting that we should be out doing instead of thinking. If we’re all so worried about what’s going on in the obviously fulfilling practice of those PCPs, then we’re forgetting about what the hell we need to do for our own practices. By writing all of those damn words lambasting a sub sect of paganism, then there are some things that your practice are not fulfilling since you can spend that much time being worried about public sentiment and others’ belief systems.

Get over yourselves.

Stop thinking about what other people are doing.

Stop worrying about how that may, one day, impact you.

If you’re so interested in community, foster one instead of being a dick wheel to someone who you don’t like or whose practice differs so largely for your own.

Get off your high horse and go do something productive for once.

And above all, don’t forget that their religious practice in their own and impacts you in no way.

Their path, their rules.

Kemetic Round Table: Little People.

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.

A lot of people get stuck on the dream of becoming a big name pagan (BNP). I think the reason behind this is because they have ideas and those ideas are good ones, and so, those good ideas should make them famous while they enact them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually a good choice of person to look up to or to have been made famous. Since they put on the air of solicitous BNP while in public, we just can’t know what that person’s daily devotions and personal practice is like. Just because they were able to publish a book doesn’t necessarily mean they really are what’s good for the community; they’re just the loudest. The thing is that we get so focused on what the big names are doing that we forget that every Kemetic is just as important in the grand scheme of things. Just because someone has a name that you’ve heard thrown around the forums a few times doesn’t necessarily mean that they are living in ma’at and effecting a lifestyle of living that way.

I think pagans, and Kemetics in our little sliver of it, get caught up in the glitter and polish of BNPs. Maybe it’s the fact that, individually, we all have fandoms that we obsess over. And we bring that to the table of our Kemetic practices. So, in a way, we bring our obsessive fandom qualities to our religion and we obsess over the people who spout out the things we think and feel. Thing is, as I said, we don’t know what their practices are really like. None of us have a bird’s-eye view of how they practice. We can only see glimpses of those practices in blog posts and in the books that they publish or discussions at the ‘cons that they go to. We can only guess if they really are as they portray themselves to be or if they are big, fat liars. Besides, just because they were able to publish words that make you go, “hey, this is what my religion is about,” doesn’t make them an expert. It just makes them more qualified at writing things down and more qualified to talk at those ‘cons.

The thing is that we’re forgetting that the whole population of our religion is important. We forget that it’s not just about the people who have their names on books and have the most followers on Tumblr. This religion is about all of us – it is a communal affair. While community is an issue, in an of itself, for numerous reasons I’ve already complained about, the one thing we can all do to make sure things are going smoothly is to say, “fuck that noise,” and stop quasi-worshiping those who have spoken the loudest. We can look up to them. We can ask them for advice. But, in the grand scheme of things, they are as important in this religion as everyone else, perhaps less so because they are louder. This isn’t just a religion of people who are de facto pharaoh and the priesthood, but it is also a religion about the people. And we – the little people – are those people.

In a way, perhaps, we are even more important than the priesthood and the pharaohs because, it is through us and our actions that things begin to solidify to form a cohesive practice. It is through us that people are made aware that this religion is alive again. It is through us and our questions, our comments, and our thoughts that the gods are remembered, the gods are seen again. And while the priesthood and the pharaoh were all the rage back in the day, things had changed to include the little people and their practices into the fold. Their belief, their actions, their devotions had become part of the practice and so, too, our devotions become part of the revivivalist and reconstructionist movements. And in same vein, you can possibly begin to see that while the big people and their huge acts may be what keeps the sun from falling out of the sky and may prevent the Nun from destroying creation, it is through us that things are finally getting done.

The one thing we need to constantly remind ourselves about in this practice, to remind people that its the little people as well as the big people that are important, is that it is the act of doing and not thinking the keeps this religion alive. It’s nice and wonderful to have philosophical discussions on texts we find regarding our gods. It is nice and wonderful to randomly plan possible future events in which a bunch of Kemetics get together to stomp some mud in a devotional act. It is wonderful and beautiful to be able to bond with people, usually over the Internet, who have similar desires and beliefs as you, as well as to be able to get a perspective that may be a little different. All of these things are lovely and nice, but they go against the point in the religion.

Our religion is an orthopraxy, which means we need to have correct action. Or as I’ve said above, and I’ve said elsewhere, we need to stop thinking about and we need to actually do it. We need to step away from the computer screen, step away from the meet ups, step away from the blogs, step away from the BNP books, and step away from one another to create a practice. And in so doing, instead of constantly debating and thinking and wondering, it means you are actually going to have to get up and do. It means that you’re going to have to actively worship your ancestors. It means you are going to have to actively worship your gods. It means you are going to have to pray, cry, rage, and laugh with you gods. It means you are going to execrate. It means you are going to get off of your ass for five minutes and toss a pre-made bread into the oven as a devotional act or that you are going to go outside, lay on the ground, and think about Geb and Tefnut for a while. Whatever it is to you to get out and do, then that is what this religion is all about.

And that’s something that the BNPs don’t necessarily tell. That’s something that those of us who have been at this for a while may discuss amongst ourselves, but we may not tell the new people about. And that’s something we need to stop. This isn’t a stand back and see what happens kind of religion while you profess beliefs on the Internet. This is a get up, go out, and go do some fucking devotional work for fifteen minutes to all day kind of a religion. And it’s in that: the telling of the neophytes as well as our just doing that can make this whole thing a lot easier. It would leave out the need for those people who talk the loudest and it would make this religion about the people, about us. And really, if that’s not the point to having a religion, then what is?

Calming manatee is a messenger from the gods. Source.

Calming manatee is a messenger from the gods. Source.

If you need suggestions, I’m here. I’ll give you some. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m here. I’ll tell you. If you’re worried you’re going to do it wrong, stop it. We could all be doing something wrong and does it matter? The point of this religion is the acts themselves and the belief that goes into those acts – the belief that you are maintaining ma’at, using appropriate heka, and just doing something – that is the most important aspect here. The doubt and worry can come out later and you know what? I’ll be here with my Tumblr fanmail open or my asks open or you can E-mail me or send me a comment. And I’ll tell you what calming manatee will want you to know and we can laugh about it later.

Dye Mon, Gen Mon.

Beyond the mountains, more mountains.

I talk about community and the need for one a lot on this blog. In the last year, I have had no less than one entry a month that has some variation on my message regarding the forging of a community. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve finally realized what it is to have a community and why one would need to have one. For most of my life, I’ve been the loner, the outsider, the wallflower. I’ve had friends of course, but I’ve only usually had about one or two people who I could speak with regarding my personal, heartfelt items. It’s not that I’m not social or unable to maintain friendships; I’m just very solitary, introverted, and remote by nature. But, with the forging of my Kemetic community (plus two non-Kemetics) that I’ve realized what it actually meant to have one? And it’s only been with the information Papa Legba dropped in my lap that I’ve realized how important that community is.

Without my community, I honestly don’t know if I’d be nearly as expressive, open, or able to have the religion that I do. I mean, I think I would have kept forging with the basic, “fuck people,” attitude that infused my soul when the tC drama happened last May. But without the encouragement of Devo, Sard, Helms, Dusken, L, Rei, and Jo who are my core components to my community*, then I don’t know if I’d be as far along with this Kemeticism thing as I am today. And honestly, without the knowledge of what a community, a small one within a large one, could offer me, I don’t think I’d be able to understand ma’at as clearly as I do today, either. Without that community, I could not live in ma’at and as much as I’d prefer to have my larger Kemetic community within driving distance, or even my smaller core group within driving distance, the online Kemetic community we’ve forged works well for me.

* This isn’t to denigrate my relationships with the others in that private Facebook group we all belong to – the one that I literally think of when I’m talking of my community at large. But as I mentioned, I’ve only ever gone to a handful of people in my group of friends with items, just as I’m sure the others in that group do with one another, and the ones listed above are my trouble shooters, my cheer leading team, and my closest boat paddlers.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a personal project Papa Legba has wanted me to get going on. I haven’t really had to do much for it because, well, he’s pretty liberal about time frames. As he’s told me before, since I’m not an initiate, things don’t move as swiftly as they would for initiates of a sosyete. I still have to do what it is he wants of me, but the time frame can be more in tune with my personal time frame than a “do it now” time frame that some people have had come from him. I’m blessed in that, I suppose. I’m sure there are a few people who have relationships with the lwa who would like to see such happen with them. The thing is, he’s been pushing a bit about the personal project lately. And I’ve been kind of trying to work it out before I get going.

For two days, I dreamed about driving on a highway. The first dream, I was driving down a highway/tollway with TH. We were just driving and enjoying the day when we came to the toll booth. It was three dollars and I pulled four quarters out of my pocket, placing them in the tape deck in my car (yes, my car is old enough for a tape deck, but it also has a CD player, so) to partially pay our toll. TH threw two dollar bills in the direction of the money catch pocket, which blew away in the wind and off we went. The next night, I dreamed about driving down a highway alone, both at night and during the day. I knew these were messages from Papa Legba as I went to bed, requesting his advice about things and wearing his sacred jewelry to aid me in my dreaming foray.

While pondering the dreams yesterday, I went into my little head space where I can easily meet with gods and lwa. Papa Legba was there, looking like he was some guru. He had his legs crossed and was wearing a white sheet in toga fashion. It highlighted how dark his skin really is. And he smiled at me, his eyes only partially closed. And I said to him, “I could do it now. I could become an initiate now and it would lend weight to our project.” There was more to it because, really, in this place, I rarely speak aloud and neither does he. So it was all conveyed via feelings and imagery, but it works better if I utilize words when I’m telling my story.

But the conversation went something like this,

Papa Legba shakes his head and says, “You will not have a community here.”

And I stare at him, shocked and annoyed. “But why would you do that to me? I finally figure out what it means to have one and you’re telling me that it doesn’t correlate with this shit?”

He sighs heavily at me, trying to convey that he feels the horror and pain that is sparring inside of me. “That’s not your work. That’s not what I want.”

Sniffing back snot and tears, I growl, “But it can be so very lonely.”

He looks up as though asking Bondye for direction here. I’ve always been a whiner and a baby, and I think that irritates him sometimes or maybe, it just hurts him that someone as childlike and naïve as me is someone he has to work with. “Honey-child, the bigger picture is more important than friendships.” And that is when I cry, curling in on my stomach where the pain hurts the most. “Not every path is one that you can walk with others,” he tells me sagely.

I sit up slowly, trying to catch his eye but he’s ignoring my glower. Or, maybe, he’s trying to ignore the tears and snot that streak my face. “Then why have a religion, at all? Why bother having a religion in the first place?”

And he sighs his long-suffering sigh and murmurs, “You always ask the hard questions.”

My day, yesterday, was not a good one. After learning that I’m not allowed to forge a community with other established people on this voodoo path, I got very angry and upset. I felt like all of the work I’ve been putting into the Kemetic community has been for naught. It really doesn’t correlate in all honesty. What I do with one section of my practice has little to nothing to do with the other, unless we’re talking the dedication I bring to both. And in this, it is my dedication that he requires for his work, but that’s not the totality of it.

The work Papa Legba has in store for me has more to do with solitaries, which is why he chose me. As much community as I have in the Kemetic community, I am still de facto a solitary practitioner. And I think it was that title, more than anything else, that drew him to me. Maybe it was always just my loner spirit, my quiet, my introversion, my wallflower persona that made him come to me. It doesn’t matter what the specific reason. On the one hand, it’s nice to know that being so alone and constantly on the sidelines is a good asset and one that he’s wanted in someone for a while. Not only can I bring solitary and dedication to this, I can also bring the tenacity as well as Sekhmet’s inner strength. If those aren’t all an excellent mix for what he wants, then he chose wrong.

And I don’t think he chose wrong.

So, that’s the project. I’m not here to make friends. I’m not here to become initiated. I am not here to twiddle my thumbs. I am on this path because he requires a loud-mouthed, fast-talking solitary practitioner who is willing to explain things, to teach others. That is what the lwa want. They appear to want to branch out, which is borne out in how many people have come to me asking about the lwa, in general and in specific. They want more and I am only a servant able to provide.

In other words…

I have work to do.

And as the title indicates, I can climb over as many mountains as I want, but there will always be another mountain to climb.

“Just When You Thought It was Safe to Go Back in the Water…”

Note: The title a quote from Jaws by Peter Benchley.

While I will tell anyone who asks – and those who don’t – that my favorite horror movie is The Thing, circa 1982, I have quite a few that I can classify easily as “my favorite.” One of the top contenders that has to fight with Kurt Russell, aliens, and the Antartic is the summer thriller, Jaws. It came out eight years before I was born and it would be another twelve years before I saw it for the first time. I read the book first before renting it – because I’m a snob like that – and while I still have moments where I try to point out items in the book that were not in the movie to the television screen, I still really enjoy the movie. It scares me still – unlike The Thing, unfortunately – because there is just that primal fear of not knowing what will get you if you’re swimming in the ocean. And the best part is that they hardly, if ever, show the fucking shark so it’s that much scarier.

So, what the hell does this movie have to do with anything? Why am I writing about this?

I rented the movie for three bucks last night and started watching it. I was mulling over all the various community posts going around (links below) and I was watching the movie, looking for mindless oblivion before I went to sleep. And you know what I realized? The whole fucking movie is an excellent metaphor for this community shit. If you haven’t watched the movie, then you really aren’t going to understand what I’m talking about, but I’m going to go ahead and explain it anyway… and hope someone has seen the movie and understands where I’m coming from.

The movie is about this giant shark – a great white – that starts to terrorize a small island community. There’s no telling where it came from or why it chose the water of Amity Island, Massachusetts. The feeding grounds were plenty, it being high summer and the islanders’ main income in the form of tourist dollars added to the feeding frenzy. In the movie, technically, only a few people die. However, that’s still more than your average shark since, you know, statistics show that there’s an average of 78 unprovoked shark attacks a year. And the worst is that the knowledge base of sharks is still fledgling so how do you kill an ancient killing machine? The heroes manage, of course, because books and movies aren’t very good if you don’t have heroes. There are three heroes in this movie and while those three heroes were more anti-hero in the book, they’re still pretty fucking heroic.

And I’m watching this movie, getting cold chills up and down my spine from the excellent orchestral notes we all associate with Jaws just as much as I’m getting them from realizing the metaphor for the pagan community at large, the polytheist community at minor, and the Kemetic community at clique. And that’s what really threw me last night before my mind decided it had too much thinking going on. I was watching a cult classic and its association with my religious life was horrifically accurate. No one should be able to watch any kind of movie, classic or otherwise, and find out that it has any parallel on your life. I think it may even be worse if you realize that this prolific horror movie mirrors your religious life. Your religious life shouldn’t mirror anything, but for some fucking reason, paganism has decided it’s going to do this thing anyway.

Look at my excellent text-based paint skills in action.

Look at my excellent text-based paint skills in action.

I think the movie poster, as seen above with a few additions, can greatly surmise what I’m getting at for those not quite aware. This movie poster is about as iconic as they come and just about everyone has seen it at some point or another. (Or else, I’m a really great, huge nerd and never realized how big of a nerd I was for knowing what iconic movie posters look like.)

At the top, we have the innocent victim, swimming happily in the ocean. She is completely unaware of what lurks beneath her. And while most of us “boat paddlers” are usually in a boat, maybe we want to take a dip to cool off from all of the hard work we’ve been busy doing. (My job isn’t so much to just paddle, but to also man the coconut missiles when my fellow boat paddlers are under siege) So, there we are doing our boat paddling best to forge a community amid a bunch of over-defended (read: highly sarcastic) people and lurking beneath is the mob mentality of the pagan community. And that mob mentality is getting ready to shoot through the water, black eyes rolled back in its head. And then, the feeding frenzy on those of us trying, trying, trying so damn hard with tears in our eyes amid the stone wall defenses of our “fellow man” can begin.

The thing about this mob mentality is that most people don’t seem to realize how very detrimental it can be. They claim that those of us who are so busy paddling our boats and calling for reason are “tone policing.” As my mother used to say when I was a child, modulate your tones. While this link is specific to Feminism, it pretty much correlates entirely with what people are complaining about us boat paddlers. “You want us to express ourselves in a pleasant manner? Fuck that!” That’s really not what we’re talking about, in its entirety. Yes, we would like it if people paid more attention to all of their heka, which includes what the fuck you’re saying on the Internet. But, I’m not just discussing this from a Kemetic perspective; I’m also looking at this from a pagan and polytheist generalized community perspective, so I know that my discussion of heka may fly over some people’s head.

It’s not so much that we want you to push your volume button down a few notches; we’d prefer it if you did that with your vitriol. Tone arguments aside, the point is not so much that you’re fucking yourself over by being the loudest asshole out there – and one day, people will realize what a fucking asshole you are with your petty Internet flame wars – but that you are fucking all of us over with your hate speech. And really? By attacking a neophyte for making a mistake, by turning to personal attacks when someone comments on a theological essay that no longer works for her, by degrading the conversation into a huge fucking feeding frenzy (KILL ALL THE NEWBS), you are fucking everyone over in the community. When we petition others to take us seriously, all they’ll see is the in-fighting and angst between all of us and say, “Pffft. You’re not a real religion; you are nothing but petty teenagers in a clique, looking to bully everyone who doesn’t believe as you.”

And where will we be?

As Sard pointed out in her post, we’ll be dead.

But let’s back up because we’re not all dead, yet. Let’s get back to tone policing.

If tone policing was the only thing we wanted people to do, then we’d be no better than the concern trolls mentioned in the Feminism link I provided. But, we’re not just concern trolls. We are people who are legitimately worried by the in-fighting and hatred we see on a daily basis. Community is something that people have to work at. Everyone seems fully cognizant of this fact, but no one seems to realize that petty flame wars, personal attacks, and degrading relationships aren’t going to do a fucking thing to help the community. It will only make it worse. The other problem is that, obviously, people aren’t really paying attention to anything that we say. We have entire listed explanations, possibilities, answers, and thoughts on the topic, but they take the most minute point that we have made and blow it out of proportion.

That way, they can deflect our finger pointing and attack us with our pants down, so to speak.

And in those moments, those people so worried about our tone policing may swell their ranks a little. They may even have a valid point with some of us. I mean, not every boat paddler is as altruistic as we make ourselves out to be. (Shit. I’ve said, as linked below, that I don’t need a fucking community before, but I’ve been roped into this after realizing that I’m an idiot and actually do need one.) But they forget that one day, they’ll have to look at themselves and realize what a miserable fucking human being they are.

And as my metaphor clearly indicates (going back to Jaws now for those who I’ve lost), I don’t, frankly, consider them human beings any more. They are a creature; a thing. They are a conglomerate collection of self-righteous asstwats who think that their ego is only there to be stroked. Well, you know what? My ego is large, too, and I think I’m just the most greatest thing since sliced bread. You can ask anyone who is friends with me on Facebook; I talk about how awesome I am about once a week. But, I don’t go around requiring that my ego be stroked on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute fucking basis. I can stroke my own ego – and do – and I don’t need a horde of children to make me feel good about myself.

But all of those in this mob mentality so obviously do.

Is it because they are young? Is it because they are really insecure? Is it because they have nothing better to do with their time?

I honestly don’t know, or care, about the reasons behind their actions.

All I fucking care about is that they stop it.

If you’re so busy pointing out our flaws, then stop trying to be a part of our community. Ignore us boat paddlers – those Kemetic and non-Kemetic – and ignore what we are trying to build in our little cliques. Ignore out “tone policing” blog posts. Ignore our very fucking existence. We’re not going to stop, no matter how much you may want us to, no matter how much sabotage you may try. We’ll still be here, paddling our boats and forging our community because we know that, to survive, it’s what must be done.

While writing this, I was re-watching Jaws and I’m towards the end now. And I stopped while the heroes are busy battling for their lives with the shark, but I mostly stopped because the iciest, most chilling part is Clint’s monologue. His soliloquy is incredibly apt for the movie, but for this entry as well. As found here, Clint’s monologue,

Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. It was comin’ back, from the island of Tinian to Laytee, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know… was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. Huh huh. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know it’s… kinda like ol’ squares in battle like a, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark comes to the nearest man and that man, he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got…lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin’ and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.

Y’know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men! I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand! I don’t know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’ chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He’s a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

And for those of you who don’t know the history behind this monologue, here’s some facts.

So, there I am, re-watching the movie because I have it for two days and I want to get my three bucks worth. And I’m watching the face of that venerable Robert Shaw with horror and pain and awe and chills. And he’s telling his story and I realize that it’s not so much that this community shit… those people who point their fingers at us and turn the argument back at us boat paddlers are the shark but more like all of the sharks that attacked those men on the U.S.S. Indianapolis. And everyone who has made a mistake and been at the end of the vitriolic hatred via Tumblr, forums, or blog entries are those manned groups, hollerin’ and poundin’ away, hoping for survival. There were 1,196 men on that boat that sank so long ago and about 860 went into the water with only 321 surviving those five days in the water, lost, alone, and praying to a deity who may or may not have been listening.

We boat paddlers are those tough-as-nails men and women whom survived the sinking of the ship and survived the shark attacks for days, with no food and no water. We are those people who others may sing about. We know what’s at stake here and we know how, at least in part, to fix it. And we’ll keep going, keep paddling, and I’ll fling my coconuts at asshats and fuckwads when I’m asked to. And I’ll get attacked and my boat will get swamped and someone will pull me out of the water before the shark attacks begin.

But we’ll survive and maybe, even, forge a community.

And assholes?

Need not apply.

Related Posts

  1. The Logistics of Running a Kemetic Anything by Devo.
  2. An Open Letter to the Kemetic Community by Fanny Fae.
  3. Loneliness, or Community Iz Hurd by Shine.
  4. Dear Pagan Community by Dusken.
  5. A Ray of Light by Kallista.
  6. Freedom Isn’t Free, And Neither is Community by Sard.
  7. G is For Group, I.E. Why Your Words Matter (PBP) by Nellethiel.
  8. G Is For Giving Back to the Community (PBP) by Iretenra.

Related Posts By Me

  1. Where Fellowship Has a Place in My Practice.
  2. If The Gods Created Man, Then Why Are We So Hot To Not Support Each Other?
  3. Nazis In Paganism (PBP).

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.