Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at III.

Three years ago, I sat down and wrote a post that would later define a lot of who I am and how I practice today. I didn’t think the post would become as important as it has become, nor did I think it would garner as many hits. But that’s the thing about blogging: you never really know which post is The Post, the one that everyone will go back to time and time again. I’ve found even myself going back to that first post, looking it over and kind of realizing how much of that original post has defined me today.

Looking back over the last three years, I’ve come to see that post (along with the situations that were occurring at the time) as a very large crossroads in my practice. It didn’t feel like one, of course, but as I look back, I can see that all of the things that came before that post were more newbie flail and everything that came after has been one more step forward on the path I’ve been treading these last few years.

That post, more than the situations that were happening back then, helped to crystallize a lot for me.

With the help of others, I was able to get a working definition together that felt appropriate to me. And together, we were able to come up with a list of things that kind of helped us in the day-to-day:

  • Ma’at was don’t be a dick.
  • Ma’at was give stuff to the gods.
  • Ma’at was take no shit.

This was good stuff and we put the word out there. I don’t think there’s a Kemetic on Tumblr who hasn’t heard the “don’t be a dick” thing. Maybe everyone’s seen the posts from TTR that have been reblogged to death about what ma’at entails and how we’ve simplified it, made it easier to contend with such a large, amorphous concept, and live with it to the best of our abilities.

I’m sure there are times where we all feel like we fail and I’m sure there are times where we can step back, shouting to the rooftops, “fuck yeah, I am totally living in ma’at!” But at the end of the day, we have a workaround that helps us to feel like we know what we’re talking about.

Peacock Feather

This is not to say the person had no need of personal conscience. On the contrary, it simply suggests that conscience (ib or h3ty) is a relational concept and thus depends on both what is thought of one by one’s moral community and what one thinks of oneself based in substantial part on this evaluation by significant others. – p8, Ma’at the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Dr. Maulana Karenga

In recent weeks, TTR began reading through Ma’at, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Dr. Maulana Karenga. The text is dense, from what other sources have told me, and as they work their way through the book, they’ve helpfully been posting quotes for public consumption. One of the things that has gotten to me with each reading is just how integral community is within the concept of ma’at.

It almost seems, to me, that without a community at one’s back, then it is very difficult to maintain and live within ma’at. As stressed in the quote above, the concept of one’s conscience depends both on the self and based on the moral community that they are surrounded with. In ancient Egypt, it was simple enough to achieve this goal as the concept was lived and breathed, not only by the gods but by the very people who made up the country.

Nowadays, we are in diaspora and trying like hell to pick up the pieces.

One could assume that the decision of the wider community regarding what is and is not ma’at is fundamental. Well, we have that. We have our little list of things that we tell people when they first get started on this roller coaster. We send them to the various posts we’ve all written about the concept and sometimes, in the responses we provided to those newbies, we re-evaluate the nebulousness of the concept itself, redefining and redetermining whether or not the little list works for us still.

For the most part, it seems to work for people.

But the question becomes what happens if someone or multiple someones within your community infers or outright states that what you are doing is not living in ma’at? What if they state your actions are isfet through and through?

Do you go for arbitration? Do you execrate the shit out of them? Do you sit down and talk about it, one-on-one? And let’s say that you do sit down and talk about it, one-on-one: points of view are highly personalized things and each individual could end up talking past the other person, unable or unwilling to see the other point of view. What do you do then?

Offering Ma'at

In general, the good man is still the silent, self-controlled man, with the emphatic devotion that is now explicit… – p171 Exploring Religion in Ancient Egypt by Stephen Quirke

I try like hell not to tell anyone whether or not they are living in ma’at. I try very hard not to tell anyone that what they’re doing is isfet. I am not judge, jury, or executioner. I am not the nisut and I have no intention of ever becoming one. I find it morally reprehensible to make that decision on a singular basis. Maybe I’ve always recognized that it was a communal effort that went into the determination.

I can think of a single instance where I’ve made the remark to someone and I felt guilty as all hell afterwards. I broke my very principles in making the statement. Sure, they were a manipulative prick and used their UPG to prey upon the young and impressionable youth in our community, but I still felt like I had no business making that supposition out loud, much less on a public blogging site. But I threw it out there, using our little tenets and I never heard back from anyone, stating that I was doing something wrong when I made the claim.

To this day, it still bothers the fuck out of me.

I don’t feel that any single person has the ability to determine any of that. Based on the quotes, the conversations, the arguments and my own feverish nighttime thinking on the subject, I don’t think anyone knows enough about the concept (and likely, never will) because no definitions were ever left behind. We stumble around and hope that what we are building is enough. Maybe it is for some; maybe it isn’t for others.

Whatever the case, I don’t think anyone can just arbitrarily make the decision about what falls within ma’at and what falls within isfet.

Now, more than ever, it’s become clear that the definition of ma’at is a communal effort. The problem, I think, would be that our list of definitions are too infinitely finite. They narrow the bandwidth on a broad road and forget to take into consideration the social context of our modern-day lives, the shades of gray that we live in day-to-day along with the shades of gray that is very clearly within the realm of ma’at.

What could be someone being a dick to one may not necessarily jive with someone else’s definition. What could be a perceived failing in giving stuff to the gods could simply be a misunderstanding based on posts reblogged a hundred times while the private stuff is kept quietly back or never makes it to the public. What could be seen as a heavy-handed reaction could in fact be a deeper problem within the community.

It is our job to band together and determine those things together, not to listen to a few souls who are louder or are reblogged more than most. It is our job to make determinations as a group, not listening to the people shouting down.

This is a group effort. And that means communicating on both individual and group levels, communicating with people who may take issue with you or may make you feel dumb for existing, and communicating what it is to be a part of the community at large and what you would like to see as it grows.

Thus, the model person is not the warrior or even priest, but the gentle person who serves and is responsible. – p 38, Ma’at the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Dr. Maulana Karenga

Relevant Posts

  1. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at I
  2. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at II
  3. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Finding Balance
  4. Life is Orthopraxic
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Defender.

One of the titles that King Henry VIII was incredibly proud of was the one that many historians find a tad amusing now: fidei defensor, or defender of the faith. In 1521, Pope Leo X granted this title to him when he wrote Assertio Septem Sacramentorum (Defense of the Seven Sacraments). Part of the reason why this is hilarious is that he wrote this in defense of the sacrament of marriage and the supremacy of the Pope against the Protestant Reformation, more specifically against Martin Luther’s allegation against the Catholic Church. A bit of an embarrassment later, one should think, when taking into consideration all of the hullabaloo King Henry VIII would go through in an effort to destroy the sacrament of his marriage and his subsequent denial of the Pope’s power over all spiritual matters.

While I’m sure this came back to bite him the ass time and time again as he was attempting to divorce his wife in order to marry Anne Boleyn, I’ve often wondered if he thought about that title while he was in the middle of that process. He was awarded this honor during a very highly charged time for the Catholic Church. And it had to have been more than just a badge of honor to him. There is very real evidence that Henry VIII was incredibly devout. He was, after all, supposed to enter the church before the death of his brother. His religion never officially changed over to the Protestant religion, if I recall correctly. His services were still very much Catholic. While the title probably pricked at him in the wrong way now and again, it was probably something that meant a lot to him even after the whole Act of Supremacy. I’ve always just kind of thought that, even with all of that crazy business going on, it was probably something that he thought about in the dark of night, when he was all alone, and realizing how badly things were going for him (prior to his marriage to Anne, after his marriage to Anne, after the death of Jane, et cetera). If nothing else, it was probably a quiet source of comfort as long as he ignored all of his duplicity in the matter.

Personally, I’ve always liked the Latin form of the title. It always felt really… well, as stupid as this sounds, “pretty.”

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a friend of mine. This friend of mine is Christian. She doesn’t give me any shit for the stuff that I believe in and I don’t give her any shit (usually) about what she believes in. She even tolerates the rather blasphemous comments I can and do make! (Usually, I forget that I am talking to a Christian and make the comments anyway. But she gets my dry sense of humor, so…) Anyway, I really enjoy hanging around her and listening to her talk about her faith. She doesn’t go on about it to me a lot because she’s worried that, one day, I may up and just be like, “Bitch, you be cray-cray,” and walk away. I would never do that. The thing that I haven’t told her yet is that whenever she talks about her faith, I feel very content. Even when things are bad and she’s asking God or Jesus for a helping hand, I still feel a contentedness coming from. I have always got the impression that what she believed was never a question, was never put out there for face value purposes, and that it sustains her.

It makes me happy that this makes her happy.

I was at her house and she mentioned Jesus. Her eldest two children are not believers, as she is. And her son pretty much amounted to Jesus as a story told, a fable. And I said, “Boy, do not make me come over there and beat you. Your mama loves God and you do not disrespect her beliefs in front of me. I will pound you. Say you’re sorry.” And he did and that was that. She was pleased as pop at my statement, though – made me blush. She said that I was an amazing person because I defend other peoples’ faith, whether I believe it or not.

It never occurred to me, not really, that what I do is strange or different. It just comes natural to me to want to defend someone else’s faith in something, whether I share that belief or not. I’ve been around and around the Internet a few times and I’ve gotten into fights with friends over religious traditions. But, I still will never deny them their belief. The thing that’s different with this particular friend of mine and some of the other friends that I’ve had religious disagreements with is the feeling I get regarding the faith. A lot of time, I tend to feel like people put on this face to the outer world, attempting to mimic something that everyone believes in. In a lot of those cases, I doubt everything that comes out of those mouths because it just doesn’t feel right to me. It feels like a farce; like a play and a poorly acted one at that.

However, in the case of this friend, I feel it. I can feel her love and adoration for God. I can feel the belief in my bones whenever she talks about Jesus. And she’s also not an asshole Christian who feels the need to tell me what my religious choices should be – and even believes in some of the stuff I talk about – so that makes it even better. But she’s one of those people whom, when they talk about their faith, they make me feel happy. They make me feel proud to know them. They make tears in my eyes as I am overwhelmed with the level of their emotions regarding their religion. As I said, I don’t always get this feeling from people. I don’t get the feeling that they have the faith in what they claim they do, but in her case and in a few others, I get that feeling.

After my last post, I started mulling this fidei defensor idea over again.

A lot of that post wasn’t really about what I practice as a Kemetic layperson. If people are really interested in what my practice looks like, then they can read my blog on a regular basis or ask me questions about it. I don’t really feel the need to defend my choices and why my practice looks the way it does. It works for me and it keeps me happy. I have a hard time, periodically, and there are weeks on end where I whine about things. But, you know, even with all of the shit that can and does go wrong both in my mundane life and in my spiritual life, I still feel quite content with it. It wasn’t me saying, “Here is why you are wrong because this is what I practice.” I was talking about Kemetics in a united front and also explaining that each Kemetic is different in how they come to their particular religious persuasion.

I was defending their ability to see the gods as they wanted to; to practice their religion how they wanted to; to do as they pleased and not get lumped into a single homogenous group just because they identify as polytheists.

This was apparently too much for anybody. The detractors have made their comments, mostly not on my blog. They didn’t see the point of the post as I was making it and to some of my group, they also didn’t see the point that I was getting across at each specific point. Obviously, my heka wasn’t as good as it could be or perhaps, some people are just unable to grasp the concept that everyone can play in their own way and that’s okay. Whatever the reason that they were unable to see the point, I stand by what was said and I will continue to do so. The point of the post wasn’t that I needed to stand up and say, “Hi, you are wrong because that is not how I practice,” but the entire point was to say, “Hi, you are wrong because that is not how Kemetic polytheists practice. Here are a few examples of how some of them do practice. Thank you.”

I was defending the various religious practices of my fellow Kemetics, whether they be historically informed or not, whether they be a part of Kemetic Orthodoxy or not. It doesn’t really matter to me how the hell they go about their practice. I don’t care if they are monolatrists, henotheists, or hard polytheists. I don’t really care whatever it is that they do and how they go about it because in many instances, I get the good feels. I get the overwhelmed with their devotion feels. I have interacted with many Kemetics through my networking and in quite a few cases, the community I have built around me is based almost entirely on that feeling. Not only do they bring something incredibly individual to the table in our discussions, but they also make me feel happy to know them because they do what they do and it works for them.

I don’t necessarily agree with their approaches to things, but it’s okay.

I don’t necessarily agree with how a lot of other polytheists or pagans go about their business. For example, there are quite a few people who think that Sekhmet is Hetheru is Aset is Ma’at is Neith. That is not how I approach the netjeru. But the stance works for them. And I can defend that choice because they are not hurting other people. (Now, if they’re deliberately going around providing this as the only interpretation, then we’ll have issues.) There are people who believe that Sekhmet and Hetheru are a single entity. I have never worked with them in this capacity – they have always been two extremely individualistic entities who have worked with me on various things throughout the years that we have had relationships. While I don’t necessarily agree, I’m still going to defend their right to believe that because it works for them. (Again, if they begin to deliberately provide misinformation, then we’ll have some issues.)

The issue with these ongoing pagan/polytheist debates and dramas is that someone, somewhere, gets it in their head to write about something in a very UPG fashion as a “be-all, end-all” dictate that all polytheists and pagans must follow. This is a huge problem, for any number of reasons. We don’t have a Pope Leo X to grant us titles or to tell us how the fuck things are supposed to be. And in many cases, we don’t have this because we don’t want to be told from someone, supposedly on high, how the hell our religious traditions should manifest in our lives. Even how the Christians approach their religious traditions varies from sect to sect, from person to person. Since each person approaches God in a different manner, each aspect of their faith is going to be uniquely detailed to suit their specific needs. The same applies to polytheists, no matter how they view the gods or how they go about practicing.

And as much as I may not agree or may not even feel like their belief is more than face value, I will continue to defend their ability to have that belief from people who think they have the right or the ability to tell them otherwise.

I may not have been awarded a pretty little title like Henry VIII.

But it doesn’t matter.

Fidei defensor.

A Response.

Originally, I was going to leave this as a comment on this entry that Galina Krasskova wrote, but I ended up realizing that in order to answer each point, I had to keep on explaining. And as I’m sure comments that are nearly two thousand words are oh-so awesome, I thought it would be best to leave this as an entry on my blog instead. I hope she ends up reading this because I’d like to see what she has to say regarding her obvious erasure of Kemeticism (and many other polytheistic belief systems). While I doubt that any response she makes will end up leaving anyone feeling better about the testaments of her decisions on what “true polytheism must be,” I hope that this will at least show other polytheists out there that not everyone subscribes to what she deems “appropriate.”

Before continuing, I recommend clicking the link I’ve provided and reading what was said.

I think there’s a large problem with your generalized interpretations of what polytheistic values should be, across the board. The issue being that each polytheism is inherently unique to its particular branch. So, for example, how a Heathen polytheist and how a Kemetic polytheist view what their particular branch of polytheism is about and what core values make up that branch are going to be inherently different. By making such broad generalizations, you’re also ignoring the fact that in many instances, each individual is in the midst of practicing an individualistic form of their polytheistic branch. Not everyone is capable of joining temples or is willing to join temples that do not meet their strict standards, so by making such generalizations, you are kind of erasing those of us who may not fit your criteria. And that’s rather mean.

While I understand that you have, recently, begun a sort of pogrom against polytheistic practices that do not meet your rigid standards, this is really just not a good idea in any context. As each person is not a carbon copy of the person next to them, neither will the polytheistic flavor that they create for themselves. This is something that all of us – every single one of us who fall under the polytheism branch – need to keep in mind when interacting with one another. We also need to keep that in mind when deciding what is or is not “appropriate” in other polytheistic branches.

That being said, I felt that as a Kemetic, I should explain a few things regarding what you think the core values “should be.”

You mention ancestor veneration and that all ancient polytheism branches had this. The problem is that you are kind of glazing over a lot of fine nuances here. In Kemeticism alone, many of the practitioners (whether affiliated with one of the temples or otherwise) are of the layman variety. This actually ends up making it less mandatory for the veneration part. Since we don’t actually know how the laity felt about the dead or what, specifically, they ended up doing in regards to their akh, we can only guess as to what amount of veneration was actually done. We have plenty of information regarding the elite classes and how things went about for them, but for many of us who are attempting to reconstruct this ancient religion, we are flying blindly. The laity were illiterate so such items were not left to us.

Just because the elite castes were obviously venerated didn’t necessarily mean that the laity went about things the same way. We don’t know on what level such “veneration” took place or if we can even refer to it as “veneration.” Maybe they just thought fondly of Uncle Joe now and again, maybe even left a bowl of water during one of the major festivals, but we just really don’t know. We can assume a whole plethora of things based on how the elite were treated and what sort of things happened in later periods, but frankly, assumptions aren’t a good idea for those of us interested in a historically informed basis. That being said, we could assert that since many of us are laity and since we don’t really know how important such veneration was to the laity in antiquity, then perhaps ancestor veneration really isn’t all that important in a modern context.

And honestly, whether or not someone feels the need to pay attention to their blood kin or not once they go into the West is none of your business. It’s none of my business. It’s no one else’s business but the very person deciding whether or not they need to pay attention to their kin. Since many of us are reconstructing an ancient religion, in some form or another, it’s – going back to that point I made above – entirely up to the individual creating that practice.

The individuality of the divine, as you put it, really has no merit in Kemetic polytheistic circles at all. Syncretism is rife throughout the Kemetic pantheon. While the netjer are often viewed as individuals in some areas, in other areas of the country, they were viewed only in their syncretic forms with other deities. This poses a bit of a problem for those of us who are hard polytheists, but we make do. Epithets are shared between deities, which could lead us to believe that they all functioned as a single unit to get whatever that epithet refers to done. Point of fact, many of the netjeru are given the title “Great One of Heka.” In other instances, epithets are similar enough to one another to get the impression that two polar opposite netjeru can, will, and do fulfill the same needs.

Suffice to say that we can view one of the netjeru as both an individual and as a composite. Whether we work with them that way is entirely up to the particular flavor of Kemeticism that we practice. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, many of the practitioners utilize their deities in composites while there are some solitaries who also utilize syncretic deities.

By adding this statement, you are pretty much erasing Kemeticism as a polytheism.

The thing about piety is that it is kind of unnecessary in Kemeticism. The whole point in Kemeticism is that the populace needed to retain correct actions – orthopraxy – as opposed to correct belief – orthodoxy. Whether or not respect was given to the gods was immaterial. Whether or not the laity respected the rituals the priests performed to keep the world going was immaterial. Hell, whether or not you even believed in the gods themselves was immaterial. So long as you maintained ma’at, you were pretty much good.

There was absolutely nothing that a single, individual had to do in order to be seen as devout since each individual would have, and did, interpret what “living in ma’at” meant individually. There are some basic ideas of what it would be across the board, as shown by the negative confessions people are fond of quoting. The problem is that these confessions aren’t a sort of set of commandments that, either we modern day practitioners or our ancient counterparts, practiced. They were actually more like “divine subterfuge.” By stating that the individual in question didn’t do this thing, they were kind of hiding all the really fucked up shit they actually did do in their life that could be interpreted as not living in ma’at.

The ancient Egyptians were pretty fond, also, of doing things that many other polytheistic cultures would find anathema. They had no problem associating themselves with one of the netjer to get things done. They threatened and bribes the gods, too. Based on the most fundamental definition of “piety,” I don’t think the ancient Egyptians really fall under your heading here. And so, by association, neither would any of the Kemetic polytheists who actively participate in this religion.

Suffice to say, that at this point, I think you may have [again] done some erasing of Kemetics.

As far as modesty is concerned, I don’t really know if you’ve actually read anything from ancient Egypt. The love poetry, alone, should be pretty obvious as to what all the people were referring to. The bit, in which you state, “squander it in ways that don’t enhance her as a human being” regarding a woman’s modesty? I have to say that the love poetry alone would show that any ancient Egyptian “squandered” it quite often. And the love spells would, also, kind of show that there were both men and women (since both sexes are quite capable of “squandering” their sexuality) who were pretty interested in the orgasms all that “squandering” would provide them.

You also mention the terminology of “miasma.” This is a rather odd choice since this particular word is based on a Hellenic concept and so, really has no basis in Kemeticism. There really isn’t a lot that a Kemetic, either modern or ancient, could do that would be termed as an offense against the gods. While there are texts that indicate the gods could and would kill based on whatever the event happened to be – which may even include killing their family – it doesn’t quite equate to the concept of “miasma.” In the cases of Kemetic wrong doings against the gods, there wasn’t really any atonement that could be provided to them that would have them change their minds. It was really up to the gods themselves to forgive – as in the case of Re when he felt badly for sending his fiery daughter to destroy humanity – or to not – as in the case of Djehuty who killed a royal prince and his family for daring to steal his magical texts.

Now as far as keeping people centered on the path that they are treading that is entirely up to the people who doing the treading on that path. So, however the person manages this is going to be entirely individualistic since they are the ones who have to decide what-all keeps them centered. Another thing here is that just because someone wades in shit daily doesn’t mean they’re going to use prayer to cleanse themselves. They’re probably going to use water and soap to cleanse themselves. Whether or not they pray to the gods to get them through the event in question is, again, entirely up to them and incredibly individualistic.

In ancient Egypt, it wasn’t an act of courage to continue to live through whatever was going on. It just was. This hearkens back to my brief discussion on ma’at and orthopraxy. The laity did not question whatever it was that was going on around them because it wasn’t their place to do so. While courageous aspects are mentioned, usually in relation to warfare, this doesn’t really equate to the day-to-day lives of the ancient Egyptians. They toiled in the fields and that was their lot. Whatever other aspects to their lives that they lived just was the status quo. One of the major items that we tend to forget – being so forward and modern in our thinking – is that the laity didn’t question these things because to do so would mean they were no longer living in ma’at, but that they were inviting isfet (chaos) into their lives.

As far as they were concerned, the second the creator deity of their particular choice (since there were so many) stood up and created, the world was perfect. And the only need for the ancient Egyptian, whether they were priests or the laity, was to emulate that moment of perfection. They didn’t think creatively or outside of the box in order to fix something that was going on in front of them – they looked to the past and to that perfect First Time for the answers. As far as they were concerned, the blueprint for maintaining ma’at was in the past. To question that maintenance was isfet.

Period.

I could go on, but I think I’ve said enough.

Let’s suffice it to say that by deciding what-all the values of others’ polytheistic paths are, you’re kind of being a dick, which Kemetics loathe on a fundamental level and other pagans/polytheists will find really wrong. Point of fact, the only piece of what “living in ma’at” entails that you should concern yourself with is the modern adage: don’t be a dick. I recommend looking into that phrase a little bit and attempting to emulate that into whatever core values you think your polytheistic path is about. And while you’re at it, please stop telling all of us what our values and morals should be. We can handle that job quite well on our own. We do not need a pagan or polytheist pope and we certainly don’t need one from an entirely different polytheistic branch from ourselves.

Thank you.

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: Heka.

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.

Side note: As with ma’at being a concept and a deity, so are heka, hu, and sia. Let’s talk about the concepts.

One of the most difficult parts about working with a religion that’s been dead for millennia is trying to puzzle out some of the most basics of basics. It doesn’t help that the only aspects of the religion that we can build from are from leftovers from priesthoods that are long since over, especially since not every single one of us want to rebuild a priesthood but just a functional practice for the layman. We have to rely, heavily, on academic books that may be overly dry and boring, enough to make your eyes glaze over when you attempt to read them. Another problem is that this particular religion is definitely outside of a Western thinker’s framework. We come into these ancient religion with our preconceived notions of definitions and beliefs, bringing holdovers from monotheistic religions in a lot of cases. It can be one of the hardest things when you’re going along and finally decide to ponder the meaning behind important concepts like ma’at and heka without much of a jumping off point.

As I had stated in my initial Kemetism is Orthopraxic post, I have had exceedingly difficult times with figuring out what ma’at is. In same vein, I have had similar difficulties when it comes to heka. Generally, it is defined as “magic.” This isn’t inaccurate, but it’s not the actual definition of the word if we can really say that the definition we have is accurate since the language has been dead for thousands of years. In effect, the literal translation (near as I can figure) is activating the ka (the ka was the immortal aspect of the ancient Egyptians complicated soul concept – this is also the part of the soul that I believe reincarnates with each new life). But what in the world does that even mean?

In the last year, I’ve tried to define it with mixed results.

My initial thoughts on it were more in line with one of the concepts that heka is associated with as opposed to the actual meaning of the word. These two concepts are hu and sia. Sia is the power of perception and hu is divine utterance. I was thinking more along the lines of these two concepts as what heka actually was and I honestly don’t think I am correct at all. They are related, honestly, but they do not equate to one another. Sia is, to me, about what can come about, is created by, the action of hu. While these two concepts are kind of the foundation of what the great, wide world of understanding heka can be, they are not the totality of the concept. It isn’t just about watching your speech because you never know what you’re throwing out into the world – though this is important – it’s about activating or use of your ka.

But, specifically, what does that even mean? Is it like having super powers at your disposal without you realizing it? In a manner of speaking, we could easily say that the answer is “yes.” It is through our ka that we are able to inflict change, in the forms of hu and sia specifically, upon the world. It is through the ka that we have a deep connection with divinity, “Upon the body’s demise the ka rejoined its divine origin, but always remained in close proximity of the body.” [X.] It is through their ka that gods like Amun self-fertilized, Ptah created the world, and Khnum shaped clay into the vessels of men. While they are gods and probably are more aware of what needs to happen to use effectively their heka, they created us in similar image. They gave us the exact same piece of the soul, the ka, to do similar acts. While our acts may not be as grand as self-fertilizing or creating an entire world, they are still acts that we can do in order to effect change in the world.

And doesn’t that sound familiar to anyone who has studied witchery in any context? I’ve seen it explained that by using spells and poppets, witches are pushing their will into the world to create a change that they would like to see happen. It’s not really all that far-fetched now to see why heka is usually loosely translated to mean “magic.” Magic isn’t necessarily a bad definition, but it’s not the totality of the subject matter. Heka is more about what you have to do – in witchy words, building up the energy based around your desire – in order to create whatever you want to see happen. It isn’t just about deciding to do something, but in the acts that lead up to that moment as well as the ingredients needed, the correct word usage, and the will to have perceptions change to include what you’ve just thrown into the world.

Now, as I said above, I’ve had difficulties defining this concept, to the point where I was conflating the two foundational concepts – hu and sia – to equate to heka. While, as I said, they are important aspects because they teach you what it is that you must do in order to utilize heka effectively, they are not the sum total of the concept. It’s almost as if we have an ancient recipe on our hands that we must follow exactly in order to get the final result – the dessert – that we are aiming for. If you go a little over on the measurements, you may be short-changing what it is you want with your heka and end up with something completely different than what you had intended.

I’ve been thinking about whether or not this concept is something we need to make manifest on a daily basis. Is heka and it components necessary for a layman in modern times? Is understanding this concept, and thereby using it, something that we, as modern practitioners, require? I’ve written one set of responses and realized I was wrong. I’ve written another set of responses and realized that wasn’t the totality of what I wanted to say.

Honestly, I think that even though we see it used so often in ancient Egyptian myth in specific occurrences, specific events, that it is something that modern recons/revivals/eclectics need to take into consideration on a daily, hourly, or even minute by minute basis. It was, probably, used frequently by priests in the ancient days because that’s part and parcel to the religion itself. Using good heka meant the world would continue for another day, another hour. It was probably used just as often by healers and magicians, for the common folk, because they were literate enough to decipher the texts that are associated with heka. But we don’t have a specialty class anymore. We don’t have a specific priesthood, specific magicians and healers, that we can go to in order to properly and effectively use heka. We are the people who cavort with the gods, who are de facto priests of the gods, and we must learn about heka in order to ensure that we are doing things appropriately in the name of our gods and in the name of our religion.

But, how do you do that? How do you start working with a concept like heka?

You start off small.

For example, you will see that many Kemetics do utilize, at least in part, the hu aspect of heka when we discuss religion. You will see the name Apep “ritually” destroyed in our conversations. Some people remove some letters, other people use a strike through to ritually destroy the name. In this vein, we are practicing heka, more specifically the concept of divine utterance. By desecrating this name, we are making sure that it does not gain power and cause ma’at to fall from the world, generally speaking. Do we do this daily? In some instances, yes. When we are discussing our religion with outsiders or with one another, these discussions may span days in forums, blogs, or groups and each time, we will do this. This is minor heka. It is about activating our ka. It is about perceiving this name as being destroyed. It is about performing a divine utterance. However, this is small – minor, really – in comparison to larger acts that we may perform, such as a spell, an execration, explaining things to newbies, etc.

I think we should be aware of what we say to other people and how we say it. I think we should be aware of what sort of perceptions can be sent into the world about one another, but about ourselves. And I think we need to be aware that, perhaps, our use of spoons is about throwing the energy into the world about X, Y, and/or Z when we don’t mean to. I think all of these things are important enough to keep a kind of mental sticky note on the mirror to say, “How are you spoons? Are you using your heka effectively?” And I wonder how many of us will come back from this exercise to realize that we were activating our ka in regards to something, tossing some spoons into the world for the fun of it, and then shutting back down again.

I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of this and I’m almost positive that I’m not the only one.

And I think that’s really, honestly, the only way outside of major undertakings (like ritual destruction) that we can and should use heka. Pay attention. Look around. Do some internal surveys. Double and triple check your thoughts on something so that you don’t have to backpedal later when you fail to explain yourself properly. Watch your spoons and how you manage them. But above all, be cognizant of the best advice a Kemetic has ever shared, “don’t be a dick.”

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.

Faith Is a Dirty Five-Letter Word.

One of the things that really irritates me about paganism in general is the fact that you can’t use the word “faith” without someone climbing all over you. It’s almost as if people, and by people, I mean pagans, think that the word only belongs in Christian, Islamic, and Jewish religions. And that’s something that bugs me so much, I can’t even formulate words to explain how irritating it is. When did we start drawing our metaphorical lines in the sand about words that we can and cannot use? Do we not practice religions? Do we not believe that they are real? Do we not cry in joy and in sorrow as other religious people do? Then, why is it suddenly taboo to utilize a word that encompasses everything that we do just as awesomely as it does when in relation to monotheistic religions?

The thing is that people tend to just think that faith is a word derived to only include monotheistic faiths, or at least that is the appearance. There are people who openly and actively scoff at people who claim to have faith. In some cases, scoffing could be warranted. But, it’s not our place to sit around and act high-and-mighty to pagans who are saying, clearly, “I have faith. I believe in things I can’t prove. I trust that they are real.” You can have issues with the things going on around you, whether your life is burning down around you or whether everything is going smoothly, but by sneering at someone who falls under the same umbrella category as you for having faith and saying so out loud? Well, honestly, that seems to me like not following the first rule of ma’at: don’t be a dick. And it also smacks a bit of jealousy and childishness.

Now, I will admit that there are a lot of people who cannot define the word or perhaps, do not understand the meaning behind the word. I can’t be the only person in human history who has had difficulty trying to convey the emotional level of believing in things that we will never be able to prove adequately to anyone but ourselves. I’ll admit, I’ve looked up the etymology of words for as long as I can remember because I like knowing where words come from. In this situation, I’ve done the same. And in this context, the word faith comes from the root, Latin word fider, which means to trust.

And if we aren’t putting our trust in the fact that all of these things we do and see and think and hear and believe and go to are real, then what the fuck are we doing? What are we actually doing in all of this anyway? What’s the point in having a religion if you don’t have faith? What’s the point in working with the gods, that you can’t prove, if you don’t have faith? Why are you bothering gods in the first place if you don’t have faith that they are real? Why are you going to the astral if you don’t have faith that you’re honestly going? Why are going talking with the fae and think you’re an otherkin if you don’t trust, just a little bit, that all of these things you are seeing and doing and thinking are real?

All of those questions? Everything I’ve just said?

In even thinking it, without having concrete evidence that it is real, then that is all faith.

One day, when I was trying to talk with TH about all of this, I couldn’t even define faith to him. I couldn’t explain to him that I just believed that I will meet up with my ex-Chistian friend in the next life and we will move on from our past hurts. I believe in reincarnation. I have no evidence that it is real. I have fragmented memories from a past that I do not currently own. But, being able to describe moments of someone else’s life isn’t proof positive in anything. It may just mean that, as a history major, I remember inane details. Be that as it may, I absolutely believe that it is as real as you and me and the couch that I’m sitting on. I have faith that these things will happen. And in that next life, I hope that I have the faith to believe in them again.

I could not, for the life of me, explain to him the emotional responses I get when I work with my gods in any context. If I think about it enough, I will begin to cry. It’s not that there is anything wrong with it or with me or with the work we do together, but that I have no words and it frustrates me enough to cry. This should tell people that I am exceedingly more devout than I make myself out to be. Surprise. Aubs has faith. Aubs believes fully in what she does and who she is doing it with. And surprise of all surprises (not least of all me), it actually hurts when people get up in arms when I start using the word “faith.”

I don’t think that things I am going through or working toward are for any other purpose than the Bigger Picture, aka living in ma’at. The art form that is maintaining ma’at, especially from a deity perspective, means that good shit and bad shit happens. It means that sometimes, you get the shaft end of the stick and lose your job. But, for whatever reason, it’s an act of ma’at and we are people who cannot question, but we must continue. If we want to prevent isfet from overtaking the world, then we sit down and shut the fuck up. We have faith in the fact that, while not good things are happening, then at least the Bigger Picture is maintained and that’s all that should matter to any of us who are Kemetic.

The world will go on.

Life will go on.

Psst. Believing that those things will go on?

That’s another act of faith.