You’re Toxic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

power plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Empathize.

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

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

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

  • Diversity.

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

  • Inclusion.

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

Thursday - 042210 - Day 61

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

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

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

The toxic assholes won.

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

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

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

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

Otherwise, there is literally no point in trying.

Related Content

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

Be Kind; Please Rewind.

Alternate Title: The Kemetic community needs to re-embrace “don’t be a dick”.

One of the presenters during the leadership conference was Bear Grylls. My office just about lost it when they found out he was going to be presenting this year. I didn’t understand why everyone was so excited about it. To that point, my total knowledge of him was that he had a show about being outside (I have since learned he has had 3 shows about that subject). My coworkers kept going on about how excited they were to hear from him.

As his segment came up, I was mildly distracted by the sun glare on the snow behind him. He kept squinting at the camera and I had an urge to give him my sunglasses. But when he spoke, everyone quieted down to the point where you could hear a pin drop. I was finally beginning to understand why people gave this man a show. He evinced a sort of charisma that left you waiting for what he would say next.


The presentation that Bear gave was about what he called the Four Fs. These Four Fs were supposed to be in regard to leadership, but as I listened to him discuss them in detail and relate each word back to his own experiences, it was obvious that everyone has come into contact with these Four Fs throughout their lives. The Four Fs are:

  • Failure

Everyone experiences failure at some point in their lives. No one enters into something and immediately gets it on the first try, the eighth try, the one hundreds try. Failure is a part of the human condition, a part of being human at its most basic level. Sometimes the failure is a large one and leaves you wounded from it; sometimes the failure is something small and easily overcome. Failure is something that everyone has experienced and these failures have helped to forge people into the person that they are today.

As much as we may want to deny the moments where we have failed at something, especially the more dramatic flops in our life, we must come to the realization that more often than not, a failure is teaching us. It may teach us how to do something better the next time we come into contact with it, or it may be teaching us that what we thought we wanted isn’t actually right for us. Don’t deny the fact that you failed; embrace it because these failures will be more, often than not, a doorway leading you forward.

  • Fear

No matter what we have gone through in our lives, we have come across fear. It has found us in the dead of night; in the middle of a meeting; as you write a post on the Internet. It lurks around every corner and everyone has had some experience with this feeling. Life as a whole is scary; it is an unknown thing that we all experience and sometimes, we can experience it with other people. Sometimes, we can hold hands with someone beside us and let the feeling of fear wash over us. And sometimes, there is no one there to help you through it.

Everyone is fighting something; everyone is fearful of something. Sometimes we must embrace that fear and continue over the other side of it. There are moments where, no matter how much your instincts may be telling you to turn tail and run, you have to keep going through that moment with fear walking beside you. Face it; use it; embrace it. Take the energy of your fear and use it to keep moving forward. It isn’t a dark moment, not truly, when you stand beside your fear and have to keep going. As the Litany Against Fear says, “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”

  • Fire

Everyone has a furnace of fire burning deep within them; a steam engine that keeps them going; a wood-burning stove deep within. This is the drive, the push, the desire to move forward and keep going. This fire may be dampened or darkened because of illness, but it is still there. It pushes people forward and keeps them going even when they don’t want to keep going. Sometimes you have to stoke the flames and sometimes other must stoke it, but the furnace is lit and will continue to burn.

Some people claim that they have none, but that is not true. Everyone has a fire burning deep within; it may be tamped down or hidden, but it is there. You must find it and use it so that you can keep going. Don’t listen to the voices within or without that may be telling you it’s dead and gone; keep looking. As Bear Grylls said, “N.G.U. – never give up.” Or as Galaxy Quest has taught us all, “Never give up; never surrender.”

  • Faith

Everyone has faith. The faith may be in themselves; it may be for other people; it may be in what they’re doing; it may be for a higher power. It doesn’t matter what the cornerstone of that faith is but it is there, deep within. It can be used as the cornerstone or a slab of concrete to build up and outwards, but it is there. It isn’t simply a voice within telling you to keep going; it is a belief and trust that what you are doing is the right thing.

People may complain and say that people use it as a crutch, but it doesn’t matter. That blind trust, that faith, helps to stoke the fire, to face the fear, to admit and embrace the failure. It is the alpha and omega within everyone. It may start off as small and simple, but it can be built up to encompass the totality of the path ahead, a baseline to continue forward.

The one common thread between them all was the thread of kindness, a need for it. The kindness exhibited could be for others or yourself. But it is paramount to show kindness. Acts of kindness were woven through each story associated with each word and it became the overarching theme.

We all face these things, or have gone through these things, or are going through these things. It is imperative to understand that no one is alone in this. We have all experienced failures; we have all faced our fears; we have all stoked the flames of our inner fire; we have all kept going because of faith. Everyone has gone through this, no matter what the path ahead has looked like for each individual.

We must all understand that the path ahead is an individual path; no two are alike. But we have all experienced or are actively experiencing any one of these things at any given time. And it is with both humility and kindness that we can keep going and by extension, others can keep going.

Be kind to others; be kind to yourself. As we all go through failures and fears and fire and faith, it is kindness that helps to see us through. It is kindness to ourselves that reminds us that we are imperfect beings who are navigating through; it is kindness from others that can keep us going for one more hour, one more day, one more possible failure ahead.

The entire presentation was worth the watch, but it was the bit about kindness that stuck out for me because he was right. Kindness for yourself and kindness for others is paramount to success, paramount to continue on. If we cannot be kind to either ourselves or others, we are setting ourselves up for failure.


Something I have found lacking in the community is simple kindness. After TTR announced their hiatus, I went through the conversations we had had about the issues they were finding and began scoping out popular posts in the tags. And something that I kept seeing over and over again was this seemingly brusque persona that everyone had crafted for themselves. I suspect that this is a result of a two-fold problem: the toxicity within our community from a few years back and the exhaustion the prolific content creators tend to fall into after a few years.

As I mentioned in my post about TTR taking a hiatus, it can be exhausting when it’s your name being thrown out there the most and people keep asking for the same types of content or more new content. If you’re the only one giving out the information, then it wears you down until you can’t be kind to anyone anymore. You get jaded from all of the wear-and-tear that being a content creator brings with it and no matter how hard you try, it’s hard to find the benefit of the doubt and therefore, hard to find kindness.

When the community broke down, we all began doing our best to embody a little bit of Squidward in our online life. We needed to protect ourselves from the eventual break down of what we had worked hard for. We needed to distance ourselves from the inevitable explosion because it hurt too much to keep caring otherwise.

So everyone who has been around for that long has kind of started to come across a bit brusque when they respond to things and I think it’s a problem. We need to pull back from those parts of ourselves, the parts that we created to save ourselves from burnout or the burn down, and get back to kindness. We need to try and find the benefit of the doubt and we need to think critically when we respond to one another, to new people asking the usual 101 questions, and to outsiders just trying to understand.

I talked a bit about this last year after the last leadership conference I went to: it’s difficult to read tone when your community doesn’t have the ability or desire to be anything more than an online forum-type. It means that you have to sit back and ask yourself if the words you are choosing come across as rude, as ill-tempered, or flat our dick-like.

This is something that comes up for me a lot at work. As I mentioned in that post last year, the majority of my communication is through email. We have calls and talk to people, too, but I would say about 95% of my day is spent in front of a computer. And I can’t tell you how many times I hear complaints from my team about someone “being rude” or “being a dick” when that person is simply responding to something we sent them.

And you know what? When someone says that they got a “rude” response, it is almost always bias. It is a fear that they are coming from a place where they are wrong or a place of anxiety. The tone that they’re reading into the response isn’t there most of the time. It comes across that way because the person responding is trying to be as quick as possible in their response, which means they’re cutting out the fluff to get to the heart of the matter.

It makes things go by quickly, but it doesn’t necessarily mean things are going smoothly.

We do this within our community, too. We try to be quick and efficient, but sometimes you need to add in the flowery, the little kindnesses so that you don’t come across as rude or a dick. It’s a fine line that we walk, but if this community is going to grow as I would like it to and as others seem to want it to, then we need to remember how to not be a dick.

Over five years ago, TTR wrote about this very concept too. It wasn’t framed in a need for kindness, but in the need to embody the phrase “don’t be a dick”. They gave some handy hints on how to not come across that way. We need to go back to that. We need to sit still and think critically before we hit publish or reply. We need to refer back to the “yardstick of dickery” and try to remember that a little kindness can go a long way.

If we don’t, we’re as good as dead. All the chatter and discussion about content and creating it goes out the window if we can’t be nice to each other, or even to ourselves. We need to be kind. We don’t need to take shit, but we at least need to be kind.

Good Enough.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me tell you a story.

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

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

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

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

November-Blues 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write the post.

Write the ritual.

Write the rubric.

Write the hymn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bothered: A Guide.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

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

Grounding and Centering: A Guide.

I go through periods where I start to feel as if my skeleton is trying to jump out of my body. I’m probably not alone here. I’ve seen remarks on various blogospheres and overheard friends saying similar things, so I can at least admit that I’m not alone when I feel this way. It gets to the point, sometimes, where I am so fucking jumpy and uncomfortable in my skin that I feel very much like I’ve been mainlining caffeine for weeks and am now just rushing around on the high. Days and weeks can pass before I even recognize my own patterns enough to realize that I’m having some issues. When it finally dawns on me that I am falling into old patterns – can’t sit still, nothing sounds right when I write it, everything pisses me off, and nothing I do is seemingly good enough – I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve done something to center myself and I should probably work on that.

The thing is, when I first noticed this issue a few years ago, all of the advice I found on those self-help websites was just a load of shit.

In every do-it-yourself guide or “Seven Easy Days to Spiritual Nirvana” type book that is out there, they tell you to ground and center. They tell you to be with the trees and throw down some roots and just go to town with sending all that wonky energy into the earth. They tell you about how that’s the whole point in Mother Earth and just toss it right on down and bring in the good energy that Mother Earth is surely wanting you to have. I tried absolutely everything I could do in order to get down with some trees and send that useless energy right where it belongs. The thing is that I realized something pretty quickly: while I can visualize this all happening, I don’t want to be a fucking tree. I’m a human being with human emotions, which occasionally get so out-of-control that I end up feeling like I’m going to puke our rainbow chunks of emotional cartilage at the next person who looks at me. None of these are things that, I think, trees go through. Besides, if I wanted to be a tree or at least act like a tree, I would have probably have signed up for being a tree in my next life.

I chose to come out a human being and to be a human being, so why the hell am I going to emulate trees? Sure, they’re nice to look at it. They do really awesome things like purify air (or some shit) and they provide shade in the heat. But, I don’t want to emulate one in any context. I just want to get this energy overload out of me.

With every ounce of advice I’ve seen on websites, in books, and going around Tumblr, I’ve just kind of had to shake my head at all and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I liken myself to Finn the Human from the episode, Up a Tree, I’m ready to make my break from all of that bullshit. I don’t need a bunch of people trying to induct me into their tree-loving cult. I’ll just go right on ahead and find my own way, but of course, next comes the question: if you can’t ground and center like the people who are “in the know” tell you that you should, then what the fuck are you supposed to do?

Quite often, I think we all forget that as children, we would do things that would ground and center us. We would run around with our friends, ride bikes, climb trees, play games, and do any number of things that, upon reflection, can clearly be seen as acts bent on grounding and centering ourselves. I can’t even tell you how many times a week, when my son is running around like a wild child in somebody’s yard or just generally all over the place with the other kids, that I hear someone say to me, “He is going to sleep well tonight.” And it’s not really that he’s going to run himself down, but that he is subjecting the world and his family and his friends unto the energy build up in his little body, sending it out and into the universe to do what it will while it leaves him a fraction at a time.

To me, it seems like the people from that in-the-tree-part-of-the-tree mentality seem to think that we, as adults, can’t do that or shouldn’t do that. We have to send all of that energy into Mother Earth while we take energy in return. And I think, people, as a whole, frown on the idea of adults doing the things that children do in order to release all of that pent up energy. But honestly, I have to say that’s bollocks (both parts). If it works for a bunch of six-year-olds, playing hide-and-go-seek and shouting their fool heads off, why can’t we, as adults, do the same fucking thing but with adult-like things? Not doing that, in my opinion, doesn’t make a damn lick of sense when it did fifteen, twenty, thirty, or more years ago when we were all just children, shouting into the darkness with our friends.

When I first realized that I wasn’t going to be able or willing to follow what everyone always said “worked,” I have to admit that I flailed a bit. There is something almost comforting in the idea of being like everyone else. It means that what they do will absolutely work for you and whatever hard work one must put in to discover what works for the individual is not your problem. However, I am an individual and while I think trees are fucking nifty, I’m not going to act like one because I’m out of sorts and overly bitchy. This, of course, meant that I had to start figuring out how to get to that magical state, or really mundane state, of not-going-to-kill-bitches-today. While killing someone is probably highly therapeutic, the court system highly frowns on such practices. So for those of us – because I know that I’m not alone here – who aren’t down with the tree shenanigans, it means it’s time for some trial and error.

Some good news, though, about my having felt as if my skeleton were getting ready to go around on walkabout is that I have a list of possibilities! The bad news is that it is going to take whatever intrepid reader is interested in exploring these options some trial and error before they figure out what works best for them. Again, as much fun as it may be to be like everyone else, we are all individuals. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for anyone else reading this. But perhaps, by offering these suggestions, it will give people worried and freaking out (and possibly seconds away from ripping off peoples’ faces) something to consider before they get to the breaking point (and possibly rip off peoples’ faces).

1. Dancing

I think this is probably one of the biggest suggestions that people of the not-a-tree persuasion recommend. And I honestly have to admit that I don’t listen to this advice very often. I should, though, because there is just something about getting hot and sweaty, heart-pumping and booty-shaking that can really bring things into focus or loose them into the atmosphere to disappear on the a wave of pent-up energy. And the act of dancing doesn’t even have to be anything over-the-top, either. Sometimes, I don’t have the ability to do much actual dancing for lots of reasons: self-conscious, not enough room, stuck in a car, etc. So, sometimes, to me, releasing that pent-up, fuck-off-everything energy is as simple as tapping my feet or fingers to the beat of whatever is on the radio. Or, maybe it’s wiggling my butt while I’m sitting on the couch writing a blog entry (as I am actually doing right this moment). But sometimes, you actually need to get up and just fucking go with it, with a partner or without. Whatever the case may be, dancing should definitely top the lists of all people in the not-a-tree group of individuals.

The song, in my experience, doesn’t even really matter, either. I will dance to whatever the fuck I want to, whenever the fuck I want to. I’ve spent whole days listening to 50s classic rock and dancing the out-of-sorts a way. I’ve spent my drives home from work, overwrought from a long day of intense bullshit, listening to something like Painkiller by Three Days Grace or Desperately Wanting by Better than Ezra in an effort to get that feeling out of my bones. Right now, I’m actually obsessively listening to Timber by Pitbull feat Kesha while I wiggle this shit right the hell out of my system. Whatever the hell you choose is entirely up to you and how the fuck you get your body moving doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is that you get your ass in gear and start moving.

2. Walking/Jogging

This probably goes hand-in-hand with dancing. I think it’s one of the more popular recommendations out there for those of us who don’t belong to the part-of-the-tree group of people. As with dancing, it is the act of doing something that gives you what you need in order to release all of that fuck-shit-up energy going on with you. I spent a lot of time, for months, just walking randomly wherever the hell my feet were willing to take me. I had no particular goal in mind because it wasn’t the act of walking that was important. The important part was that I was feeling incredibly out of control with everything going on around me and I needed a form of escape. To me, becoming one with the trees doesn’t help me when I want to escape the “rah” screaming fits that I may feel deep inside. However, doing something, like dancing or walking, was exactly what I needed in order to get out from under the pressure of the energy build up.

I would spend hours walking around my neighborhood, just putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, I would listen to music as I walked and sometimes, I didn’t. It all depended on how quickly I needed to get somewhere before I felt like I was going to rip someone’s face off or break into a thousand pieces because of the overload going on. Whatever the case may be, it was the act of actually moving that helped me to focus my mind long enough to try and find a way out from underneath everything that was poking my insides and making me feel as if I was getting ready to jump out of my skin.

3. Baking

It was only when I was unemployed that I realized how much I really enjoyed baking. It’s an organized activity that requires (if you’re following a new recipe, at least) exact requirements and attention. This appeased my obsessive compulsive side. However, the act of actually mixing everything together is just a mind-numbing enough project to not really require you to pay attention it. It was a perfect mix to make both sides of my personality feel at peace. And each action – by adding an ingredient – can help to release some of the pent up aggression/out-of-sort/da-fuck-am-I-feeling that’s going on. As the process of baking goes on, I start to slip into the rhythm of it. It gives me something to focus on enough to not feel as if everything I am attempting to do is going to turn into some fucked up piece of shit, but it also gives me enough creativity to allow myself a little free reign with what I’m making. And the more you do it, the more comfortable you get with the overall process, so you’re less likely to behave like a wreck when you’re adding new things.

But each action that is required for the overall baking process can be used to release some tension in specific areas, too, which is why I think it’s such a good way to get my head back to where I need it to be (under my skin). Cracking eggs? Good for being pissed off and needing to take some anger out on something. Need to make sure butter is soft before adding it? Good for staring moodily into space while you get your head in the game. Measuring out enough flour? Good for control freaks feeling out-of-control. You see? Every aspect to baking can be used to help bring your head back under control in some context. If that’s not fucking awesome, then seriously, what the fuck is?

4. Dishes

I hate doing laundry and I hate cleaning, but I don’t actually mind doing the dishes. (Sh, no one tell my ex-husband and my ex-roommate that because, let me tell you, I put up some damn fights about washing the dishes.) During the phase that I was unemployed, it was a simple enough chore to get done early in the morning. And it was during this chore that I found that I had the ability to let my mind wander enough to figure out whatever may have been bothering me at the time. There is something about mindless actions, specifically the repetitive actions, that calms my mind enough to focus on something long enough to start to explore why I may be feeling so out-of-sorts. Occasionally, I’ll find that I have absolutely no fucking reason and it’s because, well, I’ve been so do-do-do that I’ve stopped to take time for myself. And while doing something as chore-like as the dishes might not seem like taking time out for oneself, it is in my book. My hands are busy and it’s something that I can’t really fuck up, but my mind isn’t busy and it’s able to traverse whatever little rambling road it may feel like walking down. It’s actually when I’m doing the dishes that I have some of my more intense epiphanies regarding my religious path, so I suppose it’s something akin to meditating (which isn’t something I am able to do). But it’s also the time when I am able to stop whatever the fuck wildness is going on in my life long enough to come back to myself feeling a little relieved and a lot less as if my skin is going to jump right the fuck off my bones.

And with baking, the very act of cleansing the dishes can be seen as an overall metaphor for grounding and centering. The dishes are dirty – they’re a metaphor for how cray-cray the feelings are getting. The soap and sponge are the act of meditating into the state where you can finally find your center. The rinsing off of the soap is the grounding as you send the nasty fucked up energy off into the sewer system. You see? Even though I’m not a fan of the whole part-of-the-tree cliques out there, I can still find the metaphor useful when I find something much more workable, for me.

5. Card Shuffling

It’s difficult for people, I think, in my particular individualistic ground-and-centering genre to meditate like the be-like-trees group tend to talk about it. They tend to make it seem like a very mystical experience and I get that, to a degree. However, I have found that I can’t really mediate, which may be why I have a hard time with the be-a-tree mentality. Whatever the case may be, I’ve found that many of my grounding and centering techniques are a form of meditation that allow me to let loose long enough to release the pent up energy going on inside. Part of these acts is shuffling any one of my myriad of Tarot decks. The act of actually shuffling the deck quiets my mind enough to settle on whatever it is that may be causing me to feel so out-of-control to finally get it under control.

By shuffling, I’m giving myself the quiet time that my body needs in order to get to where it should be. And the act of actually pulling the cards is me flicking the excess energy into the universe, while also seeking all of the Tarot answers that may be available to me.

This isn’t the complete list of things that I’ve found to aid me with grounding and centering. Depending on the situation, and just how overwrought I may be feeling, I may do something smaller or something more expansive than what I’ve listed here. The point being that it’s not all sitting around and trying to act like trees. Sometimes, it really is just all about getting up and fucking moving enough to unleash the turmoil going on deep inside by whatever [legal] means necessary.

Poor-As-Fuck Polytheism.

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

It’s a novel concept, but I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saying No: A Guide.

A while back, things started to get hinky for me. These days, things are hinky more often than not, but sometimes, I pay closer attention than most. I will admit that I’ve been paying closer attention to dreams, signs, and the like. I’ve been trying to read omens in whatever aspect I could possibly find and not just the usual things. I’ve been looking at flocks of birds – and saw something of note. I’ve been looking at the shape of a cloud as it floats on by – and didn’t see a damn thing. I have been paying closer attention to the music on the radio – and sometimes get an interesting hit. In other moments, I’ve been using my Tumblr dash like a sort of mini oracle, eyeballing the amount of hairs I find in the drain in the morning, and just generally attempting to figure out where the line should be drawn between “this is a sign” and “this is a bunch of bullshit.” Dreams, though, are usually the harbingers for me. Once I start dreaming about something, I know I need to pay closer attention. So, of course, the hinky stuff started after a dream.

I dreamed about a very well noted god in the Hellenic pantheon. I’ll give anyone who I haven’t discussed this with a big clue: he likes wine. Yeah, that’s the guy. I decided to write off the dream. As a polytheist, I may not dream about gods – whether they be mine or belong to other people I know – often, but I had a glass of wine sit out all night and it was probably just a subconscious thing. Wine: dude likes wine. Okey-dokey. It was no big deal, at first. But then I dreamed again, that night, about going to his polytheistic followers who I happen to know of via Tumblr. And one of them responded as the guy himself. He wore the face of this follower whom I’ve known for some time and just laughed at me as I dream-sobbed my way onto his shoulder. When I woke up, I figured this was probably less like subconscious wine smelling and more like something I needed to pay attention to.

Besides, I’ve had dreams about those gods before and not just because I’ve worked with one once. I’ve dreamed about this particular deity a handful of times in the last year. I’ve always written it off. I’m not a Hellenic and I’m not interested. If I wanted to jump off the all Kemetic god revue I’ve been on for the last five years, I would have taken up the anassa eneri on her recommendation that I reach out to a certain handmaiden who likes pomegranates. Or, I wouldn’t have had such a really hard time connecting with a certain other female deity who gets talked about in relation to sex and love. Or, I would have politely listened to that wise Hellenic one when she showed up at work one day instead of telling her to get the hell out of my way. Or, you know, I would have been paying closer attention to a certain tap-dancing wing-footed jokester who farted around my house for months upon months. I like my box, my Kemetic box with a dash of lwa thrown in, and I want to keep it that way. So, whenever I’ve felt those Hellenics popping up, I’ve written them off. But for some reason, this time, I didn’t immediately just shut that door.

I thought about it.

I read every entry and every comment the Hellenics I know had on the guy in question. I thought about what they had to say about him. And I thought about what his entrance into my life could possibly mean. While I sat around and thought about it, I began to notice insane oddities. There was really no other word for it – he was trolling me. He would appear in conversations that had nothing to do with that guy. He would appear more obviously on my dash. Sure, I follow some of his people, but it seemed like it was getting hotter, heavier, and far more wine-soaked than usual on my dash. And then, a slew of devotees began to show up in my Tumblr recommendations. That was about the time that I began looking serious into this and then, I just stopped. I looked at what I was reading and was both intrigued and horrified. It didn’t matter what the specific reason he was coming around in my life for – although I have some ideas – but I definitely couldn’t go through with it. We have similar netjeru in the pantheon I’m connected with and you know what? I’m really pleased with my narrow-minded deity collecting. It is one thing to collect a herd of deities within a pantheon I’m comfortable within and quite another to broach outside of my safety zone.

So, I officially and politely asked him to leave.

He did.

It’s dawned on me that my experience is probably pretty miraculous to some people. There are a lot of people out there, however, who recommend that we say no and on a regular basis. Hell, I recommend saying no to the gods with whom you already have developed relationships with. It could get boring if you give in all the time! And I also recommend saying no to gods that you don’t have established relationships with. Just because they are gods doesn’t mean that we should automatically kowtow to their wants and desires. If we aren’t ready or aren’t willing to take on the task, then saying yes is going to end up making both parties miserable. The god in question will be angry and upset with you for failing and you will be angry and upset with yourself for the same reason. The point, as I’ve been talking about often enough, is the intent that we put behind whatever the hell we end up doing for the gods is the most important part. And if we just give in because we don’t think we have a way out, then they’re going to sense that. And things may not end up going so well for everyone involved so it’s always just a good idea to say, “No,” if you need to.

Let me reiterate this for those who may stumble on this blog and think that I’m an overly assertive asshat: what I did was not miraculous. I didn’t just do it because I wasn’t ready, but because I wasn’t willing to give whatever the hell he wanted me to give. Sure, I have my own personal thoughts on what all that shtick is about and his followers told me it wasn’t just what my personal holdups thought it was. I get that. Gods are multifaceted and varied, no matter what the mythologies may tend to tell us about them. But, it wasn’t for me. I don’t really care what-all he could have given me. If I can’t get what he has to offer from the netjeru in my life, or with any future additions to the always ready for more (I guess) deity collecting that I do, then I don’t think it really is necessary or needed or even remotely something I need to pay attention to.

But for those who stumble on this blog and may think, “Wow, that’s ballsy; you just asked and he left?” Let me just say that it wasn’t as simple as all that. When it comes to spirits, whether they be gods, lwa, or anything in between, nothing is clear-cut and simple.

1. No names.

Names are pretty important stuff in ancient Egypt. We don’t really pay as close attention in Kemeticism, I think, but names are still pretty damn important. By saying a being’s name, you are giving it power. Not specifically over you, but in general. If you didn’t want to give a being power, in any way, you would do your best to forget the name or you would destroy it. In the case of the gods, epithets or nicknames were often used to refer to them instead of using their names. (I forget the specific reason behind this, but I believe it was more about ritual and piety than anything else.) In any case, you say the name, you give the power; you don’t say the name, you don’t give it any more power.

In the case of gods, if you don’t bother utilizing the name in question, then you’re not providing them with anything that they can use to gain a foothold in your territory. Just because they show up once or twice in a dream doesn’t necessarily equate to them being a part of your life or becoming a part of your personal pantheon. It just means they came knocking with a smattering of possibilities before you. Whether or not you open the door is entirely up to you, of course, but if you aren’t really sure that you want to do that, then I strongly recommend referring to them – if you decide to do so at all – in nicknames. I don’t even recommend using the popular epithets that you can find on websites but nicknames you create yourself. They may not necessary associate themselves with the nickname. In my case, I chose “wine guy” or “big D.” It was alluding just enough to give devotees of his an idea as to who I was talking about, but not really enough to let him do much more than some basic trolling.

After years of being trolled, I can handle some little things.

2. Say “fuck off” a lot.

Trolling varies from deity to deity… and it can get pretty weird. Sometimes, it’s little minor things that can easily be explained away. And sometimes, it’s less likely explainable and more likely weird as hell. In either case, it should pretty much be expected that trolling will occur when a god is interested. If a god is really interested in having your attention, then they’re going to throw some shit at you so that you get the memo. Sometimes, I think that they believe we aren’t as bright as we all believe. But in all honesty, I think it has more to do with a basic belief that no god would ever be interested in us and whatever other self-esteem related deity issues we may bring to the table. Anyway.

Whatever the trolling may be is entirely up to them, but of course, it should be expected. And of course, with each new case of trolling, make sure that there is a frighteningly large eye roll at the end of it all. Make sure it is as exasperated and as irritated as you can possibly convey because, honestly, there’s nothing like consistency with these things. If you aren’t consistent in your reactions, they may believe that you aren’t really serious when you tell them no. And you have to make it very, very clear that you are not interested in what they have to offer. So, think of all the idiotic comments you’ve ever read online that have made you roll your eyes and make it ten times more theatrical when you pull on your “for fuck’s sake, are you pathetically trolling me again” eye roll.

My personal fave is “fuck off” and that is usually enough. Occasionally after being trolled that is precisely my response, although occasionally I’ll switch it up with a melodramatic eye roll. After the wisdom lady showed up with owl feathers for two solid days, I told her to fuck off. After the last time the winged-foot irritant came by, I told him to fuck off. It may sound pretty rude, but sometimes that’s all that will break through their single-minded focus when it comes to new followers. They’re more interested, in my eyes, in gaining more than they are in paying attention to what some of that more may actually prefer in the situation. So, sometimes, it means that you have to pull on your big kid underwear and tell them to go take a hike, roll your eyes like you’ve never seen something so pathetic, and tell them to “fuck off” when the simple stuff isn’t enough. And remember: above all, consistency.

3. No research.

This almost goes hand-in-hand with the no name thing, but I think it bears repeating. If you don’t do any research, then you don’t know anything about the deity in question and you’re likely to follow your first gut instinct. I didn’t pay attention to this rule. As someone who has followed this rule to the letter, unless I’ve been ordered to otherwise by my netjeru, I can attest that by looking into the deity, you’re kind of calling more attention to yourself. I think this is why the trolling got a little heavier between the wine guy and myself before I finally told him to go away. I did a little bit of research and I read everything the people who were helping me said about it. If I hadn’t bothered, I would have fallen under the rule of consistency I just outlined above. But, I didn’t so the trolling got kind of heavy for a while.

In either case, if your first instinct is to tell a deity that you aren’t interested, then there is a reason for that. And you shouldn’t second-guess yourself by giving in to the urge to learn more. If you give in to the urge to learn more, you may end up getting sucked further in and you may end up regretting it later. In either case, if you don’t know anything but your own preconceived notions about the gods, then you aren’t really going to make a good devotee. As I’m very fond of saying, the gods have layers. I know that the wine dude is more than just what I think he is – a wine-soaked frat boy’s wet dream, literally in some cases – or what I pretend him to be. (None of you get in a huff now. I know my preconceived notions are wrong.) I keep those preconceived notions because I know that the gods who they apply to don’t like them. And that’s another layer of protection and another way to get them to get out when I want them to. If I don’t know anything but the lies I tell myself, then why are they going to bother with me?

4. Ignore them.

Sometimes your basic trolling isn’t enough. Like I said above, I sometimes think they get really, really intent on the idea of having another devotee and they forget that we have free will. Whatever the case may be, sometimes trolling isn’t enough. And they’ll start assaulting you in other ways. I don’t mean that literally, although I know that’s also a possibility. If a deity is just interested in you in a simple devotee kind of way, then assaults will end up in more like the dreams and more heavy portents kind of way as opposed to anything else. (And you know, if it gets out of hand, Duskenpath needs to be your go-to here because she’ll kick ass righteous and/or teach you how to kick ass righteous.) Instead of discussing whatever ends up happening, then you need to ignore it. You need to pretend that it isn’t happening.

As Tumblr user, Draelogor happily told me, “I was told ‘inaction is action’ and it right about blew my mind. Dunno if it helps, but I’ve personally gotten a God (as well as countless entities) to back off by ignoring them and their efforts, and taking no action towards acknowledging or validating them and their efforts, or their influence over me and my life choices and actions. As disrespectful as that may have seemed to some, I had my own reasons at the times it happened, and inaction seemed to work quite well.” And that’s really very honest and good advice. If you ignore something long enough, stick your head in the sand, it’s going to go away. If you ignore the mosquito buzzing in your ear, it will go away, no matter how obnoxious it may get before the end.

Since I didn’t follow my “no research” rule about the wine dude, I ended up getting dreams and odd Tarot readings for the few days before I asked him to leave. Since I made a post about his trolling, I got still more. I was giving him more to feed off so that he could climb inside. In a tizzy, I turned to Sekhmet for advice and she just kind of looked at me and said, “You do what you want to do here. It’s not my choice.” And that’s kind of when I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to be paying any attention whatsoever to what was going on around me. So, I ignored all the telltale cups cards I was getting and just went, “Huh,” instead of ranting. I ignored the dreams of curly headed people trying to talk to me and went about my business. Ignoring a god isn’t necessarily easy but it helps.

5. Tell them to leave.

I honestly believe that the gods have short attention spans. I’ve likened them to children a few times before and I stick by that. When it comes to shiny, new things, they are definitely very much like kids. If you ignore them enough, they tend to ignore you right the hell back. And when you realize that they are ignoring you back, that’s the time to pounce. As I showed in the link when I asked him to leave, he didn’t necessarily go quietly. He had his parting shots, but I didn’t bite. The carrot of information he was tantalizing me with wasn’t enough, to me. I wasn’t willing to wager whatever it was he wanted to get whatever he thought he could leverage over me enough to say yes. I’ve become a bit of cynic when it comes to the gods, lately, but I knew that whatever he had to offer, I could find the answers elsewhere.

The thing is that I had to admit that I may not find out whatever leverage he was dangling before me. And you know what? That’s okay. If I don’t know about it, then it can’t really hurt me. And if I’m supposed to know about it, either the netjeru I have now will tell me, in their own way, or they will point me in the proper direction. Cynic or not, I don’t necessarily believe that he was lying, per se, with whatever he had to offer me. I honestly believe he did have a thing or 70 to teach my pigheaded, stubborn ass. But suffice to say, not knowing is okay for me. I have a lot on my plate, as it is, and I don’t need anything else muddying the waters.

Now, obviously, these aren’t the only ways to go ahead and say no to a new god coming into your life. There are many different ways to go about it and each are going to be as individual as the devotee in question. Whatever it is, I have to advocate highly and fully that you are consistent in each approach. If you truly are not interested, don’t waver. No matter what the god in question may be offering you in payment for your devotion, it may not necessarily be worth it. Many long-term polytheists and pagans will tell you that this shit is hard. And sometimes, it means that you have to metaphorically rip off your skin to be the devotee that the god wants you to be. Sometimes, that’s a good thing and sometimes, it’s not. In either case, if your initial gut is saying to tell them to get the fuck out of, then tell them to get the fuck out.

Related Entries

  1. The Nuances of Non-Physical Relationships by Devo.
  2. A Good Horse by Devo.
  3. Victim Shaming, YOUR Consent, and Spirit-Walking by Duskenpath.
  4. Consent for Spirit-Walkers by Duskenpath.
  5. Setting Boundaries With Your Deity by A Changing Altar.
  6. How It All Began by Rock of Eye.
  7. KRT: Gods and You by various KRT Bloggers.
  8. Mr. Sympathy by Volsung.
  9. Relationships with Deities by Laurus Drakan
  10. Reasons for Not Wanting To Work with Gods by Crooked Crown

Kemetic Round Table: Shrine 101.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kemetic Round Table: Daily Life.

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.

One of the main issues, I feel, in Kemeticism happens to stem from when you begin thinking about what a practice will be to the the transfer of actual doing. It’s all candy and rainbows when you’re only discussing possibilities, but when the hard work begins of putting your money where your mouth is. In Kemeticism, I can’t tell you if it’s just me or if it really does happen to seem this way, but there seems to be a lot of armchair scholars who don’t seem too hot to discuss what a daily, fulfilling practice may entail. And if you step a single toe out of the reconstruction world into, dare I say it, “woo” then you tend to end up getting the whole fleet jumping down your throat. Armchair polytheism is all fine and good, but it gets to the point where you can either develop religious atrophy or you can actually pull on your big girl/boy panties and do.

When I started actually pulling a daily practice out of my butt, I noticed a lot of changes in how I went about things. I still do avid research – either for fun or because I’m curious – but it became less necessary to constantly have my nose buried in an anthropological text or a book on mythology. It became more important to experience what it is I was looking to make: a religious practice that I can proudly flaunt, that I can use to help newbies looking for that aid, and something that I can, if he’s interested, pass down to my son one day. At the core of it, that is literally the only bits of outside perspective that I keep in mind when I’m working on what it is I’m forging with my daily rites and my festivals and my akhu veneration. Is this something my son will be proud to acknowledge one day? Is this something that a newbie may be interested in mimicking one day?

To me, those two questions, in my religious life, are the only two questions I need to continuously say, yes, to in order to believe that I am truly living in ma’at.

One of the things that I’m actually a little startled in how this daily stuff affects me is my level of confidence is growing as time goes by. I can only equate to how it felt when I was a dancer.

I was a ballerina for many years. I was fast-tracking myself into a company so that, one day, I would be able to go pro if I so desired. (One day, I just stopped dancing, though, which is why I’m a wife, mother, and work in telecommunications now.) In being able to carve out a practice for myself, it’s very much like all the time and energy and practice I put in to dancing so that I would be able to pass any auditions when I wanted to join a professional company. It reminds me of all the days I spent at a wall or a chair in my mother’s house, practicing a forward-facing developpé so that I could hold my leg in the air for five minutes if so instructed. Now, I couldn’t hold my leg up that high for that long if I tried, but you kind of get the idea. The hard work and dedication that went into that practice is very similar to the hard work and dedication I’ve put into my religious practice.

But, really, as exciting as it is to say, “I was able to hold a developpé for five minutes,” it doesn’t even begin to describe the confidence level I gained as a soloist. On top of taking ballet, I also did jazz. In the two or three years prior to quitting, I did a jazz solo routine. It was very cutesy: we used old school music and my dance routines had props like hats and walking sticks. The day I won the third-place medal in a competition for my solo was the day I knew that I had really achieved something. My mom was always telling me how wonderful I was and how good I was – and even though moms are kind of required to tell you that, I believed her – but it was the day I won third place that I knew I had really come far with everything I had been building. I had worked so hard and with so much intent on my expressive face, made sure my costume was perfect for the music choice, and practiced in hallways at school, walking home from school, in my room while counting steps in my head so that I was able to achieve a third place medal.

Not only was that moment so high on my confidence meter, it also showed me that with enough hard work and dedication, I could do whatever I wanted. And that’s kind of like how it feels when I am able to pull a festival rite out of my butt, or when I go to the cemeteries to honor the akhu. It’s not so much that I am doing this because I want to, but as I said above, I want to be able to show people with pride what I have done and what I have achieved. And while there are no medals or competitions in this particular path, there are days where it sure feels like I’ve won a medal.

When I first started practicing, I used to look at pagan altar porn whenever I had an off moment and I was online. I used to look at these beautiful, ornate altars and think, one day, mine will look like that. In looking at all of the stuff I have on my altars and how not-very-clean they are right now, I can tell you that my altars don’t look anything like that link would have you believe. They are dusty (right now) and they are full. They’re a little cramped because of space and things. But if I were to go over there and do a quick clean, they may even be able to compete with the oft-venerated Miss Dirty and her beautiful altars. (Personally, I doubt my altars would ever when if a competition between what she does and what I do ever happens, but it’s a thought!)

This isn't what I'm doing,  swear.

This isn’t what I’m doing, swear.

I used to, as a less knowledgeable polytheist, believe that you had to have an altar because that’s where devotion happened. It’s come to my attention that spontaneous devotion is a thing and it’s something I do fairly regular as time goes by. I’m not just being reverential at my altars – and as much sass as I give all the OTHERS™ I have in my life, yes I can be fucking reverent – any more. I’m going outside and being reverent to the sun, to the storm that may come in. I’m doing spontaneous things to all the various gods in my Kemetic pantheon. It’s not just the overwhelming desire to honor ALL THE GODS or even the need to honor the less known ones. It’s spontaneous devotion on a level that I can’t quite comprehend or explain adequately. It’s the devotional poetry I’ve been putting up on Tumblr the last few weeks; it’s the dropping to my knees and giving thanks to Re for a new day; it’s the thanking Sekhmet for giving me the strength to get through a particularly grueling day at work; it’s all of those things.

But really, what it is are the moments of in-between where I know a particular god is probably listening to what I’m saying and I know that I need to honor them, worship them, show them piety and I do all of those things. I don’t just rely on altars. I don’t just rely on shrines. I don’t just rely on icons made in China. I don’t just rely on offerings of food and water, incense and flame. I give them my words, my thanks, my tears, my joy. These offerings are just as good and just as adequate as all of the physical ones we give, but they’re more spontaneous, from the heart, and less likely to require more planning than a two-by-four to the face.

Yet another aspect that I’ve found changing because of my daily practice is the need and desire to do more ornate rituals. When I first started practicing Kemeticism, I wanted to do rituals and festivals and procession days, but I didn’t dare. I didn’t know enough, I told myself; I wasn’t ready yet. And in the waiting and holding off of working festivals into my calendar, I was able to build up a solid foundation to pull from when I was ready to add festivals to my calendar. Since Wep-Ronpet, I have celebrated a half dozen festivals and each one has been intent, flavorful, pulled out of my butt on a whim, and every single one of them has fucking rocked.

If I had gone into those festivals without the background that four years running as a Kemetic have given me, I know I wouldn’t have been satisfied with what I did. It didn’t matter what festivals I chose or how small they would have been, I would have come away from the experience completely dissatisfied with myself and my religious practice. In waiting until I had a good daily foundation, I was able to build a better pyramid for my religious celebrations. I had the foundation built and created the rest of my triangle with devotion and with ritualistic celebrations, so that I now have an equilateral triangle of religion. And again, I say, if not for my daily practice, I know things would be vastly different, that I wouldn’t be satisfied, and I’m pretty fucking thrilled, in writing this, that Papa Legba showed up when he did to help me get my ass in gear.

There are things, fortunately or otherwise, that have been affected by my practice that aren’t quite so great. As awesome as we all make it seem to be forging a Kemetic practice based on book knowledge and intuition alone, it’s not all so fantastic. I’m the first polytheist to tell you that not everything is rainbow, unicorn farts, and ice cream. There are some pretty shitty things about being a polytheist, a happy polytheist, a functioning polytheist that we don’t ever take into consideration when we start practicing.

You have to be quiet, on the down low, for those of us with jobs that care.

I have a job that would entirely care.

My new boss is an Evangelical Christian. I don’t really know what that means but based on the password she uses to get into our computers, she’s pretty big into her religion. Personally, I don’t feel like it should be in the work place, in any context, but it is there. Everyone is human; all those humans have beliefs. So, when I’m wearing my sacred jewelry pendants to Hetheru or Sekhmet, and someone asks, then I need to make up a lie. I hate lying; I hate hiding. I was out all of last year but because my Facebook profile is in no way connected to who I am on LinkedIn, not a single person who interviewed me in the last month of 2012 and the first month of 2013 had a single idea that I have religion and it sure as hell isn’t mainstream.

There are days where I have to edit my speech because of my religion. I say, “thank the gods,” a lot. I have to amend that statement to “thank God.” I’m not thrilled with that. I have to make up stories about the pendants I wear when asked. I have to quietly give praise to my gods, like Djehuti for helping me write a particular painful E-mail to a client or Sekhmet for letting me have the strength to get my ass reamed out for making a mistake. There are days when I want to shout across the office, “I’m a polytheist and I want everyone to know.” But, you can’t do that in this day and age. You can’t be loud, boisterous. You have to make up lies, you have to be careful of what you say, and you have to very intently steer any religious conversations away from where they are going.

What if you slip?

I’m likely to slip and I need this job, so no thanks.

All in all, though, most of the changes I’ve seen in myself and in my life haven’t been horrible. I’m able to have confidence in my practice and in myself to know that I’m not going to make my gods angry if I deny them in lip-service. I’m pious enough in my practice that I know I can make up a quick snippet of lies regarding my sacred jewelry and there will be no smiting. I’m uncomfortable with it because I’m an asshole that leaves everything in the open, but I know that I need to survive. And we are all creatures that must survive, which includes making the changes necessary to that survival.

But, as time has gone on, as I’ve shown and not shown, there have been quite a few changes in my life that has been brought about by my daily goings-on. I’ve noticed myself becoming more concise in my speech (though I do still mess up, as Devo can attest). I have found myself paying close attention to spoon management and its ongoing association, in the Kemetic hemisphere, with living in ma’at. I’ve found myself more able to pay attention to those quiet moments where devotion is spontaneous and intent. I’ve found myself having more confidence in what I am doing. I have also found that confidence lends its hand to being quiet regarding my religious practices in public. I have also found myself less likely to give a flying fig when people criticize how I go about things. I kind of feel that this daily practice is helping me to shed the quiet, mousy solitary practitioner I used to be in order to become a heka-speakin’, ma’at-driven boat paddler.

Akhu Veneration 101.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that there aren’t a lot of 101 or guides out there for people looking to venerate some akhu. It’s difficult to try to emulate the rich worship going on in ancient Egypt in modern times – no tombs, no pyramids, no seventy days of mourning, no natron and bitumen, no walls carved and artfully decorated in a tomb, etc. But, when it comes down to brass tacks, really, the worship part is what we need to focus on. I think people at large and some Kemetics in part get caught up in the pretty pictures in all of the books. I’ve been guilty of it, but I’ve decided that just because I am recon-slanted doesn’t necessarily mean I have to lament the things I don’t have that are like ancient Egypt and celebrate the things I do have that are unlike ancient Egypt.

What is akhu veneration?
Specifically, akhu is the special word that Kemetics use to denote their ancestors, which actually translates as “shining ones.” It can also be translated to mean “spirit,” “ghost,” or “transfiguration.” (The last because when an akh is created, then it has been transfigured – passed the weighing of its heart and allowed, in ancient Egyptian belief, the ka and ba to merge to form the akh.) Each Kemetic is more or less specific about what akhu means, but when we are getting together and the word pops up, each of us speaking of our genetic heritage, the ancestors who created us to bring us into being today.

Now, when we venerate our akhu, it can either be intimated that we worship them as one does with the gods or that we revere them. Specifically, “venerate” is defined as to revere while “worship” is defined as reverent honor or homage paid. In a very technical sense, we could go so far as to say that I’m using a pretty fancy word here, veneration, when I could just as easily use worship. However, worship is a dirty word in post polytheist circles, so I tend to refrain from using it on a regular basis. It may, in fact, be what I do with the gods, but I cannot say that I worship my akhu.

My staples for feeding them are a mix of Kemetic staples and some things I’ve picked up in my research from Vodou. Obviously, you don’t need to follow my list exactly, but it’s a good start for anyone freaking the hell out. From the Kemetic side of things, I will leave flowers, bread, water, whole fruits, incense, booze, and candle light. The candles are usually the small tea lights and I will usually light it early on so I can make sure that grass fires don’t happen, but occasionally, I will leave one of those glass enclosed seven-day candles. From the Vodou side of things, I will leave roasted corn in the form of corn nuts – the spicier the better – and tobacco.

Who would be chosen as one’s akhu to venerate?
This is one of those questions that can be problematic and/or inherently personal.

Personally, when it comes to taking care of my Blessed Dead, I associate them with people who are my genetic ancestors, people who have absolutely no bearing on my genetic heritage but are still part of my family in some way, and people who I have never met, but who forged the area where I live into the metropolitan urbane area it is today. While I’m a rarity in choosing to include the graves I tend regularly as a part of my akhu, I’m not so rare in choosing to include those who are part of my genetic heritage and those who married into my family (and did not add to my genetic heritage). To me, all akhu are my akhu in a way – I do not pick and choose people from my family and if I were to research the histories of the people whose graves I tend, I would not pick and choose them, either.

You see, quite often in Kemetic circles, there will be specific people who are part of a person’s akhu who are left out. The reasoning behind why various Kemetics will leave people out is personal. They either will or will not share their reasoning, but I can tell you that the people who they leave out tend to be “assholes.” That’s a rather broad term for some souls who should have been killed off in the Duat with the horrors they inflicted upon their families, but it’s the best. Those people could be muuet (demonic beings) or their souls could have been dispersed. In either case, it is in the living person’s best interest to not interact with them at all.

I completely agree with this. In fact, I heartily support anyone who says that they cannot or will not add X to their akhu because of Y. As I said, these decisions are very personal for each practitioner. Who chooses whom is not an easy question and it really comes up to making the decision after – pardon the pun – a lot of soul-searching. But, all in all, when it comes to determining who you are or are not going to add to the list, you really need to think about it on your own. You need to decide if these are the ones you want to interact with and if not, you should know why so that you can tell that spirit – if they are an akhu and not a muuet – why you’ve made that decision.

Can pets be considered akhu?
I absolutely and one hundred percent believe that my pets are part of my akhu. Pets are a delicate thing for a lot of people, at least in America. There are people who view them as part of the family – as I do – and people who view them as “furniture” or “decorative pieces.” Since my pets have always been a part of my family, a four-footed sister or brother, daughter or son, they are absolutely honored when I venerate my akhu. To each their own, and all of that, but they’re part of my practice. While I don’t leave offerings for them as often as I do my human akhu, they’re included when I do rituals for my akhu.

How do you venerate the akhu?
Each person’s practice is going to be different when it comes to the how. We are no longer limited, in this country, by a heritage universally shared or similar. In ancient Egypt, this was never up for debate because they were all the same: if you were rich, you’d get a place to go to when you died and if you were poor, you may be able to work some fields on behalf of those rich people after you died. How the layman, or the poor man, was honored by their family has not come down to us [like everything else], but how it was done for the upper crust is not something we can emulate. We don’t have pyramids or tomb niches cut out of rock to visit. We can go to graves, but the grandeur of the Valley of the Kings is a far cry from the gravestones we may visit.

So, how? How do you go about this if you’re recon-slanted and trying to rebuild a modern practice?

You do whatever the hell feels accurate to you.

For example, I know a Kemetic, Zenith, who has Philippine ancestry and in honoring them, she tries to emulate veneration of the akhu from a Philippine perspective. When I work with my genetic ancestors, as they are all French and English, I tend to pull items from both sides to coalesce them into a single, cohesive, veneratin’-full unit. Some people who venerate their akhu do not take the racial or genetic history into account and just go to town. But others, such as myself and the Kemetic I mentioned above, will look to the heritage for answers to questions as well as suggestions on how to go about honoring our akhu.

While utilizing the heritage that your akhu stems from is a very simple matter, what it comes down to is a simple what feels right. If you feel it’s right to honor them based on where they come from in the world, then do so. If you’re a full-fledged American who doesn’t really see themselves as anything other than American, then go your own way. In either case, the how isn’t as important as the doing.

What do you offer the akhu?
In all actuality, when it comes to the leaving of offerings, it is highly dependent on where I am and what I am doing. What I offer when I am tending graves is similar to what I may offer when doing ritual to my akhu at home, but it’s not specifically the same. When I’m tending graves of either my genetic ancestors or the graves of my beautiful cemeteries, my first and only real purpose (especially if it is a cemetery where I have not built a connection yet) is to feed their souls. One hundred and thirty percent, my main goal besides cleaning, taking pictures, and telling them all who I am and what my purpose is* then my next goal is to make sure they are fed enough to be active when I come back for a visit.

* If you are entering a cemetery with the intention of grave tending and you have never, ever, ever, ever been there before, you have no connection with that place or those people. You need to announce what you are doing or else. The last time I failed to do that, my camera went to the big Scrap Pile in the sky. So, you absolutely announce to everyone – first thing – who you are, why you are there, and how you are not going to harm anything because you’re only goal is to please them.

Now, as far as leaving offerings, I have quite a few standard staples that I leave. Most of my staples stem from my Kemetic practice, but I have one or two that I leave from the snippets I’ve learned with my vodou practice. From the Kemetic perspective, I will leave flowers, whole fruit, incense, bread, water, booze, and candle light. The candles I usually leave as an offering are tea lights and white, for purity. I will usually try to light my candle earlier in my grave-tending, well before I am ready to feed their souls fully, so that I can be sure I do not cause a grass fire. Occasionally, I will leave the glass-enclosed seven-day candles but rarely. From my vodou practices, I will leave the spiciest damn corn nuts you ever did find – as a replacement for roasted corn, which appears to be a well-loved treat of the Guédé – and some tobacco. The Bawon and many Guédé prefer cigars, but I’m not so perfect and pay attention to the ecosystem, so I’ll leave a few tobacco leaves if I have any.

Where do you venerate them?
Quite often, people will build a shrine or altar space to their akhu, which is where most of the offerings, prayers, and communication happens. It’s easiest, really, to build a general place in your house so that you aren’t forced to use gas and go to graves to venerate. It’s all right there and you don’t have to go anywhere to get what you want done. This is easiest, not just because of the economy, but also because not a lot of people will live in the same area as their akhu. Pagan Pickle has told me that he lives to far away to visit graves on a regular basis and in the case of Zenith, her family members are in the Philippines, which isn’t exactly a hop, skip, or jump away from her in the United States.

All in all, an altar in your home is the easiest and fastest way to get started.

I’m lucky, however. I can go to the graves of my akhu with very little gas money wasted in the process. Literally, my father’s grave is right down the street. My paternal grandparents and paternal step-great grandparents are in the city next door. The myriad of family members on my mother’s side all tend to reside in the largest Catholic cemetery in my city. My maternal grandmother is in the local veteran’s cemetery (which is about a half hour from me) waiting for my grandfather to join her. Not everyone is as lucky as me, though. I can jump in the car on a Saturday (my chosen day for akhu work) and visit any one of them. And if I’m really inclined, I can drive the few hours to New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts, or New Jersey to finish the larger array of ancestors I have.

However, I don’t just go to the cemeteries where my family members have been left. I also go to all of the older cemeteries in my area and tend those graves. I do this because, as I’ve said, my akhu is a bit more complicated than most in that I also honor the pioneers who cut out our swath of the country. While the things they did to the locals are horrific and unbearable in the eyes of [many] modern Americans, they are still to be honored for the sacrifices they made in creating this country, either for fighting for its independence or merely for creating a township that is still extant today. So, again, I go to the cemeteries and that’s how I get my veneration on.

What would you put on an altar for the akhu?
Altars to the akhu vary from person to person. You can go on to Fuck Yeah Altars on Tumblr and usually see an akhu shrine if you scroll back far enough. I’m uncertain but Shrine Beautiful may also have some akhu shrines thrown in there. All in all, if you look at someone else’s altar porn, then you may be able to get a few thoughts on what to add. If not, here are my recommendations.

If and when I do the altar thing for my akhu, the entire thing will be a shrine of pictures. Be careful that the picture only shows the person who you are honoring and no one living. (I can’t really remember the reason behind why we don’t add living people to our altar except that it’s “bad juju.”) If you don’t have access to pictures without other people in them – as I have found with my father – then get an item that reminds you of that person and place it on the altar as them. For my father, I would place a white-and-black plaid shirt as this was the type of shirt I associated with him. For my grandmother, I would use a replica kitchen table because she “ruled the world from the kitchen table.” (No, seriously.) Aside from that, an offering plate or bowl, a cup for libations, and some candle light should top it off.

When should you venerate the akhu?
As based on the Kemetic lunar calendar, there appears to have been miniature festivals for the akhu once a month. I haven’t integrated the lunar calendar into my Kemetic calendar, as yet, but it may happen in future. Aside from that, there are a few minor festivals of the akhu throughout the solar calendar that can also be celebrated. As my studies in regards to the Kemetic calendar have been put on hold while I get other projects done, I cannot say conclusively if there were larger festivals held in ancient Egypt that were for the akhu. I believe the Wag Festival is associated with the ancestors, but it later became conflated with a festival of Djehuti. The information I have pulled has been mostly based off of the Djehuti association.

I also celebrate Fet Guédé, which is on the second of November every year. My celebrations for this are for my ancestors, obviously, but I mostly go out to a cemetery and do a very private celebration. Not as fun-filled as the Bawon would like, but what to do when you are a solitary Vodouisant? From what I’ve read and from what I’ve seen in videos, this is a very large celebration for Haitians and my, herm, rather sedate celebration is not up to par.

Aside from those minor festivals and Fet Guédé, I actually celebrate my akhu fairly regularly. I go to the cemetery every Saturday when the weather is not snow or oppressive heat to spend time with either my genetic ancestors or the graves that I tend. They are always on my lips, always in my heart, and I spend a good deal of time each week talking to them and honoring them as I see fit. Not everyone can be as obsessive, I suppose, as I can be when it comes to my akhu, so I recommend looking to your calendar and integrating some festivals of the akhu to get into the swing of things.

Why do you venerate the akhu?
I’ve thought about this answer a lot since I began having thoughts that I needed to write this entry. I’ve discussed why we have the relationships we do with our gods, but I’ve never really thought about why we would venerate our akhu. From an outsider’s perspective, it may appear that we spend as much time thinking and discussing and celebrating our akhu because, well, that’s what the ancients did. And since a lot of us are recon-slanted or full-blown reconstructionists, then by golly, we’re going to recon the whole damn thing, ancestor veneration included. And in some circles, this may actually be the case. It may just be that someone has decided that the ancient Egyptians did it, so you know, it should be a part of their practice, whether they feel strongly about it or not.

In my practice, it really wasn’t a huge aspect for the longest time. I would go and visit and I’d think about things I wanted to do for my akhu, but my plans always fell apart or they fell short of the goal I had intended. It wasn’t until I began working with the Bawon and Papa that I began to realize that it wasn’t just about me and what I wanted, but it was about my akhu and what the fuck they wanted. And as silly and ridiculous and trite as it may sound, they just really don’t want to be forgotten. They want someone to tell others stories about them. They want someone to tell others about who they were. They want someone to tell others about what they liked. They want someone to just fucking make them live, however briefly, in stories, anecdotes, and in those people’s thoughts.

And that’s what it comes down to; that’s the why.