Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.

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A New Perspective: The Importance of Words

“There is [no] taxing of the scribe. He does not have dues. So take note of this.” – Reminder of the Scribe’s Superior Status, translated by William Kelly Simpson

When I first wrote this blog post I had dropped the ball on posting regularly. I smirked when I found it again because I dropped the ball again. Back then I was dealing with discouragement and an illness, while this time it’s taking care of my etsy store, a chapbook (a small book of poetry about 50 pages or fewer), and feeling overwhelmed by it all. My inspiration isn’t lacking as much as lacking direction.

At the time of this blog I sat down to read Reminder of the Scribe’s Superior Status, which is a letter from one scribe to another who had left to work a “mundane” job. I can certainly relate to the feeling as can almost everyone right now. The passage quoted stuck with me. It’s a passage that reminds me of the value of my writing and my work, even though the passage is about tax-exemption of scribes (though I’m not sure how historically accurate that is). It showed me that even if my work was only important to me it was still important.

Words have power. Most of that power originates in what we put in them. It’s a part of the reason why people have the power to incite mobs or bind people in matrimony. It’s why trolling is so effective at times. I feel if more people understood the power behind words their conversations would reflect this more accordingly on websites like facebook. Absolutely everyone has some power when they can use language. A person who can use language responsibly is even more powerful.

I’ve slowly learned what this means for me and how it impacts my own writing. As a child I was diagnosed with a language disorder called cluttering. Basically it means my thoughts go faster than what I can express. It isn’t limited to mere speech disfluencies; it affects my writing (it’s illegible on an incredible scale, though with more access to computers I hear everyone’s writing quality declined), my ability to organize my thoughts (all suggestions to outline are, to me, a horrible punchline to an ill-conceived joke), if I don’t express a thought in a conversation at the moment I lose the thought altogether, and that’s assuming I use the correct words and speak clearly. Years of speech therapy made most of the speech problems and the way I vocalize things go away.

Writing, conversely, has proven a bigger, more frustrating challenge despite a BA in Creative Writing. I still don’t write concisely, grammatically correct, nor with clear semantics. It’s led to many misunderstandings and arguments because of what people read into my writings. I re-read, comb over every syllable, and clarify. It isn’t effective all the time and I learn from those experiences. Part of the examination of my words also comes with awareness of my ability and not just the ability of my words. I know if I’m not mindful and diligent my message fizzles. Faced with semantics, though, not everything with cluttering proves a stumbling block in my writing. It allows me more freedom for wordplay, more experimentation with puns and spoonerisms, proves advantageous to “stream of consciousness” style, and fun with meter. Combined with my degree cluttering adds another level and power to my writing.

Somehow with all of my abilities and disadvantages I manage to send a message to my audience.  Sometimes it’s not always the message I want, but that’s out of my hands most of the time.  Even if the message they receive isn’t the message I put forth I see how it inspires people.  That inspiration means more to me than anything dollar could.  If my writing inspires the reader to better themselves then I know my work is well done.  I see the power of my words in action and that is part of how I define success.

Words are powerful because of the intent they carry. Words can also be wasted if jumbled together. Even when the words are haphazardly strung together some people find meaning in it. I find the quoted passage is relevant in that regard. I find it difficult to place a price on my writing because value extends beyond money. There’s the work itself that conveys something, the meanings interwoven into a piece, and the extent a piece impacts someone’s life. In that sense I feel writers may pay taxes on the monetary gains from their work but can never fully calculate the cost of their writings not only for the author but for the audience.

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Budget Thursday: Braving the Second-Hand Bookstore

When I had free time in college I devoted it to exploring my faith. I resorted to books often. Since I didn’t always have the money nor the transportation to trek to the other end of town I ventured over to the closest second-hand bookstore. At a fraction of a cost I owned a copy of a book. The lack of organization and the time necessary to peruse the store is intimidating for many. Here are some tips that will help navigate the second-hand bookstores.

Use the store credit. Second-hand bookstores get some stock from customers selling their books to them, and some will offer store credit. More stores tend towards cash reimbursement for books, but the idea is still the same. The purpose is to serve as an incentive to spend more in the store. It’s an advantageous one because it’s less money you have to scrape up for books.

Check the “shelf life” of the book. I feel this is a decent place to discuss the dangers of outdated books. While most are aware how outdated E. A. Wallis Budge is in Egyptology(most of his works were dismissed by the 1940’s) many of his books are still widely circulated. Some people feel the wide circulation lends credence to the validity of an older work, but more often than not it’s because it’s cheap to print and in public domain. I learned this costly mistake very early in my path when purchasing some books written by Budge. When I compared his writings to more up-to-date scholars I had to unlearn and re-learn information that didn’t always come at a bargain to my pocketbook.

Take advantage of national chains. Cautions aside, there’s also another issue I feel needs addressing. Many scholarly books were available to me because I lived in a college town. If you don’t live in a college town don’t feel discouraged. Some second-hand bookstores are also national chains, so if you can’t find a particular topic or book at one there is a good chance they can get the book from another store or even a warehouse.

National chain advantages aside, don’t ignore local stores. I have found through trial and error that not all second-hand bookstores are the same.

-Check the world history section first. This is a no-brainer, but it’s important to check the world history section of the store. This is where the scholarly books will be kept if you’re looking for that information.

-Check the New Age / spiritual section. There are an increasing number of books on Kemetic practices being published; some are even oriented towards modern practice. These books tend to be found in the New Age or spiritual section of the store, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for in other places that’s another place to check.

-Some stores have a section for magazines. This is iffy at best and futile at worst. It really depends on what you want. If you’re looking for National Geographic issues, for example, you’ll find plenty. If you’re looking for scholarly journals it’s highly unlikely you’ll find one.

-Be prepared to search. Despite organization into sections there’s little guarantee the section is coherently organized. You will have to search beyond skimming the shelves. Preparation is always important. If there are titles or topics you specifically want it will behoove you in your search.

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A New Perspective: How Will You Live Your Life?

When I first wrote this post I dealt with a major onslaught of “armchair Pagans”. In my mind these are the Pagans who never really practice, never explore what their beliefs mean, or anything that would fall under practicing a faith save reading about it. I had grown so tired of these Pagans because these seem to be the ones with the biggest persecution complexes. There are lots of instances where Pagans and anyone not of The Big Three face discrimination and persecution in this country (I’ll post again my chronicles with Farmville,Virgina and the occult murder accusations in the near future). Sometimes, however, the persecution isn’t from outside.

I’ve found that sometimes we create our own conflict, be it from our interpretations or some perceived need to be diametrical. It’s why it’s important to analyze where we can (though I’ve always emphasized there are exceptions). Even recently I got into a fight with my significant other, yet we managed to work things out and hear where we still need work as people and a couple. I have to remember, with all of my decisions, with all that I’ve faced, I will face more conflicts and personal challenges. It also means I remind myself to keep awareness.

This thought also led me to the idea of closure. I know I’d like to feel that in today’s world it’s simple to even get as much as an apology for wronging someone. It’s clearly not the case; for someone to apologize, let alone rectify a wrong, means someone has to admit to wrongdoing. In these moments I get angry. I feel like I’m afflicted undeservedly and as if there is no justice. It’s part of the conflict within myself.

Eventually I do pull through these moments of anger. I’ve found my own understandings, healthy coping mechanisms, and ways to press forward from the pain and anger. Sometimes it means becoming an activist so it doesn’t happen to someone else, and should it happen there’s recourse. Sometimes it means educating people. Sometimes it means finding ways to focus on the present so I realize I’m not in those moments again. Sometimes I am left honoring my feelings and leaving it at that.

I’ve also found my faith has been helpful, if nothing else it serves as a routine. In my original post my biggest criticism at the time with “armchair Pagans” was how much talk and not enough practicing occurred. I based it at the time on the amount of blog posts doling out information but not enough on exploring the faith or any active work on the part of the blogger. I’m aware faith is a private thing, but there are some experiences which are universal. We wouldn’t have wisdom literature otherwise. While faith is private it is part of a religious practice and shouldn’t be neglected.

Today I live my religious life walking and sharing my experiences. I strive to find order in my life in every way possible. I’m not perfect and I know I’ll never be perfect even by my standards. What it does mean for me is living in a way that provides the tools for personal improvement. I live my life striving to be the best person I can and forgiving when I can’t meet it. It also means understanding others may not always meet my expectations and how I learn to manage it in my own way.

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A Neat Craft Link

I admit it, I blanked out on Craft Friday.  I don’t have pictures ready and I’ve been too focused on another project (or ten).  I did want to share a nice link I found on how to construct an Ancient Egyptian costume.  While one could complain about the inaccuracies I’m excited someone finally put up instructions on how to make a beaded collar.  Seriously, I was hard pressed to find these instructions thanks to wonky googlemancy.

I haven’t tried out these instructions yet, but I’d love to hear if you have and what you thought.  I also want to take this opportunity to say if there’s a specific Kemetic craft you’d like to see let me know in the comments as well.

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Budget Thursday: Aspersion Tools

In Ancient Egypt the priests not only offered food, drink, and incense to the gods. They also provided many toiletries for the god, including bathing. However in this day many people who want to reconstruct the Ancient Egyptian rituals tend to include the aspersion jars, one called a nemset jar and another called a deshret jar. These can be quite easy to acquire, creativity depending. If you use aspersion tools in your ritual I’d love to hear in the comments your suggestions for penny-saving on these tools.

 Consider tea sets. While I don’t necessarily mean children’s playsets (though I’ve seen people use them), I do mean at least consider the creamer and sugar bowl.

 Make your own. This is probably the cheapest and easiest to do with clay that dries in the oven. This can be purchased at craft stores.

 Discount stores, the old standby. Well, it’s my standby. Discount stores offer lots of dishware at very low prices, and if choosiness isn’t your prerogative there are plenty of options.

 Use what’s available. Sometimes it isn’t possible to use anything else. If all that’s available are the coffee mugs in the cabinet, then it’s all that’s available and that’s fine.


A New Perspective: Ma’at Isn’t Always a Positive Experience

When I first wrote this blog post I was bombarded by people passing judgement on me for not conforming to their definition of a “positive” life. I don’t have a lot of qualms with an upbeat outlook on life, but I have qualms with it when it’s used to other people and live wrecklessly.

The truth is Ma’at is not always as loving as the presence of Het-Hert. There is a reason in Egyptian beliefs why so many goddesses with the title “Eye of Ra” are also intimidating. Sekhmet, in Her quest to uphold Ma’at, killed many people and was insatiable until She was intoxicated. After turning to Her form of Het-Hert did people restore respect for the gods. While some could argue the respect came from fear, I have to disagree; it was the gods Who saved mankind from Sekhmet in the first place. I’m sure fear played a part in it, but to say it’s the only reason is dismissive of other attributes the Ancient Egyptians felt for the gods and world around them.

If anything, the idea one must be positive at all costs is more fear-based to me than anything I’ve heard in a long time. When I hear people refusing to let any emotions or thoughts become negative out of a fear of manifesting a negative life I think back to when I was Christian. Before I left I found myself growing annoyed with how if I wasn’t a hundred per cent Christian in every way the church deemed acceptable then many thought Satan had won. I had to “be like Jesus” or else I was “like Satan”. That polarity always impressed me with a sense of undue hardship; I lived in fear of myself. When we live in such fear it has a lasting, negative impact on our mental health. Having since left that religion now I see this philosophy manifest in different ways. I’ve seen people resort to mental gymnastics in order to justify the extreme dichotomy.

Most of the time I see people manifesting this fear of negativity in the form of “karma”. Usually it’s a sense of how if I’m not acting in a way that is how they would act I’ll incur the wrath of an angry, Westernized form of karma. I disbelieve Ma’at / karma / etc. is an input-output machine, but I will delve into that point in another post. What I find a bit annoying is the sentiment of how one must polarize views and then only pick one side. How can one live positively if one must oppose himself to a concept within a concept? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of polarity in the first place? Or is the purpose of polarity to simply enforce our sense of exclusivity in the world (the “us” versus “them” mentality)? Why do people who reject the notion of a God versus Satan theology seek out different manifestations of the same view? I have no doubt this sense of “positive” and “negative” living is most likely a manifestation of our urge to form social groupings and hierarchies. That’s why some groups will label themselves “good” and groups they don’t like “evil”. It allows them to psychologically validate any actions against people that are reprehensible otherwise.

By the same token there is some precedence magically to manifesting something positive or negative. It’s why some make sigils so that one doesn’t negatively affect an outcome. I think it also influences sometimes how one shifts their focus of the world. If one sees the world as a dirty, evil-ridden place one will see only evil around them. However, at what lengths one should implement this philosophy in everyday life is debatable. One should definitely keep it in the foreground of their mind, but certainly not live in fear of a view that will summon all the bad things of the world to their doorstep.

Honestly, personal validation of our beliefs and actions may be the ultimate end of why I see the positive living or die mentality. We all want to believe the way we think or act is the living in accordance with our reality. Not everyone wants to be the bad guy; even those who claim to be the bad guy may not truly believe they are bad. We want to know, deep down, we are right. However, these things are so subjective that the only way one can objectify it at times is through validation culturally, morally, and socially at the very least.

Ma’at is Ma’at. The Divine Order does not behave in a way in which we personally would view as “positive” all the time. A sunny day doesn’t always mean it’s a lush, comfortable one; sometimes it’s a sweltering day in 100 degree weather. It doesn’t make the sun “good” nor “bad” because it’s just a ball of plasma. Our experience of that sun doesn’t make us “good” nor “bad” either because it’s just how we experience it.

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A New Perspective: “Tell Me How to Believe”

One trend that disturbs me even now is how someone who leaves one faith immediately seeks out a new one. If it were simply a conversion after careful thought, research, and contemplation over what he or she believes I wouldn’t bother with it. I find it disturbing because I know how vulnerable a person feels after leaving a religion. There’s always that sense we made a wrong decision, letting go of the old beliefs, and even relearning what we do believe. Part of my relearning focused on experimenting with a couple of faiths. I tried out Wicca at one point, which I found didn’t work for me. I found myself back at square one, and after a some research into other faiths I decided not to define what I believe and just work on my spirituality.

Looking back, I learned a lesson in that: don’t be afraid of the void that remains after leaving a religion. In fact, it should be the best time for anyone to figure out what they truly believe. This is where one can sit back, reflect on what worked or didn’t work for their religion. This is a time where one can find out why you believed a certain way and if it still works now. In other words, it’s time to do some soul searching. Honestly, trying to decide what one truly believes can be very scary. Sometimes, it means admitting to ourselves something society teaches us contrary. Sometimes it can take months, even years to really find out what someone truly believes.

When a few of my friends became atheist, they had searched long and hard and tried a couple of religions before reaching this decision. After some soul searching, they decided they were atheists because of how they felt about religion and they didn’t need that means for that end. It felt right to them; it wasn’t pretty taking the long way, but they found out what they believe.

At the same time, I’ve found people who have done this soul-searching and discovered they were agnostic. There are also those who chose not to name their religious path. For some time, I did not put a name to my religion until I discovered the Ancient Egyptian gods through my personal religious experience. When Het-Hert (Hathor) came to me in a dream I felt a presence of love. It was a type of love I’d never experience that upon waking felt compelled to offer to Her. After some time I researched the Ancient Egyptian religion and found it was similar to what I believed. The more I’ve learned about myself and the religion the more I’ve seen how right of a fit it is for me.

When leaving one religion don’t immediately try to find another religion to take its place. Instead concentrate on what you truly believe inside. No one can answer what you truly believe but you, and asking others to do it for you without first trying on your own is a disservice. I can’t guarantee the answers will come instantly, but they will feel right when they come. After all, nothing is more assuring in faith than an understanding of oneself.


Budget Thursday: Incense and Incense Burners

There are some supplies that are difficult to keep on an affordable basis. I personally feel for Kemetic paths this is incense. Some of it depends on convenience, some of it depends on the types of incense available, and some of it depends on what you’re willing to make. Not everyone has the time or resources to devote to creating their own kyphi, for example.

How does one provide incense while on a budget? How could one stretch the incense one already has? Here are some ways to stretch incense:

Grind non-combustible incense (e.g. loose incense) into a powder. This provides better control of how much you use and burns more even. It also stretches resins like frankincense and myrrh further and thus saves a considerable amount of money.

-Use incense sticks. While this is better for the pocketbook it isn’t without problems. Some brands have a lot of filler that makes it impure for ritual use, such as cow dung or even urine. There are brands that do not. The best way to know for certain is to ask the manufacturer. Short of that there’s an old rule I go by: when in doubt, don’t.

Use cone incense. The same filler problems that occur with stick incense also occur with cone incense.

-Burn incense only as needed. This is much easier to accomplish with combustible incense, like incense sticks. Simply burn the incense where needed and extinguish it so it doesn’t burn the entire time.

With incense you’re going to need an incense burner as well. There are a few that will accommodate for both stick and incense, but if you use non-combustible incense this becomes problematic.

-Purchase incense burners that burn multiple combustible incense. These are relatively easy to find as well as inexpensive. The versatility also promotes interchangeable use of cone or stick incense. I purchased one for a dollar at a grocery store.

Make your own burner using a bowl. When I worked at a Chinese restaurant the owners had a small shrine where the incense burner was a bowl of rice. They simply burned the sticks upright. I have found when copying this method that it works for charcoal and cone incense as well. I have used salt because it’s more accommodating for charcoal burning in my experience.

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A New Perspective: Simplicity

I have a tendency to clean up my life in the autumn as opposed to the springtime. I clean out my occult items, try to finish craft projects or get rid of them (sometimes both), and I may even get some very needed housework completed. I get rid of the things I no longer need in my life. When I first wrote this blog post I was cleaning and reminded of the phrase bouncing around the Neo-Pagan community: live simply so others may simply live.

When I first heard the phrase about living in simplicity I found it trite. In many ways I still feel it is. I feel it’s oversimplifying a very complex problem of sustainability on one level. As life progressed as well as my studies I felt differently. I realized I was focused too much on the material things and took the phrase in a more spiritual direction. I examined how living a simple spiritual life would impact it: what if I focused more on offerings instead of how to beautify my shrine? What if I focused more on being the type of person worthy of approaching a god rather than my offerings? I explored them and found the answers for myself.

I found that beyond the shrine, beyond what I offered the gods, there was the point of religion for me: to find a way through the world that pulled alongside the gods is what mattered most to me. What good is the prettiest shrine with the most delectable offerings if the person offering them was foul in every way imaginable? I realized living simply for me meant I needed to keep my practice basic. For me that simplicity was based on being a decent person and provide offerings to Het-Hert (for those not familiar with the name, it’s one of the ways to say Hathor’s name in Ancient Egyptian). The knowledge of holidays and rituals would come in its own time with the work I invested in it. I’ve come to find that research as a way of honoring Het-Hert as well. When I’m not researching I’m cleaning house figuratively and literally.

As I finish this blog post I’m using up the last of some beads on a menat, a type of necklace also used as a ritualistic rattle. I’m using beads that I’ve owned for some time and only take up space. I’m not sure what will become of the menat itself, though it will most likely take up space until I finally gift it or get rid of it in some other fashion. It will probably end up as some craft instruction I write up as well. One thing I found in my strive for simplicity is how things streamline. I personally like the order that comes from those moments.