Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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PBP: D Is for Death (My Best Friend)

Artwork by Emily N3ver.  You can find her work at : https://www.facebook.com/EmilyN3ver

Artwork by Emily N3ver. You can find her work here as well as tumblr.

I know I sound full of angst to describe my best friend as Death, but I promise you it isn’t some angst (these days). While complicated at times for me to understand I’ve made peace with my understanding of it. I’d even call it a friendship with Death. It goes beyond an understanding of what it represents in my culture. For me it goes into my understanding of Death and how close it is to me at all times.

 

While Death is usually portrayed as a masculine character in the culture I was raised I found it didn’t work for me. For me Death is sexless, though loving, though I see why people characterize it as male. The motif of Death and the maiden is one that has been around since Medieval times. It morphed into a role of essentially the death of a woman’s virginity, as if Death were the one to deflower her. It was never my relationship with Death. I had my virginity taken against my will, and while Death was there for it I’ve since learned to look at my rape as an initiation. It was one of many throughout my life.

 

Death was around when my mother taught me about what happens when we die and the afterlife. It sat there and coached my mother on what to explain to a small child while still honest and frank. It is because of that coaching I didn’t fear it, but the spirits of those Death took. Death was there when my psychic abilities emerged, even when I didn’t fully understand why I could sense these things better than family members with similar abilities. It frightened me at times because while I knew of Death and didn’t understand its nature completely. Knowing about Death and my experiences with it flew in the face of my religious beliefs and that was hard to reconcile for a long time. My knowledge of Death and the dead was one of my first initiations.

 

I had another initiation with Death growing up, though I didn’t understand it as such until much later in life. My psychic abilities aside I was always considered “different”. I’m bizarre, and with a misdiagnosis of autism stigmatized by everyone at my school. My social skills were inert. Since I wasn’t included and didn’t understand human nature at the time I was left with myself to observe often. To this day I learn the most by watching others. It’s also why the arts came so easy for me: it requires observation on some level. In much of Medieval art Death was not only an artist but often an observer. During these years growing up I was initiated into the coven of observation, as a watcher and a dancer in life. I grew into my abilities more, but I didn’t grow in my understanding of them. I knew when someone close to me would die, and while my family believed in such abilities they didn’t understand my relationship with Death. As a result my understanding of it didn’t develop, and I became distraught. Due to other circumstances in my life I was suicidal from that distress as well as my checkered relationship with Death. Obviously I failed in my suicide attemtps, but Death was there to pick me up even after I felt like a failure. While Death didn’t comfort me it did initiate me into the knowledge of human suffering. It held me while my soul cried. I didn’t understand any of this at the time, but it took time to understand it today.

 

I didn’t begin to fully understand Death until I became more serious about my spiritual, and eventually my religious path. It was through my path that I became acquainted with Het-Hert and Her associations. While I don’t always associate Her with solely music, dancing, joy, love, and death these days She did help me understand why Death was around. In the early days of my path I found others who encouraged me and provided a safe environment to explore my abilities with those who died. In speaking with those spirits and helping spirits cross over thanks to what I learned helped me understand Death so much more. I learned those spirits were probably always around and had little to do with me. If they came to me, and it wasn’t a chance encountering, I tried to help them. This had led to some interesting adventures (literally!) and friendships. The spirits showed me things that were hidden. I uncovered things and comforted people. I even uncovered a few family secrets thanks to becoming more open to Death. I learned Death was always there and whispering not to frighten us, but to remind us of life. Death was there for me because it was there for everyone, but it meant no harm. It wanted us to know of the world around us, both seen and unseen. I wasn’t bad or even misunderstood for getting initiated by Death. It didn’t even make me special. It meant I was ready for what Death could offer anyone.

 

During this time I had another initiation with Death. I took on a hobby as a music critic and honed my observational skills and my own knowledge and experiences with art. As cheesy as it’s been I took my understanding of Death and use its name as my own. I decided since it was so cheesy to combine a bit of humor with it to lighten some of the tension for people. I don’t think it ever came off that way, though I was happy to have inspired and helped a couple of people with my endeavors. I even learned how to improve my artistry by observing what is and isn’t effective and why. When I abandoned that hobby I was initiated again, but this time with the idea of loss. Luckily I groped my way around and found some spiritual strength. There I struggled in many areas in spite of my preparations.

 

One place where I struggled to let Death come in had to do with my own ancestors. Knowing my family history I didn’t know how open they would be to my path and new ways of honoring them. I also remembered my relationship with spirits in the past, and I worried if my ancestors would act in ways I wouldn’t understand nor welcome. When I went through some stuff where I turned to them for help did I understand why I needed to allow Death in this part of my life. I learned honoring our ancestors was just as much for me as it is for them. The ones that will listen and care about me won’t really care how I go about it. My relationship with Death deepened when I learned honoring the dead isn’t a scary thing, and was initiated into ancestor veneration. It certainly hasn’t been my only initiation.

 

In the past few months my relationship with Death was further realized. In my despair of losing my partner I attempted suicide. I felt I lost everything at that point, and the past few years made the gradual erosion of my dreams and visions of my future worse. Death was ready for me, and I was ready for it. Once again I failed, but Death was there to hold me during my initiation. I have experienced the loss and death of so many things I felt I had nothing left, even though before I thought I lost everything. What I didn’t remember was how death is treated in alchemy. In order to acquire great things one must “die”. Death delivered as promised. My music critic hobby that I had revisited a while ago took precedence. I’ve been swamped with many tasks and opportunities. Everything I worked for was bearing fruit, but in a different garden than I originally cultivated. I have been initiated into something new and had to cultivate this new garden.

 

While cultivating and weeding my new field I further evaluated the people I want in my life. I looked at what it would take to be my best friend. I wanted someone who is there for me when I need them, encourages me to grow and will grow with me, who is honest, strong, and helps me be the best person who lives to my fullest potential. In that evaluation I found Death fit this. While I’m not willing to take Death as a lover, I’ve valued it as a close friend. Death has always been around and is consistent. Death helped me become a better person once I let it. Death is my best friend.

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PBP: B is for Belief

I would be lying to myself if I said my beliefs haven’t been shaken to my core in recent months. Loss of a loved one, even during a break up like I’m experiencing, really does that to people and I’m no exception. If that wasn’t enough the constant loss of last year took a lot of my resolve out of me. The way I’ve dealt with my crisis of faith is a bit different from what I’ve seen others do or advised by others in my life.

 

One thing I’ve realized after being dumped was that I have immense trust issues. It became clear when I spoke to people about my feelings. Most of my friends noted how they’d never seen me in this state and implied, whether they meant to or not, it seemed like I wasn’t capable of feeling such emotions like heartbreak and despair. I guess “incapable” is too strong of a word; it was more like improbable. They mentioned how I always seemed cold and distant. I found it odd because I imagine myself to be an open book (it comes with blogging, I feel). However that was what I kept hearing from friends I even considered close friends. When it’s a pattern like that I can’t avoid it anymore. Already I had one belief challenged.

 

It seems silly to look at how I believe friendships work into a religious blog, but after examining this one issue I saw how it applied in other places in my life. Naturally I looked at my religious beliefs. I felt like I failed the gods, the gods failed me, or They abandoned me, or hated me in some fashion, and other forms of doubt. All of these feelings are normal with loss and I’m thankful I know that. What I wasn’t prepared for was how to proceed with my feelings. Most of the time I was advised to abandon my beliefs since they caused me pain. It occurred to me as an option. I’ve most certainly felt let down in so many ways I’m having to make changes across the board. Others wondered why I stuck with it in the fist place as it seems I have suffered so much since pursuing Kemeticism. I left Christianity because I felt it brought me great suffering, so why should I stick with Kemeticism?

 

The question of whether I should stick to my beliefs was one I couldn’t answer, nor do I feel I can adequately answer right now. I can say when I put my religious practice aside for a bit so I could work on other things in my life I realized how important it has been to me so far. When I came to Het-Hert initially I had a new lease on life. What I didn’t realize at the time was part of renewing one’s life means healing from the life that inflicted so much harm. I’ve cried a lot and was placed in many situations where I had to face those wounds inflicted by my past. Many of those situations have occurred in a spiritual or religious environment. In facing my inner turmoil I also found healing even when it was healing provided by others. That’s because even in situations like therapy the solutions were common: keep to my religious practice and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The only thing my therapist added which others didn’t was to find healthier friendships. Combining these notions helped me heal at various points in my life. I had to examine why I felt none of this was healing me at this point in my life. In that examination I hoped to find out if I needed to leave my religion behind.

 

During the contemplation of what served me I reflected on why I left Christianity. The very beliefs of Christianity didn’t help me as I felt I could never measure up, as if the very structure set me up for failure. I know others disagree, which is their right. It’s just my experience with it, and I left because of it. I know that because of it I felt like God hated me. Even if my experience didn’t account for anything there was still how I felt I couldn’t believe in the fundamentals of it. I never believed there was only one way to peace or happiness. I didn’t believe all of a religion’s tenets were timeless regardless if the gods seemingly change their mind or not. The idea of how someone erased all of man’s sins yet somehow we were still born with it until we become Christian made no sense to me. I couldn’t believe in a practice that used manipulation to bring in followers. So what made Kemeticism different for me? Why do I believe in the Ancient Egyptian gods enough to keep practicing and researching how to practice? In Ancient Egypt there wasn’t really much in literature to tell the laymen how to practice and behave. We have some idea thanks to archaeological evidence and surviving wisdom literature. However, there wasn’t really a set of rules for laymen. In fact they had no word for “religion” as the Ancient Egyptians saw no separation of religion and everyday life. I could easily argue I wasn’t practicing, yet I still wanted to believe. What makes this belief strong?

 

The word “belief” stumped me repeatedly. Why did I believe in something that is not serving me? I am at a place now where I feel like I don’t measure up in my practice and on some level I felt the gods hated me. Why am I still holding on? It didn’t hit me until I found myself crying and praying to Het-Hert. I was still asking Het-Hert to get me through the pain of losing my partner in one of my moments of sorrow. I found myself praying to Her knowing She was there and I trusted Her to help in my healing. I still held on because I believed in Her. I’ve found a lot of peace and healing with Het-Hert and other Ancient Egyptian gods. I trusted Them to help me even with my faith shaken. I found a practice that bettered me and gave me new tools to be the person I want to be through worshiping Them and through my own work devoted to learning how to worship. It’s those experiences which convinced me this was a true path for me all these years. I’ve been through a lot, but it’s through those moments I’ve seen how much I’ve grown because of nothing else than believing in the gods and in some way believed in myself. I believed in myself to make the best decision. Even if I ended up choosing poorly I trusted myself enough to grow and learn.

 

It was during that contemplation I kept running into articles which reminded me about belief and belief during moments of crises. I was reminded how sometimes bad things happen without rhyme or reason, and sometimes it’s a cluster of bad things. Not every bad thing has a pattern to it. Have I made poor choices that contributed to my problems in the past year? Yes. I’m human. I’ve also had problems that were no fault of my own as well. It’s something I say a lot on this blog, but even I need a reminder every so often that sometimes bad things happen for no reason. The gods most likely aren’t mad at me or punishing me. It’s just the series of unfortunate events combined with questionable decision-making. While I thought I was making a truthful and wise decision at the time it didn’t always prove for the best. Life happened, and I happened with it. That’s where I differentiated my beliefs with Christianity all those years ago. While contemplation of one’s faith and relationship with God was theoretically encouraged the practice was far different. The pastors never encouraged me to trust my feelings about my relationship with God. I was supposed to trust God’s decisions for better or worse on a say-so. I felt like I was constantly let down and that trust eroded. Since my trust was gone my beliefs went with it. That has not happened with my belief in Kemeticism. On some level I still trust Them.

 

Belief, to paraphrase the definition, is about holding something to be a truth. Beliefs can change, but it’s usually because we find a new truth for ourselves. As in all exploration the way we discover our truths is by trusting it. Sometimes we have to test it in order to find it believable. After all trust is earned. Since the gods have earned my trust I’ve slowly worked into my practice again. I am slowly working myself into daily offerings again. It’s a slow effort, but one that will build up with trust.


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What to Do with Food and Liquid Offerings

I stumbled across and participated in a discussion on tumblr about a blog post discussing what to do with offerings after they are given to a god.  What left most folks disliking it was the attempt to make a generic Neo-Pagan protocol of what to do with offerings without acknowledging it necessarily as such.  This also left some people dissatisfied with the post because it was impossible for them to not ingest food and drink offerings due to their financial situation.  While she (the author of the initial blog post) clarified it was meant to be a template she proceeded to make classist and racist remarks, which I felt detracted completely from her post.  I’ll address how these issues are prevalent in the Neo-Pagan community in a later post, as it is a serious topic but not the current one.  Instead I’m going to use this incident as a platform to discuss what to do with offerings from a Kemeticist perspective.

Among the top overwhelming questions for a beginner to Kemeticism is what to do with offerings.  I ran into this myself, and it’s a natural one to ask when it’s very likely someone learned about how to handle offerings from mainstream Paganism practices in the first place.   Unlearningthe ideas of offered food belonging to a god or losing its energy gets awkward when learning about practices for Ancient Egypt.  In many ways the philosophies of Ancient Egypt fly in the face of mainstream Paganism.  An area where these differences are apparent emerge when handling food and drink offerings.

In Ancient Egypt food and libations were most likely eaten and drunk.  We know for certain the priests ingested the offerings provided from temple rituals, and how offerings were also distributed to those attending festivals.  Some of the ritual offerings were offered to the dead.  What happened to the food offerings for the dead seem to have been left and not ingested.  With the possible exception of eating food offered to the dead, Egyptologists think it may have been seen as an honor to eat food provided to the gods.  I’m sure on a practical level, however, some of the philosophy behind it was due to the scarcity of the food offered; this was especially so for foods like meat or wine.  Regardless of the practicality the idea of ingesting food as an honor transferred to current religious practices.  Modern Kemeticists tend to believe the god imbues some of its ba in the food and drink, thus eating the food becomes something of a eucharist.

As in the temples Kemeticists today can perform the rituals necessary to make the food and liquid offerings fit for consumption.   It’s a series of rituals referred to collectively as the “Reversion of Offerings”.  The temple rituals consisted, but not limited to,  reciting spells, libations, incense, and extinguishing all flames.  The spells revolved around specifying Who is satiated, how the offerings would revert to the priests and followers, and how the offerings were everlasting.  Most Kemeticits practice an abridged version of the ritual, though members of the Kemetic Orthodoxy add movements such as stepping backwards then forwards a few steps.  When I’m not performing a festival ritual I recite a few of the spells after sweeping behind me.

There are a couple of sources I recommend for those who want to learn more.  The full Reversion of Offerings can be found on JSTOR, but for those who wish to practice the more abridged version I recommend Richard J. Reidy’s Eternal Egypt.

Sources

David, Rosalie.  Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt.  New York: Facts on File, 1998.  Print.
Shafer, Byron E.  Temples of Ancient Egypt.  I.B. Tauris, 2005.  Google books.  Web.  12/20/13.
Teeter, Emily.  Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt.  New York: Cambridge, 2001.  Print.


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Inspirational Tuesday: The Danger of Misinformation

Mandatory Disclaimer:  This is just my personal take on some of the passages and may or may not pull from academic sources.  In other words, this is just my interpretation of things.  Take it or leave it.

“O you who are over the old one who came forth from Imau, I have not made terror.” -translation by R.O. Faulkner

I chose the passage I did about terror when the topic is about misinformation for a couple of reasons. I feel anyone who lives long enough will know of the common ways to inflict terror: intimidation, threats, several forms of violence just to name a few. Violence, however, isn’t the only way to terrorize people. The only thing people need to feel terrorized is a threatening situation. This situation can come in by playing off one’s fears in any way, including propaganda.

This type of fear is where misinformation comes in. A case in point is a recent news article where someone (I won’t even use the word “scholar”) claims he has evidence that Jesus was a composite figure created by Roman aristocrats. While there is a theory Jesus was a composite figure, that isn’t what bothered me. It’s the fact there seems to be a documentary behind it. My personal experience with such sensationalist hypotheses is when someone presents one there’s usually misinformation or something to sell, sometimes both. This is one of the cases where misinformation abounds, and at least one person is tired of it. So why is this misinformation harmful? This article was brought to my attention by Pagans and Kemeticists, who believed the article wholesale and used it as an example to delegitimize Christianity. I wish I made screenshots of all the “See? I knew Jesus wasn’t real” and “Proof at last,” comments. It didn’t take much for me to find out the alleged discovery was bunk. The sad part is I found a link to that review on the r/Atheism subreddit. Yes, atheist Redditors are more willing to put aside their bias than Pagans and Kemeticists to find the truth of a matter. Perhaps it’s more concerning for me because it comes off as an attempt to bash Christians on the part of Pagans and Kemeticists.

Using misinformation to prove someone’s religion isn’t real is harmful because it is usually what perpetuates stereotypes. One study, while not focused on religion, found misinformation led to stereotyping in children. The same scenario easily applies to spouting misinformation about Christianity. When we say “Jesus was really created by Roman aristocrats” we’re implying the poor scholarship is not only true, but Christians are gullible, nebbishy people if they disagree with it. If you don’t believe me I suggest reading this blog post. I wish it could be dismissed as just the case of one forum. Like I said before, though, the comments I saw belittling Christianity on my facebook feed. I’ve even seen groups that continuously assert how Christianity borrows from the Maxims of Amenope while ignoring all the times the Ancient Egyptians borrowed from other religions. The aim of the person who does such things is to insinuate Christianity isn’t a real religion by asserting combining various beliefs and practices isn’t a legitimate form of belief structure.

I’m sure at this point many readers are asking what any of this has to do with causing terror. All too often I’ve found fear mongering and hate mongering are bedfellows. One doesn’t have to look up even the Holocaust to find how mass murder was fueled by perpetuating stereotypes and misinformation, which in turn fueled bigotry and hated. Practitioners of Falun Dafa are systematically persecuted in China with the Chinese government spreading misinformation about the practice in order to fuel animosity towards it and justify horrific acts towards the practitioners. Where there is misinformation, bigotry and hatred are nearby. If nothing else a bias against something is easy to spot. The misinformation is meant to scare people into believing a targeted group is a threat. When someone feels like a group is a threat horrific actions seem justifiable in order to remove it.

If one extrapolates a fearful message from misinformation renders the individual responsible for their actions of instilling terror or harm, even if it’s only the individual in question. If several people attempt to spread misinformation with the intent of causing fear or harm that group is responsible for their actions. Before sharing something that could cause fear or harm to a group, consider the following:

What are your current biases? Consider both positive and negative biases, meaning things you are more inclined to believe because you favor and disfavor them. In the case of misinformation that Christian bashes people I found people will find any information that confirms the bias without digging further into the information. A big clue that a bias is occurring is if someone utters the phrase, “I knew Christianity was bunk,” or something similar.

Does it come in a sensationalist package? It helps to learn to recognize sensationalist media tactics for this one. While mostly made for Canadian media, I believe this site is a great place to learn how to identify media sensationalism.

Practice the “hateful sounding” test. I’m sure there’s an actual term for it, but since it’s something I use to monitor my thinking I gave it the rather uncreative name. What I tend to do is put a marginalized group in place of the group of which I’m speaking. If it sounds like propaganda, it probably is. Here’s how it works: as an example take the phrase, “Christianity isn’t legitimate because it borrows from other religions.” Replace “Christianity” with “Neo-Wicca” and you’ll see what I mean.

Put a bias up to full scrutiny. In other words, research it. Look at why such a bias exists. I have a bias against mega churches due to my views of mega churches and my unpleasant experience with one, as an example. I understand this and try to keep it in check when I see something about a mega church.

Read the counter-arguments to a bias. This is good practice to being a well-rounded person, anyway. It adds perspective and will broaden one’s understanding of a topic. As with any source check for accuracy, reliability, or outdated information. While I dislike mega churches due to how I feel the inherent design of such things deters from the church’s purpose or message, others can eloquently describe how it enhances their experience and helps them feel closer to God through community.

Where possible ask for a clarification of a statement. It’s possible because of a bias something or someone may be purporting misinformation. It’s also possible to give out misinformation which could be fear-inducing for other reasons that aren’t nefarious. Some people simply don’t know they’re putting out misinformation, and some are inarticulate and say something which ends up misconstrued. Asking for clarification of a point made, or asking for a source for that matter (if it’s not given), can clear up things and open dialogue at times.

If called out for a bias or misinformation understand it’s not personal, and vice versa. Don’t poison the well, use bias as an ad hominem, et cetera. Don’t be a jerk if called out, and don’t use a person’s bias or misinformation to vilify a person. When in doubt see the previous tip.

Some of my readers will note this is part of basic critical thinking and manners. I agree wholeheartedly, which is my point. The best way to fight propaganda and misinformation in general is through critically thinking about our views and whatever information we use to support that idea. When we don’t let our emotions guide our thoughts with abandon it also connects to dialogue. If we let emotions get the better of us, those trying to inflict terror will triumph.


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A New Perspective: My Channeler Checklist

I read a blog post recently that reminded me of this post I made some time ago. To make a short of a long I’ve had a few bad experiences with people “channeling” and “speaking on behalf of a Higher Power” when really they were spouting their opinion using a Higher Power as a shield. I have a bit of skepticism about people who channel or claim to speak on behalf of a god as it is, so it didn’t help matters when I went through that time. I decided to do some research to prevent it from happening to me again. I compiled this from a few websites as well as my life experience. There are some major ones that if occur I disregard the channeling and channel altogether, but otherwise if three or more show up I disregard the channeling. Depending on if one of the major ones for me occur I may disassociate with the person.

 

What are my feelings about the channel or reading? This is one of those where if I get an off vibe I ignore the session completely. Even though I have some skepticism towards channeling in the first place, if something doesn’t feel right it’s probably shady.

 

Are the channelings about “doom and gloom”? While not every channeling is probably a nice message, not every message should be about the latest apocalypse scenario. One former friend had almost a weekly doom and gloom channeling to share. In retrospect I feel she was either tricked by a spirit or used this as a plea for attention.

 

Is the message empowering? How? The same friend who channeled the doom and gloom scenarios also channeled people who had nothing nice to say to me. There was also another person who claimed to “have messages” from the Universe only to give her opinion and have an excuse to say it to try to humiliate people. When I researched channeling I found this was a key point: higher beings in New Age beliefs, beliefs on which many channeling practices are based, emphasize a message that brings love and uplifting feelings. While I’m sure not every message is going to be loving, I’m keen on the idea a Higher Being would have an empowering message. It’s hard to believe Higher Beings have nothing better to do than berate me. I found with the latter channeler very often only had these alleged messages of love when I vented. I learned later she had a difficult time being around “negative” people. After some time it became apparent she wanted to control others in her life via these channelings. If it isn’t presented in a way to show you how to better yourself or overcome something it’s probably a person’s attempt to be controlling.

 

Is the message an exclusive one? All too often these alleged channelings were messages meant for specifically me. While that doesn’t rule out the possibility of something it doesn’t work in favor of my believing it.

 

Does the channeler make grandiose claims? I received channelings that not only made incredible claims about the channeler (the channelers were pretty much painted as the next messiah) but also grandiose claims about me. Anyone that’s willing to feed anyone’s ego should be avoided, hence why this is a deal breaker for me.

 

Does the channeler handle criticism well? This is pretty self-explanatory and another deal breaker for me. If the channeler doesn’t seem to understand why you can’t trust a message it’s probably not a message worth paying any mind. I put in any response to any criticism with, “but it’s a message from the Universe / deity / Ascended Master / etc” in this category as well.

 

How do the channeled beings respond to questions or comments? I’ve found gods don’t really argue with you; They drop you on your keister until you get it. Other Higher Beings don’t waste the time and effort in arguing with you in my experience as well. It takes too much ego for some of those beings. If you encounter a Higher Being who can’t take the heat, it’s time to get out of their kitchen. Someone is cooking something you shouldn’t eat.

 

Is there a possible agenda? This is another red flag to get away for me. If it seems there’s an ulterior motive behind a message there may be one. This is especially true if they’re asking you to do something which compromises your morals or is outside your comfort zone. Make sure, however, you’re not projecting something that isn’t there. It’s why it’s important to ask questions.

 

Is the message consistent with other, similar channelings? The former friend who channeled the borderline abusive Higher Beings channeled some Ascended Masters. One she loved to channel in particular was one that was the most persistent. When I finally researched the Ascended Master I found he was reputed for his messages of unconditional love and never spoke harshly or hurtful. The messages, tone, and language were so inconsistent with other channelings of this Ascended Master I had to call it into question. If it’s inconsistent with whatever or whoever is channeled leave immediately.

 

When did the channel occur? Were you physically present for the channeling? This is another deal breaker for me, mostly because unless I’m there to witness the channel I have no way of determining if the person didn’t look something up and author their opinion with the being as a mouthpiece.

 

How often does the person channel? This seems pretty esoteric, but from what I’ve read for the average person channeling takes quite a bit of energy. My former friend channeled almost daily to a point where we couldn’t have a conversation without channeling. I imagine channeling that regularly wouldn’t work out so well if she was regularly channeling Ascended Masters given the amount of energy that would take.

 

I’ll probably add on to these and take others away over time. I do feel it adds some groundwork for me to assess in alternative faith circles who’s more likely to be channeling and who’s trying to mask their opinion as the “word of a Higher Power”.


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A New Perspective: Teachers (and Leaders)

When I first wrote this blog post years ago I was trying to untangle all of my issues and experiences with teachers. It’s still an ongoing process. Teachers are very valuable and provide the structure and approach to learning we need. There are many teachers out there who strive to meet this ideal. One big problem of being a teacher is the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and many people (myself included) allow their negative experiences to color their overall experience based on the squeaky wheels. We tend to place leaders in the same role of teachers as well, and this gets problematic.

Part of the reason I’ve refused leadership and teaching roles in the past is due to questioning my own ability to rise to the occasion. Teaching and leading requires a lot of skill, experience, and patience. Someone may have skills but little patience for someone who believes an individual exists to hand over certifications or positions without the work. Most people don’t like the approach to gaining such qualifications. It includes lesson plans, and if one tries to act like a smart aleck with a teacher or leader the person can and will be called to task. It makes them see their tom foolery to the end.

Teaching isn’t a role one should take lightly since it provides a significant contribution to both the individual and the community. When I first wrote this post I mentioned an individual in my local Pagan community who professed to be a teacher. He, like many others in alternative faiths, assumed the role without any verifiable qualifications. His inconsistent teachings and unethical behavior got him ousted from the community when people took notice and compared stories. In a perfect world all dubious individuals would suffer a similar fate, but we don’t live in a perfect world. I will say that in more recent years more Pagans have called out dubious teachings and practices.

Another reason teaching should be carefully considered is due to the Kemetic and general Neo-Pagan communities’ expectations of teachers, let alone leaders. Teachers are human and they are fallible. There’s this expectation of how teachers should be like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way. They must lead the perfect life with the perfect skills and with utmost eloquence. We forget sometimes we don’t even come close to measuring up to the standard we place teachers or leaders. Many leaders and teachers have a “regular” job and have to teach, lead ritual, et cetera on the side. They get tired, financially strapped and can’t run certain things, run down, ill, and that’s the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen too many consider this a moral failing on the part of the leader or teacher, when in reality it’s their humanity showing.

Even though those who shouldn’t teach, yet try, exist there are plenty who should and do teach. It’s a matter of finding a teacher best suited for one’s needs. This is not an easy task. Finding the right teacher is difficult. It depends on the individual, the pracitce, how experienced of a teacher one desires, costs, the purpose for learning, and that’s not even an exhaustive list. There are a myriad of considerations. Sometimes we find the right teacher in the most unexpected places. I found my Isis Seichem teacher when we were members of a religious organization. It involves a balance of openness to possible teachers tempered by a willingness to question to see if one is right for the individual.

I think the understanding of how to find a teacher is also tied to why so many people are ill qualified, yet willing, to take leadership and teaching roles: self-importance. The demand for an often unattainable standard comes from this notion the person is of some moral superiority. I’ve seen all too often where the person thinks he or she is some reincarnation of someone historical figure and that excuses them from work, or the way people tie unfortunate circumstances to moral failings. Self-importance excuses away honest examination of oneself and one’s intentions of either accepting a leadership or teaching role as well as becoming a student. If someone sees a subject or tool as opposed to a partnership, no experience or qualification will suffice.

Taking on a role of leadership or teaching is neither easy nor lightly taken. Both are often thankless and never pay in proportion to the work involved. Some will find their own rewards and reasons for pursuing it beyond pay or prestige. Sometimes it’s with good intentions and understanding of one’s skills and abilities, other times without. This is what determines if someone is of moral integrity in such a position as opposed to life circumstances. Through the containment or elimination of self-importance in both a teacher or leader and a student or follower the stronger an opportunity for growth occurs.


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A New Perspective: My Love-Hate Relationship with the Law of Attraction (and How It Affects My Kemetic Path)

When I first wrote about my experience with the Law of Attraction I was very mixed about it. I saw its potential as a psychological motivator, but found it disdainful for spiritual growth by itself. I agreed with the criticisms where the belief promotes spiritual lethargy and an undeserved sense of self-entitlement based on my experience with those who practiced it. I also saw a problem with moral and cognitive dissonance, especially when one is confronted with issues like human trafficking and genocide. I questioned from where the Universe pulled to provide whatever one wished to manifest. If I manifested money did my manifestation make a person or group of people poorer? What if someone who wished to harm used the Law of Attraction? If the philosophy behind it is a person wills a bad experience on themselves, does it mean someone must be willing to cause harm that is in alignment with the Universe? All of these questions (in addition to my criticism of the just world fallacy) aside I still felt in the mind of someone with a strong sense of self and realism the Law of Attraction is beneficial.

A couple of years later I dealt with quite a few people who strongly adhered to this belief. The more I dealt with them as people who happened to believe in the Law of Attraction the more I saw a disturbing trend. Apparently someone, somewhere decided the best way to attract positive vibrations was to “root out” every minute negative aspect of one’s life. The nebulous idea of to what extent and how negative was never addressed because even something as innocuous as a lolcat could trigger “negative vibrations”, or so these people informed me (I’ve yet to determine what constitutes negative energy as opposed to offending one’s sensibilities). I’ve since rooted or distanced myself from those people. I’m sure their vibrational energies are better for it. I know mine are.

I was thinking about this old blog post a few days ago when I saw a trend in the Kemetic community quite similar to seeking out negativity as I observed with the Law of Attraction. Instead of calling it negativity it’s been labeled “isfet”. For those who don’t know isfet is the Ancient Egyptian word for “disorder”. It is considered the opposite of Ma’at. One conversation which finally led to this post’s revival was a discussion about familial issues with one person’s faith. This caused a bit of controversy in the group as some believed that the person shouldn’t rock the boat too much since the person was dependent on the family on a very small level and such a disagreement in expressing beliefs could bring disorder into the home. I and a few others found this problematic thinking for a couple of reasons, the main one being how much any disagreement causes disorder. Disagreements and even squabbles are bound to happen; that’s life. Should one be held responsible for isfet for any and all disagreements?

I found, and still believe, the issue of rooting out any and all isfet almost as extreme as rooting out all negative vibrations. I saw from looking at those who wanted to root out negative vibrations how obsessed they became with negativity. They surrendered self control to a formless entity they believed could potentially ruin their lives. Even the most innocuous slight earned someone the title of “negative person” and “psychic vampire”. Adherents to that extreme quest of a positive life may as well label the general population with such names. In a way of self-fulfilling prophecy and irony these people manifested a dark attitude about living a positive life. They became passive aggressive, hard to deal with in everyday conversation, abrasive, and outright unsupportive. I guess some people forget the Law of Attraction teaches that if one focuses their energy on a certain idea it’s what manifests.

Focusing on certain behaviors and the resulting behaviors isn’t something Kemetics should ignore. In The Book of the Heavenly Cow Sekhmet’s original focus was to eradicate those who plotted to kill Ra but ultimately targeted mankind in Her rampage. When She sought to eradicate mankind this became isfet. It created disorder and had potential to kill everyone. What started off as eliminating all of one form of isfet became isfet itself. Just as one seeks to remove all isfet from one’s life, this bears potential as its own form of isfet. It turns into an obsession, anxiety over minute issues and missteps, misanthropy, disdain towards a growing number of things, all of which the person internalizes. It gets toxic quickly from my observations.

I do believe, though, one should try to live in accordance with Ma’at and part of that is culpability for our response to isfet. It doesn’t have to manifest in a form as never offending nor abrasive reaction. Sometimes the best way to slay isfet is through changing a behavior or response. In an ideal world when a family member disapproves of a faith the family member can live and let live and even learn about the beliefs. More often than not it’s ideal to not bring it up in conversation. Have a plan of action for when it’s necessary. As an example, I have a father whom I consider a rageaholic. My plan of action when he seeks conflict is to note the circumstances and politely ask him to not engage until he can calmly discuss an issue with me. Sometimes I remove myself from the situation completely. I politely acknowledge his point and say nothing else at times. It doesn’t change his behavior, but I’m not feeding the situation. I’ve fought isfet in this situation because I didn’t let the situation degenerate. At times, though, his desire to seek conflict requires an offensive response. I’m not perfect at it as there are times where I let my emotions take over or I go overboard with my response. I’ve had to learn from it and try not to do it again. Yes, there will be a gamut of emotions in that process. Growing isn’t easy and is usually a painful process. It goes back to my belief of upholding Ma’at is to sometimes learn from it, tackle those processes, and grow into something stronger.

There are times where I find the best way to handle isfet in my life is to dismiss it. I may feel the person who cut me off in traffic contributed to isfet, but responding with road rage is also isfet in my opinion. I can let it go and continue with my drive. I can breathe and be thankful I didn’t hit the offending person. I can ignore someone’s habit of putting their elbows on the table while others are eating. It’s a faux pas, one I could argue is isfet as manners are meant to uphold social order, but it would cause more isfet to embarrass the person depending on the circumstances (yes, there are exceptions. If for some reason the faux pas causes major problems, I will speak up). I don’t need to slay every isfet in my life because it doesn’t necessarily need slaying or addressing.

The way I look for the isfet to slay in my life is the same way I look for negativity: I don’t. It will find me and I will have to decide how to deal with it when it shows, if I deal with it at all. Instead of killing it I may sedate it and reorganize my behaviors and thoughts. Ra reorganized the world after He sedated Sekhmet through drunkenness. In that regard I still give the Law of Attraction some leeway because at its core the focus is about reorganizing one’s behavior and thinking. The approach to it is something I find toxic as it encourages dysfunctional behavior and thinking. Sometimes isfet, negativity, etc., ends up more trouble than its worth to address it. Sometimes it’s not even something attracted. Forgive my vulgarity, but shit happens. There are days you will step in it, and there are days when you find the asshole responsible for leaving it. Not every asshole needs you to wipe it, but you will have to clean yourself off. I feel that dealing with negativity and isfet isn’t so distinct in that respect.


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A New Perspective: Why Sometimes I Don’t Want to Be Associated with Pagans

“There are moments where I throw my hands up in the air because I’m so disgusted with the Neo-Pagan Movement. Much of what I’ve observed in this past year are things I observed (and subsequently felt disgusted by) occurred in Christianity.”

This quote is what I used for what I now call my “rant heard around cyberspace” (in reality a few forums and a site or two posted a link, but given I had more spambots reading my blog than readers it was impressive). When I first wrote this post I dealt with my umpteenth Pagan political crud on the internet. When faced between online behavior and real life Pagan behavior I had enough and ranted. A bit of time passed, a few links to my rant were posted, and I’ve had a few more life experiences to go with those rants. I think there are a few I want to add to them based on some of the recent events in the Kemetic community.

It’s becoming a clique. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

“I’m seeing this trend where unless you’re one of “them” you don’t get to make the same remarks, dissent, nor practice with ‘them’. It’s natural to form groups, but there’s a point where the “group” starts to hurt the religious dynamic.”

I’ve come to realize with cliquish behavior in the Pagan community I was naïve. There is no disagreement, even amongst the clique, because that goes against all group-think. If one does anything to rock the boat within the clique backstabbing ensues. This is the key difference between an organization and a clique. Organizations settle their differences and problems in a way which is respectful, healthy, and promotes growth. Cliques gang up on people, plot revenge against dissenters, use dirty methods to get their ways, and eventually ostracize anyone not like them. It’s usually the cliques who are…

Ruining communities with stupid witch wars. Witch wars divide communities like nothing else. From my experience it’s usually a dispute between metaphysical stores, but that doesn’t make the chaos and ensuing damage to the local community less. I’ve seen an entire community divided with parts gone underground because of witch wars. It’s not only damaging to communities within, but from observers as well. It makes it look as if Pagans are incapable of handling squabbles or personal disputes without resorting to ofttimes sophomoric behavior. When we spread gossip intending to hurt other parties, “spy” on “enemies”, pressure people to involve themselves with this dispute, boycott for no reason other than you’re having a dispute with the person, shun for no reason, it ends up looking as if we aren’t mature enough to sit all the parties down and solve it like adults. Maybe we aren’t mature enough for this type of dispute. One of the reasons I say this is because the biggest causes of witch wars stems from…

Too many jealous or resentful people in the community. One of the biggest issues that started the screams for the pettiness to stop in the Kemetic community right now stems from the success of Tamara Siuda’s kickstarter for a book. There was a bunch of spiteful backlash about the issue that eclipsed what should have been a positive moment overall. I’m not saying that Tamara Siuda should be free of criticism, I’m just saying that nastiness is best left for one’s journal and not in the comments of celebrating a big moment for many in the Kemetic community.

The sad reality is the resentments and jealousy of this nature isn’t just an isolated community issue. As I said in the other point this behavior is one of the main causes of witch wars. If we wish to have a thriving community we need to have a healthier way of managing resentments and jealousy.

Too many rabid fundies. What I originally wrote:

I know this seems odd to write about with a movement reputed to be so open, but I can’t believe how many times I’ve had the Rede shoved down my throat. Many pagans cannot accept the fact not every pagan is Wiccan. This is a troubling trend, especially for Neo-Pagan religions that don’t adhere to such things. That isn’t to leave out the ones who, despite any scholarship, want to deny other groups. If this trend isn’t abated in any way I may see a Pagan Religious Right in my lifetime.

I have a lot of people who honestly rolled their eyes at my thoughts on the fundamental Pagans. The thing is when one insists on everyone practicing exactly the same way regardless if one is an adherent of that religion it actually damages the community. It’s one thing to expect a Tameran Wiccan who is a member of a coven who believes in the Rede to expect other members of the coven to believe it. It’s another thing to expect a Kemetic Reconstructionist to follow the Rede, and vice versa about historical accuracy (yes, it’s a different issue if something wholly inaccurate is claimed to be accurate). I have a difficult time believing this, with other behaviors, occurring in the Pagan community this isn’t the foundation for groups going around promoting hate “in the name of (insert deity)”.

If the bar isn’t too high, it’s too low. I originally wrote:

If it isn’t strict “us vs. them” cliquishness there’s this seemingly low standard to allow anything because it’s pagan [sic]. This means allowing pewter items to be sold as amulets and crude artwork marketed en masse. The outrageous standards are going to kill the movement. Which leads me to my next point…

The point I was trying to make is we have far too nebulous standards, and I’m not sure how effective it is to have nebulous standards across the board. I’ll address the other aspects in the next point.

Consumerism is rampant. I originally wrote:

How long have we, as those belonging to alternative faiths, blasted Christianity for its exploitation of people’s dollars? I know it’s hypocritical for one who will open her own store soon to say such things, but there’s a difference between selling a ritual kit for a holiday and selling an ugly pendant as an alleged amulet. Have we forgotten some things, or just became hypocrites?

One thing which irritates me is how some items are marketed as occult or Pagan simply for its own sake. In the case of pewter amulets I’ve actually seen amulets meant to bring out elements of Mars made of pewter, a material which is considered mercurial. If there’s an occult practice which doesn’t have this mixture of planetary alignments as bad I’d love to learn more about it. I suppose if one is eclectic enough it doesn’t matter.

However, I’ve learned a few things about the nature of these products while running my etsy store. Simply put these pewter amulets are everywhere because they sell and people don’t want to shell out the money for the proper amulets. It’s not the amulets alone. If it’s labeled as Pagan, no mater how dubious the label there is someone who will buy it, someone usually less experienced with these things. I don’t know what it’s testament to more in our community, but it certainly needs to be addressed.

The inability to organize for most things. I originally wrote:

I know this issue has been addressed constantly, but if Neo-Pagans are to be taken seriously they’re going to have to treat certain things seriously. This means arriving to events in a timely manner, coming together to protest and inform the public, and respecting differences. I’m starting to question if people have come to this religion for the same reason I came to it.

I think “Pagan time” is still an issue even after countless people explaining why this is rude and distracting. There’s another issue that isn’t fully discussed, though. It’s the lack of commitment to a community. When a quadruple homicide happened in a town where I lived the police blamed it on occult sacrifice. When I not only spoke to the police force, books in hand, to explain why their reasoning wasn’t sound, I found a local church who was elated when I suggested the local Pagans have a question and answer discussion panel to help dispell some of the myths. The Pagans were on board, but no one wanted to tell me when they were available. Sadly, the panel never happened.

It’s the lack of commitment that is going to be the biggest killer of the Neo-Pagan movement. It’s why I was excited to see Tamara Siuda’s kickstarter have such success. To me it’s a sign of possible change from the herding cat mentality for which Pagans are famous. It’s a sign that we’re starting to understand on some level if there are things we want in the community we must support it in a meaningful way.

The god complexes. I originally wrote:

It seems like one isn’t a true pagan unless they lead all sorts of groups, despite being the only member. I understand with some paths one may ultimately practice solitary, but it’s starting to seem like everyone and their goldfish is a high priest/ess. When I question these people, these “clergymen” become indignant or try to negate me in some way. It’s part of the reason why many people don’t take the Neo-Pagan Movement seriously, and it needs to be more stringently addressed. Not everyone is meant to be a clergymember, and the few seminaries already started is a great way to address that.

I feel the god complex is another cause of the witch wars. Someone believes they are some incredible gift to the community with an overblown sense of self then foster resentments when no one else acknowledges their genius. It’s actually one of the reasons I love Ziltoid the Omnisicent as he embodies this very aspect.

35ctxf

I sure do, Ziltoid. I sure do.

Don’t be Ziltoid. Just don’t.

The Party Pagans. I originally wrote:

Reader, I trust you know the type: they’re in it for the shock. While many of them will go their own way by the end of adolescence, there should be a better way to address this issue to repair the reputation. People think some become pagans for the image or to “get back”. It’s probably why a few still venture to say when one has a rough life they sink lower by pursuing paganism.

Apart from amusement at how I sounded like an 18th century author, I was trying to address how there are some who want to be considered Pagan without any discernible clue of being one. They don’t contribute to the community, they don’t practice, or if they do they show know real depth to their practice. They are Pagan in name only, and only bring it up to impress people. These folks are usually called “playgan”, I call them “party pagans”. Some do eventually grow more serious with their practice, but from my experience it’s not that many. I don’t know if there’s a solution to weeding these people out because we need to have some idea of how to settle what makes anyone a follower of a Pagan path other than a name and a personal affirmation.

I think the part that bothers me the most about these rants isn’t that they exist, but I’m not the only one, nor the first person, to have these complaints. These are the same issues constantly reemerging. I think we need to have some real solutions, but even I don’t have an idea of how to solve all my rants. I do feel maybe something like a truth commission would benefit for resolving witch wars before it destroys a community would be helpful. Resolving issues should be a community effort anyway.


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Devotional Tuesday: Turning Away from the Truth

Mandatory Disclaimer:  This is just my personal take on some of the passages and may or may not pull from academic sources.  In other words, this is just my interpretation of things.  Take it or leave it.

“O Youth Who came forth from a Heliopolitan nome, I have not been deaf to words of truth.”

I started writing this post a few months ago after dealing with folks on Yahoo! news. The gist of it was a biased source was cited, I pointed this out, and I was accused of being some sort of basher. Bear in mind this accusation came with foul and inflammatory language followed by how I needed to “mind my language” when I used no such language myself. I wanted to dismiss the whole thing as a troll, being Yahoo! and all, and possibly shame myself for bothering with Yahoo! That incident kept eating at me, though. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I realized after a few strings of other events that it was my frustration with an ongoing issue: ignoring the facts for the sake of a “truth”.

I understand truth is a very subjective concept. In some philosophies truth is seen as how the person observes and perceives their surroundings. Even what is seen as a current truth may change at a later date. It was considered “truth” the world was flat. It was considered “truth” we lived in a geocentric universe. It was considered “truth” there was a call to destroy Ancient Egyptian ruins until the creators of the hoax revealed the truth and the intentions.

So what happens when the truth changes? What happens when we find out we live in a heliocentric system or that something is a hoax? For many the answer is simple: you accept it if there’s strong evidence to support the new view. For that individual his or her truth changes. This applies to religious growth for me. The truth is constantly changing for me as I learn new things. When I learn more about my world I grow into a different person. It’s, for me, a way of becoming something better in the face of truth.

I see a personal reason that this confession is associated with the nome associated with the primordial mound. The act of creation, as I see it, takes action and takes knowledge. This is much like the Wadjet’s alleged purpose to help the pharaoh. When faced with the truth and what isn’t he could discern the best course of action. If one turns away from truth in this matter chaos ensues. What I see on a personal level is one doesn’t grow into a better person.

There’s a case that I encountered with this. There was a man who insisted that women shouldn’t “dress immodestly” if they don’t want to be ogled. I pointed out for large-breasted women this is almost impossible (citing my own experience) and suggested self control as a more viable option. We argued about this where I cited a study supporting my point and pointed out when called upon said violations individuals tend to act aggressively. The conversation degenerated and the man, upon further suggestion he not look at a woman’s breasts, acted aggressively. The irony isn’t lost on me, but that’s not the point. The point is the man took it personally that such violations of social norms are an individual’s responsibility. As a result of not facing one possible truth nothing was gained from either party except resentment. He’s resentful that I implied he lacked self control and I’m resentful that someone scoffed at empirical evidence and personal experience. The incident, however, demonstrates exactly what happens when I see people ignoring a truth.

When we don’t face a truth, when we ignore it for the sake of convenience, I’ve found nothing changes for the better. Instead things stay the same at best or worsen in a more likely scenario. When faced with a new truth it means we have to make a decision, one which changes our beliefs. That’s uncomfortable at times, painful at others, and sometimes the easiest thing to do. Most of it is contingent on the willingness to change and how willing we are to scrutinize new information. I’m not saying one should accept all information wholesale nor without scrutiny. What I am saying is just because the information may be unpleasant or come from an unpleasant source doesn’t negate a strongly supported idea. In the Maxims of Ptahhotep it’s written:

Do not be arrogant because of your knowledge, but

confer with the ignorant man as well as with the learned, for the

limit of skill has not been attained, and there is no crafts-

man who has fully acquired his mastery.

There is no such thing as the penultimate master. There’s always something to learn or at times relearn and from a source to learn it. Sometimes we let bias get in the way of that. Sometimes we believe we have more life experience than others, or our age determines our knowledge, or that our upbringing, or even education, gives us more value in skill or knowledge than others. It’s possible, but that doesn’t grant full expertise. We’re all knowledgeable in some areas and less knowledgeable in others.

If one is to listen to truth, how does one ensure openness to the truth? I don’t have any ultimate answers, but this is what’s worked for me most of the time:

Be aware of personal bias or biases. Tallying personal biases is probably one of the hardest things to do. It means swallowing our pride and admitting to ourselves we aren’t likely as kind or impartial as we hoped. It’s still vital to the learning process, just the same. If we turn a blind eye to our shortcomings we can never grow honestly. Don’t ignore biases which lean in a positive direction either. A bias is still a bias.

Examine why the new information should be rejected or accepted. Is the new information biased? Does it come from a biased source? Is the information dated? Or is the new information coming from a source from which you are biased against or towards? Sometimes we like to hear information which supports our bias or confirm an idea we’ve already formed, regardless if the information is sound.

Consider the changes the new information brings. Sometimes people reject new information not because it’s biased, but because it brings a change. Some people fear change for personal reasons.

Be open to the change the new information brings. If it clears all biases and any reason to reject the change is overcome then accept it and let the change or changes happen.

It’s not an easy task to consider new information and changes. It’s not easy to change based on new information. If one wishes to continuously grow, however, I feel the willingness to accept it needs to happen.


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I Received a Blog Award!

Thank you, thalassa, from Musings of a Kitchen Witch, for the award!  I certainly didn’t expect it and it made my day brighter.  I apparently get to answer some questions, which leads me to believe I’m really in some sort of questions game.  Here, however are the official rules:

1.the bloggers have to have 200 or less followers.

2.there is a list of questions to answer from your nominator as well as having to come up with a list of questions for your own nominees. you can either use the same questions as was asked of you or make up new ones for your nominees.

3.copy/paste the award logo into your post. you can add it to your blog sidebar or footer if you wish.

4. notify your nominees of the nomination.

Now it’s time to answer some questions…

Which art form offers you the truest expression for yourself?

Just one?  Poetry, music, and dance are probably the truest expressions of myself.  When I dance, sing, play my ocarina, attend concerts or poetry readings, I feel the most at home.  Everyone is performing to some degree at these events.  It’s almost impossible not to become a performer when everyone has a role either as an observer or singing along with the band; it’s not just the people on the stage who perform in my view.  To me, they’re one of the same.

In that art form, what is your most honest piece of expression?

I try to be as honest as possibly in all my work (I think it’s really hard to be a performer and dishonest about your artistic expression).  That said my “most honest” (read “favorite”) pieces are “Revelations of the Hag of Lawrence” and “Light of God”.

What always makes you laugh?

A good scatological joke.  Also, very off-the-wall humor, provided the humor isn’t forced or trying to shame someone.

What always makes you cry?

Innocent lives harmed or taken away.  It shouldn’t happen.  I’m the type of person when I learn of it try to see what I can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

What is one thing that you can’t do that you’d love to be able to do?

I’d have to devote a whole blog to this question!  The top of this list is more of a temporary inability, but I want to physically embrace my partner again.  Currently we’re 2,000 miles apart.

What is your favorite book? Why does it affect you so?

I have a favorite book series.  The Middle Earth series by J.R.R. Tolkien (I know, I’m so cliche).  I love Old and Middle English literature (if I can get a copy printed in the original English I nab it) and Tolkien captures it pretty well, which is good given that was his area of expertise.

What is your favorite movie or play? Why does it affect you so?

I have a favorite movie and a favorite play(s).  My favorite movie is Monty Python and the Holy Grail because I love how Monty Python combines zaniness and fact to create a whole new level of humor.  It has just enough crazy and reality that it seems semi-plausible.  Since I grew up watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus their stylings have been a great influence on my humor and aspirations (I’ve always wanted my own sketch comedy show).

My favorite plays are a toss-up between Anton Chekov’s Ivanov and The Just Assassins by Albert Camus.  Both deal with, in my mind, with many of the same topics of the darker sides of human nature, the real consequences of our actions in how they affect others, and selfishness versus selflessness.

If you were given the opportunity to spend one more day with a friend or family member who has passed away, what would you do?

It depends on the person’s state.  I have many friends and family members who died from illnesses like cancer.  And if I spent time with them would it be some sort of reanimation idea?  That could be tricky since a couple of them died very violent deaths.  I’d rather not inflict that on someone again.  This is what I get for over thinking this question…

Provided the person is brought back for one day in a pristine state without illness or decomposition and whatnot, I’d say my maternal grandmother.  She was probably the closest family member to me and was the only one who made strident efforts to really be involved in my life.    I’d like to speak with her about everything just one last time.  It doesn’t even have to be about advice or secrets of the universe.  I’d want to spend that time with someone who truly cared about what I had to say.

If you had won the $580 million Power Ball jackpot, what would you be doing today?

Apart from paying off my debts, buying my dream home, fighting off the statistically likely people banging down my door for cash, and finally living with my partner again?  Probably what I’d do any other day.

Now it’s time to nominate some folks for an award.  I’ll just dig through my subscribers and pick the 3 people who’ve inspired me to keep going.  I’ll pick, Aubs Tea, kallistaqbwht, Shine, and warboar.

Here are my questions for you:

  • What inspired you to start a blog?
  • Have you been achieving any of the goals set out with your blog?
  • Which moment in your life do you currently find the most awe inspiring?
  • What is a fear you’d like to overcome / have overcome?  If you’ve overcome it, how did you do it?
  • How do you handle unfortunate situations?
  • What is your favorite holiday?  Why?
  • What is a tradition you hope to pass on, be it to your children or to other generations in your community?
  • What is your view of the Divine, be it from a believer or non-believer’s standpoint?
  • You have just attained your dream life.  Describe it in 140 words maximum.