Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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Kemetic Round Table: Happy Multi-Holiday Observance Time!

When anyone converts from a belief in which they were raised to a new one there’s always conflict. If it’s not reconciling old beliefs with new ones it’s reconciling old religious traditions with new ones. I’ve been down this road in many ways before converting away from Christianity. I grew up thinking having to change tradition was a norm. My family is apparently very odd, yet very American, in that respect.

 

My father worked for a German company during my teens, which meant lots of traveling for him. He traveled so much I lost track of which country he was in most of the time. I’m sure my teachers suspected he was running out on us (it was one of those small towns that made Petyon Place look like Mayberry) since they grilled me often about his whereabouts. Awkward school situations aside it meant having to adjust holiday traditions. Since my father was out of the country a good portion of the time he missed out on holidays often. Holiday gatherings that once took place as a family had to be adjusted. Christmas gifts weren’t always opened together as a family or they arrived late. We stopped watching certain movies or specials because they were specific ones he requested and wasn’t there to request them. My father, since he still travels, ordered a Christmas tree this year instead of following tradition of picking out one at a tree farm.

 

Sometimes because my father travels new traditions were added or halfheartedly added. One summer my father insisted we observe Bastille day after coming back from France and missing Independence Day, even though we have no significant French ancestry nor ties to France. What happened was a confusing disaster and a house smelling of cheap wine. All but my father were against this practice for obvious reasons and felt it saw it for the contrived attempt to excuse poor wine choices. We gave up and left him to his cheap liquor. Despite this disaster some other traditions have been introduced with greater success, like a new holiday decorating tradition or a new holiday dish. After all, we’re Midwesterners and easily bribed with food.

 

There were times where family traditions changed not just because of absent family members, but due to changing circumstances. It used to be an Easter tradition to dye eggs for a family Easter egg hunt. As the children grew up there was less need to keep this tradition: we were at an age where we didn’t want to do it and there weren’t any children around for whom to keep the tradition going. There are others, and most changed because the tradition was no longer practical to keep. However gorging ourselves on food is still a family tradition.

When I moved away from Christianity not much changed, though there was some controversy over how I would observe holidays. It wasn’t so much of how my family felt my faith nor theirs would prohibit observation. I lucked out in that respect. My father’s side of the family are predominantly atheist so there was no issue about faith and the holidays. I grew up not attending church as a family, let alone on holidays. While we knew the religious significance my family raised me to observe it as a secular holiday. The issue of my faith stemmed from the holidays I wanted to observe coinciding with theirs, and the dietary restrictions prove to be an issue. My mother knew how to adjust to the family members who converted to Catholicism, but she wasn’t fully sure how to adjust for Kemetic practices. Luckily this is only an issue around Thanksgiving as that’s when I observe Ka-her-Ka and practice the rituals more rigorously. At first I was adamant about my dietary restrictions. As years have worn on I’ve grown too tired of the heated culinary debates and relented. I just do what I can and hope for the best.

 

When I’ve looked at this issue of overlapping holidays I’ve lucked out compared to the stories I’ve heard about Pagans and fellow Kemeticists. Most families are not multi-faith and tend to be hard nosed about what will and won’t be observed during the holidays. My family has made adjustments where possible but also knew what needed to be in which corner. As long as I’m not forcing my family to sit for long periods of time while I perform rituals in front of them they’re tolerant. My Catholic family members don’t expect the rest of us to attend Mass. The Baptist and Lutheran family members attend services and then spend time with the rest of the family. My atheist family members treat holidays like Christmas as secular holidays. The key for us is to understand when it’s time for someone to be religious and when it’s time to celebrate as a family. It’s probably why I don’t have any issues but personal ones about holidays.

 

I think what is key for my family is also the same advice I’d give anyone about celebrating multiple holidays: just know the time and place. Know when it’s time to celebrate family and being with family, and know when it’s time to celebrate it as a holy day. Don’t expect your family to burn a yule log if it’s never been done just because you observe Yule. Don’t look at the family attending church service as religion being shoved down your throat because you’re not Christian or Catholic. I know it’s hard not to look at that situation as forced, but understand to them it’s also an important family tradition. Even though sometimes traditions change there’s usually a new one in place where the whole family can enjoy it. Sometimes finding that new tradition for everyone will take work and tolerance.

 

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Inspirational Tuesday: The Path of Self-Love

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I’ve fully figured out how to love myself. I feel lying to myself like that is a disservice and unloving. What I can tell you is that I had a long road to travel to get to the point where I committed to loving myself. It hasn’t been an easy road. It certainly wasn’t a road where I had some strong advantages in that regard.

In America, especially for women, it’s taught that love isn’t something we can do for ourselves unless there’s external validation for it. Our worthiness for love is taught from a very young age. Everything from my basic assertiveness to outright boorish attitudes was usually met with, “If you don’t act like a lady no one will love you. You will be alone. You must be accommodating and pleasant at all times.” What really got to me over the years was how to be “pleasant”. No matter how “pleasant” I was it was never enough. If I took pride in something I did I was “too proudful” and had to be taken down a peg in someone’s eyes. If I was articulate and conveyed a point intelligently I was “trying too hard to appear brainy” and had to be shown how stupid I really was. Even to this day I’m perplexed how an elementary school teacher exclaimed how I think too big and needed to dumb myself down. If I met these tasks, people took jabs at me in other ways. I was “too ugly”, “too fat” (it didn’t matter the only person thinner than me at times had a thyroid problem), “a slut” (my sexual activity, or lack thereof, was irrelevant), or some other attack on me that was code for acting inappropriately for my sex.

If American society doesn’t teach people to hate ourselves for one reason it finds others. When I very little I was misdiagnosed as developmentally disabled and saw the dark side of learning disabled programs. While there have been strident efforts towards reform and moving away from what it was even in the 80’s (which was when I spent my time) there’s still a lot of systematic abuse. Most of the abuse focuses on making those with disabilities feel inferior or how they don’t matter. I was lucky in that I wasn’t sexually abused, but I’ve heard stories of that happening. I won’t go into all the details of what I experienced because it would detract, not to mention it’s hard to explain how I felt in those moments especially at a young age. While I did escape that program when I entered kindergarten thanks to an experienced teacher passionate about her work with developmentally disabled children, as well as advocacy groups and the district psychologist in tow (I will someday explain why all of that was necessary) I still had that stigma. I still had to battle with my teachers’ prejudices towards me, teachers still convinced I was somehow “less than” due to their prejudices against the developmentally disabled. I didn’t feel I overcame that stigma until college.

Part of my reason for feeling I started to overcome my self-loathing in college happened for many reasons. After battling a very dysfunctional family, an ex-boyfriend who raped me and stalked me, various broken systems (the schools nor law enforcement cared my ex was stalking me, even if it happened on school grounds), as well as my suicidal tendencies I felt free. I had a newfound lease on life by attending college. For once I had a very clear vision of how I wanted my life to look and how I was going to do it. I believed – in retrospect maybe with naivete – college would enhance my odds of getting a career in the performing arts. I always loved dancing and creating pieces, and this love led me to prepare for a career as a choreographer. It was at this time where I ran into a classmate who decided I needed to learn how to be a gay diva. I know many people feel being a diva is only about being “bitchy”, but I’ve come to realize why acting like a diva on some level helps with love. When you live a life that is mired in people wanting to hate you for inherently existing and changing one’s surroundings isn’t possible, raising oneself above the mire through just one of many methods is the only way to do it. There was another way I learned to rise above the mess, one that is probably more socially acceptable.

During my studies I ended up finding a religious path which I consider life-affirming. I found it through my own experiences with Het-Hert and subsequent conversion to Kemeticism. At that time I believed like others the Ancient Egyptian gods could be placed in boxes. I felt Het-Hert was a goddess of love, and given my life I needed plenty. It seemed for a while that everything was falling into place, even with new friends who were loving and supportive. I was learning to heal from my rape through consensual sex, though I picked partners who sent mixed signals. Close to the end of college my life faced an incredible upheaval.

I watched everything I worked for fall apart in six years. I lost my job and couldn’t get rehired, I watched friends abandon me and take advantage of my situation, I abandoned my dream of being a choreographer, and found out how worthless my diploma is despite the assurance of my academic advisors. I lost all of my savings and watched as debts piled up. Saying I was devastated to watch the life I was trying to build crumble is an understatement. I know I annoyed those in my life, but I don’t know if they were too exhausted to tell me they were tired or they never had that compassion to begin with in some cases. Unlike many others I still kept to my faith, even if I felt everything including my self-identity wavered.   If anything during this time I did more to learn what I truly believed and my understanding of Het-Hert. I studied more about the practices of Dendera and started piecing together the rituals. I saw Het-Hert less as an archetype for love and more as a motherly goddess. What I learned about spiritual love in worshiping Her, however, didn’t leave me.

A few years ago I reached a point where I had enough of feeling used up and left for dead. I prayed to Sekhmet to help me clear out those in my life and practices which were toxic. I don’t know if it was a psychological motivator or if She doesn’t waste time but that prayer was answered in a quick and tumultuous way. People whom I thought would always be my friend I either cut out in a dramatic fashion or they parted ways with me. I also saw at that time people who were willing to pray for me as I got through clearing people out. As they cleared I saw my vision for my life return and have pursued it accordingly. I had violent fights with some of my family where they saw my true strength emerge and where I learned I still needed to grow. I saw my wake up call to where if I truly loved myself I would answer it. Part of that meant active pursuit of healing old scars from my past.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but putting my foot down was the first sign I was finally learning how to love myself. Because of that I kicked some folks out of my life while some folks left my life of their own volition. During that time I learned another path of self-love. I learned new ways to take care of my anxiety disorder. Some of it came in the form of therapy, some from researching what to do during an anxiety attack (I ran some of the methods over with my therapist, who found them healthy), and some of it through prayer. I regained my sense of self, albeit slowly.  Some of my experiences with this I’ve shared before on this blog.

Sharing my personal experiences taught me a new approach to self-love, though not in the way people would expect. I learned some people didn’t like I discussed the less pleasant aspects of my life and what I’ve learned from it. I got to see passive-aggressive remarks about how someone’s “trying to be a bad bitch”, “lying”, read posts of how I’m “schizophrenic”, how I’m “a homewrecking slut”, and so on. I was debating how to handle these issues. I couldn’t decide whether to confront these bullies (let’s call it what it is) head on. I prayed about it to Het-Hert and asked people I know have been through similar experiences. The response was something to the effect of ignore them; live my life. I agreed even at the time it was great advice, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling something had to be done. I kept praying to many gods about the issue.

It all made sense when I shared with a couple of other friends. When they looked at what was said and advised the same thing, one of them added the comment of how these are the type of people who have to hate. The people who act like this are truly hate mongers. I ended up responding with, “Well, I guess it’s time to love myself.” I was silent while those words echoed in my head. It was something I should have been doing anyway, but there it was: my dedication to love myself. I finally uttered the words of my path all these years. What started as worshiping an archetype became a personal manifestation for me.

The reason to ignore hate mongers stems not only to bring peace of mind, but because you love yourself enough to know most aren’t worth the time and effort. There will always be someone who hates another for some reason, even if the reason only exists in their mind. Hatred towards people is in no short supply in this world. If left to my own devices I can generate enough self-loathing unmatched by 200 of my biggest “haters”. Let them put forth the time and effort. Yes, there will be a time when facing such hatred will come. There will be people who will do anything to make you feel their hatred for you so they don’t have to work as hard to hate. They will vandalize your things, they will spread rumors about you, they will attack you. However, not every act of hatred will be physically violent. Not every act of hatred towards me is worth my attention. I can call it out when it’s needed and encourage others to call out hatred. However the hatred I currently face is only bullying. I love myself too much to allow bullies into my life or my head.

I’ve cleaned house again and those people have been thrown out. When I find myself starting my self-loathing I’ve made it a habit to pray to Het-Hert to give myself enough love to get through it. I’m not always successful. After all I am human. I’m still learning some things about self-love. I know, though, I have a path that is exponentially less destructive than ever. It’s a path that includes self-compassion and learning to love the person I am and can be.


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When Ma’at Means Hotep

I thought for the first time ever I’d participate in the Pagan Values Project. I’ve always wanted to participate, but something always came up and I couldn’t post in time. This time I have a chance and no excuses.

I think the main value Kemeticists strive for is to uphold Ma’at, and I’m no exception. Given how there isn’t a direct English translation of the word—though it’s usually something like “order”, “cosmic justice”, or “balance” just to name a few major ones—I’ve seen the idea of upholding Ma’at take many forms. For some it means serving the gods. For others it may mean community service. There are plenty who interpret upholding Ma’at to mean something beyond service. The latter applies to me in some respects. There will always be a part of me who will strive to help someone in need because I know what it’s like to wont. I also enjoy seeing people living up to their highest potential and try to help them achieve it in whatever way I can. I’ve also come to understand sometimes the best community service starts from within.

In Ancient Egyptian the word for peace was htp. One thing I try to focus on my blog is my interpretation of the Ancient stay calm within chaosEgyptian religion and peace currently plays a major part in it. People even in the Pagan community don’t fully understand why I’m not focused on living a positive life, and people outside of the community will try to construe peace to still mean positive. I feel there’s a difference between what I’ve observed as positive living and peaceful living. I’ve observed those who live positively (and truly positive lives, not just ignoring that bad things happen) don’t let adverse situations define them nor let it get them down. While one does that with a peaceful life as well, I’ve found the difference lies in the approach.

My way of approaching a peaceful life differs from how I’ve seen people handle living positively in the approach of finding opportunity in an adverse situation. To illustrate my point I’ll use meditation because of one common problem of poor concentration due to noises. When I lived with my partner we lived across the street from a college campus. One thing about college campuses is they have some bell (or like my alma mater a steam whistle) to signal when classes were over. This would go off regularly and posed a bit of a problem with meditating. When I discuss this scenario I found people trying to live a positive life were more inclined to look for a different spot to meditate. I found a pattern, on the other hand, with the bell and incorporated it into my meditation. I learned to do this with the other noises eventually. While someone living positively may also incorporate the bell I started to incorporate it with other noises. I found peace in finding the patterns to noise and turned it into music. I’ve found living peacefully mean learning to work within a situation as well as making the situation better.

meaningofpeaceI find Ma’at in peace because it isn’t about making the most of a situation. I’ve found in finding my balance peace is essential, and part of my peace is seeing a situation for what it is. In ascertaining what the situation seems to be I look for a solution. I try to do this with as little judgement and personal biases as possible. Sometimes I perform a Tarot reading to help me in removing those biases. Sometimes I will meditate before my Het-Hert shrine. I will read wisdom literature at times. Sometimes I sit down and try other methods, such as confiding in a friend. Whichever method I try I keep my aim at upholdling Ma’at by finding the solution which gives me the most peace without compromising my integrity.

I’ve found when I’m willing to compromise myself rather than compromise in a situation for the sake of peace is deceptive. If not for the fact I’m fooling myself it’s the feelings afterwards. I’ve found if I compromise myself I tend to feel resentful towards anything and everyone involved in the situation. The only thing I can do at that time is examine the situation and learn from it. Sometimes I need to vent before I can examine it. I run the risk of ruining my peace if I don’t clear my emotions. I’ve taken to the passage of the Maxims of Ptahhotep of letting someone vent in these instances.

[…] A man in distress wants to wash his heart
more than that his case be won. […]
Not all one pleads for can be granted,
but a good hearing calms the heart.

Even though this passage is reference a court case and letting people air out their grievances it also applies in my case. Sometimes to regain my equilibrium I need to vent and move on. If I can’t move on after venting I can then look at the situation and learn from it. I understand how this isn’t always possible as well.

learn to surfThere will always be something that throws us off. There will be that person at work who’s attitude is something we internalize, or inexplicable anxiety sets in, or a myriad of other things which could ruin our peace. It’s why I don’t see peace as something stagnant; just like bop bags our peace gets knocked off center from time to time. We lose our peace as we flail about to regain our center. Part of regaining that peace for me is to practice my faith. When I go to my shrine to regain my peace I find myself first at my shrine before Het-Hert. I feel calmer when in Her presence at my shrine, one that is loving and often sympathetic without coddling. When I calm down I regain my peace either with that act alone, or it calms me down enough to figure out what I need to do.

Finding my peace is an integral part of my values. In finding peace I learn about myself and find ways to examine my religious practice within that value. It’s reminding myself of my tools like the wisdom literature. Sometimes it’s reminding myself I can breathe and move forward. Whichever way I use I go forward in my peace as one of my ways to uphold Ma’at. In that I regain my balance.


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Craft Friday: Paper Pockets

After trying to follow a nice box project only for it to go horribly awry I decided to try my hand at other projects on my Pinterest board.  I tried my hand at making some of the pockets from a tutorial on a mini pocket album.  Quite frankly I’m more pleased with the results of this than with a video tutorial that requires half of the video on pre-creasing and then manages to leave out vital steps (I will have a tutorial sometime that demonstrates why planning your projects is vital, and doubly so for tutorials).  Here’s how it turned out:

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

If you looked at the link you’ll notice I didn’t stitch the pockets together.  That’s because I don’t feel like it.  Despite the fact it looks like crumpled paper and I didn’t bind the pockets I have to say I like how it looks.  I’ll have to see if I can translate this to a few pockets on book covers for the next few bookbinding projects.


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How to Deal with Needy Reiki Clients

It’s inevitable in any business one will have a needy client. It is very common in alternative paths to encounter needy people. Sometimes they come in the form of energy vampires, people who lack self-assurance or reliance, people traversing a new path completely foreign to him or her, or even just overly demanding. They may demand the session go exactly as they want (as they hand you a detailed outline), constantly call or email you with questions (it’s good to have questions, but not when it disrupts your business), habitually ask you to forgo your policies, or unabashedly criticize your practice. Whichever form (or forms!) this client manifests it leaves you, the Reiki practitioner, exasperated, drained, imbalanced, and sometimes ill. Ultimately no one truly gains with an unchecked needy client.

I will admit this isn’t really the focus of my blog, but after dealing with a few needy clients I decided to look up how to handle it and found little for Reiki practices. While I found quite a bit on dealing with energy vampires not every needy client is an energy vampire. Some people are just excited to find someone to help them they get overzealous.  I feel there isn’t really much in respect to this for Reiki practitioners or energy workers, and it’s one that would have been useful a few times. I decided to take it upon myself to provide some ideas that worked for me when I had to deal with needy clients.

1. Set clear physical boundaries. It seems silly and obvious to suggest it, but energy workers are sometimes too willing to help a client that this area is neglected. Sometimes we go to great lengths and will circumvent our own boundaries to that end. The willingness to help isn’t necessarily a weak trait, but it leaves energy workers vulnerable to needy clients. It doesn’t take much to set up physical boundaries. Things like clear times you will answer emails (and setting up away messages when not available), business hours, and a clear policy will mitigate some issues.  Some boundaries, however, you won’t realize need establishing until a situation arrives that could violate it.  I had to set up a boundary with one client because she was so enchanted by our session she wanted to camp in my yard and study Reiki under me.

2. After setting the boundaries keep firm on them. Everyone has or will experience both sides of the “but can you make an exception for me?” argument. Exceptions can’t always happen, and it’s important for the practitioner and client boundaries exist.  When the client who wanted to camp out in my yard I established a boundary with referrals.  I don’t teach Reiki at this time (and that incident is an example as to why) and set up a list of referrals of people I know who do teach and find superb.  If you must, explain why the boundary exists, but in most cases reiteration is only necessary.

3. Shield. This is another seemingly obvious one. With Reiki it seems unnecessary since we aren’t using our energy as well as counterintuitive. It doesn’t matter with energy vampires. I found some use Reiki sessions as a backdoor. If one identifies as an empath it also adds another level of protection from the client’s emotions.  Creating an energy shield for yourself is just another level of creating a boundary.

4. If a client sucked energy from you, check your body. Despite all precautions some needy clients manage to get your energy. I had an experience where one client managed to drain me of my energy during a session. I knew this because I suffered a headache well into the next day after the session.  If you’re unfamiliar with Reiki a practitioner shouldn’t feel drained after a session.  If one does it’s usually a sign personal energy was used.  When the client complained I didn’t use “enough power” I had my confirmation. I left a professional reply and then performed energy work on myself. Sure enough I found a cord tied to this client. Once I removed the cord the client left a surly last word and ended contact with me (though I suspect I would have received a surly word anyway). Even if the needy client doesn’t use similar methods I advise performing energy work on yourself after an encounter.

5. Give the client tools to self-empower. This advice is especially useful for the needy client who isn’t self-reliant or feels insecure. It provides you another boundary, it provides the client with a tool to better his or her path, and it is a wonderful professional move. It also upholds part of the purpose of any work in this field: to give people a method of empowering themselves. I suspect at the heart of every needy client is that lack of self-empowerment. These self-empowering tools can be anything from a breathing exercise to as complex as showing them how to make a stone grid.

6. Know when to end the relationship. You’ve shielded yourself, you’ve set clear policies and business hours, you’ve done everything imaginable for the client. The client still insists it isn’t enough and the client-practitioner relationship is going nowhere in a best case scenario. If you’ve done everything you can and the client isn’t happy it’s time to cut your losses. You’re not able to provide what the client wants, and it may not have anything to do with you or your practice. If you can send them off politely and professionally such as, “I’m sorry but it seems you are looking for something which I can’t adequately provide you. At this point I’m ending our relationship.” Give a refund if necessary. If you can refer them to other practitioners, do it. If the client chooses to end it before you can,  let them. It’s not important to have the last word. Ending it as professionally as possible not only helps the client, but sometimes leads to more business in the future.

The gist of dealing with a needy client is to honor yourself, honor your work, and honor the relationship. While needy clients exist in all fields with Reiki and energy work it’s essential to utilize more safeguards against them not only for ourselves but to work for the ultimate good of all clients.


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A New Perspective: Knee-Jerk Reactions

A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92)

I thought I’d continue with my thoughts last week about overreacting and acting aggressively to revisit an old post.  Honestly I feel this post is a little moot on some levels, but I know the topic is timeless at the same time.  Knee-jerk reactions are important for everyone to examine when reading things, especially online.  It is especially important to watch our reaction to things during tough times in our life.   It also means we have to be more aware of what we put into our heads and improve media literacy.

What sparked the initial post was dealing for the umpteenth time with a circulated link  about a plea by an Islamic group to destroy the Great Pyramids. The reaction ranged from hand wringing to screams of persecution. It’s been revealed to be a hoax since then. Honestly, I had my criticisms of the original article since there were some dubious links and was too emotionally charged to fully convey that – even if the call is true – it’s a bad idea to follow. It also goes in the face of the Egyptians who tried to protect their heritage even during their revolution, the attempts to repatriate artifacts, and even an attempt to copyright Ancient Egyptian replicas.  Tourism focused on its ancient history is very important to their economy.  When I and others pointed to links confirming the hoax and pointing out the very points I cited we were met with extreme opposition.  I’m positive I threw “islamophobia” out there a few times.  The information we provided didn’t feed their emotional state; it was so contrary to their media source and agenda that cognitive dissonance ensued.

What pains me to see is that it could have taken a few minutes to think this through. Yes, there are extremists that will do these things, but they exist everywhere. I’m sure I can dig a bit and find some clergy who feel Ancient American sites should be destroyed (as if Manifest Destiny and other campaigns didn’t help that along). It actually demonstrates a point I made in an earlier article about the pitfalls about following one’s emotions without thinking. That’s not to say the Abrahamic faith-based groups that do these things are non-existent, but they’re not as prominent as one thinks. I can tell you from experience a good portion of the time the groups that act this way aren’t fully educated about Pagans and they’re acting on their own knee-jerk reactions. These knee-jerk reactions come from their own fears.

Knee-jerk reactions such as these are a side effect of fear-mongering.   It’s not shameful, but it is a human trait exploited so often it’s integral to keep it in check when faced with media sensationalism.  It’s supposed to shock you, it’s supposed to stir up your emotions, and it’s supposed to place us towards a certain agenda.  This is where fear-mongering becomes problematic.  People in an emotional state sometimes surrender reasoning for the sake of security (or the feeling at least).  This tends to stir up hatred towards a targeted group.  I’ve found in my experience fear-mongering and hate-mongering tend to go hand in hand.

However, there are still ways to mitigate our knee-jerk reactions.  One of the things to understand right off the bat is everyone has an agenda, myself included.  For example, this blog post has an agenda to explain everything you read has some agenda and will use a form of sensationalism to incite a desired outcome.  That’s the hardest part because it means every bit of media to which we expose ourselves–even those from our own groups–may have a questionable agenda exposed with some scrutiny.  The best defense against knee-jerk reactions from media sensationalism, though, is to improve media literacy.  Media Smarts has a website with incredible resources on how to hone media literacy.  Don’t let the target age for their learning tools deter you; the information is still invaluable to all ages.

As with most things I stress on my blog awareness and knowledge are key in combating some of these extremes.  It takes practice, but it’s worth not panicking over every misquoted article about the Pope allegedly targeting Pagans with pancakes (yes, I used alliteration on purpose).  It takes effort to stop, process the article read without emotion, and analyze the piece.  I assure it’s worth it.  It has saved me anxiety and isolation issues doing this.  It may also reveal some things about sources you may not like, such as an author purposefully inciting fear in order to rally people against a Catholic organization or externalize resentments about Catholicism the author harbors.  Ultimately, the way to combat knee-jerk reactions is to improve critical thinking skills.


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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 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.