Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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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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So…I’m Back…Kinda

I’m back from something of a hiatus.  However, I’m not completely ready to take on the blog  completely again.  I feel ready now to explain what happened and where I want to take the blog at this point.

I had to take a hiatus because after 6 years my partner left me.  This left me devastated to say the least as we were planning a wedding even the day before he dumped me.  I’ll have a post explaining why even getting that far is a huge ordeal for me as it is.  Just the same with everything else in my life I felt I had completely lost everything, including my job (I had just gained a job again only to be fired shortly thereafter).  I have lost much in that year alone and felt completely hopeless and alone.  I had a nervous breakdown.  During this time I broke promises to myself, including a failed suicide attempt.  This happened in spite of reaching out to my friends and those I trusted in the community.  To those who helped me get semi-functional again, thank you.  I came closer to succeeding than I ever have with suicide, and it shows me that there are trustworthy people who’d rather I not die.  To those who told me to “heal thyself”, I think you need more healing than I do to turn away someone in such a state.  If your “solution” is to not even contact the police when someone is suicidal I question a lot of things about your character.

During that time, however, I was inundated with work of a different sort.  I have a hobby where I review music.  These days I use it to retrain myself into how to critique my own work objectively and relearn my creative process.  I’ve had it for some time but I tried to keep it separate from this blog for a few reasons, mainly because I know people have a hard time accepting that part of me.  Just the same I have been swamped with lots to do in that area and I want to get it done ASAP.  That means focusing away from this blog for a bit.

There is also an issue of finances.  I’ve done everything with this blog out of pocket.  I’ve kept quiet about it because I figured I don’t have enough readers to really make a fuss nor should I make a fuss.  I set up an etsy store in the meantime until I could either get enough freelance work or until I got a job.  While I do have work coming in now it’s not enough to pay my bills.  I may be starting a fundraiser so I can pay my bills, but I’m not really sure how I feel about that yet.  I’m going to look at my options and hope somebody hires me or steady work of some sort comes along.  This will also keep me away from my blog a bit.

In spite of everything going on in my life I still have some plans for the blog.  I want to continue with my inspirationals where possible.  I’ve also decided to add to the Kemeticism 101 pool with my own rendition of it.  I’m not certain what all I should cover since I’m unsure there isn’t a 101 topic untouched.  I’d love to hear some feedback on that topic.  I’m also hammering out my posts on racism and other -isms of the Neo Pagan community.  I realize now this too will be a series of posts given the nature of the topic.  I don’t know how long this will take since my time is going to be split up.

I ask everyone to continue to be patient with me as I try to get stuff together.  It’s still going to take time for me to get through all of this.  I can say, however, I will try to keep this blog going to contribute in a meaningful way.

 

 


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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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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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Inspirationial Tuesday: Go Die in a Fire, Namaste!

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 Disturber who came forth from Weryt, I have not been hot-tempered.” -translation by R.O. Faulkner

This passage is listed in another document as coming from the sanctuary and with one version saying the confessor hasn’t been heated in his or her words. While I can’t seem to figure out which god is addressed in this confession, this blogger suspects it’s Hatmenhit. I guess all that matters is the idea of the confessor being in control of their emotions. I see it can go to some outrageous ends at times to appear in control. The most often way I see it is through the words used and their real intentions.

All too often I see people who will say the most hateful, vitriolic things to a person followed by some form of well-wi480317_10151292098577371_1483434193_nshing. It’s the strangest concept to me because I don’t understand how a “blessing” will somehow negate the fact one said some hurtful things. When I discussed this with my partner to get some perspective I ended up poking fun at the concept with the phrase, “Go die in a fire, namaste!” It conveys the very idea of some of these behaviors.

We tend to say hurtful things when we’re angry. It’s why it’s important to watch ourselves when we’re angry because we may come to regret it. It may be out of personal remorse either. Sometimes there are social ramifications. You could lose friends, you could lose respect, or you could lose your job or business over it. We’ve all been in that situation where a friendship was ended because of an argument that spiraled out of control over something said in a moment of passion. There are also times when we say something hurtful because we misconstrued the context. I’ve seen all too often on the Internet where discussions turned into hateful shouting matches. I saw one debate generating into a shouting match with a person leaving a forum, and it turned out the person who left was misunderstood due to missing punctuation.

I was taught when I studied Japanese that the Japanese won’t generally say something outright hateful to a person’s face. An example of this is instead of saying someone is “an interesting person” as a euphemism for a derogatory name. I’m not fully certain of the origin of this practice, but I saw it in my experience with working at a Chinese restaurant as well. When I studied Chinese in order to speak with my co-workers the explanation written in the book was it helped the offending party save face. According to the book making someone look bad is a major social faux pas in Chinese culture.

The common pattern I’ve seen with hateful phrases masked with good intentions stems from the same idea as “winning” a shouting match (I use “winning” loosely because no one really wins a shouting match). It’s about looking like a socially upstanding person. It’s understandable; no one wants to look like that(!) person. Even in the Maxims of Ptahhotep it’s advised to not be that person:

If you find a disputant arguing, one having authority and superiority to you, bend down your

arms and bow your back […] If you find a disputant arguing, your equal who is on your own

level, let your virtue be manifest against him in silence when he is speaking ill […] If you find a

disputant arguing, a humble man who is not your equal, do not be aggressive against him in

proportion as he is humble; let him alone, that he may confute himself.

It’s ill advised to argue with superiors for obvious reason, as is for someone “beneath” (with the implication they may not be on the same standing in various ways as you) or equal to you. In the case of not arguing with someone equal to you, not saying anything is the best defense. Depending on the situation it could prove unfavorable. In the case of spouting vitriol followed by some “loving message” it’s problematic because it’s not actually averting conflict to look good. Whether someone realizes it or not it’s actually ending up making oneself look just as bad to take the approach.

In addition to looking disingenuous and equally childish I have to wonder who is really convinced such behavior is acceptable. Obviously the person engaging in it finds it acceptable. They may even trick themselves into believing this is considered healthy behavior. It isn’t, and it’s a behavior which needs to be addressed. I understand pointing this out is now considered “negative”, but I figured people who use dismissive language as this have their own issues. If it’s an issue an individual wants to address there are way which work for me.

Look at your real intentions with such a statement. Why are you really saying this? Are you trying to look like “the better person”? If so, why bother making this statement at all?

What really needs to be said? Sometimes we say things a certain way just because we can. It goes back to the phrase “die in a fire”. We want to say it because it sounds clever without realizing we’re wishing a painful death on someone.

What are the consequences of saying this? We all mess up this one from time to time; we say something without thinking of the consequences. Sometimes we say something for the sake of puffing up when really we’re publicly deflating ourselves.

Does anything need to be said? Sometimes the only way to have a dignified comment is to not dignify something with a response.

It’s just a start of things to consider, and what you’ll need to consider will change depending on the situation. Thinking about our word choices will influence how we view others as well as how we’re viewed by them. It also plays a role in how we view ourselves. When we start looking at how our words reflect on this we can evolve with it.


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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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Budget Thursday: Herbs

I have to finally accept that when it comes to herbs and spices I’m not exactly frugal. The way I keep finding packets of myrrh resin is proof positive in my mind that I’m solely responsible for the over harvesting of the plant (I have no recollection of ever purchasing that much myrrh is the scary part. I swear it’s around a pound. What on earth possessed me to buy so much?) I can at least say after several years of poverty this, purchasing every ounce of myrrh and all, is a dying habit.

I know many of my readers just grow their own herbs and spices to save some money to this end.  I don’t at this point in time and I am in good company.  When I first posted this a reader noted they would like to see some suggestions for herbs and spices without having to grow their own. I drafted some stuff for my book concerning how to buy incense supplies (maybe that’s how I ended up with so much myrrh?  No, that’s counter-productive…) on a budget.  Despite my copious amounts of myrrh I’ve learned a few tricks with thriftiness behoove me more than just buying it when I can. Hopefully, you can apply these ideas in your life.

Check the grocery stores. Many herbs and spices used in witchcraft and incense are still used today to flavor food.

Discount stores, such as dollar stores, also sell many herbs and spices for a deeper discount. You may have to check for freshness, though I’ve found many discount stores supply the same quality as grocery stores.

If there’s a certain herb or spice you use more than others (or certain resins like myrrh) find where you can buy in bulk. Buying in bulk allows you to get as much as you need and more often a cheaper price.

Get the herb fresh, dry it, then store. I will admit this is one of the tougher ones. However many folks will sell it at farmer’s markets, out of their own garden, or even at the grocery store. Don’t forget to also…

Harvest it on your own. If you live in an area where it grows wild, get permission from the owner, and know exactly what is or isn’t sprayed you can collect certain plants in your own environment. I recommend keeping a book on identifying plants handy ( though bear in mind this isn’t fool proof for identifying plants.  Many plants look similar so it’s easy to mistake that dog’s mercury for parsley, for example) and advise when to harvest a plant (some plants aren’t good until a certain time of the year). Don’t forget that harvesting it on your own also requires some discretion on your part. Over harvesting a plant means you may not get to harvest it at that place next time. Take only what you need. Bear in mind also that government property (such as a park) is off limits, period.  If harvesting on private property be sure to clear it with the property owner, preferably in writing (and keep such writing handy).

Trade with a friend. You may find a friend has an excess amount of an herb or spice you want. If you have something in excess they want-say, myrrh-a trade is a viable option.

Sales are a great place to save. Just remember to check for the expiration date, defective, or possibly tampered product.

Buy only in small amounts if it’s a new herb or one you don’t use often. It’s common sense but it’s always worth repeating. Either way if something goes awry there’s no major financial loss.


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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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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.


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Silence

Except for a couple of posts a week I’ve been incredibly silent. Some of it is life being hectic due to the holiday, other projects, and completing other tasks, not to mention other real life duties.  At the end of my day, though sometimes that isn’t until the middle of the next day, I’m sometimes too tired to update blog posts.  I feel as if I’ve nothing to say because of it.  What started off as too tired to say anything one day spanned to several days.

I felt unnerved at first by how much time lapsed between my last actual blog post.  I felt a strong possibility I wouldn’t update and revise my past blog posts.  I felt I wouldn’t contribute anything new to my blog.  I was afraid I said all I wanted to and my blog was dead before it even began.  I found this silence uncomfortable.  It was the type of silence I hated for so long because of my personal associations with silence.  For the longest time silence meant condemnation, disapproval, or derision.  It was the awkward silence after a heated argument, the anger that hung between people and the impending fear another argument or worse would explode.  I learned silence was in itself an act of intimidation.

I admit silence wasn’t always used for intimidation, but if broken the same consequences would ensue.  If silence was broken during reading periods or during a performance it meant I disrupted someone and met derision.  Silence always indicated proper conduct during prayer or as a sign or respect for those who paid the ultimate price.  In those instances if it was broken there was a punishment, and it usually consisted of a silent glare at least.  Silence was considered a precious commodity with unclear boundaries.

I didn’t clear most of my fears of silence until my early adulthood.  I’m not sure if there was just one event or a series of events, but I know it revolved around a Reiki circle.  Early in my spiritual journey I studied Reiki and attended a Reiki circle to hone my practice.  During those times we didn’t always speak to each other.  When we did we joked, shared experiences and knowledge, and discussed anything having to do with those moments at the circle.  It was the silence that really impacted me.  No one was punished with silence, only once can I recall someone forced into silence (the person was more of a nuisance and got in the way often).  Silence happened and when it did everyone honored it.  It was honored even when I visited other members of the circle in their home.  Sometimes it was a lull in the conversation, sometimes it was because we were moved to silence.  Sometimes it’s because nothing needed saying.

The moments of silence with friends from the circle are the ones I remember best.  I remember the drowsiness with eating with friends and the ensuing nap we took on the floor in one incident.  There were many times when on road trips we sat in silence and enjoyed the moment.  The silence became a means for introspection.  It was a moment of peace and stillness.  The silence proved a means to remove the distraction of conversation so I could live in the moment.

It was in those moments I learned silence is perfectly fine.  I can enjoy silence and appreciate everything without a sound.  I don’t need to speak to fill some imagined void.  Not every moment needs words or sounds.  Later I learned while a member of the Kemetic Orthodoxy that “silent” and “wise” were pronounced the same way.  I haven’t studied the language with enough rigor to say either way, but I feel it applies to lessons like this one.

The same silence it took me so long to embrace is one I feel applies to writing my blog.  Sometimes I don’t have anything to write.  It doesn’t mean my blog’s abandoned.  I’m saying what I need to say when I feel the moment’s best.  I’m choosing my words over prattling and honor both moments of speaking and moments of silence for myself.  I practice wisdom.