Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


10 Comments

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.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Inspirational Tuesday: Grief

This post is a little bit different from the others. This past Friday my parents put down their cat, Mage. While legally she was my parents’ cat, Mage always picked me as “her human”. We bonded in a way I’d never bonded before with a pet, so her loss was devastating for me. I wailed and sobbed, I cried to my gods, I apologized to Mage profusely. It was the first time, be it human or animal, I had ever experienced such grief.

image1819

It isn’t that death is unfamiliar to me. On the contrary I’m quite familiar with that type of loss. Even though I’m almost 30 years old I’ve lost numerous family, pets, and friends. I’m familiar with how I grieve, but I tend to be a little more private about it. I kept my feelings mostly to myself in the past. During those times I usually was the rock others around me needed. I was afraid if I grieved they would feel lost or my emotions would be used as some sort of weapon. I was afraid of being vulnerable.

Mage’s death was different for me in many respects, one of them being the care I provided. She grew ill due to what the vet diagnosed as an ear polyp (though we suspect now it was something much worse) and she grew depressed despite our efforts. Since I felt a close bond to her watching her health decline was difficult. I’d tell myself she was getting better, or the declining health was a temporary setback. There were good days and bad days, but I couldn’t deny she was too tired to move. I cared for her to the best of my ability and tried to spend as much time as I could. I’d sit and eat with her, I’d make sure she’d evacuate, I made sure she was comfortable and had her needs met, I’d help keep her polyp clean while making sure she didn’t scratch through her Elizabethan collar. I’d sit and talk to her and reminisce.

Despite our care and our best intentions it wasn’t enough and my parents couldn’t afford surgery. Mage’s health declined and the polyp worsened. Finally the moment came when, as a family, we knew it was too much for the cat and to keep her alive would cause her great suffering. We had done her an injustice in keeping her alive, if that was the case. It was time to rectify it. My mother informed the entire family the next day Mage would be put down.

DjedPillar

I knew this day would come, but I wasn’t prepared for the flood of anguish. Tears fell while I held Mage and I muttered my apologies. I put her down to rest and I fled to continue sobbing. I was inconsolable except for the occasional moment of rest between sobs. After I regathered myself somewhat I set out to make her final moments as comfortable as possible by providing for her in any way I could. I held her so she could watch thunderstorms (a favorite pastime of hers), cuddled with her as she slept, provided her canned cat food (her favorite food), and provided what I could between sobs and apologies. I even played her favorite music while I sobbed. I knew this was part of the grieving process, but knowing this process I’ve learned doesn’t brace anyone for the impending flood of emotions.

I went with my mother to put Mage down. After she died I sat outside the veterinary clinic sobbing. I prayed to Bast to take care of our departed cat. I apologized further for my perceived shortcomings and failures. I sought comfort from my partner over the phone. I confessed every minute thing where I felt I made her sad. I knew this was part of the anger and bargaining stage much later, but I was too far in the throes of grief to notice or care. I cared only about my pain.

After I left the clinic I tried to hide from the world. I posted a couple of pictures of me with Mage and then isolated. I was still afraid to be vulnerable. What happened next I never expected. I got an outpour of condolences from acquaintances, friends, and friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while. I thought I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but I found myself pouring my heart out who gave me an audience. They listened and shared their experiences as well as sympathy. They checked on me regularly. Sometimes, as in the case of my partner, all that was necessary was knowing someone was there while I cried.

I’m thankful that I had people around me during this time because my thoughts were a mess. Despite the anger and intense anguish I felt, I learned a lot about myself during this moment. I learned in the support groups I attended how grief accumulates. I wasn’t mourning the loss of Mage alone, but all the other loved ones in my life. As I cried and processed my emotions I found grieving loved ones wasn’t the only thing. These past 5 years have been very tough and I’ve lost a lot. I’ve lost friendships, the life I was building, my hopes and ambitions, and everything I planned. Mage had been there for me during most of those times. She cuddled with me, she’d try to soothe me, and even in her selfish desires for attention during those times I found comfort with her.

I learned something important in that moment. I learned while my friends and loved ones could sympathize with my grief over a loved one’s death and not over my other losses it wasn’t necessarily due to a lack of sympathy. The grief over the loss of a loved one is more tangible than the grief over the loss of more abstract concepts like job loss. People can relate more to losing a pet than to losing a dream. It’s why with the grief over a death some people cope better by being around loved ones; the compassion and sympathy are there. All those times where I thought I had to guard my emotions were just that: thoughts. I had no need to feel vulnerable or be anyone’s rock. I just needed to be there and sympathetic.

In some of the tombs in Ancient Egypt some poems were written called the Harper’s Songs. I was reminded of it when I set up a spot for Mage on my akhu shrine. In particular I was reminded of the passage that was in the tomb of King Inyotef. Part of the literature consists of talking about celebrating now because:

220px-Maler_der_Grabkammer_des_Nacht_001[…]The Weary-Hearted does not hear their sobbing,

Their sobbing cannot save the heart of a man from the tomb.

Make holiday,

But tire not yourself with it.

Remember: it is not given to man to take his goods with him.

No one goes away and then comes back.

No one knows what lies in the afterlife, if there is one from the Harper’s perspective, and we can’t take anything with us despite how tombs were prepared during that time. Crying will do no good because it doesn’t bring loved ones back to life. For all we know the dead can’t hear us on any level. I’ve learned in not only living my life to the fullest it means celebrating the lives of those who touch mine. Part of that is allowing myself to feel the grief of their loss, as well as the losses tied to it. I can’t forget, however, to live my life. That doesn’t mean I forget the ones I love, but I don’t have to stop my feelings of love for them. It also means that I don’t have to stop my world for it either, but take the time I need to heal by celebrating their lives.

My family have been sharing our memories of Mage. I’ve reminisced with my partner about her. I’ve set up a place for her on my akhu shrine. While I’m still grieving I know I no longer have to be anything I think I need to be. I am allowed to feel what I feel. It doesn’t make me a weak person. It makes me someone who’s grieving a loss.


2 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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.


4 Comments

Horus Jesus Meme

I’m sure if my readers haven’t been subjected to the woefully inaccurate film Zeitgeist they’ve encountered the people who believe this.  In Kemetic circles this is mostly in the Jesus is really Horus (specifically Heru-Sa-Aset) myth.  It’s annoying because it’s been long disproven, and seems to originate from a 19th century poet whose interest was in Ancient Egypt.  Given the  information available at the time it’s sufficient to assume the information is completely off the mark.  I find it mostly annoying because there are people who still assert this information even in the day where more accurate information is available.  Even google has a feature to search academic sources.  Another blogger, warboar, covered the issue pretty well and with others made a meme about it to demonstrate the absurdity of this connection.  I enjoy it so much I wanted to play along.

I used quickmeme for my captions, so if you want to add a few feel free.  Here are my favorites:

 

 


3 Comments

The Real Cost of Free

I’ve put off writing this blog for a bit because I wanted to give it time to fully process without my emotions involved. I’m seeing, probably due to the economic times, a resurgence amongst Pagans for things to be free. It’s obviously a point of contention, especially for me.  The debate about whether one should charge doesn’t just reside in services.  This issue permeates every aspect of the community, and it’s one that I wanted to fully contemplate before I vented online publicly (again).  What finally moved me to write this blog post despite my emotions was etsy.

Etsy has been an interesting experience for me mostly in customer service. Most of the time I deal with some great people. There have been some bad apples, though. These people actually complain about the cost of my products or over demand for a service (I can’t be expected to clarify a session for a week).  I understand the desire to find a good deal or a bargain.  I have a section of my blog devoted to it.   I even sympathize with those who can’t afford to shop anywhere but places that exploit manufacturers and workers.  I have issue, however, with people who try to exploit independent sellers because they don’t want to pay full price.  Seriously, this should put some perspective into what goes into handmade goods.  It doesn’t help I see “bargain tips” that push the legal envelope or encourage guilt-tripping as a form of haggling.  What finally pushed me over the edge was a person trying to get some of my beeswax chime candles for practically free by insinuating my prices were too high and how I needed to “come down”.  As of this blog post I am the cheapest seller of beeswax chime candles at slightly over a dollar.

It irked me because it’s testament of how we perceive free socially and in the Pagan community.  I’ve read about a temple in Paganistan that couldn’t get funding without bloggers bringing it to the public’s attention.  I’ve seen discussions of how the Pagan diaspora should be free  (though some renounce it later once it becomes clear about how “free” all that work is).  I’ve born the brunt where even outsiders try to lecture us about how we charge for services despite the fact most of Pagans don’t affiliate with an organization (I won’t cover the issue of why they care for the moment).  All of this, to me, speaks volumes about how the cost and value of things in the Pagan community are deemed.  While there are some who have qualms about placing a price on such services, which thalassa covers quite well in her blog,  I’m less likely to see people who are against charging for those reasons than people who want free or near free stuff.  It’s not an issue of pricing possibly obscuring access to something.  It’s the growing undeserved sense of entitlement I see in the Pagan community and American culture.  I’ve seen more people demand things for free because they feel as an individual it should be available to them as a convenience.  The most they value the product or service is about how they got it and not from what is gained.

It reminds me of an event from when I was younger.  My parents were furniture shopping and took me along.  The store had a machine set up for free sodas, and I took advantage of it a few times in one sitting.  My father pulled me aside and lectured me.  He reminded me that the soda was complimentary.  The company didn’t have to provide it, especially given the cost of providing it, and that I shouldn’t take that for granted.  Just like providing free soda, it costs money and time to provide a service or product.  There are the hours of work invested in providing a worthwhile product, the personal finances spent in gathering supplies and space, the energy put into answering the same questions without snapping, the energy it takes to muster up the last shred of patience needed to handle numerous personalities, and more.  Some people don’t find the need the for upkeep of their well being worth the trouble without some compensation.  The people who find the work worth it without compensation also place their own boundaries.  They know they’re not a thing at someone’s disposal.  They’re a living being.

People seem to have forgotten the most vital part of anything offered, be it for profit or not: there’s a person behind the offering.  There’s a person who put time, money, and energy into it.  It’s why offerings to the gods are important.  It’s a gesture that not only offers sustenance, it offers up the fruits of one’s work.  It is work not only of the god given to the people, but the efforts of that work the people added to it.  Just as an offering is the work and the result of work, so is  the work offered by someone to people. It is the work not just of one person, but especially in Kemetic communities the work of many.  It’s the work of compiling everyone’s research, everyone’s offerings, everyone’s time and effort, into one offering.  It’s not just an offering for one person, either.  It’s an offering to everyone in the community and an offering to newcomers.  If that work is trivialized it demeans everyone.  If someone offers up their work it should be honored equal to the work placed into it.  That is the real cost of free.

Free is not just free of charge.  Free is not free of costs.  It’s not some infinite resource to be tapped.  Concerning communities anything offered is an investment in another person.  When it comes to the Pagan community someone put enough faith into their work to offer it to another person so that person may grow with that offering.  If they both grow within a community it’s an investment returned.  It’s not some cheap bauble but rather a priceless heirloom.  I’m not sure how to restore that sense of value and fragility comes with heirlooms in all its forms on a social scale.  All I can advise is for the individual to remember this is an offering to them and to treat it as such.  As for people who want things for free at all costs and regardless of costs to make it, I’ll offer a passage from the Teachings of  Ptahhotep:

[…] do not boast of what has accrued to you in the past, do not trust in your riches, which have accrued to you by the gift of god; you will not be subordinate to anyone else to whom the like has happened.

Don’t be so proud of your bounty.  Be mindful from whom it came because it won’t last.