Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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PBP: D Is for Death (My Best Friend)

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Pagan Blog Project: C is for Censer

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Incense is an important part of religious practice for many Kemeticists. It’s used in offerings and purifications, though this was usually demonstrated as a way of perfuming the gods. In its purpose of purification the priests used it to purify themselves before rituals. Even the pharaoh had to be purified before enacting rituals, and he too was purified through incense. Just as important as incense was the censer.

 

The censer had a few forms, but two are most commonly seen in tombs and in art. One form was the arm-shaped censer. This was a censer with a long handle shaped as if it were an arm with the cup holder shaped like a hand. The incense cup rested on the hand. There are variants of how the arm-shaped censer looked, such as the end of the handle shaped like the head of Heru or Sokar and with some censers having a compartment for incense pellets. The other form of censer most commonly scene was the jar censer, a censer with an eponymous shape held in one’s hands during the incense offering. This was most often seen in art rather than in practice.

 

The censers had extensive ritual use as evidenced by how many formulas in rituals call for incense. It’s used to perfume, purify, and end the ritual. Using the censer was so vital it had its own series of formulas to purify it before use in any ritual. From there various resins and incenses were used throughout the span of a ritual. These ranged from simple resins like frankincense to more complex ones like kyphi. Almost every stage of a ritual has an incense to go with it.

 

Modern Kemeticists don’t necessarily use any particular censer. Some may use stick incense with an incense burner. Some don’t use incense but an oil burner or a room spray. Other Kemeticists may forgo incense or fragrance oil due to health concerns. There are many options today for Kemeticists. If you’d like ideas on incense and an incense burner I have a blog post to assist to that end.


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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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Pagan Blog Project: A is for Ancestors

I’m a little late in starting this project, but I thought I’d give the blog posts correlating to each letter in the English alphabet a whirl. Some of what I pick I’m sure I’ve gone over before, but sometimes I’m not as creative as some of my fellow bloggers. I’ll try to have sources on hand where possible, but most likely I won’t. If you want to know a source feel free to ask me in the comments.

In Ancient Egypt there was ancestor veneration. I’m using “veneration” because many people feel the term “ancestor worship” gives the wrong impression about how ancestors were treated at this time. Tombs were visited regularly, offerings were provided by the family to a statue of the ancestor, or offerings were provided hired clergymen. Some had stelae with the offering formula listed, so upon recitation the deceased could be provided the necessities. All of this was done as a way to ensure the deceased were cared for in the afterlife and would survive. Just as a body needed things in the living world a soul required the necessities to survive in the afterlife. The consequences could be dire if the ancestors weren’t provided the essentials. A departed soul, if neglected, could haunt the living if the deceased felt neglected. We know this based on letters written to the dead found at excavation sites, as writing letters to the deceased was common. While there were letters begging the dead to stop tormenting the living most of these letters consisted of asking for assistance in some manner.

In modern Kemetic practices in a similar vein as the ancients. However there are some major differences in the modern practice. Many keep the offerings quite simple. In lieu of statues being presented offerings or reciting offerings from a stela many Kemeticists use a photograph of a loved one. Not all ancestors have an image dedicated to them, and some ancestor shrines are set up in a general manner so not any particular ancestor is offered. Food and drink offered to the ancestors in general aren’t ingested as it’s considered ingesting the essence of the dead by some, which has ill implications for those who do ingest offerings. The reason behind it is if ingesting food and libations from the gods is like ingesting the essence of a deity (for the lack of a better term) and thus the life-giving qualities of a deity, then ingesting food and libations from ancestors would mean ingesting the essence of a dead person.

There are some modern Kemeticists who don’t offer to their ancestors period. The reasons for this vary. Some Kemeticists do not feel a connection to their ancestors. There are others who don’t feel the practice is necessary for their personal religious practice. There are other reasons, and some have multiple reasons for not offering. In my case I was averted to offering to my ancestors for personal reasons, but reconsidered my stance after problems in my life after some tribulations in my life. Whether a modern Kemeticist offers to their ancestor or not – in my opinion – doesn’t affect the validity of their religious practice. It is a matter of the individual’s choice and their comfort level.

If one wants to learn more about the practice from a modern Kemeticist’s perspective I recommend Richard Reidy’s Eternal Egypt. There are quite a few other Kemetic blogs which discuss the matter as well. At the core of offering to the ancestors consists of providing food, a libation (water being the most common), incense, and cloth for images of any ancestor. If providing offerings is an issue I highly recommend making a hotep tray with images of what should be offered. To get ideas on how to make your own I have a tutorial on how to make one from clayboard.


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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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Inspirational Tuesday: The Danger of Misinformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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: 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.

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I sure do, Ziltoid. I sure do.

Don’t be Ziltoid. Just don’t.

The Party Pagans. I originally wrote:

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

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

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


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Devotional Tuesday: Trying to Find the Words

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 Pale One who came forth Heliopolis, I have not babbled.” -transl. R.O. Faulkner

 

I’ve been pretty quiet this past week. Some of it has to do with getting stuff together for the etsy store I run. This quietness, however, is not necessarily an uneasy one. I just haven’t had the time to write as I wanted due to getting some projects together in addition to the work on the etsy store. I’ve felt compelled to write, and I didn’t know about what. As I read through the negative confessions I found this one.

 

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog regularly knows I have a language disorder called cluttering. One of the biggest problems with this disorder is trying to express myself in a concise manner. This leads to a lot of unnecessary talk. Despite my lack of word economy I seem to convey my point well enough, but I fear that I’m not always successful. That’s when my insecurities arise.

 

There are ways that I can get around this, and sometimes they help. I won’t go entirely into my methods because overall it’s irrelevant to the topic. What is relevant is how sometimes I still babble not because of the disorder but because I’m human. Sometimes we want to fill the silence because of our assumptions, such as silence used to express disapproval. This is where learning body language and situations help me. Sometimes the other person feels I may have said something rhetorical. Sometimes they feel I may not have said everything I need to say and are waiting for me to finish. In that case it’s consistent with a passage from the Maxims of Ptahhotep:

 

If you are a leader, be pleased when you hear the speech of a petitioner; do not rebuff him until

his belly is emptied of what he planned / to tell you; the victim of wrong prefers the venting of

his feelings to the performance of that for which he has come…

 

While I disagree that people would prefer to air their grievances rather than remedy them it does convey the point how sometimes people need to “let it out”. When they’re clearly done and need a response, give it. Honestly, this is another area where I still trip up; I either give a response that’s too cool or inappropriate in some other manner. I know, though, part of the reason this occurs is because I misread a cue or because I misread the person’s intentions. My current remedy for this is to live, learn, and get to know the person a bit better.

 

Apart from getting to know people to curb my need to respond inappropriately this skill also teaches me when to listen. It teaches me to listen to the person’s context as well as content. It taught me when to ignore them because they’re waxing poetics or talking (or writing) without substance. I also learned incessant talk also brings with it gossip, and these days I have little time for rumors. I still stumble in these areas, but since I’m aware of my tendencies I can learn from them. I can avoid people who gossip or prattle on about esoteric things. I can avoid most places where that type of conversation occurs. I don’t need to read tabloids or about the latest celebrity breakup since most of that has no bearing on my life.

 

The relevance of one’s words to another person is probably one of the keys of avoiding babbling. I don’t need to waste my time or another person’s time with something that doesn’t interest them. If they find my company overall to be undesirable I can go where I’m welcome. I don’t need to incessantly speak to someone who will most likely never approve of me. I’ll save my words for the time and company for which it’s appropriate.