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Category: Pagan Blog Project 2013

PBP Fridays: Z is for Being in the Zone

PBP Fridays: Z is for Being in the Zone

Being in “the zone” isn’t just for creative projects or work or physical activity. It can apply spiritually and religiously, too.

I am deeply and truly terrible at being consistent with anything. Initiating a new habit or routine is akin to rolling a baby stone giant in a granite stroller up a steep hill, and if I lose any momentum at all once I’ve started, I’ve got to start from the bottom of that damn slope all over again. Those niggling “every day” or “every week” habits are desperately hard for me to create and maintain, even when I’m committed and emotionally invested in doing so.

And in the microcosm of moment-to-moment, my ADD makes it an enormous challenge to stay focused and in the zone. The joking remarks of “ooh, shiny!” and “squirrel!” are factual observations of my brain’s standard operating procedure. Even in the most intense or involved activities, I always have a few other trains of thought running in the background; before I realized I was ADD, I called it “spidermind” for all the legs of my brain reaching out in different directions on disparate strands of webbing. Try as I might, even in ritual and deep in meditation I am running multiple tracks simultaneously. My success as staying in the zone in any given activity is not measured by my 100% concentration, but by how many of my brain’s spiderlegs can be placed on the same thread, making that activity thread central instead of one of many equal lines.

Case in point: to write this post with any eloquence at all, I had to pause Spirited Away and turn on my own Hometaping album so I could place enough attention points into the act of writing.

Since I’m far from the only distractable pagan out there (whether or not others are ADD, ADHD, or simply preferred multitaskers), I figure this is a good place to offer up my methods on getting into and staying in the zone in ritual or other spiritual activities.

  • While I’ve gotten to the point where I can do my daily ritual in relative silence, music is usually a must for me. However, if I’m trying to converse with my gods or if I’m speaking heka, I need to stay away from music with lyrics in English, since I’ll usually sing along without thinking about it. I love Niyaz for background shrine music, but I also have a few ancient-Egypt-themed albums of “meditation” music that suffice in a pinch, as well.
  • Sometimes no music is appropriate or suitable, but I still need white noise. Rainy Mood is fantastic for nonmusical, atmospheric sound; I love the sound of rain and thunder.
  • I am distractable by messes and clutter, so before I step into shrine, I need to make sure the area around it is relatively clean. Even if that means dumping random floor-clothes into the closet so they’re out of sight and out of mind. (Hey, I never said I was perfect.)
  • Scent really helps me focus, especially if I’m not feeling the most chipper. I have a few wax-melter thingies that I use scented wax cubes in, and of course, there’s always incense!
  • Lastly, sometimes I just need something to do with my hands. Speaking heka is awesome, but if it’s a longer ritual, being able to write or draw heka to add to the spoken heka really helps. Most of my own hekau are designed to incorporate gestures or writing in addition to the words to be said aloud.

If you’ve struggled with staying focused during spiritual activities, I’d love to hear how you’ve adapted to keep yourself on track!

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: Z is for Zep Tepi

PBP Fridays: Z is for Zep Tepi

Zep Tepi is one of those Kemetic concepts that defies easy translation. It means “the first time” or “the first occasion,” and it is one of many cornerstones of the Kemetic Orthodoxy worldview. Zep tepi is that first moment of Creation, where everything is new and pure and flawless, before isfet and Ap-p and death entered the picture. I adore this post about zep tepi, and while I doubt I can say it better than that author, I can’t not write about it, even if I’m hard-pressed to add worthwhile words atop those already said.

Zep tepi is the dawn of each new day with a blank slate. It is, in fact, the dawn of each new hour, minute, and heartbeat, all clean and clear and fresh. When the calendrical new year begins and people look to the unstained canvas of the seasons with hope, that is zep tepi. The flush of excitement and curiosity and newness at the start of a new relationship, when cynicism and jadedness are briefly forgotten in the tingling joy of novelty and possibility, is zep tepi. The beginning of each ritual with clean hands and an attentive heart returns us to zep tepi, as in the Kemetic Orthodox rite of senut.

I’ll offer this excellent closer from this post:

The candle you light always has the potential to be the First Light, because the First Light is why there is a candle. The incense you burn always has the potential to be the breath of the gods, because the breath of the gods is why there is incense. These are ever-present, ever-available, there is no falling away and being lost from the possibility of clarity because clarity is wound-through and a part of every moment of living, if you just know to reach for it.

This is the Original Sinlessness.

You inherited it.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: Y is for “Y, God, Y?!”

PBP Fridays: Y is for “Y, God, Y?!”

(Yes, I am stretching the alphabet thing.)

Theists, whether polytheists or monotheists, believe in at least one god. For pagans who are also polytheists, we tend to want to interact in some fashion with those gods. Many of us actively worship our gods throughout good and bad days; we can petition our gods for help when we need it, often providing gifts of offerings or sacrament in return for possible future assistance or upon receiving manifested aid.

But do we then hold our gods accountable for the absence of help?

When we pray to no avail, when we work spells without result, when we perform heka without success—is it the fault of the gods?

And if the gods aren’t at fault for failure, why would we laud Them for successes?

Mathematical odds are, well, at odds with spiritual life here. If I do X in order to get Y, then getting Y results in me thanking the god(s) involved—but not getting Y does not result in me condemning the god(s) involved. That was not always the case in ancient Egypt, where practitioners had the option of threatening the gods in addition to bribing and sweet-talking Them as means to an end. But in modern Kemeticism, I very rarely hear about anyone breaking a god’s statue as a consequence to an unanswered prayer.

I can’t explain the logic here, because it isn’t logical. At most, this is emotional logic, based on gratitude when things go well and mitigating damage when things go poorly. For myself, I have not found much satisfaction or fulfillment in blaming others for impending or unexpected misfortunes. It’s not a productive response, even if it means I can’t ever really threaten the gods and mean it—I know there are a zillion factors in any given situation, even a simple one, and any one of those factors could have gone wrong or been unavoidable. I would no sooner blame a particular team member for a failed group project than I would a god for a failed evasion of some unfortunate event.

The bigger version of this question, this “why, god?!” cry of frustrated disappointment, is, of course, thus: If there are gods, and They are mostly or entirely good, then why do bad things happen in the world at all?

The Kemetic viewpoint is that our gods are not omnipotent or perfect. They are certainly vast and mighty and magnificent, but They do not control every molecule and moment. Evil (or isfet) exists and is fought by gods and humans alike. The gods of ancient Egypt need us to help maintain the cosmic order, or ma’at, of the universe. Isfet is uncreation; it seeks to unravel life, and that includes gods and humans both. To protect our lives, we stand with the gods and establish ma’at in our actions in the Seen world and our devotional practices that touch the Unseen world.

And if a battle is lost, if isfet rips a thread out despite my best proactive efforts, then it is no more a god’s fault than mine. Bad things do happen, and rather than blame a deity or another person, I would much rather engage in productive damage-control in whatever ways are appropriate.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: Y is for You and Your Yield

PBP Fridays: Y is for You and Your Yield

Take a look across the polytheist and pagan blogosphere, and you’ll see a lot of great resources for those starting out and those continuing on a given path. For most pantheons, for many gods, and for many cultures, you’ll be able to find at least a few fairly-reliable resources. Need to know if Celtic pagans revert their god-given offerings—or if Kemetics revert the food they give to their dead? Google can help.

Plenty of online resources are centered around facts, traditions, and information. You can find how-tos and why-tos and don’t-dos if you dig hard enough for most practices, rituals, and spells—and more resources are being added on a daily basis across the scattered network of bloggers and researchers and practitioners. (Granted, there are never really “enough” resources, but there are more now than there was yesterday!)

The hard part, of course, is figuring out which of these learnable, doable things actually ring true to you and your gods, spirits, ancestors, and/or general worldview. You’re on this spiritual path for yourself, even if you have additional or more vital reasons, like serving a particular god or honoring your blessed dead. And there’s little point to choosing and keeping your path if you’re malcontent, unfulfilled, or downright suffering.

Out of all of the things you can learn and can do, which ones truly serve your path, your spiritual wellness, and your relationships to the world around you, both Seen and Unseen? Which ones enhance your life, improve your internal and external Self, and enrich your day-to-day? Which ones are just should-dos, or rote and nominal, or actually harmful to your wellness in some way?

What is the yield of your spiritual practice? In ancient Egypt, we’re entering the season of the early harvest at the end of the inundation, so now is an excellent time to step back, look at the seeds you’ve sown with your spirit and the shoots sprouting from the soil of your practice, and evaluate where you should perhaps water a little more—or if you should stop growing a particular crop.

If hardcore ceremonial rituals aren’t your thing, then downsize and simplify. If you can’t get by without a daily rite of some fashion, establish one and work to keep it consistent (but don’t kick yourself for missing a day here and there!). If you find yourself missing a deity you used to have a stronger relationship with, offer Them something They like and say hello again. If you really can’t stand a particular traditional restriction, find a compromise with your gods and yourself to stop observing it. If you hate reading dry histories, skip being a hard reconstructionist and be a revivalist or neo-pagan instead.

Remember that your path is your own, and no one has a right to tell you how to live it; we all share our own experiences and opinions, but there’s never any One Right Way. There’s only the right way for you.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: Y is for You and Your Yield

PBP Fridays: Y is for You and Your Yield

Take a look across the polytheist and pagan blogosphere, and you’ll see a lot of great resources for those starting out and those continuing on a given path. For most pantheons, for many gods, and for many cultures, you’ll be able to find at least a few fairly-reliable resources. Need to know if Celtic pagans revert their god-given offerings—or if Kemetics revert the food they give to their dead? Google can help.

Plenty of online resources are centered around facts, traditions, and information. You can find how-tos and why-tos and don’t-dos if you dig hard enough for most practices, rituals, and spells—and more resources are being added on a daily basis across the scattered network of bloggers and researchers and practitioners. (Granted, there are never really “enough” resources, but there are more now than there was yesterday!)

The hard part, of course, is figuring out which of these learnable, doable things actually ring true to you and your gods, spirits, ancestors, and/or general worldview. You’re on this spiritual path for yourself, even if you have additional or more vital reasons, like serving a particular god or honoring your blessed dead. And there’s little point to choosing and keeping your path if you’re malcontent, unfulfilled, or downright suffering.

Out of all of the things you can learn and can do, which ones truly serve your path, your spiritual wellness, and your relationships to the world around you, both Seen and Unseen? Which ones enhance your life, improve your internal and external Self, and enrich your day-to-day? Which ones are just should-dos, or rote and nominal, or actually harmful to your wellness in some way?

What is the yield of your spiritual practice? In ancient Egypt, we’re entering the season of the early harvest at the end of the inundation, so now is an excellent time to step back, look at the seeds you’ve sown with your spirit and the shoots sprouting from the soil of your practice, and evaluate where you should perhaps water a little more—or if you should stop growing a particular crop.

If hardcore ceremonial rituals aren’t your thing, then downsize and simplify. If you can’t get by without a daily rite of some fashion, establish one and work to keep it consistent (but don’t kick yourself for missing a day here and there!). If you find yourself missing a deity you used to have a stronger relationship with, offer Them something They like and say hello again. If you really can’t stand a particular traditional restriction, find a compromise with your gods and yourself to stop observing it. If you hate reading dry histories, skip being a hard reconstructionist and be a revivalist or neo-pagan instead.

Remember that your path is your own, and no one has a right to tell you how to live it; we all share our own experiences and opinions, but there’s never any One Right Way. There’s only the right way for you.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: X is for Xeric Gods

PBP Fridays: X is for Xeric Gods

Xeric is an adjective meaning “adapted to a dry environment” (thanks, Dictionary.com!). Just as each pantheon is adapted to the environment in which its culture lives and dies, so too are the Egyptian gods well-adapted to the dance of desert-and-flood of the Nile river valley. In other words, the Netjeru are xeric deities.

I’ve always found it intriguing to compare the Netjeru I’ve come to love with other, often more popular, pantheons. While it’s certainly true that we human devotees have a tendency to categorize deities across cultures – the “mother goddess” or the “young king” or the “magician” are deity archetypes that persist around the world – the gods of ancient Egypt are often strangers to their pantheonic counterparts.

For example, Kemetics lack an explicit god of the sea… or of snow (outside of a blizzard)… or of forests… because Kemet lacks snow and forests, and the sea was the realm of outside-Kemet, of foreigners. We must then extrapolate and infer: Well, Set is a god of foreigners and foreign lands, and there is a myth where He tamed the angry sea, so perhaps Him—or gods associated with the Nun, the primordial waters, such as Nit. Set is also hailed as a god of all kinds of storms, so blizzards are His – but what of gentle, restful snowfall? I found myself associating winter with Nebt-het not too long ago. And for forests, ancient Egypt had deities of papyrus marshes and tree goddesses, but neither of those truly matches the sum of what a forest is.

Coming from the northern Appalachians with a grounding basis in Celtic mythology, I still struggle sometimes to relate the land in which I live to the gods that I worship. I’ve certainly gotten better over the past couple years, having pondered how to match the Kemetic yearly cycle with my local region’s cycle and how I travel with Egyptian gods on American soil. However, given that the tree-furred mountains of my home state and the endless tides of the sea command so much of my heart and ka, it’s still a little strange to lack a Name to put to those natural forces, short of the ones I can intuit or logic-leap to.

On the other hand, I find it fascinating and an enjoyable intellectual exercise to figure out how to fill the “gaps,” so to speak. Need a god that suits the alpine tundra of Nevada and Colorado? Well, it’s a harsh and dry and often-cold place outside of civilization, which makes Set an appropriate choice. Need a god of waterfalls? Given the abundance of water and the force as it falls, Hapy as god of the Nile might suit—or one of the deities of the inundation specifically, like Anuket. Need a god of, say, computer languages and software or website coding? Well, Seshat created the system of writing and all written symbols, and She’s the Lady of Builders to boot, so if you’re making a digital “house” with a particular language, She might fit!

Even though it’s occasionally a challenge to relate to gods so well-adapted to a vastly different environment than the one I live in, I still love the challenge of exploring Them and Their nuances to find where the borders touch and the lands overlap in Them.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: X is for Being an Example

PBP Fridays: X is for Being an Example

(Look, we have to get creative for words that start with X, okay. :D)

Whether it delights us or intimidates us, we are living examples of our chosen and unchosen labels. Pagan, gay, furry, poly, atheist, Christian, genderqueer, scholar, artist, mechanic, writer, husband, mother, boss, entrepreneur, introvert, Aspie—whatever we can be categorized as, we also humanize by our very existence. It’s easier to hate and fear the unknown than to stare at your older sister when she tells you she’s transgendered and choose to hate the sibling you grew up with and already love.

We are polytheists, pagans, witches, reconstructionists, revivalists, neo-whatevers, eclectics. We have chosen to strike out on a path that was not the one into which we were born (in most cases). We have chosen to forge our own spirituality that fulfills our needs and satisfies our desires and aligns to our truths.

We are examples of our choices, of our paths, of our principles. Even if we’d rather not be in the spotlight, we are; it is part of human nature to observe and form opinions about other people. It’s how social animals function.

Look in the metaphorical mirror. Are you the kind of example you would be proud to show to those looking from the outside in at your path? Would you be able to say, “Look at this person! This person is imperfect and growing and learning from their mistakes, but you know what? This person has their heart and spirit in the right place, and they are doing the work they feel needs to be done, and they are living up to their beliefs.”

If not, what will you do to change that?

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: W is for Heka for Wadjet

PBP Fridays: W is for Heka for Wadjet

I am a follower of Wadjet, Lady of the Sky and the Devouring Flames;
She sets men and gods afire, the earth and sky afire,
but no enemy or rebel passes Her to reach me,
for She perceives them and Her fire is effective;
Her light betrays them and they flee as shadows before the sun.
The Fortunate One, Risen in Green and Papyrus,
has delimited the Two Lands, and in them,
there is a place for me and my ka to live.
Fiery Serpent, Great of Magic, hear me:
Grant that the acclaim of me be like the acclaim of You;
Grant that the love of me be like the love of You.

(Epithets and snippets taken from various ancient sources and recompiled. Primary source.)

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.