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Category: Pagan Blog Project 2013

PBP Fridays: W is for Wepwawet

PBP Fridays: W is for Wepwawet

This will not be an in-depth academic post: for solid and detailed information on Wepwawet, please check out Per-Sabu.org.

Much earlier this year, I made a tentative list of blog post ideas for every letter, and my first W was “Wepwawet?” because, at the time, I hadn’t built a relationship with Him… but past-me hoped that 2013 would change that. Happily, past-me was right.

As I recently wrote, I got to know Wepwawet over a tenday. Depicted as a standing jackal or a jackal-headed man, Wepwawet is the Opener of the Way, in life and in death, in peace and in strife. He is strong and solar, chthonic and liminal, powerful and subtle. I admire Him greatly and no longer restrain myself from offering up adorations and time each day for tea with Him.

Over the course of the tenday with Wepwawet, the first request he made of me, firmly and enthusiastically, was a painting. It was grueling and challenging, and it took far longer than I’d expected, but when it was finished, I was—and am still—pleased with it:

Dua Wepwawet, Lord of the Duat, Opener of the Way!

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: V is for Voice

PBP Fridays: V is for Voice

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

~ Maya Angelou

How do you speak when you’re in ritual, in worship, working magic, making prayers? Do you speak aloud, or does your voice stay between your ears? Is your voice whispery, mumbling, humming, projecting loudly, flat, crackling?

It took me months before I was comfortable speaking the words of ritual outloud, and even then, it took me months more—and a voice lesson on CD—before I used my voice’s strength and pitch to support the words I was speaking.

Now my breath and the sound that is me both support my heka and my prayers without conscious effort. It was worth the challenge of starting.

Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows.

~ Napoleon Bonaparte

The human voice is the organ of the soul.Have you ever sung in shrine, in circle, when you’re alone (with all the gods and ancestors and spirits watching)? Do you sing praises, or songs, or prayers, or the very words of magic as though spellwork and songwork are one and the same?

It was my sister who first had the idea to sing the words of purification and offering in the Kemetic Orthodoxy rite of Senut. It was Hethert-Nut Who first requested songs of me in shrine—not even Kemetic songs, but just any songs, because She liked the sound of my voice. It was hard for me to sing into the silence of Her expectations.

I sing for Her and my other Netjeru regularly now, songs I’ve made for Them and songs from others that They and I both love. It’s still hard to break the silence in shrine—and still so worth it when I do.

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

~ Neil Gaiman

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: V is for Venom

PBP Fridays: V is for Venom

Venom is, specifically, a poisonous fluid that certain creatures excrete and use on other creatures by biting or stinging. Poison is, in general, a substance which impairs or destroys health or life.

In other words, venom is poison with a purpose.

Among the gods to Whom I am devoted is a scorpion goddess: Serqet. The bulk of Her lessons to me revolve around poison (the avoidance of and the healing from) and protection (the hardy carapace that guards rather soft innards), which are both particularly useful for an empathic individual. She is, in ancient Egyptian myths, largely hailed as a goddess of protection and healing, and modern Kemetics often consider Her also able to help with some forms of addiction, interpreting a substance to which one might become addicted as a poison. I myself have referred to Her as Our Lady of Poisons.

But Serqet’s realm of wisdom reaches beyond general poison. In myth, She has purposefully stung more than one person. She understands the active use of venom, not just the healing required when its effects have taken hold on a body. In myths that I have read, She is not portrayed as a patient and gentle lady: She is quick-tempered, a little fickle, and overall deadly—which is why She is pacified by such extravagant epithets, sweet prayers, and offerings.

I think one of Serqet’s most potent strengths is knowing when to use Her own venom‚Ķ and how to deal with others using theirs against Her. It’s a painstaking lesson for humans to learn, but full of worth. How many people squander their own venom against over-exaggerated threats, poisoning those who don’t deserve it and reducing their own supply of last-ditch defense? How many people passively accept envenomed strikes by others, shrugging it off as accidental poison as though they were dropped as a sponge into some haphazard puddle and not sought out as targets?

Those who work with animal medicine may recognize the concept of being precise, accurate, and decisive when using one’s venom; it’s a Snake lesson, too. And, as snakes exemplify, venom is used to survive (hunting for food) and in defense—not for random or unnecessary aggression. Many animals display a tendency towards conserving their own energy and resources for circumstances that genuinely need the effort, and most venomous creatures also reserve their own potency for food or serious threats.

I feel that many people would hesitate before using their own venom, in whatever form that may take, even against a person or situation that has proven its malice and persistence‚Ķ but is it really worse to strike out in self-defense to save oneself and establish strong boundaries than to suffer in helpless misery, wracked by the throes of someone else’s suffocating poison? There is a balance to be found between striving for peace, giving second chances, and compassionately trying to see a situation from another’s point-of-view—of which I am a hearty proponent—and consciously excising a harmful and useless person or situation from one’s life. To cut away a toxic influence is common sense; to defend against and depart from an influence that is deliberately attacking should be, as well.

If venom is poison with a purpose, then we should be purposeful and rational when we use our own in circumstances that truly merit the force—and we should understand that venom from others is equally purposeful and should not be tolerated.

When I started writing this post, I had really hoped Serqet would guide it, perhaps reveal some tidbit of wisdom that would be beneficial for others to hear. Instead, She has worn Her perpetual grin and said nothing, letting me find the lesson in Her. She is not one to do my work for me, after all. So take this post as the contemplation of a student, not as handed down from the master. :)

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: U is for UPG Stigma

PBP Fridays: U is for UPG Stigma

While I have already written about what UPG (unverified personal gnosis) is and how it might be employed in a personal path, I would like to take this opportunity to address a related issue: the negative stigma around living and sharing UPG, especially when it might be considered “woo.”

“Woo,” in this case, is shorthand for anything that’s not immediately able to be validated and legitimized with some form of data, be it historical research, practices from antiquity, or common consensus from a wide number of “authoritative” polytheists. If I say that Ma’ahes has skin like magma at sunset, pitch-black with rivers of ruddy light running like veins across His body, that’s my UPG; and because no one else (that I know of) sees Him like this, and because no ancient source cites Him as a magma-lion, this is woo.

I have seen a great many people, including some friends and some fellow bloggers, hesitate to share something because it might be considered “woo”—or share it with several defenses set in place, lined up like stakes in a moat. Part of this, I recognize, is in reaction to how the overall community treats those who share UPG experiences freely. I hear tell that some people can be quite aggressive in tearing down those who believe or practice differently from themselves, and being too “woo”—or, conversely, too factual and not “spiritual” enough—can attract public retort.

I am only one Kemetic, one voice in the clamor of this great wide internet with its varying populations and dazzling diversity, but if it will help, I will put this voice here to tell you that there is nothing to be ashamed of about UPG. Your experience is your own. Your path and your practice are your own. Your gods, spirits, and ancestors are your own. Whether or not someone on the internet thinks you’re doing it wrong does not matter. We are on spiritual paths because we want to be, not because some stranger tells us we should or must. Share what brings you joy, what inspires you, what strikes you as beautiful and significant and heart-moving.

And while I try not to engage in larger community drama, I would advise those who get riled up at others’ differences to take a deep breath and a step back. Engagement is not required. It does not hurt you or your gods for someone else to be dissimilar to you. So many are writing about the importance of community, and several are pointing out the broken bones and trying to splint them before the fractures continue—don’t tear down the scaffolding. Build more of it instead. Share your own experiences, your own beliefs, and not in a “my way is best” manner, please. Everyone’s way is only one possible way of all the ways in this world, and each has merit.

Remember: The internet is not your temple. If something someone does displeases you, you do not have to reach out to them. If it’s an inflammatory comment on your own blog or journal, delete it—it is your virtual house, and you don’t have to tolerate trolls. If it’s an experience that falls outside your own paradigm and realm of belief, shared on a blog or forum that is not yours, ignore it—your job is not to “fix” others, but to walk your own path as best you personally can. That’s all. Find peace and fulfillment in your own good work.

In other words: To each their own. Breathe deep, seek peace.*

*And ride dinosaurs where possible.

Mandatory Disclaimers: If someone is being genuinely harmful to themselves or others, I am not suggesting to let damage continue and accumulate where one might be able to stop it. Likewise, I am not suggesting to close one’s ears to every single disagreeing point of view, merely to be selective about what is constructive criticism or healthy debate, and what is destructive and unproductive. The internet is a big place. We don’t have to read everything or talk to everyone, but you can certainly try to do good where you realistically can and interact with others who are also trying to do good.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: U is for Utterances

PBP Fridays: U is for Utterances

You are the daughter, mighty in her mother1!

Hail to you, daughter of Anubis, who is at the windows of the sky,
the companion of Thoth, who is at the uprights of the ladder!
Open my way that I may pass.2

I am Satis who takes possession of the Two Lands, the Burning One who receives her two shores;
I have gone up to the sky and found Ra standing that I might meet him;
I will seat myself beside him, and Ra will not permit that I put myself on the ground,
for he knows that I am greater than he.3

Hail to you, Great Flood, butler of the gods, leader of the sun-folk!
Make the gods gracious to me that they may make me flourishing,
love me, and make me hale.4

I have inundated the land which came forth from the lake,
I have torn out the papyrus-plant,
I have satisfied the Two Lands, I have united the Two Lands,
I have joined my mother the Great Wild Cow.5

O Great One who came into being in the sky,
you have achieved power, you have achieved strength,
and have filled every place with your beauty;
the entire land is yours. Take possession of it,
for you have enclosed the earth and all things within your embrace.6

1 Utterance 431
2 Utterance 304
3 Utterance 439
4 Utterance 348
5 Utterance 271
6 Utterance 432

Source: The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Raymond Faulkner.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: T is for Ten Things Lists

PBP Fridays: T is for Ten Things Lists

Few years back, I took a course on gratitude mindfulness, and since then, I have used the “ten things” method to bring some perspective to my bad days and foul moods. If I’m feeling terrible, I’ll make an effort–and it is often a real challenge–to list out ten things that make me happy or for which I’m grateful. Sometimes they’re very simple, like “wind” or “Ma’ahes” (those two are on almost every list), but I try to go beyond the “norm” of gratitude (so I don’t wind up listing “being alive” all the time, even though I am definitely thankful to be living!).

This has proven to be an enormously worthwhile exercise, and even if it doesn’t help shift my headspace in the moment, it does remind me that not everything is in the gutter. :)

Today is not a bad day, so instead of giving you a list of ten things that make me happy, how about a list of ten ways in which I am subtly spiritual:

  1. I befriend the traffic lights and elevators that I frequently use. They are gatekeepers.
  2. I watch the clouds. They are my Mothers’ dresses.
  3. I know the color of the sun when it is Ra, when it is Heru (Horus), when it is Heru-Ma’ahes, and when it is Ma’ahes.
  4. I stand in the downpour on my porch to greet Ma’ahes, Who is as much storm as sun to me.
  5. I wear jewelry for my gods on a daily basis. It keeps Them close to me.
  6. I surround myself with color that fills my heart, particularly water-colors (for me) and sunset-oranges (for Ma’ahes). My workspace at the dayjob is not at all greyscale.
  7. I watch the birds, the constant grackles and the migrating flocks that darken the skies. They are fascinating and wonderful in and of themselves, and they help me look up.
  8. I press my palm against tree bark, because it’s one of the most grounding things in the world for me.
  9. I learn from everything that can teach me, including people I know and people I don’t, animals I see and animals I read, and every canny moment I witness.
  10. I live in ma’at. She is my compass.

What would be on your Ten Things list, whether it’s about happiness, gratitude, or spirituality?

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: T is for Theophany

PBP Fridays: T is for Theophany

A theophany is a god’s appearance: Their visual representation in mortal eyes. One of the most well-known hallmarks of the ancient Egyptian pantheon is the prevalence of gods Who have animal aspects in Their images. Even to non-Kemetics—even to non-polytheists—the phrase “animal-headed god” brings to mind the variety of Kemetic gods sporting hawk and lioness faces, even though there are plenty of other deities in other pantheons and cultures that have powerful animal associations or forms.

It’s easy to assume that the Netjeru were considered in antiquity to be partially animals because of Their widespread animal theophanies, but this is not exactly the case. As gods, the Netjeru can take on any appearance They wish (even if They do often have preferences and thus more common appearances), but a theophany is just that: an appearance. Animal theophanies did not indicate that the Netjeru in question was that animal, but simply that the god could (and did!) use that animal’s appearance. A lioness-headed goddess could also be seen as fully human, or fully lioness, or perhaps even as a woman-headed lioness at times—theophanies were nearly a form of language in and of themselves, allowing humans to more fully understand the nature of the Netjeru. It could even help interpret a Netjeru’s “mood” or state of being: Hethert (Hathor) could be a dancing woman, a maternal wild cow, or a vengeful lioness, and while She always had the capacity for all three within Her, Her visual appearance could give a strong clue to which aspect(s) of Her were at the forefront.

In further example, a jackal Netjeru was not bound to the physical realities of a flesh-and-bone jackal, but instead wore the symbolism and mythology of the jackal like a suit: jackals were beautiful and swift creatures, but they also lived in the same areas where ancient Egyptians buried their dead, so jackal Netjeru were often associated with the dead and/or the process of embalming and preserving. The shriek of a kite was like the wail of a woman mourning, so Aset (Isis) and Nebt-het (Nephthys) were kites when They were wrought with grief over Wesir’s (Osiris’) death—or when They needed quick wings and long vision to find Wesir’s body.

Ancient Egyptian gods are rife with symbolism and rich in layered meanings; it’s important not to assume that a god with a particular theophany will only appear in that singular way, or that a god is chained to the physical realities of that animal if They do choose a theophany. I made that mistake myself when I laughed over the idea that Set could ever be seen as a spotted hyena, given all I know about hyenas and how mismatched their embodied qualities are with Set’s mythical attributes. Months later, I got a glimpse of how Set could, in fact, take a hyena as a theophany (which is a modern/theoretical theophany, by the way; it’s not historically-attested to my knowledge). From my personal journal:

Set-as-hyena, the one Who challenges and purifies. Set-as-hyena, the strength in the night, the sovereign, the bone-breaker, He Who removes corpses and the sickness they hold. Set-as-hyena, male but not hyena-masculine, the male that is too dominant to appease the females and stay with the clan, set off alone and powerful. Set-as-hyena, wearing a red pelt, male but built like a female and acting as one— which is masculine in other animals— so ungendered, genderfree, mixing male and female into His own particular blend of sex: yes, the shadow of the form of a spotted hyena.

In other words: think of theophanies like clothing that a god chooses to darn—not like a skin that a mortal is born with and cannot change.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: S is for Synesthesia

PBP Fridays: S is for Synesthesia

Nebt-het comes in a cloud of lavender, pale grey-toned amethyst fog against a dark background of shadow-black. Hethert-Nut is a royal purple nebulae, glistening with silver stars like a full-color page out of National Geographic: full of wonder and heart-wrenching potential and staggering beauty.

Ma’ahes is thick, opaque paint, still shining wet and fresh, the deep orange color of a long sunset. Serqet is desert sunlight shining off a matte sand-yellow carapace.

Sekhmet is hearth-red, ember-red, the red you see when you close your eyes, the color of blood in the bellies of thunderclouds.

I perceive the gods with such specific, visceral colors because I’m synesthetic; every sound, physical sensation, and scent internally translates to a visual color, shape, and/or motion. This is a constant, consistent, and involuntary process for me; other synesthetes may associate colors with numbers and/or letters or personalities with numbers and/or months, to name some common types of synesthesia. For myself, I suspect my other senses barged in on my visual cortex when my vision began deteriorating badly enough to need the assistance; if I couldn’t wear contacts or glasses, I’d be legally blind. Sight is an interestingly propped-up sense to me, full of supplements and quirks.

Turns out that my sensory crossed wires affect my spiritual perceptions, as well, which is why my gods are not faces or voices or even shapes to me, but floods of rich, textured color. The first time I ever heard Hethert-Nut’s name, well before I knew Who She was, let alone that She was my spiritual Mother, I saw Her color; that’s what spurred me to learn about Her in the first place. Every time I call upon Ma’ahes, He appears in color, and that color feels like Him more than anything in the world. Gods with Whom I only occasionally interact also have strong colors: Set, Wepwawet, Yinepu, Heru-wer, Ptah, and now Bast and Sepa as well.

This is how I paint. This is how I design, how I dress, how I work heka, and how I mix scented oils. Everything translates into color, and every single color has a wealth of meaning that can include symbolism, character, and pure feeling. It’s all a loop, a spiral, a fractal sensory experience that can drown me in an ocean of colored inks.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.