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Category: Pagan Blog Project 2013

PBP Fridays: R is for Reading

PBP Fridays: R is for Reading

I stayed up until 3 AM reading a novel that I simply could not put down, even though I had to wake up at 7h30 for work. It was a concession I made to my infatuation with the book, which was an urban fantasy featuring libriomancers—people who used books to power their magic. A libriomancer could reach a hand through the pages of a well-loved paperback, using the power of the collective belief of those who’d read it, and draw out anything that would fit between the pages.

The main character is, in part, so likable and enjoyable because he’s a lot like me and many of my friends: geeky, excitable, and prone to feeling awe at figuring out how things work, especially magically. And although I can’t sink my fingers into Tolkien and draw out the One Ring, I can certainly relate to the love and passion that character has for the stories he uses—which he adored before he learned how to do magic with the books.

In many ways, the concepts offered up by that fictional story aren’t so far from the truth for many of us. Reconstructionists, neopagans, and chaos magicians can all draw magic out of the book in their hands, even if it’s not physically manifest. Our subjective reality changes when we read, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or a little of both. The world shifts around us as our minds project the scenery we read onto our own surroundings, creating our own little holodeck for as long as our eyes are on the page—and often long afterwards.

I finally put the book down, 70% finished, because I knew sleep had to happen for me to function the next day at work. I was buzzing with energy, unhinged through a combination of tiredness and excitement over the story. I didn’t drift off until 4, and I tossed and turned until 5 before I finally settled down for a couple of hours of more restful sleep.

Especially for those who do any kind of energywork, reading can feel like unlocking oneself. In losing myself to the book, in the act of fully imagining everything I was reading, I created an energetic echo of the fiction and put myself in the center of the hologram. The illusion faded when I closed the book, but my body didn’t automatically re-seal and re-shield itself; it remained loose, stimulated, tendrils of half-directed intent swirling about and seeking to paint with invisible colors.

That’s pretty “woo” for a reconstructionist, but I have a decade or more of history working with energy and color, and my imagination is well- and fully-formed from being a writer and artist since I was a child. A fictional story about magic being drawn from fiction has let me draw magic into my world, this very real and strange and wonderful world where I worship ancient gods and work magic with the power of my words and with colors that only I can see.

Like the character in those books, I’ve always wished magic was real—and like that character, I found out that it is, in many ways, as real as breath and sparking synapses. And with all the consequences, with all the challenges, with all the “am I nutters?” self-sanity checks, I still love that my reality is a magical one.

PS~ If you want to read the books I mentioned, they’re by Jim C. Hines and freaking wonderful. Here’s book one (Libriomancer) and book two (Codex Born) in the Magic ex Libris series.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: R is for Reading

PBP Fridays: R is for Reading

I stayed up until 3 AM reading a novel that I simply could not put down, even though I had to wake up at 7h30 for work. It was a concession I made to my infatuation with the book, which was an urban fantasy featuring libriomancers—people who used books to power their magic. A libriomancer could reach a hand through the pages of a well-loved paperback, using the power of the collective belief of those who’d read it, and draw out anything that would fit between the pages.

The main character is, in part, so likable and enjoyable because he’s a lot like me and many of my friends: geeky, excitable, and prone to feeling awe at figuring out how things work, especially magically. And although I can’t sink my fingers into Tolkien and draw out the One Ring, I can certainly relate to the love and passion that character has for the stories he uses—which he adored before he learned how to do magic with the books.

In many ways, the concepts offered up by that fictional story aren’t so far from the truth for many of us. Reconstructionists, neopagans, and chaos magicians can all draw magic out of the book in their hands, even if it’s not physically manifest. Our subjective reality changes when we read, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or a little of both. The world shifts around us as our minds project the scenery we read onto our own surroundings, creating our own little holodeck for as long as our eyes are on the page—and often long afterwards.

I finally put the book down, 70% finished, because I knew sleep had to happen for me to function the next day at work. I was buzzing with energy, unhinged through a combination of tiredness and excitement over the story. I didn’t drift off until 4, and I tossed and turned until 5 before I finally settled down for a couple of hours of more restful sleep.

Especially for those who do any kind of energywork, reading can feel like unlocking oneself. In losing myself to the book, in the act of fully imagining everything I was reading, I created an energetic echo of the fiction and put myself in the center of the hologram. The illusion faded when I closed the book, but my body didn’t automatically re-seal and re-shield itself; it remained loose, stimulated, tendrils of half-directed intent swirling about and seeking to paint with invisible colors.

That’s pretty “woo” for a reconstructionist, but I have a decade or more of history working with energy and color, and my imagination is well- and fully-formed from being a writer and artist since I was a child. A fictional story about magic being drawn from fiction has let me draw magic into my world, this very real and strange and wonderful world where I worship ancient gods and work magic with the power of my words and with colors that only I can see.

Like the character in those books, I’ve always wished magic was real—and like that character, I found out that it is, in many ways, as real as breath and sparking synapses. And with all the consequences, with all the challenges, with all the “am I nutters?” self-sanity checks, I still love that my reality is a magical one.

PS~ If you want to read the books I mentioned, they’re by Jim C. Hines and freaking wonderful. Here’s book one (Libriomancer) and book two (Codex Born) in the Magic ex Libris series.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: R is for Raet

PBP Fridays: R is for Raet

O Raet, molten gold aflame, mighty and beautiful one!
Consort of the Warrior, Name of the Punisher,
Wet-nurse of the Creatrix, Mother of the New Sun!
Raet, Who wears the uraeus with Her feathers,
You are Queen of the Two Lands, united and whole!
O Raet, Who brings illumination to the Seen world,
You are the globe of the sun in the heavens!
You are preeminent in Your place, second to none,
older than the First One, the bud of the birthing lotus!
Your glory is the color of sunlight,
Your protective wrath is as red as sunset!
O Raet, shine upon us, warm us as a mother to Her child,
and we will flourish under Your unblinking Eye!

Raet (Rait, Raettawy) is the female Ra, associated with sovereignty by Hatshepsut. She is alternately a consort of Montu, mother of Djehuty (Thoth), wet-nurse of Nit (Neith), mother of Heru (Horus), consort of the sun god Ra, the Eye of Ra, and/or Ra’s daughter.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: Q is for Qebshenef

PBP Fridays: Q is for Qebshenef

Qebshenef is one of the Four Sons of Heru (Horus), a group of netjeri (spirits) associated with the canopic jars that hold the organs of the mummified deceased. The Four Sons also protect the throne of Wesir (Osiris) in the Unseen and assist the deceased through the Duat. Each of the Sons is protected by one of the funerary goddesses and associated with one of the cardinal directions.

Qebshenef, whose name means “cooling his brother (with water),” is hawk-headed and holds the intestines. He is guarded by Serqet (Selkis), the scorpion goddess, and associated with the south.

Imset, whose name means “the kindly one,” is human-headed and wears the nemes headcloth. He holds the liver, is guarded by Aset (Isis), and is associated with the west.

Duamutef, whose name means “praising his mother,” is jackal-headed and holds the stomach. He is guarded by Nit (Neith), the Great He-She, and associated with the north.

Hapy (not Hapi, god of the Nile), whose name means “runner,” is baboon-headed and holds the lungs. He is guarded by Nebt-het (Nephthys) and associated with the east.

While the Four Sons have the above associations in regards to their canopic jars, they also assist the deceased in different ways, including carrying or lifting up the deceased, preparing a ladder into the sky, protecting against attacks and decay, preventing hunger and thirst, bringing the deceased a boat “which Khnum built,” and steering that boat.

The Sons themselves are alternatingly stated to be sons of Aset (Isis) and Heru-wer (Horus the Elder) or Khenty-irty (Horus of Khem), but were also implied to be sons of Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger) by virtue of being the grandchildren of Wesir (Osiris). They’ve also been described as the bau (souls) of Pe (a city in Lower Egypt) and Nekhen (a city in Upper Egypt), along with Heru Himself. In various texts, they’re identified as stars near Ursa Major, as emanations of Heru or as Heru’s bau (souls), and as the king’s “children’s children” (the king being as Wesir, Heru’s own father). They’ve also been identified in spells as the hands, arms, fingernails, and/or feet of the deceased or described accompanying the deceased through the Duat.

Sources:

  • http://kemet.org/names-of-netjer
  • http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/religion/sons_of_horus.htm
  • http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/horus-sons-of/

Henadology’s article is particularly well-fleshed-out and worth further reading, as my entry here merely summarizes the basics of the Four Sons.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Friday: P is for Polyvalent Logic

PBP Friday: P is for Polyvalent Logic

Kemetic Orthodox and many other Kemetics employ polyvalent logic, more commonly known as fuzzy logic, to understand and integrate many of ancient Egypt’s myths. Polyvalent logic proposes that true/false is not a binary, a switch to be flipped on or off, but a sliding scale instead—and with that increased vagueness, more than one thing can be true at the same time (even if one is frequently slightly “less” true than the other).

For example, there are half a dozen or more Kemetic creation myths, none of which reference any of the others; rather than choosing one to be the singularly “true” one, they’re all considered to be true. (With the caveat that most Kemetics don’t take them to be literal truths, but metaphorical or symbolic ones.) Similarly, all the gods involved in those myths are all called creator gods, none excluding the others. Nit (Neith), the Great He-She, Who gave birth to the sun and thus created childbirth as well as all of creation, and Khnum, the artisan, Who created Himself in the primordial waters of the Nun and Who shapes each human’s body on His potter’s wheel, are just as much creators as Ptah, the Master Architect, Who made creation from the thoughts in His heart that He spoke aloud. Neither the gods nor Their stories negate each other as true.

This is, in part, because Netjeru are bendy. They flow into each other’s roles. Over time, one can become equated with, syncretized with, or aspected with another. Older gods will get consumed by the popularity of newer gods and fall into obscurity‚Ķ or They’ll combine, creating an entirely new Netjeru with properties of both. Depending on how you tilt your head, the Horus that you greet may be Heru-wer, the solar warrior and Set’s twin; Heru-sa-Aset, young king and son of Aset (Isis); Heruakhety, of the two horizons; Heru-behdety, the winged disk; Heru-pa-khered, the child; Heru-em-akhet, the divinization of the Giza Sphinx; or others.

I am extraordinarily grateful that Kemeticism supports polyvalent logic, as I have a hard time thinking in true/false binaries myself. I can acknowledge Nit as the Creatrix and Ptah as the Maker of All in the same breath, and neither is false, neither overrides the other. And that fuzzy logic can extend outwards and make room for multiple belief systems in the world, none of them a singular truth and none of them invalidated by the rest. There are many paths we can take, be they spiritual or not, and they are vastly different, and none of them are wrong.

Standard Disclaimer: I do not support paths that promote hatred, unnecessary violence, bigotry, etc. But there are plenty that have a core of love, peace, balance, respect, responsibility, and humility, and those are the ones I write of here.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Friday: P is for Preparing for the New Kemetic Year

PBP Friday: P is for Preparing for the New Kemetic Year

Tomorrow is Wep Ronpet, the first day of the new Kemetic year, according to the Kemetic Orthodoxy calendar.

Tomorrow, I will rise before dawn, and at 5 am, I will take part in a ritual to welcome the new year and to deflect any dangers it brings. I will perform heka for the Netjeru of the new year.

Sadly, I will not slay pansnakes, but I’m still hoping my (non-Kemetic) partner makes some and kills ’em in my honor. :)

But I will join with my Kemetic siblings and my gods, and I will set goals and make prayers, and I will take that first deep breath of newborn air and smile.

Happy new year to those who celebrate it!

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Last year’s P post was primary gods.

PBP Friday: O is for Olukun/Yemonja

PBP Friday: O is for Olukun/Yemonja

I hesitate to write this post. It’s not because I am a Kemetic writing outside my pantheon, but because being a soft reconstructionist has taught me how to respectfully and thoroughly study and research something before (or at least while) I engage with it. And that means I can recognize when I lack that foundational knowledge; I feel like I’m on unsteady ground when so unread.

I have one book on Ifa: The Way of the Orisa by Philip Neimark, an American convert and practitioner of Ifa. This book has a wealth of differences between the singular book I have read on Haitian Vodou (Haitian Vodou by Mambo Chita Tann), which I know is a very well-sourced, academically-solid, and culturally-respectful treatise. Some of these are doubtlessly regional differences—there are several flavors of Yoruban religion, and dialects change the spellings of words and names—but what gives me such pause is that I haven’t read any other books to broaden my horizon on orisa or Ifa. I’ve also learned enough in the years since I bought this book to question the author’s privilege and potential Westernizing spin.

And yet. If I don’t write this post, how can I encourage other polytheists and pagans to write freely and earnestly about their experiences and the mythologies that they enjoy and study, no matter how new they are?

So I am writing, with the neon disclaimer that I’m very aware I have exactly one author’s viewpoint on the subject, and I have no idea how that author compares with others in his field in terms of accuracy versus modern re-interpretation. The reason I am writing is because, however objectively qualitative that author is or is not, his book impressed upon me Olukun/Yemonja, and that impression has lingered, full of seaspray and undertow.

Yemonja/Olukun is an ocean orisa of great might and dual, intertwined natures; some forms of Yoruba-based religions separate the one into two. However, Ifa treats it as one and emphasizes the importance of maintaining this balance of seemingly opposed natures. Yemonja is described as the feminine energy, full of a mother’s nurturing and generosity, the life-giving gifts of the waves, while Olukun is the masculine energy, powerful and volatile, the icy depths of the sea. Together, Yemonja/Olukun is referred to as a she (in the book) but is a dynamic balance between those two genders; I would interpret it as being a third gender as a result, but that’s me.

Being such a Water-child, being drawn to the ocean like a magnet to the north, and being genderqueer… needless to say, this simplified but imagery-rich idea of Yemonja/Olukun appealed to me deeply and viscerally. In fact, I wrote a song called From The Ocean, exploring the angles between this one orisa’s complementary natures. Even now, when I see the myopic weakness of my single-source understanding of this orisa, my emotional-spiritual reaction to it (and, yes, to how the author describes its “children” in the book, which is staggeringly accurate to my own nature) cannot be invalidated by my skeptical intellect.

As an additional point of interest, one aspect of my Mother Nebt-het (Nephthys) is Nit (Neith), a very old hunter-goddess, a creatrix… a Netjeru of the primordial ocean, and the Great He-She. The parallels I can draw between Nit’s epithets and Yemonja/Olukun’s description are… intriguing, to say the least, and bear further meditation.

In closing, I will say that the heart knows the love and the links from blood to brine, even when the brain cannot yet prove the pattern of the chains that bind them so tightly.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: O is for Obscure Gods

PBP Fridays: O is for Obscure Gods

Point to a dozen of ancient Egypt’s most famous gods, and I will know Their Kemetic and Greco-Roman names and the basic mythological background of each, as well as Their characteristics and attributes. Tell me it’s one of the big festivals honoring one of those gods, and I will probably shrug and continue on my merry little way with no more than a respectful nod and libation. Tell me it’s the Day of Sepa or the Feast of Menhuy, which was yesterday, and I will go pawing through all my books to learn more.

In other words, I have a thing for obscure gods.

Menhuy (or Menhu, or possibly even Menew) is the Slaughterer. Egyptologist Tamara Siuda describes him as a protective form of Amun, the Hidden One. In Wilkinson’s The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, the name Menew is cited as a form of Bes, a popular apotropaic dwarfish deity, still with the meaning of Slaughterer. The main reference I can find to Menhu is of a tomb inscription from the Papyrus of Ani that states “Hidden in form, given of Menhu” is the name of the tomb. Menhu(y) is also referenced in the inscription of Hor-nefer as a falcon-headed god from Esna, which may link Him to Amun Who is in turn linked to Ra-Horuakhety, typically depicted as falcon-headed.

Finding out all of that stoked me, just as doing the initial research on Sepa or on Neper was intriguing and exciting. But the idea of making this post about the Opet Festival (a major celebration of Amun and Mut) didn’t light a fire under me, even though it would have involved the same amount of research. I have very little “connection” to most of the more well-known Netjeru, barring Sekhmet and Nebt-het. On the other hand, I am so enthralled by little-known deities that I have tentatively set up the framework for a year’s worth of research and personal writing on some 70+ obscure Netjeru… which would likely turn into a small book of cited information and modern litanies, hekau, and prayers.

My partner, who holds a biology degree, tells me that there is some small percentage of each population (human and animal alike) that is predisposed to be more drawn to novelty than to familiarity and safety. It helps keep the gene pool fresh and offers a beneficial mutation the opportunity to survive and thrive. Maybe one bird is a bizarre color, but perhaps that color is a better adaptation to its changing surroundings than its species’ usual color, and if another bird is willing to chance its reproductive future on the oddball, a new strain of successful babies can be born and spread that useful gene around. And while I have not had my genome mapped, I can look at myself and at my intense, inexplicable interest in the left-of-center ideas/people/looks/hobbies/etc and see that pattern reflected.

So I love obscure gods. Mainstream deities are challenging to me; I find it difficult to want to connect, with some few exceptions. This goes for plenty of other things in my life, making me something of an unintentional hipster with my insistence on originality and rarity. I also don’t like the spotlight, so I shy away from things with too much attention, lest I also get seen and noticed; that part’s probably an innate (but unnecessary) survival mechanism.

I’m not the only fan of the unknown, of course. Some of my fellow Kemetics pay a lot of attention to lesser-known Names, such as Wenut (a hare goddess) and Benebdjedet (a ram-headed god). I love seeing hidden gods raised up and dusted off; it elicits such a thrill of glee down my spine.

After all, the most widespread gods already have plenty of worshippers and researchers—They don’t need me that much. But if I and my books and my love can make a difference to a little-known Netjeru by offering my time, attention, and words, then I am elated and satisfied.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.