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.

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