Exploring spirituality somewhere between the Emerald Isle and the Black Land....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Ib

A few weeks ago I saw this video:

...And I thought, "That's cool! Kaif, get yourself a little ib pot thingy, and do all of the heka!"

While I probably could have gotten away with using any sort of container, it was very important for me to get one that at least somewhat resembled the ib symbol. So for a couple of weeks I kept an eye out for something suitable, but unsurprisingly, didn't find a finished product that was the right shape and size and price. And then I got impatient, so I did what I usually end up doing, and made my own.

For a dollar or two at a craft store, I found a small glass vase that had more or less the right shape, minus the handles. It was a little bigger than I would have liked, but it was the best I'd found so far. I took it home and covered the entire thing in air dry clay. It was a gamble, because I had no idea if the dried clay would stick to it or not, but luckily, in the end it did. (Huzzah!) I then added some handles to the body (again using air dry clay) and painted it a deep, rich red. Aside from being the color that ibs are usually portrayed in, red also happens to be my favorite color, so it has a bit of added meaning right there.

The result was this:

And here is a picture of my ib pot stowed safely on my shrine, with my Wepwawet amulet and ankh necklace draped around it:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Shaman From Northern Mongolia

Like many people, I love music and listen to it constantly. Music in general has a way of touching your spirit, but every now and then, a song comes along that speaks to your soul the way few others do. Maybe I'm just a sucker for overtone singing (or throat singing), but Hoosoo Transmongolia's "The Shaman From Northern Mongolia" is one such song for me. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wepwawet's Shrine

If any of you have been paying attention to my most recent posts, you will likely have noticed that I have developed a bit of a Wepwawet obsession. I encountered Wepwawet not too long after I became Kemetic and liked him right off the bat, but it wasn't until about a year ago that we started working together on a regular basis. Everything pretty much snowballed from there, and we've developed quite a rapport in that time; so much so that after much consideration, earlier this month I finally took the plunge and dedicated myself to him. That of course meant he got a fancy new shrine, which in turn meant that I had to take pictures and show it off.

Ta-da! Wepy's shiny new shrine!

As you can see, Nut gets her own little spot on his shrine. She's another deity that I've long adored, and as there are references to Wepwawet being Nut's firstborn, I thought it was fitting that she have a place with her son.

All lit up with candles and incense.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Polytheism 101: Ritual

The third post in my "Polytheism 101" series will cover the basics of ritual. Though I will be referencing certain Kemetic viewpoints in regards to ritual, the actions and ideas behind them will be the same for any practicing polytheist. I feel I should also note that though this series is called "Polytheism 101," the ideas and methods shared here can be applied to just about any Pagan path.

There are a number of actions that many polytheistic/recon rituals share, and I have listed them below. These are what I consider to be the basic steps to performing a ritual.

Calling the deity
Before starting your ritual, you may find that it helps to invite your deities to join you. Some people call them by playing an instrument, ringing a bell, singing, or chanting. Others say a simple prayer, such as "Sekhmet, O powerful One, please join me for this ritual." Many also find it fitting to greet the deity with a bow. You can do any or all of these things. The most I do is ring a bell and call the deity's name before bowing.

Lighting the candle
In a Kemetic sense, the candle flame is representative of the sun and therefore the victory of Ra as he emerges from the underworld (or the forces of ma'at as they defeat the forces of isfet). Lighting the candle is also symbolic of Zep-tepi, The First Time, when Ra (or Atum, or whichever creator deity floats your boat) came into being and everything began. This isn't too far off from the meaning of the ritual flame in other traditions. The flame establishes the beginning of the ritual as the beginning of something new and significant, and/or the establishment of something powerful and good over the symbolic darkness. If you want to say a prayer while lighting a candle, something like "As Shapsu rises over the horizon, I light this candle" or "I light this candle for you, O Morrighan. May it shine as victoriously as you" will do.

Offering the incense
I read somewhere - and I can't remember for the life of me where exactly - that that the Egyptian word for incense (senetjer) means "to make divine." Whether or not this is true, and whether or not you follow a Kemetic path specifically, that phrase is fitting. Incense marks a space and moment as being sacred, and is very much beloved by the gods. And if you are anything like me, it goes a long way in putting you in a ritualistic headspace. I think it's also worth noting at this point that while both a candle and incense can be given as offerings in and of them selves, they both serve the purpose of establishing sacred space. For this reason I consider them to be ritual tools as much as they are offerings. If you wish, you can say something along the lines of, "I offer this incense to you, O Wepwawet. May its scent please you."

Libations are liquid offerings which are poured into a dish or, if your ritual is outdoors, onto the ground itself. Wine is commonly used, but other liquors, water, or milk can also be used. Since my practice is primarily Kemetic, I use water. In this context, the libation represents the life-giving abundance of the inundation. Of course, the theme of abundance and refreshment still works with other pantheons. You can accompany your libation with a prayer like "O Dadga, I pour this libation for you, that it will rejuvinate you."

Giving the food offering
At this point, it is time to give the food offerings. I often accompany these offerings with a prayer. You can say something simple, such as "O Brighid, please accept these offerings. May they satisfy and strengthen you." Only a small amount of food is needed to give to the gods. If you are having a feast as part of your ritual, you may choose to offer the entirety of the feast to the gods, in which case you would still give them their own portion of food.

Ritual action
Now is the time to perform your magic, meditate, pray, feast, or do whatever it is that you are performing the ritual to do. If consuming the food offerings is part of your practice, you will either eat them at this point, or wait until sometime after the ritual has concluded to return to the shrine and eat them. Kemetics call this "reverting the offerings," and only requires a simple prayer before you eat them, like "O Bast, receive your offerings from me." The majority of my rituals are done for the sole purpose of giving offerings to my gods, so I usually just take a couple of minutes here to pray, meditate, or just sit there quietly and enjoy the deity's company.

Closing the ritual
Kemetics know this as "removing the foot." Thank and bid farewell to the gods, extinguish the candle, and remove the libation and food offerings (or offering dishes if you have consumed them as part of the ritual action). If you intend to eat the offerings later, leave them at the shrine until you are ready to do so. Once you are ready to leave the shrine space, bow, then take a few steps backwards before turning away from the shrine.

And that's pretty much it. Hopefully now you're ready to perform your own rituals with confidence!

Other posts in the Polytheism 101 series include "Building a Shrine" and "Offerings."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wepwawet, God of teh Shiny

After a long and perilous journey through the underworld, Wepwawet emerges victorious!

Or more accurately, after a long journey through customs, this beautiful bronze Wepwawet amulet/ritual item arrived in the mail yesterday. It was made for me by jackal junkie and all-round awesome person, Bezenwepwy.

Guyz. I love this so much I can't even words.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wepwawet, God of teh Cute

I recently took up a new craft: needle felting. One of my first projects was this, a little Wepwawet doll. I still haven't decided if I'm finished with it yet or not, but he looks pretty darn cute in the meantime. Not too bad for a beginner, I think!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Polytheism 101: Offerings

The second post in my "Polytheism 101" series will cover appropriate offerings for various pantheons, and what to do with them after they have been offered. I feel I should also note that though this series will be called "Polytheism 101," the ideas and methods shared here can be applied to just about any Pagan path.

Offering foods of the region your gods are from is a good place to start. So if you follow a Hellenistic religion, you might want to offer Greek and similar Mediterranean foods. Looking to the myths is also important. In one story, Dadga ate an entire trench-full of porridge, so oatmeal or something similar would make a good offering for him. At a ritual I once held for Sekhmet, an attendee brought some pomegranate infused beer because they read the story in which Sekhmet was pacified with beer dyed with pomegranates. When in doubt, I've found that vegetables, fruit (dried or fresh), water, fruit juice, bread, and alcohol are always a safe bet. As far as items go, flowers, coins, and pretty stones or crystals are also great catch-all offerings. A bit of intuition and familiarity with a deity/pantheon can go a long way in deciding what to give.

As far as the disposal of offerings go, what you do with them is largely up to who you are offering to. I've included specifics for each of the following pantheons, but in general, composting or burying offerings is the most common thing to do with them. Other than that, the most important thing when disposing of offerings is to be mindful of what you have offered and how you are disposing of it. For example, if you offer chocolate to the Fair Folk, don't leave it lying around in a park where someone's dog could find and eat it, and don't burn an offered item if it could produce harmful fumes. Use common sense, and you'll be fine.

Irish Celtic offerings

Edible offerings: Alcohol is a favorite among the Déithe. Mead, beer, and whiskey are the definite forerunners, though I've known them to enjoy wine or hard cider. Apple juice and milk are great non-alcoholic alternatives. Beef, pork, and salmon are ideal meat offerings. Apples, hazelnuts, cheese, and honey (or pretty much anything with honey in it) are also great choices, though I have found that hearty foods in general tend to go over well with the Déithe.

Incense: Juniper incense seems to be well-loved, as well as cedarwood and sage. I've also had great results with cinnamon, amber, and sandalwood. Basically, anything woody and earthy is a good choice.

Items: Weapons, real or miniature, are popular with warrior deities. Beyond that, you can give anything related to a specific deity and their mythology or symbology, such as a cauldron for Dadga or crow figurines for Morrighan. As humans were sacrificed in ancient Ireland, human effigies are a suitable and powerful offering, though in my opinion, they are best saved for special occasions.

Food offered to the Déithe should not be eaten. The best way to dispose of them is to burn, bury, or sink them in a body of water. Likewise, items given to them should be destroyed (as was done back in the day), then burned, buried, or sunk. Which exact method you use may be determined by where you live; I live in an apartment, so burning or burying anything on the grounds is out of the question, and I'm well out of walking distance from the nearest lake or river, so I just put the edible offerings under a tree for the wildlife to take. (As I said before, if you are going to do this, be mindful. You don't want to leave something that will make an animal sick!) Since offered items won't spoil, I leave them on the shrine until I have the opportunity to dispose of them properly.

Kemetic offerings

Edible offerings: As far as food offerings go, it could be said that the Netjeru have simple tastes. Bread, water, and beer are are the most basic, yet most ideal offerings. Beef, milk, onions, dates, figs, and wine are also appropriate. Game such as gazelles was also offered, so I think deer or elk could make a suitable substitution.

Incense: Frankincense and myrrh were commonly offered, and are probably the best choices if you can get your hands on some, though the Netjeru seem to love resins in general. I've also had good results with lotus, cedar and sandalwood, and floral scents. When offering incense, the most important thing to keep in mind is that some brands use dung as a binder. These should not be given to the Netjeru, as dung is considered impure for ritual purposes (for obvious reasons; I mean, it's poo). I've put together a list of pure incense brands at the end of this post.

Items: The ankh, ib (heart), feather of ma'at, and udjat (Eye of Horus) are all things that were offered to in ritual. Jewelery and perfume, or pretty much anything that's pretty will be enjoyed by the Netjeru. For as simple as their tastes in food offerings may seem to be, when it comes to stuff, they enjoy fine things.

Food offered to the gods was eaten by the priests, so if it is up to you if you would rather eat or bury them. Fire was typically used for banishments or execrations, so I wouldn't burn anything that was given to the Netjeru. Items which were offered were also used by priests, so you can use them yourself, in honor of the god(s) it was offered to, or simply leave them at the shrine.

Follow this link if you would like to read more about Kemetic offerings.

Canaanite offerings

Edible offerings: Wine, figs, pomegranates, dates, grapes, hummus, olive oil, flatbread, beef, lamb, and goat are some of the best things to offer. Do not offer pork to the Iluma; it wasn't offered in antiquity, and is likely considered inferior or impure. They prefer farmed meat over wild game.

Incense: When it comes to incense, the Iluma seem to share many of the same tastes as the Netjeru. Myrrh and frankincense are ideal, as are other resins and floral scents. Offerings of incense to the Iluma  also carry the same requirement of purity as those for the Netjeru.

Items: Perfume or olive oil infused with essential oils are always enjoyed by the Iluma. Flowers, art, and jewelery make great offerings as well.

Disposing of Canaanite offerings is much the same as with Kemetic ones; priests used or ate what was offered, and you may choose whether or not to do so yourself. The main difference is that Canaanites performed burnt offerings, so burning them is an option.

If you are interested in reading more, this post has an in-depth account of offerings preferred by the Iluma.

Pure incense brands:

Other posts in the Polytheism 101 series include "Building a Shrine" and "Ritual."

    Friday, September 27, 2013

    Papyrus Painting - Wepwawet

    My latest painting is of Wepwawet. All of the Netjeru love gold, but I've long had the feeling that Wepwawet is also extremely fond of bronze. So naturally, I used lots of bronze-colored paint in this picture.

    I may have overdone it a little....

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    Polytheism 101: Building a Shrine

    This is to be the first post in my "Polytheism 101" series. As the title says, it will cover the basics of putting a shrine together. I feel I should also note that though this series will be called "Polytheism 101," the ideas and methods shared here can be applied to just about any Pagan path.

    How you decorate a shrine is largely a personal matter. Your own taste, which tradition you follow, and which gods you honor - if any in particular - will determine what exactly your shrine ends up looking like. Big or small, extravagant or simple, the sky's the limit. So my focus here will be about the various items that are used for ritual and devotional purposes.

    Items that are commonly used for a shrine are a pitcher and bowl for libations, a small dish and cup for food offerings, an incense holder, a candle holder, a bell (or a sistrum or drum), and a deity image or religious symbol. I set up these items as an example in the following picture:

    I set up this sample shrine on an empty spot on my dresser. For your own shrine, any such clear surface will do, but I do prefer my shrines to have an entire surface all to themselves (such as on a shelf) to ensure that any clutter doesn't encroach on the shrine space. As for items, for my libation bowl and pitcher, I used a cruet that I bought at a supermarket for $3, and an onyx bowl that was given to me as a gift. For an offering dish, I just re-purposed a saucer from my cupboards. The tea light candle holder and "incense holder" (it's just a pretty dish I liked and put one of those Morning Star incense tiles in it) were purchased at a craft store for $1 each. The offering glass was a thrift store find for about a dollar, and as you can see, the deity image is just a picture of Wesir that I printed from my computer. My splurge item is the bell, which I got at a local metaphysical shop for about $6 or $7. The reason I'm explaining where I acquired everything and for how much is to demonstrate that a shrine can be assembled easily and for little cost.

    I remember that as a young pagan, I would often read about all of the things one "needed" in order to practice a certain path or tradition successfully, and feel overwhelmed by them. Such lists (especially those for more Pagan/Wiccan leaning practices) are often quite long, and the task of acquiring so many things can be very daunting to anyone who is practicing casually or in secret, or who has a limited working space or tight budget. Yet the more experienced I became, the more practicality became my rule of thumb. You don't need a wand, special robes, or crystals. Even an athame can be left by the wayside when you have a perfectly good index finger to direct energy.

    Even my list, as short as it is, shouldn't be seen as a list of requirements that you absolutely need to be a decent polytheist. The items on this list are the things that have proven to be the most used in my own years of experience. But if you feel that you would rather offer a glass of water instead of making a libation, then obviously you can forgo the pitcher and bowl. If you would rather clap your hands or use your voice, then you can skip the bell. Even the deity image/symbol isn't a necessity, as not everyone finds visual foci useful.

    You can see more examples of shrines in my post about 'Anatu and Athtartu,  and in last year's posts about Wep Ronpet and the Day of Chewing Onions for Bast. There is also the website Shrine Beautiful, which features shrines, both simple and ornate, from many different paths.

    Other posts in the Polytheism 101 series include "Offerings" and "Ritual."

    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    The Ultimate Cocktail: Mixing Pantheons

    When I first started this blog, I thought I'd be writing a lot more about what it's like to follow two different paths at the same time (and now three, because back then I wasn't a Canaanite polytheist yet). It's pretty clear now that the reason that I only write about them separately is because I keep them separate in practice. It only makes sense that my blog would follow that same pattern. But here at long last, I have something that involves all three.

    One issue that pops up on various forums and groups is whether or not it is appropriate to follow multiple spiritual traditions or paths, and how to go about doing so. It is this issue that I'm going to address today.

    To anyone who has has read this blog before, it must be unsurprising to hear me say that I think it is absolutely appropriate to honor more than one pantheon of deities. I'm sure it is also unsurprising to hear me say that what I recommend is keeping your practices separate. The only real trick to this is keeping a separate shrine for each pantheon, and after that, tailoring your rituals to each specific path in regard to that path's gods, their mythology, and the culture from which they come.

    One of the most basic reasons I say this is because once you've separated everything, it's easier to get a sense of what works well for each pantheon, and which deities or practices (if any) mesh well. Another important thing to consider is that one thing that is acceptable to one pantheon's practice might be taboo in another. Blood, for example, can be a powerful offering to certain Celtic deities, but in certain Kemetic religions, blood is fairly widely considered to be an inappropriate thing to have at a shrine. Other such offerings include pork (which was never named in Canaanite texts as as an offering to the Iluma) or incense made with dung as a binder (which is a big no-no in both Kemetic and Canaanite traditions). Kemetic and Canaanite religions also often require some form of purification before ritual, whereas ritual purification isn't as commonly practiced in Celtic traditions.

    So let's say you're working with two different pantheons of deities, and you are keeping those paths completely separated. How do you make this work? How do you strike balance between them and give a fair share of your time and effort to each?

    Well, if you have a path that is primary, that pretty much solves the problem right there. You may only practice your secondary path as you see fit, or perhaps once every month or so. However, if that's not the case, one thing that works well is dividing ritual time evenly between the pantheons. For example, if the Netjeru get offerings one day, the next offering can be made to the Déithe. Or you can alternate between weeks or months (or whichever time period works for you), with the Netjeru getting all of the offerings and rituals for one month, and the Déithe getting all of the offerings/rituals the following month.

    The only issue with this is that every now and then you may feel the need, either on your end or the gods', to focus on one deity or pantheon for weeks or even months at a time. A pantheon might suddenly become primary (if one wasn't before), or whichever pantheon was primary might change for a while. For well over a year, I was focused very heavily on my Kemetic path, but once I established my Canaanite shrine, my path was almost exclusively dedicated to 'Anatu and 'Athtartu for about three months. In my experience, the gods tend to be quite understanding when it comes to realizing what you need at any point in time. Besides, another deity's turn probably won't be far behind. The key to this is that it requires a certain amount of attention and intuition to maintain this balance, to know when which god wants what when, but you'll get better at it as you go along.

    However, I know from experience that it's not always possible to have the space to set up two or three (or more) different shrines. And I'm sure there are also cases in which keeping them separate just doesn't work for an individual. If you want to mix different paths into a singular practice, the most important thing to keep in mind is what is considered acceptable to the deities (purification, blood, etc.), which I mentioned before. If I had a shrine to the Iluma and Déithe, I would refrain from offering "impure" incense at that shrine. I might not offer pork, either. Pig may make a wonderful offering for Celtic gods, but not so much for the gods of Canaan. If I felt I needed to give Mannanan Mac Lir some bacon, I might make a small, temporary shrine elsewhere, and offer it there. Again, attention and intuition are very important here. As you go along, the gods will let you know where the lines are.

    While I will freely admit that I don't get the appeal of mixing deities of different pantheons into one practice, the recon-snob in me can't make too much of a fuss about it, because it was done in ancient times. Greeks honored Heru and Anpu as Horus and Anubis, and Egyptians honored 'Anatu and Yamu as Anat and Yam. Moreover, the Greeks and Egyptians honored these gods within the religious contexts into which the deities were adopted. I know that there are plenty of discussions as to how appropriate doing a similar thing in modern times is, and I think there are good points on both sides. But in the end, I think that as modern polytheists, honoring our gods and having respect for them and their cultures is the most important thing.