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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


In June 2011, Temple of the River closed. It was my spiritual home for nearly six years, and while I learned many amazing things and met one of my best friends there, by the time its doors closed, I must admit that I was somewhat relieved to see it's demise. For a number of reasons, the last couple of years at the temple were very difficult for me. Its focus became so external that, as a result, my own energy was spent promoting the temple rather than nurturing my own spirituality. It happened so slowly that I didn't notice it until one day I just realized how utterly disconnected I felt from my practice and my gods. Still, I continued. For all the other troubles there were, I believed in what the temple was doing, and I wanted it to go on. But things continued to decline, and my spirituality continued to feel more and more hollow. My connection with my gods continued to wane. And still, because of my loyalty, because of everything that I had learned, I continued. And then one day, my then-teacher sent me an email, saying that, "Tonight I felt a great outrage from the Mórríghan. I have spoken closely with Lugh and Mórríghan about your apprenticeship and they are quite clear that you are out of second chances."

As I said, by that point, I had almost no remaining connection to my gods. And whatever was left was shattered by that declaration. Despite the fact that part of me knew how ridiculous his claim was, the other part of me, the part that was still the submissive student, figured that he had to be right. He knew a lot of things, had been my trusted teacher and priest for years. If anyone could know such a thing, it had to be him, right? The sensible part told myself that if this was correct, Morrighan herself would have told me so - and yet I felt no such outrage. But on the other hand, I wasn't feeling much of anything. The frightened part of myself said the silence was proof that Morrighan had to be pissed off at me. She was pissed off because I was ignoring her, because I was a terrible student, and because I was being whiny and weak for not doing more for the temple, despite all I had already given and how exhausted and strained I had become. I was a failure, plain and simple. I was not worth Morrighan's time. I was not worth any god's time.

For a couple of months after I left the temple, my spirituality was more or less nonexistent. The gods and the lore were always in the back of my mind, but I couldn't bring myself to do much of anything about it. There were still too many wounds that were still too fresh. Then I got into Kemetic religion, and learning about something so different helped to ease me back into a spiritual state of being. As a result, I was able to make more of an effort to reestablish a connection with my Celtic beliefs and practices. It wasn't much; an Imbolc celebration here, a little offering there, and maybe a couple of prayers in between. Still, there wasn't much feedback. By the time I wrote this post, I had realized that my Celtic practices still carried too many negative associations from my time at the temple, and thus decided to set them aside altogether to focus on my Kemetic ones. That post was a dedication to Morrighan and An Badb Cath before I went on my way, in case I would never be able to return to them.

Then something amazing happened. Last week, I felt a calling. I sat down in front of my long-neglected Celtic altar, and felt inspired to make offerings to Morrighan. It had been months since I had done any such thing, and the feeling I got from her was unlike anything I'd experienced before. In most ways she was the same; Morrighan's presence always felt to me like I was being wrapped in a darkness that was all at once beautiful, powerful, and comforting. But this time there was something more. There was a loving, caring, warm welcome. I was the child, confused and unhappy, who had to go her own way for a while; she was the mother who let me go, knowing that I had to have my own adventures and make my own mistakes. That offering was the homecoming. She welcomed me with a hug and a glad heart, as if to say, "you're finally here. I've been waiting for you, and I'm so happy to have you back. Welcome home!"

I finally feel like I can return to my Celtic practices. They feel new, and whole, and most importantly, they feel like mine. I doubt that Morrighan was ever outraged at me. I don't know why my former teacher told me such a thing. Maybe he was mistaken, maybe he was projecting his own frustrations, maybe he was trying to manipulate me. I don't think I'll ever know, but at this point, it doesn't matter anymore. I believe that Morrighan wanted me to go my own way for a while and figure things out for myself. I also believe that she called me when she knew I sorted my issues out, and that she knew I'd come back. Regardless of what happened at the temple, or what baggage it left me with, I know now that Morrighan is indeed my goddess, and that I am her child. I know that she wants me around, that she loves me. I see now that the rough road was worth it for this affirmation.

The reason I am sharing all of this is not to air my dirty laundry on a public forum. I have said the things that I have said only because they are a part of my story of uncertainty and disconnection. I have said the things I have said to show how shattered my faith had become, and subsequently, how it became restored. I have said these things with the hope of encouraging my fellow Pagans. Everyone goes through moments of spiritual dissonance. Sometimes they are severe and persistent, sometimes they have a singular cause, sometimes they seem to come from nowhere. Sometimes overcoming them requires patience and persistence, sometimes it requires going another way for a while. All we can do in the meantime is remind ourselves that spiritual life is a journey. Sometimes we get lost (or only think we get lost), but all we can do is keep going. It is only when we've stopped that we've truly lost our way.

Praise to The Great Queen!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Papyrus Painting - Serqet

Here is a picture of Serqet that I painted for one of my friends for her birthday. Because blasphemy is fun, I took the liberty of depicting the scorpion atop her head in a more lifelike fashion, rather than the stingerless, legless manner it usually is.

Serqet, She Who Causes the Throat to Breathe

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Samhain!

Used with permission by Jenny Mathiasson. Thanks, Jenny!

I know that this comic is Kemetic, and that Samhain is a Celtic holiday, but I like to think that this sentiment applies to everyone, no matter the religious or spiritual path (or lack thereof).  For me, the most important part of Samhain is honoring my ancestors.  There are Kemetic holidays with the same purpose, but like a bad Kemetic practitioner, I haven't celebrated any of those yet.  It is said that the veil between the worlds is thinnest at Samhain, and maybe it's a lifetime of adoring Halloween, over a decade and a half of being Pagan, or the dramatic shift of the seasons towards Winter, but I swear I can feel it.

My observance of Samhain this year will be centered around tending a special shrine for them.  Yet the important part will come after the day's festivities are over.  I hate to admit that in the past I haven't been diligent about my ancestor worship, but that's something I've recently decided to work on.  After all, their presence in our lives isn't restricted to just one day of the year. They are always with us, both figuratively, and in a very real sense. It's because of our ancestors that we're here. We literally owe them our lives. We come from their blood, some of them share our memories, and they help shape our experiences and worldview.

Parties are all well and good, but they really do deserve more than one night.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why I Am Not a Vegetarian

It was supposed to be springtime, but when we arrived at that remote patch of forest in western Wisconsin, there was about 18 inches of snow on the ground. There were seven of us, all members of my then-temple and spiritual family. Between us, there were two hatchets, a few knives, some blankets, and the clothes on our backs. We brought no food because we were going to hunt and gather our own, we were going to build our own shelters, and we were going to live that way for three days. The setting may sound extreme, but we were not there for camping; we were there on a retreat. Our intention was to meet Nature Itself, to learn not only about survival, but to learn something about spirituality. What better way to do that than to let Nature be your teacher?

There was indeed one very important lesson I learned on that retreat, and it is one that I continue to keep close to my heart. Our first day out, a lone porcupine had the misfortune of being spotted by a fellow student. To make this part of the story short, we hunted, killed, butchered, and ate the porcupine (who we posthumously named Penelope). Now, I didn't kill Penelope myself, and I didn't butcher her myself, but I watched all of that happen, and I ate her. I was an accessory to her murder, and in my opinion, just as guilty of it as the ones who did the deed.

Before that retreat I had long toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian, and considered endlessly the ethics of eating animals. I always wondered if I could stand to kill and butcher an animal, and whether or not I was a hypocrite for eating meat while being so far removed from that process. Intellectually, I knew all about the circle of life; there was even a whole song about it in "The Lion King." Animals eat other animals to survive, and in the end, everyone becomes compost. That's just how nature works. I also knew that humans are, essentially, animals, and we've eaten (and been eaten by) them for as long as we've been around. Yet my experience with Penelope tore all of those ideas from the realm of the theoretical. Being an active participant in that cycle made me face it as a reality.

As difficult and uncomfortable as the retreat was physically, the experience with Penelope was by far the hardest part of it to deal with. To this day, it remains one of the most difficult trials I've ever faced. I wondered how I, a self-professed animal lover, could possibly justify participating in such a thing. But it was cold, I was hungry, and I wanted to survive. In the end, Penelope taught me what it means to take a life to sustain my own. Her memory serves as a constant reminder that I am as much a part of that cycle as she was, along with the worms, the wolves, everything.

Vegetarians and vegans often say that our intellect and conscience gives us the ability (or obligation, according to some) to choose not to eat animals or animal products. While I do deeply respect and admire the decision to not eat animals, I personally feel that that decision would remove me from an important natural order. As modern people, many aspects of our lives are so far removed from nature already. Eating food, regardless of whether or not you are a vegetarian, is too often a thoughtless task, taken for granted. In the end, my conclusion was that it's not about not eating animals, but about honoring their lives and their sacrifice. It's about making sure that the lives we take are treated with dignity and respect while they are here. Being mindful of where my food comes from became the more meaningful choice for me.

While I could go on, I hate being long-winded in my posts. Instead, I'll simply recommend that you read two great articles that better express the ethics of food: "My Vegetarian Adventure" and "Beyond Halal."

In memory of Penelope.
May the gods grant you a good afterlife, and a swift return to this one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Temple of the Sacred Gift

Today's post may be unusually short, but that that doesn't lessen the importance of today's topic. I was surprised and very, very pleased to learn today that a Wiccan church called The Temple of the Sacred Gift opened in Memphis, TN. It takes a lot of dedication and courage to open a Pagan place of worship anywhere, much less in the Bible Belt. It has been many years since I've considered myself Wiccan, but I'm still so proud of these people and their temple. This is a great step forward for all Pagans everywhere. You can read more about this wonderful story here.

Blessed be!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Covered In Light

Once upon a time, there was a group called Covered In Light, who described themselves as "...a Sisterhood of Pagan/Polytheist self-identified women who have chosen, or are called, to cover their hair as part of their religious observance." They started a Facebook event called Covered In Light International Day, the purpose of which was to encourage women to wear a covering of their choice to stand in solidarity with women who choose to veil. Though their group was disbanded and the original FB event canceled, their website is still up (which you really should check out, because they have awesome posts like this one), as is their Facebook page. There's also a new event page for others to join and show their support.

Pagans have been writing about the personal choice to veil for a while now, such as Qefathethert on her blog Fire of the Serpent. But the topic of head covering goes beyond Paganism. Obviously there's Islam, from which a lot of fear and ignorance about veiling comes. And Tess Dawson, a leader of Natib Qadish, has an enlightening blog post about how she views the topic of covering one's head in her religion.

I bring this up because religious tolerance is something that is very important to me. Being Pagan, I feel that it is important to be respectful of others' religious views and practices. With as often Pagans are misunderstood and marginalized as we are, I'm surprised that we as a whole aren't more sensitive to the rights people of other religions have. You see, I have this silly idea that whenever you stand up for the beliefs of another, you are by extension standing up for your own religious freedom.

So the purpose of my blog post today is to encourage you to join me in Covered In Light Day Renewed on September 21st, even if you are a woman who has never veiled before. Please join me in this act of solidarity, and take one small action to make a stand against religious bigotry.

I don't think it's a bad look for me....

Personally, I don't veil. I've never felt a spiritual pull to do so, and from a more secular position, I'm simply not accustomed to wearing anything on my head. I always think I look stupid in hats, so I never wear them, except in winter. Being that veiling would be a new experience, I decided to try a test run so I wouldn't feel completely out of my element on the 21st. I experimented with a couple of scarves in a couple of styles until I came up with something I liked. I can't say it suits me, as I'm not used to seeing myself wear anything like this, but it doesn't not suit me, either. And either way, it's a pretty scarf!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Happy Wep Ronpet!

Today was my first celebration of Wep Ronpet, or the Kemetic new year, and the epagomenal days, the five days beforehand in which Nut's children were born. At this time last year, I was still very new to Kemetic stuff (I can't believe it's been over a year already!), and I didn't quite feel familiar enough with everything to celebrate it then. But this year is a different story, and I had quite a celebration!

For those who don't know it, the short version of the story of the epagomenal days is that Nut was cursed to be unable to give birth to her children on any day of the year. So Djehuty (Thoth) played a game of senet against Konshu (god of the moon) and won some moonlight from him. With it he created five extra days outside of the year in which Nut could bear her children. I celebrated these days by giving offerings to Wesir (Osiris), Heru-wer (Horus), Set, Aset (Isis), and Nebt-het (Nephtys) on their respective birthdays. It was enlightening, especially considering the fact that it was the first time that I've given offerings to a couple of the gods mentioned.

But today is Wep Ronpet, the big day! I did a senut ritual and gave offerings to Ra to welcome the sun of the new year, Sekhmet to destroy isfet (chaos) in the coming year, Wepwawet to help open the year (seriously, who else would you ask?), Nut because in Kemetic Orthodoxy this year was divined to be hers, Bast-Mut to ask for her blessings and protection (and because she's my Mother!), and Ma'at to ensure that, well, ma'at prevails in the new year. I also burned a paper snake to destroy Apep, and I smashed clay pots to rid my life of negative influences. Burning and smashing things is a lot of fun, and very cathartic!

Yes, I know that this isn't a new calendar year, but it is a new spiritual year. Today represents zep tepi, the first time, when everything began. And today I really feel it. I feel shiny and new, like this truly is a fresh start in my spirituality.

Di Wep Ronpet nofret! Dua Netjer!

My Wep Ronpet shrine, complete with offerings of water, dried cranberries, and six portions of bread.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Misconception of Brighid (PBP)

Brighid is not a triple goddess.

There. I said it.

Brighid is a goddess of fire, but I think it is more fitting to say that she is the goddess of life-giving fire on Earth. This implies the more positive, helpful aspects of fire. She is a goddess of the hearth, of the fire that cooks our food, keeps us warm, and protects us. She is also a goddess of the creative aspects of fire, be it the fire of a forge, or the spark of inspiration. Lastly, she represents fire as the flame of life and healing. And this is all apt. These aspects are all attested to in the myth of the Cath Magh Tuireadh, where she is described as such: "Brigit, that was a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night."

A handful of modern Pagans cite Cormac's Glossary for the Brighid as triple goddess theory. He wrote "Brigit, i. e. a female poet, daughter of the Dagda. This Brigit is a poetess, or a woman of poetry, i. e. Brigit a goddess whom poets worshipped, for very great and very noble was her superintendence. Therefore they call her goddess of poets by this name. Whose sisters were Brigit, woman of healing, Brigit, woman of smith-work, i. e. goddesses, from whose names with all lrishmen Brigit was called a goddess. Brigit then, i. e. brco-saigit, a fiery arrow."

If we take this definition literally, the problem with it is that she is clearly defined as one three separate individuals, and thus the triple goddess idea has no merit there. What furthers this problem is the fact that these sisters are never mentioned in Brighid's genealogy (her sisters are often identified as Eire, Podia, Banba, and Eado), and the same is true for Dadga, who only has one Brighid as a daughter. If we read into this definition an a more figurative sense, that still doesn't solve the issue. It leads me to think that, if anything, this was Cormac's metaphor for the many talents and spheres of influence Brighid has. And again, this triple goddess Brighid notion is not attested to in any of the myths, which leads me to believe that good ol' Cormac's definition was something of a fluke.

I think that it is because of Brighid's broad range of aspects that modern Pagans and Wiccans tend to refer to her as a triple goddess, despite the fact that the idea of a triple goddess did not exist in ancient Ireland, and, as I have said, nowhere in myth is Brighid referred to as such. Yes, the argument can be made that Brighid as triple goddess is merely a modern interpretation of her, but I would say that she is such an amazing goddess as she is, there is no reason to try to redefine her, or make her into something that she is not. Aside from being inaccurate, I feel that giving Brighid the title of triple goddess is an oversimplification. Why can't she be one whole being who encompasses the ideas of poetry, healing, and smithing/creation? Why must Pagans separate these aspects of her? Doing so only diminishes her.

Pagan Blog Project

Monday, July 9, 2012

Papyrus Painting - Sekhmet

This is my latest bit of artwork, a picture of Sekhmet that I painted for my beau. I don't think her face turned out quite right (a lioness head was harder than I thought it would be!), but I'm confident that I'll get it next time. Other than that, I'm very happy with it.

Dua Sekhmet!

Sekhmet, the Red Lady

Friday, June 29, 2012

Medb, Queen of Connacht (PBP)

Queen Medb is probably my favorite mythological character. She is a self-assured woman with so much attitude and pride, she leads her entire province to war so that she will not be shown up by her husband, Ailill. The ensuing events, known as the saga of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, is set off when Ailill remarks that she is much better of now than the day they married. Medb's response is both indignant and confident, painting a vivid picture of who she is as a character. It also happens so be my all-time favorite Medb moment:

"The High King of Erin himself was my father, Eocho Fedlech son of Finn, by name, who was son of Findoman, son of Finden, son of Findguin, son of Rogen Ruad, son of Rigen, son of Blathacht, son of Beothacht, son of Enna Agnech, son of Oengus Turbech. Of daughters, had he six: Derbriu, Ethne and Ele, Clothru, Mugain and Medb, myself, that was the noblest and seemliest of them.

"I was the goodliest of them in bounty and gift-giving, in riches and treasures. I was best of them in battle and strife and combat. I had fifteen hundred royal mercenaries, the sons of those exiled from their own land, and as many more of the sons of freemen of the land. And there were ten men with every one of these hirelings, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one hireling with every hireling. These were as a standing household-guard; hence my father bestowed one of the five provinces of Erin upon me, even the province of Cruachan; wherefore 'Medb of Cruachan' am I called.

"Men came from Finn son of Ross Ruad, king of Leinster, to seek me for a wife, and I refused him; and from Carbre Niafer son of Ross Ruad, king of Temair, to woo me, and I refused him; and they came from Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach, king of Ulster, and I refused him in like wise. They came from Eocho Bec, and I went not; for it is I that exacted a singular bride-gift, such as no woman before me had ever required of a man of the men of Erin, namely, a husband without avarice, without jealousy, without fear.

"For should he be mean, the man with whom I should live, we would be ill-matched together, inasmuch as I am great in grace and gift-giving, and it would be a disgrace if I should be more generous than he, while no disgrace would it be were one as great as the other. Were my husband a coward, it would be as unfit for us to be mated, for I by myself and alone break battles and fights and combats, and it would be a reproach for my husband should his wife be more full of life than himself, and no reproach our being equally bold. Should he be jealous, the husband with whom I should live, that too would not suit me, for there never was a time that I had not my paramour.

"Howbeit, such a husband have I found in you, Ailill son of Ross Ruad of Leinster. You are not churlish; you are not jealous; you are not a sluggard. When we wed, I gave a gift to you of clothing enough for twelve men, a chariot worth thrice seven bondmaids, the breadth of thy face of red gold, and the weight of thy left forearm of silvered bronze. Whoever brings shame and sorrow and madness upon you, it is to me the compensation belongs, for a kept man is what you are."

Pagan Blog Project

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kemetic Priesthood – a Response

A little while ago, I read this awesome blog post about Kemetic priesthood in antiquity as well as today. I enjoyed it so much that today I'm going to try to answer a couple of questions that Devo posed. (And if you must know why it took me almost two weeks to do so, the answer is simple: I'm lazy. Deal with it.) 

"What is your take on priesthood then..."

The Temple of Isis at Philae
I can't say that I am very familiar with the subject, but the most striking aspect of the priesthood of ancient Egypt are the rituals. They are fascinating in their intricacy, artistic even, and the level of commitment required to perform those rites every day for months on end is astonishing (not to mention intimidating). Yet that could only be accomplished because, as Devo pointed out, priesthood then was a job. The temples, as well as the culture itself, supported priests during their service, and that is certainly not the case today. It makes me wonder if those rituals could ever truly be revived as a part of a modern priest's daily practice. 

"...and now?"

With the exception of Kemetic Orthodoxy, Kemetic priesthood is largely fractured and undefined. Individual temples may have their own requirements for priesthood, but the subject becomes a bit confusing when we talk about independent practitioners. Someone who is devoted to learning about the religion as it was practiced, the myths, and the gods, and has made a serious commitment to serving them is as good as a priest to me. I suppose what we get then is a collection of unaffiliated practitioners, many of whom act as their own priest, whether or not they claim that title for themselves. 

"What do you think the modern Kemetic community needs from its priesthood, if anything?"

A few things. One is to be educated. For the priest in question to really know his or her stuff. Kemeticism is specific to a time and culture, and learning about that culture is key to understanding the religion and its rituals, and how to best adapt them for modern practices. A myth or ritual action might not make sense on the surface, but once you put it in the context of it's culture, a new understanding and appreciation can be gained. Egypt's ancient religion survived for thousands of years and left us no shortage of information to work with. (Some people might disagree with me on that point, but after studying Celtic religion, learning about the religion of a culture that actually wrote stuff down leaves a wealth of information by comparison.) I'm not saying that recon is the way to go for everyone, but knowing where the religion comes from and why it's practices were valid to its people are vital to creating viable religion that is meaningful to our own time.

Another important thing for our priesthood is to have a presence in Kemetic and Pagan communities. I don't mean to say that everyone who is a priest needs to constantly be available to give counsel and teach. That may be a focus for some people, and is an invaluable service, but for many, it would be enough to simply maintain a blog or peruse various Kemetic groups online or off. The knowledge and experience that priests gain is invaluable (especially considering the misconceptions that can be found), and needs to be shared with other Kemetics to ensure a richer, healthier religion and community. It also provides opportunities to be recognized by someone who may be looking for Kemeticism, and the chance to share any information they may need. And of course, there's the fact that getting out there and being seen ensures that we are understood by the Pagan community at large.

And then there's devotion, which in my opinion, is the most important part. The word for priest was hem-netjer, meaning "servant of god." The gods of Kemet were central to its religious practice, and this should be mirrored in the religion today. As I mentioned before, I doubt that the rituals could be practiced daily in the manner that they once were, given the state of modern Kemeticism. Many of us have jobs and family, or any number of other obligations, and I don't think any temples will be able to support full-time priesthood any time soon. But regular devotions can easily be practiced on a smaller scale, and should be done so by anyone wanting to call themselves a priest. Priesthood was about serving the gods, and that theme from antiquity remains as relevant today as it was then.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Papyrus Painting

I've fallen in love with the imagery of the Egyptian gods. But who can blame me? They're striking, to say the least. I've long wanted some nice statues of the Netjeru for my shrine, but since I can't afford to go out and but any, I decided to paint images of them instead. Creativity is my favorite and in my opinion the most meaningful form of devotion, so while I admire (and pine after) their statuary, I also welcome the chance to create something beautiful on their behalf.

Before diving in and painting images of my Beloveds and other Names of Netjer, I thought it would be best to first get a little practice painting on papyrus. Here is the finished product of my first attempt, a winged disk:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

RPD Results!

On Friday I underwent my Rite of Parent Divination. (For those who don't know, the RPD is a divination meant to determine one's patron gods.) It was a great experience, and now I'm thrilled to introduce myself as the daughter of Bast-Mut and beloved of Nut and Wepwawet-Yinepu.

In the couple of days it's been since my RPD, my thoughts have yet to settle down. The results were both expected and unexpected, but I am of course very pleased with the turnout. I have so much to say about the experience, but I think I need a few days to gather my thoughts and get to know these Netjeru as Parents and Beloveds.

I wish I was able to say more about it now, but rest assured, there will be more posts on the subject!

Until then, dua Bast-Mut! Dua Nut! Dua Wepwawet-Yinepu!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Heka: Words of Creation (PBP)

The ancient Egyptians had no shortage of creation myths. My current favorite is the Memphite Theology, in which Ptah is the creator deity. Unlike Atum who masturbates Shu and Tefnut into creation, or Ra whose tears form the first humans, Ptah's method of creation is an intellectual one. In his heart, Ptah conceived of all things in the universe: the earth, the other gods, humans, animals everything. He then spoke their names, and they came into existence. According to this myth, ours is a world created entirely by words.

Ptah, Sculptor of the Earth

I've always been a pessimist. When so many aspects of your life seem not to work, it is easy to fall into patterns of negative thoughts, lowered expectations, and negative speech. It's also easy to find well-meaning optimists who are all too eager to give unsolicited advice, which often just boils down to "be positive!" To someone with a pessimist's mindset, it is not so simple. Aside from sounding like fluffy self-help nonsense, the advice, in a sense, asks the pessimist to deny reality. How can you be positive when you can't find a job, when your relationships are failing, when your dog dies? The notion seems to belittle what you are experiencing, and couldn't possibly change your situation for the better.

But it's all about perspective. We all know how words can affect us; we've all been insulted and complimented, been inspired by a speech, touched by a poem. Yet the abstract "be/think/speak positive" meant nothing to me because I simply had no way of relating to it. This is where heka comes in. Heka can be defined as "magical speech," the power of words to affect change. As in Ptah's creation myth, the words we speak give life to what is in our hearts and minds. They create our realities.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the concept of heka, which in turn has me thinking about the words I speak. I've had a lifelong habit of defining things in negative terms. I can't. I don't. I won't. How can I have balance in my life if all I speak is negativity? How am I serving Ma'at if my words only create impossibilities and unhappiness?

I still don't know how far positive speech can go in changing my outlook on things, much less my own reality, but for once I'm willing to give it a try. Whatever the result is, whether or not I change my mindset, I have nothing to lose for the effort. At best, I change myself for the better; at worst, nothing happens.

There's nothing in this world that's as safe a bet as that.

Pagan Blog Project

Friday, March 23, 2012

Four Sons of Heru (PBP)

Today's post is exciting because I got to learn something new! I feel like I've got a good grasp on Kemeticism now, but there's so much to it so much history, so many stories that I still run into things I know little or nothing about. And that will likely remain true for quite a while!

While pondering what to write about this week and not having much luck (seriously, you wouldn't think the letter F would be so difficult!), I came across the phrase "The Four Sons of Horus/Heru." (Horus is his better known Greek name, but I'll refer to him as Heru since I prefer to use the Netjeru's Egyptian names.) I had no idea who these sons were, or what they were about, so I figured I'd do a bit of research and write about them for this week.

Turns out these Four Sons of Heru are those fancy dudes whose heads adorn the canopic jars. You know, those things they put your guts in when you were mummified. Considering all of the care the ancient Egyptians put into preserving a body as part of ensuring a happy afterlife, it's no surprise that these gods were charged with protecting the organs their jars housed, as well as helping the departed reach the Duat the other world. In fact, it was apparently such a big deal that The Four Sons of Heru were each protected in turn by a goddess.

Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef
photo from http://www.thefakebusters.com/

Now allow me to introduce you to the Sons of Heru:

There's Duamutef, who is depicted as a jackal-headed mummified man. His jar held the stomach, and his protector is Nit (Neith).

Qebehsenuef is a hawk-headed mummified man whose jar held the intestines. He is protected by Serqet (Selket).

Imsety is a mummified man whose jar held the liver, and his protector is Aset (Isis).

Hapy is depicted as baboon-headed mummified man, and his jar held the lungs. He is protected by Nebt-het (Nephtys).

O Children of Horus, Hapy, Duamutef, Imsety, Kebhsenuf, lift up your father this Osiris the King and guide him. O Osiris the King, it is caused that you be restored and that your mouth be split open, so stand up!
- Pyramid Texts Utterance 545

Pagan Blog Project

Friday, March 9, 2012

Eating Onions With Bast (PBP)

Sunday was the Day of Chewing Onions for Bast. All I really knew about the festival going into it was that back in Ancient Egypt, red onions would be grilled and eaten in honor of Bast. But why onions? Why red onions? One of my fellow Kemetics suggested that an onion’s shape could compared to the sun, and that the red onion’s color could represent a rising sun or setting sun specifically. I wasn't able to find much info beyond that, but whether or not that was the case, the symbolism of the sun is certainly fitting for a solar goddess like Bast.

Yes, I know that eating onions doesn’t sound all that exciting. But at that point, I hadn't celebrated a Kemetic holiday before, and I was eager to change that. There's also the fact that Bast is a deity I’ve long admired, and so far the Netjeru I work most closely with, so it seemed like the perfect festival to start with. If nothing else, the Day of Chewing Onions would be a good excuse to perform a special ceremony for her.

I had originally planned on celebrating the day alone, but decided that it would be more festive if I shared the experience with some of my closest friends. We gathered at a friend’s house, where I set up a temporary shrine, prepared some tasty food for everyone to share, and roasted some onions. When everything was ready, the ceremony began; the candle and incense were lit, and a little feast for Bast was offered.

Offerings for Bast: Roasted red onions (obviously), bruschetta, hummus with a pita and carrot, trail mix, an orange, a chocolate cookie, water, mead, and rum.

I offer to Bast, Eye of Ra.
All life emanates from you,
all health emanates from you,
all stability emanates from you,
all good fortune emanates from you,
O Lady of Perfumes, Bast, forever.

I was more nervous about performing the ceremony than I should have been, but this was the first Kemetic ceremony I had ever performed for anyone other than myself and the gods. Luckily, everything seemed to go well. After we were done stuffing our faces, my friends and I topped off the festive day with several games of laser tag.

I can honestly say that was the best Day of Chewing Onions for Bast I have ever celebrated!

Pagan Blog Project

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dolmen: A Story and a Soapbox (PBP)

About six and a half years ago, I found myself in one of the most magical places in the world; a small farm nestled atop the bluffs of Southeastern Minnesota. It was dawn, and I, in the company of my teacher and three fellow students, stood on a grassy peak that overlooked the farm, the ravine below, and the rolling, forested landscape that lay beyond. Everything was obscured by mist, making even the rising sun just a soft blur of light. For a long time we stood there, watching the sun climb higher as the mist dissipated.

Then we got to work. We had a dolmen to build!

Only weeks before, I had joined a Celtic polytheist temple, and didn’t even know what a dolmen was. My newfound teacher had been hatching plans to build one for a friend of his, and was determined to get his new students in on the action. His initial explanation was as simple as, “you know what Stonehenge is? Well, it'll be like that, but smaller.” He went on to explain that they were places of great spiritual power, often thought to be tombs, as well as homes to the spirits, and gateways to the Otherworld. Dolmens are often aligned with significant solar events, such as sunrises/sunsets on equinoxes and solstices. Our own dolmen was measured it to align to the sunrise on Samhain, and was dedicated to the spirits of those who have been victims of torture and war,  so they would have a peaceful place to rest.

And here it is, the Great Minnesota Dolmen:

As I was writing this post the other day, it came to my attention that Houston County (where the dolmen was built) is the latest target of mining companies for frac sand mining, a practice that has a horrific ecological impact. I hope that any of you who’ve taken the time to read this post will check out this website for more information, and sign the petition to stop the mining and protect the land: http://www.sandpointtimes.com/houston/

Pagan Blog Project

Friday, February 10, 2012

Crows of Battle (Pagan Blog Project)

Since delving into Kemetic religion a few months ago, I have to some extent set aside my Celtic devotions. It wasn’t entirely unintentional, since I wanted to fully devote myself to this new experience and learn all I could about the Egyptian gods and practices. I know that the Deithe (the gods) are still there, that they are patient, but sometimes I feel bad for neglecting them. Especially Morrighan, The Great Queen, and An Badb Cath, The Battle Crow, as they are the gods I am closest to, and the gods who have helped me become the person that I am now. I know it’s not the grandest of gestures, but I thought I’d devote a post to these amazing goddesses and what they have given me.

First there’s Morrighan, who I sometimes affectionately refer to as “the first half of my patron.” She can be aloof or distant in that she doesn’t come knocking on my brain telling me what she wants. It’s almost like she expects her devotees to know what is required of them. She is The Great Queen, after all, and a queen can always expect to be treated with the honor she deserves. Yet more than anything, what distinguishes Morrighan is a certain coolness she has about her, wrapped around a quiet, unyielding strength.

My relationship to her has always been an interesting one…. I never felt intimidated or put off by her as I know some people are, but she certainly wasn’t waiting for me with a smile and a hug. I think the best way I can describe it is as a relationship between a child and a stern parent. Yes, she cares; she is there to guide, to give advice… but she sure as hell isn’t going to coddle me. I had a strict and stifling Catholic upbringing, and was thus instilled with toxic levels of meekness and shame. Morrighan has been my antidote to this. She doesn't let me pout or feel sorry for myself. She tells me to stand up, and it was with her help that I found my confidence and am learning my self-worth.

If Morrighan is my stern parent, then An Badb Cath (the other half of my patron) is my wild aunt. If Morrighan is the calm before the storm,  The Red-mouthed Badb is the electricity that you can feel in the air and makes your hair stand up on end. She is ecstatic rage; unbridled, untamable, unpredictable passionate energy. She wants nothing more than for me to express myself. And by “express myself,” I don’t mean “express my happy feelings with finger paints.” I’m talking about those nasty, ugly feelings, the ones that people are discouraged from having, much less expressing. Not only did she teach me that it is ok to be angry (which was a revolutionary idea to me with the way I was raised), she taught me that it is ok to let myself feel it. Instead of being ashamed of my feelings and hiding them in some dark corner of my soul where they would fester and grow until they consumed me, I learned to accept them, to look at them objectively and allow them to run their course.

To me, these goddesses are proof that you can’t deny what is ugly and unpleasant in your life or yourself. You have to face those things, embrace them even. The world is made up of night and day, dark and light. They certainly aren’t happy, cuddly goddesses, but it is because of their lessons that I am as whole and happy a person as I am today. Because of this, I know what wherever my spiritual path leads, I will always have a place in my heart for the Crows of Battle.

Pagan Blog Project

Thursday, January 19, 2012

RPD, Anyone?

My beginner’s course is over, and I’ve decided to become a Remetj of Kemetic Orthodoxy and undertake the Rite of Parent Divination.  Part of me wishes I could say that I struggled with those decisions, that I thought long and hard about them before coming to some great understanding that I lacked before. But I have to say, they were two easy decisions to make.

I like KO. I like what it is all about, I like the people I’ve met, and I like performing Senut. I really feel that it is a place I fit in spiritually, and being a Remetj gives me that place without requiring any of the ties that comes with official conversion or vows. So why not become a Remetj, a friend of the faith? I’ve got no answers for that one.
As for the RPD, there was never a doubt in my mind that I wanted it done. Yet Hemet (AUS) has advised those of us in the beginner’s course not to rush into the decision, so I’ve tried stepping back and giving the matter a closer look.
I am immensely curious about the RPD. It might sound bad to say, but that curiosity is the driving force behind my decision. While there are Netjeru who I am close to now, I don’t feel anxious about the prospect of not having them show up in the divination. But who will show up? Will it be one of the gods that I am currently familiar with, or someone completely unexpected? Will they in any way reflect the Celtic gods that I am close to, and if so, how? Most of all, I want to see if my RPD is on the mark. Will I have, or find, a connection to those deemed to be my Parents and Beloveds? Will I see something of myself in them? Or something that I want to become?
I should say at this point that I don’t see the RPD as something that I need. I know that I would be able to find a patron (or Parent, if you will) and build strong relationships with the Netjeru on my own. So why bother? Because the RPD is like advice, is suppose, and I see no point in refusing advise if it is offered. I intend to take it to heart, to see where it leads me and what I can glean from it. Yet in the end, RPD or no, the relationships that I cultivate and how I choose to do so is up to me, and me alone.