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

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Ebb and Flow

Some of you may have noticed how sparse my posting has been this year. I've been in kind of a weird place spiritually. Not a bad place, certainly... just a different one.

Sometimes the focus of my practice is laser-sharp, sometimes not so much. And lately I've been in the "not so much" place. I don't really know how to describe it other than to say that it's been feeling kind of... open-ended? I still have my shrines, I still have my gods, my practice. I just feel like right now I don't need to keep up with the daily rituals, like I don't always need to be "on" in the way I was before. Unfortunately, a side-effect of this is that I don't really have the inspiration to keep up with this blog as much as I did before. But that's fine. If there's one thing I learned from my nearly two decades of being Pagan, it's that these things, for me at least, are always changing. It becomes center stage and then fades into the background. There's a lot of reasons these cycles occur, and this time it's because I feel the need to focus on other things in my life at the moment. It has happened often enough for me to know that the cycle will come around again, and I'll be back in my Super Pagan headspace eventually.

I'm telling you all of this just to let you know that I'm not going anywhere. This blog may remain somewhat silent for a while, but I have no intention of abandoning it. I'll be back in full force some day. I'm just not sure when.

Until then, peace and senebty.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A River Ceremony

Last weekend I got my spiritual on at the banks of the Mississippi. After the long winter, I was itching to get outside and reconnect my spirituality with nature. I managed to do this with a very simple offering ceremony. My beau and I went to a riverside park where we wrote some prayers and praises to the Netjeru. We then folded the paper into boats, which we filled with offerings of roses and coins...

...And then I set the boats into the river, letting them drift off to carry our prayers and offerings to the Netjeru.

Heka achieved!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Colors of Wepwawet

Perhaps the biggest misconception about Wepwawet is that he is depicted as a white or grey jackal (or jackal-headed man), while Anubis is depicted as a black jackal (or jackal-headed man). Yet historically, Wepwawet and Anubis are both depicted as black jackals. I think the pervasiveness of this bit of misinformation comes from a desire to be able to clearly and easily differentiate between Wepy and Anubis. Convenient as it would be, a white/grey Wepwy just isn't true to his iconography. In the interest of clearing this up, I wanted to share something I saw on tumblr forever and a half ago, which was originally written by Bezenwepwy. This particular post reads:

"First off, I am going to point out that the late Terence DuQuesne, THE foremost expert on jackal deities, adamantly agreed with me that Wepwawet was not depicted as a grey or white jackal. Claims of such have very little basis in reality and for the most part seem to arise from some all too common oversights and misunderstandings.
The biggest of these misunderstandings seems to be the depictions of Wepwawet in the temple of Seti I in Abydos, where much of the relief retains colour except for Wepwawet’s head. But it is very important to stress that a colourless depiction does not equate to ‘white.’ It equates only to what it is. The overall lack of surviving black paint at that temple has been noted by scholars. From my reading, the fragility and poor adherence of the black seems to have been caused by a reaction between the pigment and the underlying plaster. This temple, along with others, were also subjected to archeological squeezes, conducted during a time when egyptologists didn’t really care that much about preservation. The poor survival rate of black pigment when it comes to temple reliefs isn’t just limited to Abydos either. And on those reliefs where the pigment on the face and/or body IS surviving? Yeah, it’s black.
The second major source of misunderstandings about Wepwawet’s colouration may come from the painted murals within tombs and decoration on funerary equipment. A) Tombs and sarcophagi do sometimes feature unusual colour schemes, so you might find green-skinned, yellow-skinned, or blue-skinned jackal deities. It tends to be consistent however, with no differentiation in colouration between Anubis, Duamutef, Wepwawet, etc, that I have noticed. B) Sometimes the pigment used as black in a particular tomb does now appear to be more grey, perhaps through degradation or just because it wasn’t painted on thickly enough or what-have-you. But that means that the grey is not really meant to be grey, it is meant to be black. There might be a grey Wepwawet, but other commonly black elements will also appear to be grey. This does not a grey Wepwawet make.
A friend of mine brought up a third point when she noticed there are more depictions of Anubis with surviving pigment than there are of Wepwawet. She felt this probably has an impact on people’s perception of what colour Wepwawet is, and I agree that it may very well do! It is, however, another case of not misinterpreting 'colourless’ for 'is coloured something other than black.’ He would have originally been painted black. An interesting thing about depictions of Wepwawet is they are quite commonly found in areas where there is a greater exposure to the elements (such as temples) — as opposed to Anubis, who is often is much more sheltered locations such as tombs or inner rooms. It is only logical that the pigment would survive better in areas of less exposure. And, as I’ve implied, black does also seem to be one of the first colours to go when it comes to temple reliefs.
I must also say that I have yet to find a single instance/location where Wepwawet and Anubis are actually painted different colours, let alone enough examples to declare it as an established pattern. (As I pointed out, unusual colour schemes can and do happen but they should be considered anomalies. Or a contextual variant if there are enough examples.) It is therefore deceptive at best to say 'Anubis is painted black while Wepwawet is painted grey.’ I appreciate that a lot people have gotten this idea from Wilkinson’s 'Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt’ and so I actually contacted him about it awhile back. He had this to say to me: “My comment on Wepwawet was based simply on my own experience - that a number of examples I have seen (inasmuch as it is possible to tell that W. is intended) seemed to be grey or not to be painted black when color was otherwise present. On the other hand, looking now at what I wrote, I think that the implication that this is "usually” the case is due to a poor choice of words on my part. I believe that what I meant was that while Anubis is usually shown as black, W. is sometimes depicted as grey (or without black). It is interesting if you have not found any examples of W. that differ so from Anubis - perhaps it is a rarer phenomenon than I realized.“ (Sadly, we were not able to get into more specifics at that time.)
I have addressed the lack of black and also the occasional appearance of 'greyness’ in those situations where it is serving as a substitute for black or else is suffering from degradation or transparency. It seems relevant to add that green can also degrade to a quite greyish look and is a not uncommon skin-tone in funerary contexts due to its colour symbolism. The thing about grey as a colour is it does not have its own individual symbolism in AE art. It classifies as black. So it doesn’t even make any sense, when colour is always used in such a highly symbolic way, for the Egyptians to have distinguished Wepwawet as being grey while Anubis is black. It also comes into conflict with the fact that since the Old Kingdom, the vast majority of jackals, be they gods, spirits, or even just hieroglyphs, are painted in black."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

faith and science

Atheists (or more accurately, anti-theists) often seem to treat science and religion as though they are diametrically opposed. There is no room in a logical, scientific mind for superstitious things like gods or religion. We know how life evolved, how our planet - and the very universe - was created, what they're made of... we know too much about how everything works to believe in anything but Almighty Science.

Being that I am a religious person, I obviously disagree. Just take a look at the quote in the picture. It reads: "The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust."

And then there's this beautiful Neil deGrasse Tyson quote: "The knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on earth - the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars- the high mass ones among them- went unstable in their later years- they collapsed and then exploded- scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy- guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems- stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that yes we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up- many people feel small, cause their small and the universe is big. But I feel big because my atoms came from those stars."

Yes, I am a raging Neil deGrasse Tyson fangirl. Deal with it.

While an atheist or anti-theist might look at those words as evidence of a purely material world, I (and many other Pagans I'm sure) see the exact opposite. If I remember correctly, the first quote comes from an episode of "Nova" from back when Tyson was its host. When I first heard those words all those years ago, they stirred something deep within my soul. They echoed what I had always felt when staring at the moon on a clear night, or walking among the greenery of a forest. These words confirmed what I had always felt to be true: Everything is connected. What exists within me exists within you, within nature, within everything in this world and beyond. Everything that exists out there exists within us all. We are part of something unimaginably vast and complicated, and yet our bodies themselves are whole universes, and we are their gods.

Most Pagans have always known these concepts. It's pantheism, animism, "I am God."

It's science.

It's fucking beautiful.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wepwawet's Tambourine

I have long wanted a sistrum for ritual purposes. Problem is, I have neither the skill to make one of my own, nor the money to buy a nice one that I really like. So I did the next best thing and stole an idea from a friend of mine, who decorates tambourines with deity images. I bought a 10" tambourine and decorated it with acrylic paint, dedicating it to the super awesome Wepwawet. I made it for him not just for the fact that he's been my patron (for lack of a better word) lately, but also because according to Per-Sabu "Wepwawet was one of very few deities to have his own dedicated groups of both chantresses and dancers." This more celebratory side of Wepy isn't very well known, but it is reflected in certain epithets he has, such as the Lord of Jubilation, He With the Sweet Joy, and He Who Causes and Brings forth Goodness.

And here is the part where I show off Wepwawet's new tambourine. I painted him in a typical pose, as a jackal just standing there, being all stoic and cool. I put him on the "earth" hieroglyph with the shedshed at his forepaws, and put Nut stars all around the edge (because Nut, that's why). All in all, I think it makes a great stand-in for a sistrum!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"The Way to Hel"

Today I want to share a song I like, "Helvegen" (The Way to Hel) by Warduna

Here are the translated lyrics:

"Who shall sing me
In(to) death-sleep sling me
When I walk the way of Hel
And the tracks I tread are cold, so cold

I sought the songs
I sent the songs
When the deepest well
Gave me drops so harsh
From Valfaders pledge

All know I Odin, where you (your) eye hid

Early or in the days end, still knows the raven if I fall

When you stand at the gate of Hel
And when you have to tear free
I will/shall follow you
Across Gjallarbru with my song / Past the bridge of Gjöll with my song

You become free from the bonds that binds you!
You are free from the bonds that bound you!"

"Cattle die, kinsmen die,
you yourself soon must die;
but there is one thing that never dies,
the fair fame that one has earned.

"Cattle die, kinsmen die,
you yourself soon must die;
but there is one thing that never dies,
the doom on each one dead."
- (Hàvamàl 76-77)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Prayer for Victory

The following prayer was adapted from a prayer of the same name from the Carmina Gadelica. It invokes the favor of the goddess Boann and her son Áengus mac Óg. As the name implies, it is a good prayer to recite when you need success in any matter. Personally, I like tp recite it while bathing, or while standing outside in the sunshine.

Prayer for Victory

I bathe my face
In the nine rays of the sun,
As Boann bathed her son
In the rich fermented milk.

Honey be in my mouth,
affection be in my face;
The love that Boann gave her son
Be in the heart of all flesh for me.

All-seeing, all-hearing, all-inspiring may she be,
To satisfy and strengthen me;
Blind, deaf, and dumb forever be
My contemners and those who mock me.

The tongue of a druid in my head,
The eloquence of druids in my speech;
The composure of the Son of Youth
Be mine before the multitude.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Are the Myths Real?

This is a question that pops up on Pagan forums and FB groups every now and then. I have seen it asked often enough that it inspired me to write this in response. However, before I can go on to answer this question, we first have to ask ourselves a slightly different one, and it is this: "Are the myths literal?"

The answer to which is a resounding "No." I do not believe for one moment that giant, one-eyed fomoire ran around Ireland battling the Tuatha Dé Danann, nor that a goddess in the night sky actually eats the sun every night and gives birth to it every morning. I do not think that treating the myths as literal is a legitimate means of validating them or our beliefs. In fact, I would go so far as to say that doing so can be outright harmful. One glance a creationist fundamentalist ought to be enough to tell you why.

"So if the myths aren't literal, then they're not real, right?"

Again, my answer would have to be "No."

"But Kaif, if they aren't literal, how can they be real?"

To help illustrate my point, I will take an example from one of my favorite new shows, "Vikings."

And before I continue, here is the obligatory

Lagertha the Awesome
In "Vikings" there's this really awesome chick named Lagertha. In the first season, her husband becomes earl and, while out viking, leaves her to take care of their land. It is during this time that a man brings his wife and her baby boy before Lagertha, claiming that she has been unfaithful and that the baby is not his. He says that a young man named Rig had been staying with them at the time she conceived, and since he had so far been unable to impregnate his wife, it must have been the doing of this young stranger. The wife concedes that since the three of them shared a single bed, she couldn't say for certain which man had, in the dark of night, had sex with her.

In answer to this story, Lagertha explains that Rig is a name used by Heimdall in is travels, and that the couple were in fact visited by this god who then saw fit to gift them with a child. It is the myths she cites as the source of this knowledge.

"But those are just stories!" the man protests.

To which Lagertha responds, without missing a beat, "Our lives are just stories!"

Lagertha herself was pregnant at the time, and had much trouble conceiving her own child. Because of this, it could be argued that she didn't really believe what she said about the young man being Heimdall, that she only said it for the benefit of the wife and baby. But whether or not she believed her own words is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that this couple had been trying unsuccessfully for years to have a child, and now they have one. In a sense, all Lagertha was doing was telling this man to shut up and be grateful for the opportunity to finally be a father.

This is why Lagertha's assertion that "our lives are just stories" is so perfect. At that moment, the couple's story is that they have a child. Yet it is the story of the child's divine paternity that, even if not literally true, serves to highlight the reality that this previously childless couple now have a precious baby that needs to be taken care of, regardless of who actually sired him.

Myths are allegories, entertainment, lessons, and hyperbole, just like many of the stories we tell of ourselves, or the stories that will be told of us when we die. The myths themselves may not be literal, yet that doesn't make them untrue. The Cath Maighe Tuireadh illustrates the nature of the Déithe; Nut's birthing and consumption of the sun is a metaphor for day and night; the conflict between Ba'al and Mot are the cycles of rainfall and drought; the list of examples is endless.

So there you have my answer. The myths are just stories. Our lives are just stories. One is every bit as real as the other.

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!