Working Through Trance-Portation: A New Approach

So, in March of 2013 I tried to do a work-through of Diana Paxson’s Trance-Portation on this blog.  It was a dismal failure – on my own, I was unable to read past Chapter 3 and write past the Introduction.  I put the project aside and figured I’d just never finish the book and would be forever branded as a failure as a Pagan.

Okay, that last bit is an exaggeration.  Kind of.  Maybe.

And then, the book came up again in discussion on The Cauldron and I decided to join a group of people in reading through it.  Yes, I know, but I actually think I might be able to get through the thing if I have people to keep me accountable.  I can do many many things on my own but finishing Trance-Portation is not one of them.  Sorry, Ms. Paxson.

The organizer of the group effort posted the initial discussion thread, on the Introduction and Chapter One, here, and along with it came a questionnaire.  I decided to bring that questionnaire over here to answer fully, and then I will summarize it in the discussion thread.  So, here goes!  Wish me luck!

(I’ll be writing the questions in bold, and my answers in regular formatting.)


Support systems

Q1. What is your living situation? Do your family or house-mates support your spiritual practice? Will they allow you the privacy in which to practice the exercises? If you are in doubt, negotiate, or find somewhere else to work.

I currently live with my husband and two cats in a semi-detached home.  My husband supports my practice, and I suspect the cats do too from how involved they seem to want to be.  I will be allowed privacy to varying extents depending on the state of closed dooredness and Cat One’s ability to open said doors.

Q2. Do you belong to a prayer circle, kindred or coven, or other spiritual group? Does it practice trance work or meditation? If so, what kinds, how often and for what purposes? Are any other group members working with this book? Will your group support your efforts to master these skills?

I do not, aside from The Cauldron.  Since this project is a Cauldron project, it is likely that the group will be supportive.

Q3. Do you already have a power animal or totem? How did you acquire it? How often do you contact it, or how does it contact you?

No, and I’m not sure how I feel about the concept, honestly.  I think the terms are tossed around too often.

Q4. Do you have a strong affinity with/devotion to specific god/desses? How did you acquire them? How often do you contact them, or how do they contact you?

Oh, Lordy.

Yes, I do and, for the most part, they found me.  I contact them routinely for a variety of reasons, and they do the same.  Different methods are used – two speak inside my head, and all of them communicate through dreams and feelings.


Q1. How do you make a living? What states of consciousness or mental skills do you use in your job, and how did you learn to attain them?

I work in the pharmaceutical industry as (currently) a Project Manager.  I use my intelligence, ability to think critically and block out distractions, and intuitive thinking in my job.  I…am not sure how I learned to attain any of them.

Q2. What other work or hobbies occupy your time? What states of consciousness do you use? How did you learn to attain them?

I teach swimming lessons.  I also read, play video games, crochet and knit (although I’m not very good at them yet) and garden (mostly arm-chair right now).  I use the same skills in these that I use in my day job, along with an ability to get along with and manipulate people.

Q3. What is your academic training? What kind of thinking did your department teach?

I have a university degree.  Because of the nature of the university I attended, a variety of thinking styles were encouraged and taught.

Q4. What strengths or skills do you already have that can help you in trance work? What do you think will be hardest to learn?

I have no idea.

Physiology and Psychology

Q1. What is your general state of health?

Pretty good, aside from chronic sinus issues and Depression.

Q2. How do you rate your temperament in the following areas? Consider the column on the left to be 1, and the column on the right to be 5. Where do you fall on the continuum?

How can I even answer these?  My temperament changes, as my default state is chameleon with rage issues.

Calm – — – Lively

Depends on the situation.

Forceful — – – Responsive

3 is my default state, but it depends.

Robust — – – Sensitive

4.  Or 2.  Or depends.

Q3. How do you react to stress?


Sometimes I overeat.  In the past, I’ve self-medicated with alcohol, but I’m pretty good at not doing that any more.  Ummm…I get angry.  I’m more comfortable with rage than sadness.

Q4. Do you have any chronic or cyclical problems or conditions (especially heart, blood pressure, diabetic, menstrual or menopausal symptoms) that affect your mood, energy or focus? Are you on any medications?

Gods, yes.  My Depression (and why aren’t mental illnesses included in the especially?) impacts my mood, energy(?), and focus.  I’m on an SSRI and a bunch of sinus and respiratory meds.  Whee!

Q5. How do you react to alcohol or drugs?

I don’t use illegal substances.  My reaction to alcohol depends on whether my Depression is flaring but, in general, I can handle it and like it.

Q6. How much and what kind of exercise do you get? Are you eating your vegetables?

I swim anywhere between 3 and 6 days a week for 1-4 hours.  I am a pescetarian, so vegetables are a major part of my diet.

Q7. Have you ever had a life-threatening accident or illness? Did you have any weird experiences during the crisis? Did it change your attitude toward life?

My appendix burst in 1991, and I went into shock during childbirth in 1993.  No weird experiences except the little red men, but that’s common with morphine.  No attitude changes.

Q8. Have you been in counseling? What kind and for what? How did you respond to it?

Yes, yes, YES.  A mixture of CBT, DBT, and narrative therapy since 2009 for my Depression.  I love my therapist.  This will be stopping in September 2014 when she closes her practice, as I don’t want to start over again with someone new, but I think I’m okay with that.

How would you rate yourself on the following topics? Excellent? Adequate? Willing to learn?



Breath control




Lucid dreaming


Self hypnosis

Willing to learn

Shamanic journeying

Trying not to react to use of ‘shamanic’ and failing.  Willing to learn if we can use another term.

Sensing and moving energy

Excellent at sensing; adequate at moving.


Adequate on average.

Folk magic





There’s that word again.  See answer to journeying.

Jungian psychology

Highly dissatisfied with Jung and not even remotely interested.


What are your goals in beginning this training? Why do you want to learn how to do trance work? Once you have learned it, what do you want to be and do?

I’d like to better be able to explore the liminal edges, and I feel that I need to have a solid grasp of trance work in order to do so.


On to re-read the Introduction and Chapter One!

(The) Ogdoad

I wanted to write a simple post explaining The Ogdoad of Hermopolis, with a larger plan of later writing one about The Ennead of Heliopolis, and then culminating in a compare-contrast post of the two.  However, like so many thinks that seem simple from the outside, looking into what I thought was The Ogdoad turned into an exploration of ogdoads.  As in plural.  As in…this is a way more widespread concept than I thought, and it isn’t limited to Hermopolis.

(Spoiler alert – ennead isn’t any more cut-and-dried.  Just sayin’.)

First, let me get this out of the way: Hermopolis is the Greek name for the city of Khmwnw (Khmunu – Eight City; City of Eight), just as Heliopolis is the Greek name for the city of Jwnw (Junu – House of Ra).  In this post, I’ll be trying to stick to the Egyptian names, except when specifically talking about the Greek period and/or Greek thought.

An ogdoad (literally four, doubled) is a group of either four or eight deities that are worshiped together.  They are often doubles of themselves (four deities, doubled) or male/female pairs (four male/four female).  The Ogdoad that we know best, the one from Khmwnw, dates back to the Old Kingdom although names do not appear in writing until the Late Period.  It also appears that, in the case of this particular grouping, the term Ogdoad ties back to the name of the city itself – City of Eight – and so it is postulated that although the concept existed throughout Ancient Egypt, the exact term didn’t come into common use for all such groups until Egyptologists started looking at the pattern.

Interestingly enough, when the pattern of deity grouping is examined there appear to be two trends that repeat over and over.  The first is the fact that gods of place were a fact in Ancient Egypt.  The second is that these gods of place were either tied to a feature of the local landscape (Meretseger, as an example) or grouped with other gods to form an ogdoad.   Ogdoads were mainly formed of cosmic or primeval deities, however.

I find this fascinating and feel compelled to look into the concept of local groupings of deities that oversee the primeval – the source of creation, from which all things came.  Judging by what I’ve read so far, though, finding materials may be tricky.

When it comes to Khmwnw and its ogdoad, we have more written data that we do for other local groupings.  This ogdoad was formed of eight primeval deities – four male, and four female – that represented the aspects of darkness, moistness, and lack of boundaries or visible space.  In the mythos, the eight come together to form either a particular space or particular object from which the sun god emerges.  Depending on the source, the space is either called the Primeval Mound or the Island of Flame and the object either the Primeval Lotus or the Cosmic Egg.  To make things even more interesting – sometimes the sun god emerging (hatching?) is Khepri, and sometimes the sun god is the one who created the ogdoad who then create the sun god…and we end up with the concept of deity being its own ancestor.

The Khmwnw ogdoad’s deities are named, to a certain extent, but the names change depending on the source material and the period of time.  The primeval waters were represented by Nun and Naunet; Naunet is sometimes seen as another name for Nut, and the connection of Nut to Nun makes a great deal of sense.  Amun and Amunet, representing invisible power and the breath of life are next, but later were replaced by Nia and Niat, representing the Void, once Amun became a creator god.

(An aside – Amun is interesting in that he is seen as being both sun and Nun, and two of his epithets include mention of Nun – “Nun, the Old One who evolved first” and “Nun the Old One who issued forth at the first time”.  This connects Amun to being a primeval being rather than just a creator god, and it is interesting (to me, anyway) that later mentions of Amun, especially as Amun-Re, absorb the role of Nun.)

The third pair of deities, Kek and Keket (or Gereh and Gerehet), represented primeval darkness – the absolute dark of the first time, and the fourth pair, Heh and Hehet, were the currents in the primeval waters.  Heh was also the name of another grouping of gods – the Heh gods – who were the twilight after dusk and before dawn and aspects of the time of pre-creation.  In addition, all eight of the deities in the Khmwnw ogdoad were (are?) conflated with the Eastern souls, in baboon form, who helped the sun to rise.

(There’s a lot of “Pete and Repeat”* that goes on in the Ancient Egyptian mythos – duplicating of roles, syncretization, etc.  I find it helps to think of everything as equally valid and able to exist simultaneously; it keeps my head from exploding most of the time.)

The Greeks liked the concepts that the Ogdoad represented, and saw the primeval era as a Golden Age since ma’at was a celestial force during that period of time.  I, personally, still see ma’at as a celestial force as it transcends the tangible…but that’s really a discussion for another post.  In the Greek line of thought, though, creation out of primeval matter resulted in the celestial (or cosmic) rather than the organic, and the fact that the Egyptians stressed physical qualities when personifying cosmic matter indicated the scientific advancement of Egyptian civilization, despite the fact that myth was used.  I’m honestly not certain how I feel about this line of thought, though.  The Ancient Egyptians were clearly scientifically advanced – one only has to look at their engineering and astronomy and medical treatments to see that.  I’m not sure if I can, myself, prove scientific prowess through the application of philosophy.  That too, most likely, is a post for another time.

So, a simple post this was not (as if that needed to be said), and I’m afraid I’ve come out of this experience with more questions than answers and many many thinky thoughts.  That’s not all bad – I need more things to occupy my brain in the middle of the night.  Hopefully, I’ve given you things to ponder without dooming you to the same sleepless nights.

To paraphrase a favorite podcast: Good night, dear readers.  Good night.



Hornung, Erik.  Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.  Print.

Pinch, Geraldine.  Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt.  Santa Barbara: Oxford University Press, 2004.  Print.

Morenz, Sigfried.  Egyptian Religion.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992.  Print.


*Children’s verse – “Pete and Repeat went for a walk.  Pete fell in a hole; who was left?  Repeat!  Pete and Repeat went for a walk.  Pete fell in a hole; who was left?  Repeat!”

Octopus Handshake

There are days when being a Kemetic feels as overwhelming and endless as shaking hands with an octopus.

Nice to see you! Want a hug?

Octopuses are fascinating creatures, and I’ve been enamored of them since I was a preschooler.  Seriously, my grandmother used to show me the pictures of octopuses in the encyclopedia every single day – I’d keep asking until she did.  I still love them, and all cephalopods.  I visit them at aquaria; I read about them; I watch nature programs dedicated to them.  In a word, I’m obsessed.  But this is not why I’m comparing half of my religious practice to being entangled in an octopus’ magnificent arms.  I’m making the comparison because it works.

Let’s consider for a moment what modern-day people wanting to pick up the religious practices of Ancient Egypt have in store for them.  First, there are at least ten defined periods to choose from before the Romans took control, and each has its own nuances and idiosyncrasies. The gods aren’t necessarily the same, and in some instances are quite different (The Aten, anyone?)  The creation stories vary; the roles and bailiwicks of the deities vary; the hymns and prayers and rituals vary.  The available resources vary – someone trying to practice Pre-Dynastic religion, for example, will not have the same success with resources as someone focusing on the Ramesside period.

Along with time period question, there’s the question of reconstruction.  It’s a huge hot-button issue, and I don’t want to get into the debate here, but I’ll just say decided whether to reconstruct or reform is one that takes a lot of consideration and thought.

In addition, location played a key part in religious practice – the gods being placated and honored by the priests at Karnak were likely not identical to the gods being placated and honored in Set Maat.  (There was, of course, some overlap, but gods of place are gods of place.)  Location also played a key part in how the calendar operated, and if someone thinks trying to follow a combination solar-lunar calendar is difficult, add in a civil one too.  (

The debate over location isn’t quite as polarized as it appears to be in other pagan communities, but there is some debate out there, especially about how dates are calculated.)

Even after a modern Kemetic picks a period and a location (or doesn’t – it isn’t mandatory, after all) they still have to figure out what role they want.  Choosing to be a layperson is tricky because of the lack of source material; there’s just not a lot out there about what Joe and Jane Hotep of the onion-hoeing Hoteps did religiously each day.  There is some interesting information coming out of Set Maat (Deir el Medina) that tracks roughly 400 years of community life, but it isn’t complete.

Choosing to be a priest means more resources, but it’s also tricky because different priests did different things and most of us are solitary practitioners rather than being part of a physical community which makes it difficult to share tasks in the same way the priests in the temple complexes did.  Some of the priestly jobs are amazingly time consuming and difficult to keep doing without a physical community – take caring for an open statue as an example.  Maintenance of an open statue is maintenance of a god – it requires feeding and cleansing and clothing and care on a daily basis and there is no time off unless someone else is there who knows how to do it and can step in.

(I do not have any open statues because I am not ready for that level of intense work.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready.  I know a few people who have open statues and the amount of work they do is amazing and awe-inspiring and I could sit and listen to them all day.  It’s incredible.  It’s also terrifying and not for someone with commitment issues.)

And then, after determining what to do about all of these things, there are the elements of practice to consider.  Will daily ritual be done and if so, which ones?  How will the religious holidays and festivals be celebrated?  What does ma’at mean in the practitioner’s life and how will it be upheld?  Will shrines be constructed and, if so, how?  How will ancestor veneration be incorporated?  For that matter, how will any religious aspects be integrated into daily life?  And so on, and so on, and scooby dooby do.

Now, I’m not trying to scare anyone away from following a Kemetic path, and I’m not trying to harp on about the need to study and the LOOOOOOOORE!  And, I apologize if some of that has crept in as I’ve stood on this handsomely painted non-pedagogical soapbox and spouted off about the amount of multitasking required.  But, this post started with an octopus, and it ends with an octopus – the many-armed octopus of being Kemetic.  I cannot say I know one Kemetic who has successfully been able to sit and believe things without having to figure out how to act upon those beliefs in at least eight directions at once.

And, unlike an octopus, we only have one brain to apply to the problem…which means we’d better engage it fully if we want to come out the other side with something meaningful.

The Cauldron Cill Brighid Devotional Now Available!

As my readers know, I’m a FlameKeeper of the non-Brighidine variety; however, a Brighidine group of my acquaintance has just released a devotional to Brighid that I think you should check out!

The Cauldron Cill Brighid Devotional is a collection of essays, devotional poetry and photographs in honor of the goddess Brighid by the Flamekeepers of the Cauldron Cill.  It is available on in three formats:

Hardcover Version – with beautiful full-color images: $29.53
Paperback Version – in black and white: $3.79

I highly recommend picking up a copy if you’re in any way involved with Brighid, Brighidine Flamekeeping, or are interested in further exploration.  The people involved in putting this devotional together are intelligent and articulate, and it is well worth a read!

Navigation While Adrift

For Fier and Finn.


“…All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
‘Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath, no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean…” – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge, Samuel Taylor.

Even if I weren’t a Coleridge fangirl, I’d admit that the above passage is a perfect description of the doldrums.  In the case of the poem, the description is meant to describe the phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean…but I think it has merit in a religious context as well.  To whit – that feeling that you’ve gotten into a ship and started an epic religious journey…only to stall out due to lack of wind.

I don’t know any religious people – pagan or otherwise – who have not experienced the doldrums at least once.  (If you haven’t, please tell me; I want to know your SECRET.)  Even my aunt who is a Lutheran minister and professor of Ancient Greek professes to go through the doldrums at least once a year.  Sometimes she can see where she wants to be and cannot get there, and sometimes she has no idea where she’s trying to go at all.

My doldrums tend to be in the former category – I know where I need to go but cannot get there either because I don’t want to do what I need to, or I cannot figure out how to do what I need to.  However, I’ve been in the second type of doldrums as well and it is horrible.  Not knowing which way to turn, or which action got you there in the first place, or what to do now is just awful – I end up feeling helpless and hopeless and wanting to throw my hands up and say, “That’s it!  I’m DONE!”  And yet…here I am, on a path, and moving forward.  It’s not fast or furious, but it is progress.   I did manage to escape this last time, and that gives me hope that I’ll be able to do it again in the future when I need to.

So, how did I do it, and do I know anything that might apply to other people?

I can describe the How of this last episode – I sat in the doldrums knowing what I needed to do to get out but not wanting to do it.  I yelled at myself to fucking move already, and didn’t.  I sulked and felt frustrated…and then I decided to take a look at why I didn’t want to do what I needed to do.  I looked at the emotions behind the dread, and found what was really bothering me, and then took tiny steps toward facing it.   I was then so happy with the fact that I was doing something and it felt productive that I moved myself right back onto the path again.

When I’ve been in the doldrums without knowing what to do or where to go to get out, it’s been tougher.  I usually end up taking a look at where I am and where I thought I’d be, and then backtracking to figure out where I took a turn I wasn’t planning.  It’s not pretty, and it  can take forever, but it helps somewhat.  It also helps when I keep in mind that the doldrums are not forever – even if I chose to stay there and not try to get out, eventually someone or something comes along to snap me out of it.

Whether this helps anyone, well, only my readers can judge that.

TT – Reading 3

I used the Tattooed Tarot for this reading with a random significator and three questions:

  1. What was the main line of thought before the event?
  2. What is the main thread of the event?
  3. What should be the focus when thinking back on the event?

In this case, the event was a dream and I did not ask for details of what occurred in the dream…so I may be WAY off!

Significator is the Five of Swords – Hidden enemies; Underhanded adversaries.

First question – Six of Swords – A long way to go; Distance.

Second question – Nine of Pentacles – Satisfaction; A successful business deal.

Third question – Eight of Pentacles – Apprenticeship; Discoveries; Craftsmanship.

Reading of the Cards

Watch out for misleading suggestions you may receive from someone.  Sometimes it is necessary to go as far away as possible.  A positive attitude will help you realize a project.  Listen to those who can teach you in order to increase your skills.


There’s something going on with you right now that is making you suspicious of both situations and people.  This was on your mind, along with a debate about how far away to move from the source of suspicion, when you entered the dream; the dream was born of this train of thought.  The main theme, under all the layers of symbol, is success – completion of a task, or resolution of something to your satisfaction.

When you look back and ponder the dream itself, keep the joy of discovery in mind and also recognize that you can learn what you need in order to shape your future in the way you want.

Images of the Cards and the Spread

Tattooed Tarot - Five of Swords

Tattooed Tarot – Five of Swords

Tattooed Tarot - Six of Swords

Tattooed Tarot – Six of Swords

Tattooed Tarot - Nine of Pentacles

Tattooed Tarot – Nine of Pentacles

Tattooed Tarot - Eight of Pentacles

Tattooed Tarot – Eight of Pentacles

Tattooed Tarot - Spread

Tattooed Tarot – Spread

Nope, nope, nope!

Most pagan blogs I’ve read contain information about what the contributor is doing in their religious/spiritual life.  It’s a typical thing really – write about what you know, what you do or want to do, what you think, etc.  Yet…how many of us actually write down the things we don’t want to do on our paths?  We might note that something was tried and didn’t work, or didn’t fit where we’re trying to go, but how often do we go beyond that?

I’ve actually got a long (mental) list of things in mind, but to keep this post from going on and on (and on and on) I’m going to limit it to five:

In no particular order…

Casting a circle (and its attendant elements)

Where do I begin with this one?  Well, for starters, casting a circle before doing ritual workings, or spells, or connecting with deity is not a Kemetic practice, nor is it related in any way to FlameKeeping.  As it’s not of the paths I practice, it is natural for me not to cast circles, call quarters, watchtowers, or elements, or do any of the other circle-specific things.

This is not to say I don’t, at times, create sacred space, or ritual space.  It simply means that when/IF I do, however, I go about it in a different fashion.  Remember: different does not necessarily equal WRONG.

Following the Wheel of the Year/Celebrating the Wheel holidays

This is a simple one – the Wheel of the Year has no bearing on my path.  Those holidays are not mine, and there’s no reason for me to celebrate them.  Since they don’t apply to me, I don’t try to work them into my practice.

I do sometimes celebrate my own holidays that may share a date with a Wheel holiday (31 October springs to mind), but a shared date does not mean a shared holiday.  My holiday might not be yours, and that’s okay…so stop trying to tell me I really DO celebrate the Wheel and just don’t know it!


Correspondences – linking colors, herbs, stones, elements, shapes, signs, etc. to deities

For the purpose of my path, what matters is the deity’s bailiwick and what the deity asks for (if anything).  Otherwise, my offerings and shrine decorations are strictly traditional – flowers, cool water, incense, bread, beer, milk, etc.  If you ask me what stone Sekhmet likes, or what herb is associated with Ganesha, I’m not only likely not to know, but I’m very likely to tell you that up front.

Although: funnily enough, I am reminded that there is one exception to this – Set is associated with red things, and I color my hair red for him.  Thanks, Big Red!

(Despite the name, don’t give him cinnamon gum.  It’s only funny once.  Seriously.)

Incorporating Earth-/Nature-Centered practices

I am neither Earth-Centered nor Nature-Centered, and neither my FlameKeeping nor my Kemetic practices require such things.  I do enjoy nature, and being out in it when it isn’t as hot and sticky as the mouth of a mastiff, but I believe everything is Divine and so (for me) nature holds no more potential sacredness than my left shoe.

I don’t seek out nature for religious purposes – I seek it out because I like it and like learning about it and experiencing it.  I’m as likely to have an ecstatic, amazing religious experience hanging in bondage as I am on top of a mountain…and it’s likely the place I’m hanging has climate control.

Decrying other religions or religious practices

All religions have a fail-state, including my own.  Using those fail-states to decry entire swathes of people in the name of a handful is not acceptable to me, and something I will therefore not do.  In my opinion, saying that all <insert religious practitioner name here> are/do a particular thing makes as much sense as saying that all mammals* give birth to live young.

(*Most do, but not all. Also, some non-mammals give birth to live young. Live birth is therefore not a distinguishing characteristic of mammals.)

There’s my five.  Like I said, I have more than that, but I think the ones I listed are a good representation of how my brain works and how I practice.  So, what don’t you want to do?  What doesn’t make sense to you?  What have you rejected, for one reason or another?

Please share!  The more we learn, the more we grow and improve, after all.