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 Lulu.com in three formats:

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

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.

Interpretation

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!

(Ahem.)

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.

 

TT – Reading 2

I used the Tattooed Tarot for this reading, with a random significator and the THINK-FEEL-DO-HAVE-BE spread.

Significator is the Queen of Wands: Cautious courtship; flattery; complements.

THINK card is the Two of Wands: Discomfort; fatigue; nostalgia.

FEEL card is the Six of Swords: Voyage; a long way to go; distance.

DO card is the Four of Swords: Detachment; marginalization; reflection.

HAVE card is Temperance: Realization of oneself; femininity; fragility; pregnancy. Purification; regeneration; receptivity.

BE card is Death: Sudden separation; pitilessness; inexorability; physical illness.  Fear; skeletons in the closet; traumas.

Reading of the Cards

The eyes are not always the mirror of a person’s real feelings.  Try to remove a memory that causes you affliction or pain.  Sometimes it is necessary to go as far away as possible, but excessive isolation will lead to poverty and solitude.  Take a break.  Start today to build a harmonious future for yourself.  Forget past errors and give up your bad habits; rise from your own ashes.

Interpretation

Focus on what you truly want to accomplish – set tangible, measurable goals rather than ethereal ones.  Moving away from the people you did was a good thing, but you shouldn’t use this particular situation to generalize all things.  DO NOT become a hermit – seek out others, regardless of why.  You also have a community you could be using; although not close in geography, there are people who could be close to you in other ways.

Images of the Cards and the Spread

Tattooed Tarot - Queen of Wands

Tattooed Tarot – Queen of Wands

Tattooed Tarot - Two of Wands

Tattooed Tarot – Two of Wands

Tattooed Tarot - Six of Swords

Tattooed Tarot – Six of Swords

Tattooed Tarot - Four of Swords

Tattooed Tarot – Four of Swords

Tattooed Tarot - Temperance

Tattooed Tarot – Temperance

Tattooed Tarot - Death

Tattooed Tarot – Death

Tattooed Tarot spread

Tattooed Tarot spread (yes, that’s my 360.  The surface I did the reading on was too dark to photograph)

Motivation

I’m behind, again, on the Pagan Blog Project (PBP), and trying to figure out why I keep losing my motivation.

I like PBP.  This is my third year doing it, and I think I’ve got several years left in me (assuming it continues).  I like the “two weeks of posts per letter” set-up and don’t find it overly tasking.  I’ve got tons to write about – in fact, every time I do a post, I think of additional topics to cover.

(Although, sometimes that last bit is a detriment – it can take me weeks to figure out which one of the topics floating around in my head I should cover.)

And then, there’s The Cauldron Blog Project (TCBP) on which I’m also behind…although, this post may help me with both things since it is both an ‘M’ post and fits the June theme of TCBP (Getting Behind, Commitments and Expectations).  And combination of two isn’t against any rules I know of…and I don’t want to know if it actually is.

Motivation is one of those things that comes up in all kinds of situations, and application to Paganism is no different.  We all have things we want or need to do, and we all run out of motivation to do them from time to time.  Sometimes it is fleeting and easily gotten past, sometimes it is long-term and due to issues of “real life” (family, job, finances, etc.), and sometimes it is because we’re stuck in the proverbial cul-de-sac yet again with a spiritual fuel tank full of sugar.

Writing is a need-to-do for me.  Without it, I can’t see the patterns of my own brain, and identifying them is critical to remain functional in all aspects of my life.   Yet, I seem to have the motivation for some types of writing, but not others.  I’ll write happily (and daily!) about the perfume I’m wearing (which is also a religious act but that’s a post for another time), but the religious stuff gets put on hold time and again.

Clearly, I need to find a reason to write on this blog more often since need-to-do is not enough.

From a FlameKeeping stance, actions that promotes self-growth and awareness are considered to be of the Dark Flame, and actions that promote growth and awareness in interaction with others are considered to be of the Bright Flame.  Both Flames should be nurtured and encouraged to grow since as we grow, so does everything.  And since the writing I do here is both for myself and for others…that would suggest that the keeping up of this blog nurtures both my Dark and Bright Flames.

Guess I’ve found my motivation after all.  I’d better start thinking about the letter ‘N’.