The End and the Beginning

I’ve not been writing much of late.

This is not because I don’t want to write; I do, very much.  It’s not because I don’t like the topics I’ve been choosing; I’ve been having a grand time with my pop culture paganism series, even if no one really reads it.  And it’s not because this blog doesn’t fit me anymore; now, more than ever, I find myself bumping into things along my religious path that I want to pick apart and examine here.

The actual reason behind my lack of posting here is complicated, but there is a teal deer version: I stopped posting for The Cauldron Blog Project while trying to sort out whether The Cauldron was still right for me, and after a few weeks and months of both introspection and conversation with some of the members of my religious community (and friends), I decided that it was no longer a good fit.  And so, I’ve resigned as part of the Staff at TC, and I have also left as a member.

The Cauldron has been a huge part of my religious life since early 2010: it was there that I feel I really came into my own as a Kemetic; it was there that I discovered and embraced FlameKeeping; it was there, among the other members, that I refined my own personal practice into something that nurtures and fulfills me.  For those things, not to mention the number of friends I made, I will always be grateful.  But, as people change and grow, their needs changes and mine no longer align with what The Cauldron can provide.

So, this is the end of the TC chapter of my life, but it is also a beginning.  It’s the beginning of a new re-examination period for me, looking at who I am and who I want to be.  It’s the beginning of a new section of road on my religious path.  It’s a chance to start anew and figure out new ways to put together all the bits and pieces, and new ways to poke at them, because the life un-examined is a stagnant life…and you all know how I feel about stagnation.

To those I met on TC, you are a part of who I am, and I will never forget you.  To those joining me with Beginnings of their own, I can’t think of any friends or companions I’d rather have.

Thank you, for everything.

The Elder Scrolls – Peryite

Often viewed as the weakest of the Daedric Princes despite often appearing as a dragon, Peryite oversees the lower planes of Oblivion and keeps order among the low-ranking daedra.  Men and mer know him as the Lord of Pestilence and the Taskmaster, and his spheres of influence cover both those things along with “natural order”.

Peryite is known as having impacting most of the mortals of Nirn, albeit indirectly, since many plagues and pestilences originate with him.  In addition, the “natural order” of Peryite and his followers appears to differ from the “order” imposed by Jyggalag, and also from “order” as mortals understand it.  This leads me to steer away from talking about the concept of “natural order” in this particular post, and more toward what I consider the inherent duality of Peryite.

I am often fascinated with duality (those who know me are thinking, “Really???  I had NO idea.”), and Peryite pleases me in that one overseeing pestilence is also one who can remove it.  The Disease and the Cure, if you will; one hand gives, and the other takes away.  In truth, Peryite’s followers are often afflicted with one disease or another and consider their condition to be a gift rather than a curse…which leads me down a mental path of wondering about wallowing in the Wretched to find the Divine.

I am a Kemetic, and a FlameKeeper, and also working on mindfulness practice – in all of these, the idea that one must recognize and acknowledge reality is key.  Couple this with the tenet, from FlameKeeping, that everything is Divine (you, me, the tree, the rock, and my left shoe) and things begin to get interesting – reality is Divine.  And if reality is Divine, then those things that exist within reality are Divine by default.  This belief must be held by the followers of Peryite, or else why worship the Taskmaster in the first place?  And if held by them, this pinpoints something we have in common, for I am hard pressed to think of anything that is not Divine.

(Actions are, of course, another story.)

For those looking to worship Peryite, incense is a traditional offering (and there is a traditional type that is nigh impossible to make outside of Tamriel).  I suspect, though, that the Lord of Pestilence might be pleased with an acknowledgement of the pitfalls we all face, how they fit into the larger the Divine, and Peryite’s place in that scheme.

The Elder Scrolls – Orkey

Orkey, the “Old Knocker” is an adversarial god of the Nordic pantheon, and his worship is recorded as having started during the Aldmeri rule of Atmora.  At that time, it is said that the Atmorans had lifespans as long as the elves and that it was a bargain with Orkey that tied their lives to “the count of winters”.  It is further stated that Orkey actually summoned Alduin the World Eater to devour the lifespans of the Atmorans, and it took an intervention from the ghost of Shor and the life of King Wulfharth to save them.

In my post about Fox, I mentioned that it is likely that this symbol is meant to represent Orkey, and I also stated that Orkey deserved his own post.  He does, and as I’m becoming more interested in the concept of the adversary I thought I could explore him in that vein.

What is an adversary?  Well, strictly defined (because words mean things) an adversary is “one’s opponent in a contest, conflict, or dispute”.  It has a negative connotation, and many people think of the word in that manner, but anyone can be (and is) an adversary at one point or another.  If I take an opposing position to my friend on an issue, or compete against them in a contest, I am an adversary.   If I routinely disagree with someone, our relationship is adversarial.

However: I can, and do, have adversarial relationships that aren’t necessarily negative.  Disagreement and opposition are opportunities for growth and change, and as I believe stagnancy should be avoided, I actively seek out such opportunities.  This means I routinely run into people who take on the role of my adversary…but that doesn’t mean that I dislike those people or wish them to be destroyed (except sometimes).  In fact, in a recent discussion on The Cauldron there were several people who took up an adversarial position to my own and I (mostly) think I benefited and learned from those exchanges.

(That thread is here, if anyone is interested experiencing its glory.)

In a religious sense, the idea of the adversary is often conflated with evil.  In Christianity, for example, Satan is given the epithet of “The Adversary” and is painted to be the epitome of evil, and as not too few modern polytheists were actually brought up with this mindset, it spills over into other mythos as well.  Both of my primary deities, Sekhmet and Set, take on the role of the adversary in the Kemetic mythos and there are a great number of people who are hesitant to approach them because of it.  Neb.y Set is especially associated with evil by non-Kemetics and has been for millennia, as can be seen in his Greco-Egyptian association with Typhon.  And yet, the inhabitants of Ancient Egypt knew that the adversarial role did not directly equate with evil and that Set as adversary was necessary to uphold ma’at.

In thinking about Orkey as a Set-type adversary, I think he can be associated with more than trickery and mortality – as Set is god of the Other, so can Orkey be associated with Other and Foreign things, things that go against the traditional grain and upset the applecart, as it were.  To worship Orkey, then, is to acknowledge the parts of us that long not to follow the crowd, to be independent thinkers, and put our thoughts into practice.  To worship Orkey, or any adversary, is to revere individuality and personal freedoms.

The Elder Scrolls – Owl

I’ve noted previously that the Ancient Nords, during the rule of the Dragon Priests, worshiped nine animal gods – six shown as male, and three as female.  The Owl is said to represent Jhunal, Nordic god of wisdom and knowledge, and the creator of mathematics and language.

Owl mural – Ancient Nord

Interestingly enough, Jhunal appears to have fallen out of favor at some point; he is absent from the modern Nordic pantheon, replaced by Julianos of the Nine (Eight) Divines.  Jhunal is also barely mentioned in written record, aside from a brief description in Varieties of Faith in the Empire, though Vivec does mention him in Sermon Three as one of the eight known worlds.

Unlike many of the supposed “same god, many names” examples that I’ve mentioned in other Elder Scrolls-based posts, Jhunal being Julianos makes a great deal of sense to me: both are hermetic gods, both have the same bailiwick, and Julianos appears just as Jhunal disappears.   Add in the fact that the Nords are quite loyal to their gods and reluctant (mostly) to replace them with Imperial stand-ins, and it makes me wonder if this is a case of the Imperials borrowing from the Nords instead of the other way around.

I’m fond of tying things together, and categorizing them, and so it should surprise no one that I went looking for owls in Ancient Egypt and, of course, found them.  The owl is found in hieroglyphs, specifically as the letter m (Gardiner sign G-17: owl-in-profile ), and is one of the uniliteral signs.  Despite Gardiner calling this owl an ‘Eagle Owl’, the lack of tufts make me think it is a Barn Owl, and Newberry’s article “The Owls in Ancient Egypt” backs me up on this, as do the images below:

Barn owl

Pharaoh eagle owl

While I’ve mentioned that I have no intention of adding Julianos to my personal pantheon, I can’t help but think of the owl as his symbol, and the fact that I am sure that Julianos is a deity in service to ma’at makes me think that some worship of him, and some representation of him, wouldn’t go amiss…but I’ll have to ponder that further.  For now, though, Owl as the Ancient Nords used it stands strong as a representation of language, mathematics, wisdom, and magic, and can be used by modern pagans in that vein.

The Elder Scrolls – Namira

Deep within the Scuttling Void dwells Namira, the Lady of Decay.

Namira is not as well known as some of the other Daedric Princes.  She (for she presents as female) is the Spirit Daedra, ruler of sundry dark and scuttling spirits and doesn’t have the popularity of Azura, for example, or the gregariousness of Meridia.  Her followers tend to keep to themselves, or gather only in small groups, and she prefers them to be repulsive, as is evidenced by some of her epithets: Mistress of Decay, Devourer of the Dead, and the Great Darkness.

The most well-known story of Namira dates from the First Era, and is about a prince who met and saved a wanderer who turned out to be Namira.  When he realized this, he followed her for 33 days and nights, begging at her feet to be her apprentice; when this period was over, Namira said the apprenticeship was over and granted him three blessings:

  • Disease – the prince could have any disease with visible symptoms, but he must always have one
  • Pity – the prince became a wretched beggar, but all who saw him would be moved to pity
  • Disregard – the prince could make himself unnoticed and people would unknowingly say things, including important secrets, in his hearing

These blessings made the prince renowned among the beggars, and Namira remains associated with beggars to this day.

In addition to beggars, most cannibals in Tamriel consider Namira to be their patron, and she is associated with all manner of “creepy crawly” – spiders, insects, and slugs to name just a few.

Believing, as I do, that seeing both sides of the coin leads to gaining the entire perspective on something, I am fond of the idea of Namira and that the wretched and repulsive has a champion in her.  I have no personal experience with her, though, and so I cannot say if that fondness would translate if I were in her presence.

(I suspect that I’d hit the floor and grovel if it ever occurred).

Rather than turning to cannibalism, I suggest that those who wish to connect with Namira cultivate a place for the repulsive to dwell and spend time in communion in that place.  For example, flat stones could be placed on the ground and insects, worms, and other creatures encouraged to live beneath them, and then the stones turned over from time to time to contemplate the mini-habitat beneath.

Of course, if that’s too much, you could always volunteer to help the downtrodden.

The Elder Scrolls – Lorkhan

The Hidden God.  The Missing God.  Spirit of Nirn.  Creator-Trickster-Tester.  Sep.  Shor. Sheor.  Shezarr.  Lorkhaj (the Moon Beast).

Lorkhan (the Doom Drum) is mentioned in every known mythology across Tamriel, and has many names to show for it, although he is most often called by his elven name.  How he is portrayed in those mythologies varies – men view him as their creator, having brought them into existence out of nothing, while mer were created by the Aedra and Lorkhan is the one who stripped them of their immortality.

Nirn, the Mortal Plane, is Lorkhan’s creation, and remnants of him are found everywhere – from the dual moons Masser and Secunda that are called his “Flesh-Divinity” (corpse) to Red Mountain in Vvardenfell created of his heart.  He is associated with Sithis (the Void), and personified by the Shezarrines.  But, Lorkhan himself is missing, and this point is what makes him so enigmatic (in my opinion).  As far as I can tell, Lorkhan himself is a reference point rather than a worshiped god.

Because he is present, in one form or another, across Nirn, I felt Lorkhan needed to be included in my series of Elder Scrolls-based posts.  Yet, I find it difficult to put Lorkhan into modern context – other than the fact that he created mortal man, there’s no link between him and those of us who do not live on Nirn.  I therefore recommend that anyone wanting to meditate on Lorkhan contemplate their own mortality and how our lives are shaped by the fact that we, too, shall end.

The Elder Scrolls – Nocturnal

Nocturnal, Night Mistress. Daughter of Twilight.
On Ebonmere you glide, to touch the lives you choose,
While guardians gather in the gloaming.
The shadows are your chosen,
Sent to whisper and to guide through fortune’s favor.

Empress of Murk. Saint of Suspicion.
More worship you than any other Daedra, but
You care not for priests or acolytes.
No prayers or hymns sway when bargain is struck;
Those outside are left to obscurity.

Mistress of Shadows.  Mistress of Mystery.
I bring myself to the bargaining table to strike a deal,
Or strike a chord within.
Wrap your shadows around me, make me unseen,
And Evergloam take all my ever-afters.

 

The Elder Scrolls – Mephala

No matter how hard I try to avoid something, it nearly always catches up with me.

Webspinner.  Spider.  Teacher of the Secret Arts.  Queen of the Eight Shadows of Murder.  Prince of Lies.  These are some of the Names of Mephala, Daedric Prince and (sometimes) sibling to Hermaeus Mora, who sees all life as a weave wherein pulling one thread will unravel the whole.  Meddling in the affairs of mortals amuses Mephala, and it appears that this Prince intends to strengthen the Web through executions.

To the Dunmer, Mephala is the Anticipation of Vivec, and is worshiped as one of the “Good Daedra”, along with Azura and Boethiah.  Unlike those two, however, Mephala has no preferred gender; while Azura almost always presents as female and Boethiah (usually) presents as male, Mephala is well known for changing gender depending on the mortal they wish to ensnare.  Most statues of Mephala present the Prince as female, however.

In honor of Mephala’s genderfluidity, I will be using the pronoun “they” throughout the rest of this post.

While the Dunmer attribute lies, sex, and murder to Mephala, their sphere encompasses more than that.  According to the lore, Mephala taught the Chimer (who became the Dunmer) to evade and slay their enemies.  They founded the Morag Tong, the Dunmer assassin’s guild that slays in Mephala’s name, and that is directly opposed to the Dark Brotherhood.  Funnily enough, some believe the Night Mother of the Dark Brotherhood is actually an aspect of Mephala…which actually makes sense to me, considering the number of plots they’ve put in place.  Why not cause tension in the ranks?  It’s fun!

Mephala’s realm of Oblivion is called the Spiral Skein, and it is made up of eight spokes called the Eight Strands of the Skein.  Each has a theme: lies, envy, seduction, fear, betrayal, murder, avarice/appetite, and fury.   At the center stands the Tower where Mephala is said to dwell, but as the Spiral Skein is obscured to mortals, this is not certain.

So, the oblique statement at the beginning of this post?  It’s because of Spider, not Mephala, but there are A LOT of similarities, right down to Name.  Spider is usually not very communicative, but over the past month she’s gotten louder and more insistent in a variety of ways.  Over the 4th of July, I saw many many eyes in the fireworks we were watching.  I’ve had to remove cobwebs from my car every morning.  And, today, a spider fell out of my hair while I was brushing it.

Oh, and did I mention that yesterday I just happened to choose to write about Mephala for my second M and noticed their epithets?

Spider is Other, which makes figuring out what she wants me to do interesting, and it took a discussion with my FlameKeeping guru this morning to figure it out.  She (my guru) reminded me that Spider doesn’t think – she does – and what I need to do it stop over-thinking and just look at where a connection can be repaired or created.  And then, I figured out what I need to do and I plan to do it this weekend.  Even though it’s something I don’t want to do.  Because, quite frankly, it’s important.

Since I work for Spider, not Mephala, I’m focusing on repairing connections and creating new ones rather than manipulating ones that already exist…and there’s a hint of truth when I say I’d rather do the latter, even if most of that statement is meant as a joke.  Not that I want to murder anyone, mind you, but manipulation and cunning are things I’m good at.  Then again, Spider does have both of those qualities so…

Right.  Not going to think about that right now; I need to focus on what I’m here to do.  I think, though, that an offering of nightshade might be in order.

The Elder Scrolls – Moth

I’ve noted previously that the Ancient Nords, during the rule of the Dragon Priests, worshiped nine animal gods – six shown as male, and three as female.  The Moth, depicted as female, is said to be a representation of Dibella, one of the Nine (Eight) Divines…and it’s true that she’s part of the modern Nordic pantheon.  But, why Dibella?  What makes people associate the Moth with her?

I’ve read explanations that attribute the moth to Dibella because she is depicted with flowers, and both butterflies and moths are drawn to blooming plants (for obvious reasons).  Some say, too, that the most luxurious finery is made from silk, and since Dibella is goddess of beauty and silk (usually) comes from moths, the two must be connected.  While there’s no doubt in my mind that the moth/silk association is present, I don’t think it ties the Moth to Dibella.

I believe the Moth depicted by the Ancient Nords is actually meant to represent an Elder Scroll, and this means the Moth is a symbol of creation, transformation, and knowledge rather than love and beauty.

If we take this to be true, that the Moth is a symbol of the Elder Scrolls, a lot of things fall into place.  We can tie moths, especially Ancestor Moths, directly to creation and transformation – the silk extruded by a larval moth is turned into a cocoon which will house the larva until it transforms into an adult moth.  Likewise, that silk can be transformed by man and mer into other forms – yarn into cloth, for example.  Silk from an Ancestor Moth is quite different, though.  It can still be made into cloth, but the ritual by which the Moth Priests gather it, and spin it, and turn it into clothing imbues it with ancestral hymns and the movement of the garments made from the silk thus carry the songs of one’s ancestors.  Each of these garments is created according to the genealogy of the buyer and envelops the wearer (provided the genealogy is accurate) in that ancestral chorus.

The elder priests of the Order of the Ancestor Moth become so attuned to the Ancestor Moths themselves that they are able to garb themselves in the moths rather than in garments spun of ancestor-silk.  They do this by applying the ground bark of the Canticle Tree to their own bodies and by chanting mantras only audible to the moths.  It is also this communion with the Ancestor Moths that enables the elder Moth Priests to read the Elder Scrolls; the trilling of the moths are said to form a sort of augury which can be tapped into by the priests and used to decipher the knowledge in the Elder Scrolls.  Which, everyone knows, can drive people mad if read directly.

Of course, it is said that even the Moth Priests go mad eventually.

The Elder Scrolls themselves (Kelle in the Dragon Language) are said to be fragments of the creation of Nirn itself, and simultaneously record past and future events.  The best description of what/how an Elder Scroll that I’ve come across is in Ruminations on the Elder Scrolls by Septimus Signus; here’s an excerpt:

“Imagine living beneath the waves with a strong-sighted blessing of most excellent fabric. Holding the fabric over your gills, you would begin to breathe-drink its warp and weft. Though the plantmatter fibers imbue your soul, the wretched plankton would pollute the cloth until it stank to heavens of prophecy. This is one manner in which the Scrolls first came to pass, but are we the sea, or the breather, or the fabric? Or are we the breath itself?”

If Moth is meant to depict an Elder Scroll, as I believe, and thus encompasses knowledge that was, is, and has not yet come to pass, she has many possibilities for application to daily life.  She is the ka that passed to me from my ancestors and that I pass to my descendants.  She is connection and community – the ties that bind past to present to future.  She is transformation; those who read an Elder Scroll are forever changed, just as so many of us are when we truly begin to practice.

I think I’m going to add a moth to my shrine.

The Elder Scrolls – Leki

It’s amazing how little information is available in writing about the Yokudan pantheon.  I can only suspect that the Redguards pass most of it along amongst themselves, and as I’ve not been to Hammerfell I suppose it makes sense that I wouldn’t find it easy to gather the information I usually do for these posts.

What I was able to gather about Leki, who is apparently one of the most popular gods in Hammerfell, is this: she is the daughter of Tall Papa (Ruptga), who is the chief deity of the Yokudan pantheon.  Her bailiwick is aberrant swordsmanship which, on its face, seems to mean swordsmanship that diverges from the standard…and that strikes me as interesting because the Redguards are martial by culture and are schooled in the arts of war at a young age, and so I wonder what sort of technique they consider to be aberrant.

It is said that, during the Mythic Era, Leki introduced the Ephemeral Feint which stopped the Na-Totambu (Yokudan royalty) from fighting among themselves so that war with the Aldmer could begin.

There do not seem to be worshipers of Leki outside of Redguard culture (that I can find record of, anyway), and while I don’t understand the ins and outs of the Yokudan pantheon or, really, the roles and spheres of each deity within in, and I don’t advocate cultural appropriation, I think there’s something for non-Redguards to learn from Leki even with the little we know of her.

Let’s look at aberrance for a moment – deviating from what is considered proper or normal.  I write about this thing a lot on both my blogs because so much of what I do and how I live is considered to be aberrant.  I’m an adherent of a non-Abrahamic religion, I’m pansexual, monoromantic, and polyamorous, and I’m a practitioner of situational ethics.  Although I pass as a poster child for societal norms (WASP background, middle class, married female with child and corporate job) and have the privilege that goes with it, I am aberrant.

What’s more, I am aberrant even in groups of other aberrant people.  At Paganicon, for example, I stand out in my jeans and t-shirt while others get their pagan velvet sequin flowered fringe on.  In polyamorous circles, I stand out in my search for friends-with-benefits rather than romantic relationships, and in my need for sex rather than love while not wanting a series of one-night-stands.  As an ethical slut, I am having less sex than the label implies.

I am deviant.  I am (to use an overhyped word) divergent.  I am aberrant, and comfortable with being aberrant even if it is sometimes a huge pain in the ass to walk around with the equivalent of a neon sign on my forehead.  I can’t imagine being anyone but who I am…and that brings me back to Leki.  Leki teaches us to embrace our aberrance – to take it, accept it for what it is, and use it to improve ourselves and our communities.

Embrace what makes you you.  Embrace your aberrance, and spread it across the Universe.