Empathy for the House of Netjer

Last night, I saw a series of blog posts from members of the House of Netjer (HoN) noting that they are currently in financial difficulties and asking for community support.  The posts serve as a reminder to anyone who forgets that religious organizations are as reliant on financial assistant as individuals, and that tangible resources are necessary for an organism to survive and thrive.

This post is not a call to donate to HoN, although that community needs some support.  It is, instead, a statement of the empathy I feel for its members, for those who believe wholeheartedly in the community and its work, for those who follow its teachings, for those who do senut, and who celebrate festivals according to the Kemetic Orthodox calendar.  For those who believe, and support others in that belief.  For the onion hoers, and the priests.  For those who are hem(t)-netjer.

For those who Trust.  I empathize most with you.

I am Kemetic.  I hold fast to the idea that community must be developed and nurtured and perpetuated.  I hold to the concept of ma’at and that it must be developed and nurtured and perpetuated, lest isfet infest and unmake.  And, I hold to the idea that in ma’at there is community, and in community there is ma’at and that I have a responsibility to Speak in order to continue and improve.

I am not always good at subtle; the first of the Names that came to me was Sekhmet and she is very good at ma’at at any cost.  I am becoming better at this, although parts of me still long for subtlety, to work things out one-on-one, and to address those I believe have forgotten ma’at in private rather than in public.

But the time for that has passed.  It is time for me to Speak Up, to say publicly what I tried to say privately:

The recent actions of the Nisut tell me that the HoN no longer has a head.

To be the God-King, especially in diaspora where no larger civil structures are in place, is not to be a titular head, or a leader in Name only.  In a community where Words Mean Things, where language is heka and heka is language, calling oneself the Nisut implies certain actions…and those actions are not occurring.  Worse yet, to my mind, there has been no owning up to this as far as I can see, save for some throwaway comments at a recent Pagan Event about it being assumed that her attendance at the World Conference of Religions some years ago was related to Kemeticism, followed by a laugh.

Well, yes.

When one is the self-professed leader of a Kemetic organization, when one claims to have been crowned by the gods and given the kingly ka, it is expected that one wear that mantle seriously.  To represent oneself as a leader in another faith while retaining the title of Nisut; to hold a discussion about Kemetic beliefs in a conference suite reserved for a Sosyete; to run from the role one claims to hold to another is shameful.

You, Tamara Siuda, should be ashamed of yourself.

How dare you call yourself their Nisut and not nourish them?  How dare you not open the granaries, and how dare you reduce the community you built – and now seemingly ignore – to the point of begging assistance from the pagan community at large?

For the sake of those who were once your people (and are now something else entirely), I hope your abdication comes soon.

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Cloverleaf and Roundabout

Like last year, this year I got to Paganicon via a road-trip, and while I didn’t happen to see The Rider on my journey, I did unravel a piece of the web that I’ve been staring at for what feels like ages but has probably been around six months.

But I should probably back up a bit, and explain a couple of things before diving down the hole in front of me and urging you to follow, shouldn’t I?

2015 was a horrible year for many people, and for me it was filled with family tensions, work tensions, and religious community tensions that eventually drove me to leave the place I considered my religious home for six years.  And, after all that, came the time of No Computers, and I was driven to seeking out those I wanted to stay close to via Google Hangouts from my work laptop in between doing the things that comprise my day job, which is heavy on pointless meetings with people I don’t want to hear, much less see.

(Okay – done with the self-pity now.  I swear.)

At the time of the upheaval (last October, or therabouts), I was staring at a problem I’d been tasked to address – the untangling of a particular set of threads in the Web in front of me.  Staring wasn’t getting me anywhere, and I couldn’t figure out where I need to start, and then things blew up and I put the task aside where it sat.

And sat.

And sat, until I was smacked in the head by a not-so-velvet paw and reminded that the tangle was still there.  And, that I hadn’t said “No” when I was asked to deal with it.  And that it was going to stay right there until I figured it out.

I like to put my gods in the category of “tough but fair”, but they don’t always like to stay in that category.  This time, though, everyone took on that label, and everyone reminded me that there was a THING that needed DOING, over and over again until I finally decided to get off my ass and look at it again.  Which, I did.  I looked at it.  I walked around it, and looked at it from a number of angles, and tugged on a few things, and pushed a few more, and then sat down and stared at it again.

And then, I took a 21 hour (round trip) road-trip with my sister, and we talked the whole way.  Sometimes it was serious, and sometimes it was silly, and sometimes it would have made no sense at all to anyone listening in, but it was in the talking on the way there, and in Paganicon itself, and in the further talking on the way home that I figured it out and the threads unwound themselves as prettily as anyone could hope to see…and now they’re connecting just as they should.

It took two things, really: the realization that I am very very good at asking questions, and that the sigil I created in Thorn’s workshop is meant to remind me to Speak Up.  And once I connected those two things everything else fell neatly into place.  I am not meant to be a Hammer – I am meant to be a Lever.  I am meant to move things from passive to active.  What once I called a cul-de-sac, a parking lot, where we stop and wait and try to figure out which way to go is now a cloverleaf, or a roundabout, with exits that are there.   We’re just waking up and wondering where we are, how we got here, and why we’re in a hand-basket.

This, then, is the Introduction.

YOLO

Whether you agree with the accuracy of the statement “you only live once” or not, the meaning behind it is clear: make the most of what you do, and live life to the fullest.  For me, as a FlameKeeper and a Kemetic, that means doing the following things:

  1. Living ma’at as best I can.
  2. Recognizing that we are all Divine* and acting accordingly.
  3. Taking responsibility for my mistakes (aka owning my shit).
  4. Trying, in future action, not to repeat the mistakes I’ve made.

Not very glamorous, I admit, and hardly the fodder to post on Twitter under a hashtag.  In fact, when I did a little exploring (something I think you should do, at least once) of the hashtag YOLO (#YOLO) on Twitter, few seemed to be using it the way I do.  People tag some amazing things with #YOLO – for every affirmation of friendship, or child’s first step, or road trip, there’s drunken Christmas caroling, and law-breaking, and -ist** comments.  All of this is…well, you know what?  It’s not my place to tell other humans not under my direct supervision what to do or how to do it unless they ask me for an opinion.  And, no one has.  So, I’ll give you a couple of cents on the topic and let you draw your own conclusions.

My religious path requires action in place of stagnancy, choice in place of passive-aggressiveness, and moving forward in place of looking back.  I am much less concerned with what happens after I die than I am what happens in life.  These things are piety in my practice – I am a pious person despite not doing the things that traditionalists would imagine because I adhere to the need to act, and choose, and move forward.  YOLO, for me, fits right into that – I make a choice and follow-through and, if it backfires or goes horribly askew, I acknowledge it, regroup, and move on.

Now my choices and backfires aren’t nearly as adrenaline pumping as, say, a civilian pulling over a police officer, but they’re still the result of action.  I’m not sitting back and watching things happen around me; I’m precipitating them.  And that, I think, is really the point of YOLO: take that leap and make something happen in this life rather than waiting for the next.  Life’s too short for regrets, even if you believe that we get more than one.

(Maybe the thrill seekers are on to something, after all.)

Vainglory

I don’t know everything and I’m no longer shy about admitting it.

In my mind, admitting ignorance on a topic is a virtue because it allows clarity in discussion, and also means there’s an opportunity to learn something new.  From experience, though, I can tell you that not everyone agrees with me.  In fact, the self-professed expert without sourcing to back it up is actually quite common, even in pagan circles.

As my intro line indicates, I wasn’t always willing to admit my ignorance.  I’ve played the “I’ve heard of that” game once or twice, hoping that someone else would explain something without my having to come clean.  I’ve finagled my way through discussions of esoteric topics without (I hope!) revealing my shortcomings, and even held my own in discussions on topics where I had absolutely no clue what I was really discussing.  I could make a ton of excuses for this behavior, none of which would come close to the admission that I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know something…or I could just say it:

I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know something.

I don’t know if this same fear plagues others, but I tend to think it might – fear is a human condition, after all, and it is likely that one human’s fear might be the same as another human’s fear.  I know it was difficult for me to admit that I was afraid, and that I somehow thought revealing my own ignorance meant that no one would trust me on any topic at all…

(…and see how the intricacies of my brain work?  It’s exhausting sometimes.)

Part of my own problem with ignorance is knowing a ton of random things; I do really well at Trivial Pursuit, for example, because my brain is crammed with information I don’t use on a daily basis.  This also means that, in routine conversation, I’m likely to know something about any number of topics and while my knowledge isn’t exhaustive it often contains fairly obscure facts.  For example, did you know that trees should be planted so the root flare shows above the ground and shouldn’t be mulched with wood chips?  Did you know that monotremes are mammals that lay eggs, thereby making “all mammals give birth live” incorrect?  Or, how about the fact that coffee is tied to the Age of Enlightenment?

See?  Random knowledge.  I collect it like some people collect stamps, and I’ll trot it out from time to time as occasion allows…which also doesn’t help with the whole “I don’t know X” admission.  But, I’ve learned over the past ten years or so that it is better to admit when I don’t know something because (1) the person I’m speaking with can then tailor the conversation, and (2) I can learn new things to be dropped into other conversations.  It’s a win-win!

One thing I’ve noticed is that people who don’t want to admit ignorance will go to lengths to hide it.  They’ll chime in on topics they don’t understand, hoping to avoid being questioned directly by participating peripherally.  They’ll have an example for every situation that comes up, and the examples will have an element (direct or implied) of one-upmanship*.  They’ll talk a lot about what they know and how they apply it…in abstract.  They won’t give sources, and they’ll vociferously argue with anyone who asks for one.  And then…some of them will ask a question on a topic they don’t understand but frame it in such a way to imply that they’re just checking to see if others know the answer.

Quite frankly, behaving in this fashion is exhausting.  I know – I used to do it and sometimes even now I can feel myself pulled in the direction of “pretend to know, and you’ll eventually figure it out”.  I can usually snap myself out of the mindset with concentration, but it isn’t easy.  I didn’t really get good at it until I started having to teach other adults and realized that no one was going to smack me if I told them I didn’t know something, and that I’d have to get back to them.  Figuring out that the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t know something was a revelation.

On my religious path, self-knowledge is key, and part of knowing myself is recognizing that it is okay not to know.  There is a ton of knowledge out there, and no matter how I try I will never know everything.  It’s one of the things that makes me human and, as I’ve said on many other occasions, being human is not the end of the world.  The fact that I know some things that others might not and they know things I might not makes life all the more interesting, and the sharing of knowledge between humans builds community.  That give-and-take upholds ma’at, and strengthens the bonds we have with one another.

Isn’t that something worth doing?

*Note: some people do have a lot of experiences to share, and the fact that they share them does not mean that they’re trying to one-up someone else.