Sharing: Access and Justice: Disabled Pagan Activism

I highly recommend that everyone who reads this blog go on over to http://stoneontosand.weebly.com/disability-equality-training.html and take a read and /ora listen.  This is topic that, in my opinion, is never discussed enough.

Alternatively, you can hear the talk by clicking the video link below:

 

Slide below posted with permission:4996347_orig

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.

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.

Gyromancy

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was spin around in a circle until I fell over dizzy.  I’d go outdoors on a sunny day, find a spot in my yard, and spin and spin until I couldn’t stay standing and toppled over into the grass.

(I also used to roll down the hill in our front yard, but that’s a topic for another time.)

Anyway, the idea of doing such a thing now makes me nauseous – in addition to my equilibrium changing after I had my son, I also have benign positional vertigo (BPV) which means I sometimes get dizzy and fall over for no reason at all.  Spinning in a circle until I fall over is now off the table, as is going on any amusement ride that spins and watching any movie that uses shaky cam as a thing.  But, I was amused to discover that my childhood spinning actually had a use that I didn’t know about – divination.  I’m referring to gyromancy.

Gyromancy is the practice of divination by circles or rounds, and there are a couple of well-known methods:

  • A person, or a group of people, spin or dance in circles until they become dizzy enough to fall on the ground.  At that point, everything that is said by the ones on the ground is recorded, and then those recorded words are interpreted for potential meaning.
  • A person, or a group of people, stand within a circle that is bordered by letters or symbols.  At the appropriate time, the person or group walks around the inside of the circle repeatedly until they grow dizzy enough to fall on the ground.  At that point, the position of the people on the ground in relation to the letters/symbols is noted and interpreted for meaning.

Both of the methods above sometimes involved the person or group of people getting up once they fell and repeating their actions until they couldn’t stand again or, as reported in Occult Sciences: A Compendium of Transcendental Doctrine and Experiment: “…till he evolved an intelligible sentence, or till death or madness intervened.”

Ummm, yeah.

Another method, and one I hadn’t heard of before researching for this post, uses a nicked or marked coin – the coin is spun within a circle of letters, and words are spelt out by where the nick or mark lands when the coin falls over.  I think I like this method best as it doesn’t involve me spinning in circles and then spewing.  Although, that might be another method – spin the person and interpret meaning based on where the discharge lands?

(Okay, forget I suggested that.  EW.)

Since I started pondering gyromancy, I’ve had a picture in my head of someone practicing it at a day care facility, at random, based on spinning pre-schoolers.  I mean, they will spin on their own – why not make some use of it by giving them soft mats marked with letters to use as a base?  I don’t know how accurate it would be, but it might make for a good experiment provided that no one actually spun the children; the children would need to spin on their own, of course.

Clearly, I am getting silly.  Sillier than usual, anyway.

I don’t currently know anyone who practices gyromancy, much like I didn’t (and still don’t!) know anyone who practices tyromancy.  If you do either, I’d be really interested to know your how and your why, and whether you think harnessing the power of small children is worthwhile.  After all, a day when I learn something new is a good day!

Today is a good day.

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.)

Xen

(I’m cheating, a little, because the title of this post refers to a specific person…and this post is actually about a culture.  Nevertheless, the person is a member of that culture, and I needed another X post.)

Admiral Daro’Xen (“Xen”) vas Moreh

I’m not as drawn to quarian culture as I am to specific individuals who happen to be quarian (anyone else have rage over the lack of fem!Shep/Tali in ME2 and 3???), but the central tenet of quarian religion is very present in my own practices – ancestor veneration.

From the Wiki:

“…The quarians used to practice a form of ancestor worship. This involved taking a personality imprint from the individual and developing it into an interface similar to a VI. The quarians began experimenting with making these imprints more and more sophisticated, hopefully leading to the wisdom of their ancestors being preserved in an imprint that could be truly intelligent. However, the geth destroyed the quarians’ ancestor databanks when they rebelled. Some quarians saw their subsequent exile as punishment for their hubris, but most accept that the geth rebellion was a mistake, not a punishment.

However, respect for their ancestors is still prevalent in quarian society…”

I venerate my ancestors; I don’t usually call it worship, but there are aspects of what I do for them that might deserve that appellation.  I take a moment to think of them when I pass the shrine I’ve set up in the living room.  I offer water and beer to them when I remember to do so (not regularly, but often enough that I think I can count it).  I remember, with intent, the ones I knew, and muse on the ones I didn’t, and pray for them, and once or twice I’ve asked for intervention from them.

I’ve also been known, on occasion, to meditate on the larger…conglomeration that is Ancestors with a capital A…which I think may be more in line with how modern (future?) quarians invoke their ancestors:

“Blessed are the ancestors who kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.  Keelah se’lai.” – Mass Effect 2, Tali’s Loyalty Mission

Here, in this invocation, I can see gratitude to both individual ancestors (some known, some not) but also to Ancestors – the quarians who grew a culture and civilization on Rannoch; the quarians who were driven from their homeworld by the geth and thus formed a nomadic society to wander space; the quarians who kept the flotilla in repair and able to maintain and sustain life.  All of these groups had a hand in ensuring the survival of those who came after, and thus all of these groups can claim the gratitude that is offered.

The same is true for those that came before me; there are many groups of people that contributed something toward my existence today, and even if individuals can be condemned (and some are, believe me!) the larger community of Ancestors deserves my recognition and my thanks.  And so, in this, I find yet another religious practice from the video game realm that has useful real-world application…which seems to go against the pronouncements of many about the triviality of gaming.

(What usefulness will I find in Tamriel, I wonder?)

Woofits

I’ve made occasional reference to the fact that I have MDD*, and spoken about how it impacts my ability to care for myself.  I’ve also told you about self-care being an essential part of Dark Flame work…and so I thought I’d do something different this time around.  Instead of dealing with abstracts, I’m going to take you through a recent day of mine and give you an idea of how my woofits manifest.

Last Wednesday, I woke up not wanting to go to therapy.  There’s nothing really unusual about that, except for the fact that I’m not used to feeling it – my previous therapist, whom I stopped seeing in September, lasted almost five years, and for some reason I enjoyed going to see her even though I didn’t really like the work we were doing.  Anyway, I’ve got a new therapist and we’re working on what I like to call my last monster – my relationship with food – and I absolutely hate it.  With a capital H, HATE it.

So, I woke up hating things, went downstairs and fed cats, and ate breakfast.  Since my last monster has to do with food, and emotional eating for self-medication purposes, I obsess over what I eat and meals are a struggle.  I fought with myself briefly, then ate a lovely bowl of granola with unsweetened almond milk (tastes good and is filling, thereby leading me away from hunger.)  Of course, self-medication has little to do with hunger.

I worked all morning, going back and forth about whether I was going to go to therapy or call out with an excuse, but I ended up going.  On the way, I ran through a drive-through and got fast food french fries, which is my classic I need comfort; must eat the things food.  I was in a state that (I believed) could only be assuaged by salt and grease…and it was mighty tasty, despite the pangs of guilt and the shoulding all over myself that occurred later.  In the grand scheme of things, driving through occasionally isn’t going to kill me, but it plays right into my endless cycle of “I don’t like myself-I’m too fat-I’ll eat to feel better-YUM-oh gods, I ate food shame shame SHAME-rinse-repeat” thing I’ve got going on.

I went into therapy and lambasted new therapist for giving me eating tips when I know what I should be doing, but I allow the emotional need for comfort to overcome, and what I need is something I can do when the urge becomes overwhelming and and AND…and she listened.  New therapist listened, and asked questions, and then pointed out that my need to eat for comfort is (most likely) related to series of emotional things I’m carrying around in addition to a lifelong habit of “sneak” eating that I’m no longer active enough to do without physical consequences.

She then reminded me that eating for comfort is probably preferable to drinking for comfort, and I felt a little better, but my head was filled with self-loathing and guilt and I argued with myself all the way back home.  I didn’t go through another drive-through, nor did I buy and eat ALL THE POTATO CHIPS but instead sat with the fact that I am not taking care of myself in the way I think I should.

(There it goes again – shoulding all over myself.)

The rest of the week went without outward manifestation of my feelings about myself.  Internally, though, I was as much a wreck as I usually am.  This is actually where Baby Steps helps – even when I’m in super meltdown mode I can (usually) find something small to do for myself.  I did manage to bathe/shower when I needed to, and I did manage to get dressed, and I did brush my teeth every dayand all of these things, small though they are, count as self-care and nurture of my Dark Flame, so the week wasn’t totally lost.  Still, going back to Baby Steps time after time feels like a letdown; funnily enough, though, I encourage others to count their Baby Steps as real things (they are, after all!) but I don’t always remember to pat myself on the back for putting shoes on.

I consider myself a pretty good FlameKeeper as things go (although my guru might disagree!) but after three (four?) years as a practitioner I still have trouble remembering that the small things I do count as action, and that self-care is religious work, and that work on myself improves things around me…but it makes sense.  If we are all Divine, work on one of us is work on the Divine and, therefore, work on us all.  The things I do for myself help to strengthen community, and strengthening community improves the Universe, and so it goes.  Perhaps I need a Post-It to remind me.

We are all Divine, and as we grow and change the Universe grows and changes.  As we work on ourselves, we work on everything around us; as we know ourselves, we gain knowledge about our connections to others.  All parts of us, and of others, are parts of the Divine – our joys and sorrows, our selflessness and selfishness, our ins and outs.  This means our woofits are Divine as well and, as such, it behooves us to work with them.