Kicking the Hornet’s Nest

I spend a great deal of time poking at hidden things.  I open cans of worms; I kick hornet’s nests; I turn over rocks to see what lies wriggling underneath.  And, I ask questions – tons and tons of questions, sometimes to the dismay of my colleagues, and my family, and my friends.  I hold the flashlight and shine it right into the face of things that are more comfortable in darkness, in the secret places where they cannot be examined.

Some of this is innate – I am a curious person, and examining something from every conceivable angle until I *know* it fills me with the kind of ecstasy most ascribe to moments of a more…intimate nature.   And, don’t get me wrong – I enjoy sex as much as anyone, and perhaps more than many…but the perfect blend of the emotional and the physical that so many of my loved ones ascribe to it is, for me, found in that first perfect moment when I truly understand something new.

This, as one might assume, means that I am sometimes extremely difficult to be around.  When active avoidance of a topic is the MO, I have to deliberately focus to not only not see the elephant in the room, but also keep from asking it questions about how it got onto the elevator.

It also means, though, that I am a Very Useful Tool, and that some of the Powers That Be have a vested interest in keeping me in good repair.  My boss at my day job, for example, knows I will dig deeply into anything he asks me to investigate and bring back every single piece of information available.  My boss’ boss, the head of Quality Assurance for our company, has come to welcome me greeting him with, “I opened another can.”  They both know, as does anyone who works with me, that I will worry a thing until it breaks open and reveals its creamy center, and that benefits almost everyone involved.

Mmmmmm….creamy center….*drools*

Outside of my day job, I remain a Very Useful Tool.  This thing I do, this poking, and prodding, and questioning, and untangling, brought me the attention of the netjeru before I knew that they were available to me as more than a list of Names in a book of mythology.  It brought me Work to Do that was ecstatic and transformative, but wrapped to make it seem smaller and less critical than it turned out to be.  It is the primary way I uphold ma’at, the concept that is so critical to Kemetic practice.  It is integral to my FlameKeeping work – the Dark Flame Wayfinder guides through the nebulous so the seeker can see the infinite potential(s) waiting for them.  It forms the foundation of my web work – how can I know what to untangle and what to leave in place if I don’t ask the question, or at least get right up against the threads to trace where they are connected?

To ask, to kick, to nudge, to pry – these are not without consequences.  For every piece of knowledge gained, for every insight, there is something better left unknown, or untouched.  My head is filled with things I’d rather forget but cannot, and I’m reminded of some platitude about being unable to put knowledge back where it belongs.  Once opened, a box can never return to its unopened state…but then again, I’ve always found Pandora to be a kindred spirit, and wasn’t Hope at the bottom of that box anyway?

I am the one who Questions, and I have no regrets.  The reward is worth a thousand stings.

The Elder Scrolls – Reman

Apotheosis in Tamriel is not limited to Talos, who was Tiber Septim before becoming one of the Nine.  Indeed, Reman Cyrodiil, now called the Worldly God, was known before Ysmir: first as the greatest hero of the Akaviri Invasion of the First Era, and then as the ruler of the Second Empire.  Under his dynasty, the Empire conquered all the kingdoms of Tamriel save for Morrowind…and it was Morrowind, and the Morag Tong, that led to his demise.

(Interestingly, Cyrodiil is not named for Reman as many believe.  Instead, he took Cyrod, the ancient Ayleid name of the heartlands, as his surname.)

There is no obvious cult of Reman these days, but he was worshiped alongside Talos as a conquerer-god, and there is documentation to support this worship dating from as late as the first century of the Third Era.  His rise to godhood stems from the heroic acts of his life – in addition to routing the Akaviri, who called him Dragonborn and swore their loyalty, Reman created the rites associated with ascension to Emperor and is credited with the creation of the Amulet of Kings.  Scholars disagree on whether Reman held or was held by the Amulet, but it none can contest that the process of becoming Emperor is his.

When we look at the cultural god-kings of a prior civilization, it is useful to examine the qualities they embody.  Reman, like so many other deified beings, was a hero who freed Cyrodiil from an invading force and brought prosperity to its people…from the Imperial point of view, anyway.  This raises the question of similarity between practices for the cult of Reman and others – the archaic and classical hero-cults of Greece, for example, or the imperial cults of Rome – and I feel confident in saying that those who desire to worship Reman in such a way will do so with the Worldly God’s blessing.  However, I prefer to think of the qualities not specifically mentioned that nevertheless would have been crucial to his success, and to base my approach to him on those very things.

As an example, consider that Reman is said to have convinced the Akaviri to support him in the founding of the Empire, and the actions documented by historians appear to bear that out.  His powers of persuasion were significant, and the ability to sway others to my cause, to cause them to focus on what I want to accomplish, is something that I use in my work each day.  It should be no wonder, then, that I look to Reman to strengthen my ability to persuade others that what I ask of them is both reasonable and desirable.

(For any who consider me cold for admitting these things, look to the nature of corporate America and understand that the channels I go through to implement processes and programs require this type of action.  I am good at my job.)

For ideas on how to incorporate the worship of Reman into your personal practice, I recommend looking to modern worship of other deified mortals such as Heracles, or Gaius Julius Caesar.

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.

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.