El Paso

A view of the West side of El Paso from Mt. Franklin
This is my city, my place, both mundane and sacred.

I was born at the foot of the mountain. I’ve lived other places, but eventually I came back through a series of unintended coincidences. She wanted me to stay. She brought me gifts of rare feathers, semi-precious stones, and scents that I didn’t remember that I remembered. There was the sweet scent of rain moistening resinous desert plants, and the distinct spiciness of desert herbs powdered to dust and blown into the reddish iron rich crevices of lava rock. The final gift, of a like-minded and like-hearted army veteran convinced me to stay. Apparently, the City meant business.

I wasn’t all that happy about living in the desert. I used to swear to everyone that I’d go back to the Hillcountry with its junipers, live oaks, and bluebonnets. I do still miss that land, but this one needs me more. She is dry and dusty, not as flashy as her sisters to the north in New Mexico. She is the subject of a lot of bad talk. They say she’s dirty and you’ll find better opportunities if you leave. On the other hand, it would probably surprise people to know that she’s been ranked as the safest city above 500 thousand in the US. Just don’t visit her twin to the south. Juarez is improving, but, it still has a long way to go. Residents here remember taking the trolly across the border to go to the mercado, or to restaurants or night clubs. We don’t do that anymore, but that’s a whole different, very sad, story. (Don’t buy drugs kids. The life you ruin may not be your own.)

Most of my magical work is done on her behalf. It has been that way since two weeks prior to 9/11. I didn’t know what would happen. I “saw” a black rain falling, and I put up an umbrella, a shield, over the entire city. I was young and no one told me that I couldn’t do it. I’ve been keeping an eye on the place ever since with workings of protection and prosperity, sometimes trying to coax a few drops of rain out of the sky to bring some relief from the drought. I always wish I could do more.

I honor the local spirits of this place. I see the Thunderbird’s portrait on the side of the mountain from my front window. I talk to the Mountain. I know this place is filled with gods, spirits, saints and angels from all over the world, as the residents have brought them here. I like it that way. The otherside is full of life in this place.

I lived here for years before I became Kemetic. This land seems like a good place for it. In the old days, they understood the value of working civic magic too. I find it funny that I live in the Sun City next to the Great River. I know that water is life, and the river makes it possible. The irrigation canals the farmers use here are not so different from those in ancient Egypt. There is a cooperative system in place to make sure everyone gets their share. It’s not computerized. Someone must actually go out there and open and close the gates on the right days. But the reservoir to the north is low. The river won’t flow until June this year. My prayers are with the farmers.

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Discussion Versus Drama

When I was younger, my dad and I used to get into these long interesting discussions about God, the Universe and Everything. It was one of those fun things we did together during those brief times when I could visit. It was part of our effort to catch up and get reacquainted. My parents got divorced when I was nine. My mom and I moved halfway across the country. Time with my father was brief, so we tried to fit in as much quality as we could.

Dad was a Deist. In his view, God created a perfectly balanced machine, and had no need to come back and futz with it. In practical terms, he was an atheist with a passing belief in God. I’ve often jokingly referred to his religion as “Sagan Worshiper.” At the time, I was sort of a budding Animist without any fancy names to put to the notions in my head. I just had this feeling that there was more to the world than what we could see or measure.

Funnily enough, I remember taking the position that the One True God did not possess an ego as we understand the term.  It is an undifferentiated Everything. He told me that he could relate better to the idea of a God who had a personality. This went on for other subjects as well. He told me why he didn’t believe in anything psychic and why he thought reincarnation wasn’t happening because of the human population explosion. I told him of incidents where I had done psychic things, even gave a demonstration or two that made him pause. I also pointed out that human population wasn’t a valid argument against reincarnation because animals could also be included in the soul-pool.

I could say that we “argued” this or that point, but it wasn’t an argument, ever. We stated how we saw it and gave a few reasons for thinking that way. Not once did I ever believe that I would, could, or should, change his mind. Once, we were doing this while visiting family, and my grandmother, who was Christian, joined the discussion. She held her own quite well.

I really miss those days. True exploratory discussions seem hard to come by. The subject of discussion often gets lost while contestants try to score points. Debates are more often won by those who are good at debating, and not by the actual merits of the ideas being discussed. Sides become polarized. Discussions get heated and devolve into personal attacks and drama. No one actually learns from these exchanges. If anything, it just causes those mental doors to slam shut out of anger.

One thing we all need to remember when entering a discussion is that what we possess are OPINIONS. This is especially true when it comes to religion or spirituality. None of us have definitively proved the existence of anything beyond the Seen world. We have belief. We have stories. We have our own experiences. What we do with those things form our beliefs. (Claiming that the Unseen does not exist is also an opinion and a belief!) This means giving our own egos a swift kick in the pants and admitting that there is a chance that we may be wrong, about everything.

How do we get through the day knowing that our beliefs don’t actually have proof to back them up? Faith! Remember that word? Faith doesn’t mean “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It means, “I could be wrong, but I have the courage to live in accordance with my beliefs anyway.”

xkdc: Duty Calls

Is it really so terrible to be wrong? You’d think it was the worst thing in the world by the way people behave. Our laws do a fairly decent job of pointing out what actual wrongness is. I’m personally a huge fan of the separation of church and state. It gives me the freedom to be potentially wrong in a manner that doesn’t actually harm others in a serious life and property kind of way. It gives others that same freedom too. It makes it possible for varying viewpoints to exist, whether I agree with them or not.

Respect is another point we need to bring to the discussion table. I had a great deal of respect for my father and grandmother. That respect didn’t depend upon agreeing with everything they said. I respected their lives and experiences. I respected that they had seen things that I hadn’t. I went into those discussions wanting to learn. I was genuinely curious about what they thought, and how it might relate to what I thought. I might not adopt their beliefs as my own, but the act of bouncing ideas around does help to refine them. Seeing the same subject illuminated in a different light gives a sense of perspective. Though, it might not be the perspective that the speaker intended. Differing perspectives give depth to our world views, just as our two eyes give depth to our vision.

Fallow Time

Nothing new to report. Same old stuff. Boooorrrred. Those times happen to all of us. The gods are silent, sometimes for weeks or months.

So, what do I do when that happens? Usually I complain. I’ll gripe about it in my private journal or with my friends. I’ll quietly laugh at myself at the same time, because I know that when things get busy again, I’ll complain then too. I remind myself of this. The fallow times don’t last forever.

The quiet times seem to happen when I’m more focused on dirtside. There’s nothing wrong with dirtside. There’s plenty of things that need to be done. Some of them go better without the distraction and trials brought on from spiritside. You need to clean the house, or take care of children, or look after your health, or get that project finished, or pay the bills. The gods know this, and they sometimes step back to give you room to get those things done. We can’t all live in a monastery, and in ancient Egypt, the priests also had regular lives outside the temples.

Sometimes it’s quiet because I overdid things. I tend approach my spiritual activities fast and hard, and sometimes I end up getting burned. Then it’s time to be put on the bench until I get myself back together again. Yes, I do sulk the entire time while giving Djehuty evil looks as he tells me to sit my butt down. I’m an energy channeler who is a sucker for high voltage activities. It does have its down side.

Sometimes it’s just that time of year. I can usually count on a lull around November and December. I’m seasonally affective, and that’s my low energy time of year. I remind myself that it’s temporary, and I pick up a book or play a game.

Just remember that They are still there, even if they’re not up in your face about it. They haven’t left. Your radio just isn’t working at full power, either that or you have important things going on that require your focus. There are a number of reasons why it might go quiet. It’s almost never because They don’t care.

Video: Making Egyptian Faience

(I’m sorry, the video doesn’t work anymore, but there are a few resources listed in the comments below. The percentages given in one of those papers does not have enough flux. It should be closer to 10%. Start lower than that, and slowly add more to your recipe until you get the level of gloss that you want. Don’t go overboard or your art will melt! The video showed them using gum arabic as a binder. I’ve had better luck using no binder at all because it can get sticky. It doesn’t work like clay, though some people like to add clay to it. The earlier methods didn’t appear to use it. Experiment and have fun! And don’t forget your mask! Breathing fine silica dust is bad for your health.)

Ooh pretty! This is definitely on my wish list!

Does anyone have any experience with ceramics who could comment on this? It’s a shame they didn’t include the actual recipe here.

Cleansing and Ritual Purity

After last week, this seemed like a nice simple subject.

The Kemetic Orthodox faith has a specific purification ritual that we use before doing ‘official’ observances. If you want to know exactly what that entails I recommend buying Tamara Siuda’s book (The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook) or signing up for beginner classes with the Kemetic Orthodoxy, which are free. If you’re not planning to go Kemetic, or Orthodox, then the exact wording might not be all that important to you anyway. In short, we invoke a goddess of purification, bless the water and a small amount of natron (salt and baking soda crystallized together) then add them to the bath.

There isn’t much point in me explaining that part. You get the general idea. Instead, I’d like to talk about my personal take on the idea.

There are different ways to go about this depending on the time you have and what your needs may be on that day. Sometimes I do it one way and sometimes another. There’s the bath, the shower, and the swish and spit. I’ve been told that there’s a desert version using only sand if you don’t have enough water to use for anything other than drinking, but I don’t know how to do that one.

The book uses the bath version. Baths are good for that long deep soak. It loosens up the dry dead skin. It soothes tired muscles. I like to add a few sprinkles of cedar oil to mine for the scent. It’s also an oil that was used for protection in old Kemet. I also like it because the place I grew up was thick with mountain cedar(really a juniper). Make sure you know what kind of oil you’re using before you toss it in the water. Some of them don’t play well with skin! I also tend to make my bath too hot in order to sneak in a purifying sweat while I’m at it.* If you go that route, make sure to take a tall glass of drinking water in with you and be careful of overheating. I like to go with the full bath about once a week, or when my muscles are sore after exercise, or after my period is finished to get me back on track.

The shower is the method I use most often. I keep the natron water in a separate container. Unless you want to make yourself squeak, remember to use warm water in your blessing. In some ways, the shower is more thorough to me than the bath. The bath is passive cleansing. The shower is more active. I pour a tiny bit of the natron water in my hand at a time and use it to deliberately rinse every part of my body.

If you have a sense of your energy body**, see if you can feel the blessed natron water sinking into your energy field, even under your skin. The sensation might feel rather pleasant, or it might sting a little, depending on what energetic blockages or injuries you might have. Either way, it’s good for you. If you have a numb spot, you might want to repeat the rinse in that area. Some mornings this goes smoothly. Other mornings I hiss and make faces. This one is particularly good for the morning after a major working.

After the bath or shower, you may find that your energy field is wide open. You don’t really want to go walking around like that, unless you have a ritual that prefers you to be that way. For that reason, I think it’s a good idea to follow up with a lotion or oil mix (for awhile I was fond of an olive and scented oil mixture), both to moisturize your skin and to act as a protective coating for your energy body. To top it off sometimes I add a tiny bit of eye liner to protect my eyes. I personally don’t go full Egyptian on that, anything more than ‘barely noticeable’ brings out the dark circles under my eyes. As I draw the lines I say something simple like “Protect my eyes, protect my thoughts.”

Finally, the swish and spit. There are some days where it’s hard to drag your butt before the shrine. The gods understand this, most of them, unless they’re deliberately trying to make a point. For that reason, I keep a pre-blessed bottle of natron on hand. I say the words, dab a few drops on various bodily areas, then swish and spit. This one should be used only when you have Them breathing down your neck to get in there “or else!” and you don’t have time or energy, or running water, for the full cleansing. Ra has told me that the minimum requirements exist for a reason. Sometimes the minimum is the best you can manage. Don’t let that be an excuse to skip it entirely.

*Lakota influence sneaking in there. It’s nothing like a sweat lodge at all, but sweat is still a good way to rid impurities and fight sickness with a little voluntary fever. (I’m not a doctor! Follow my advice at your own risk. Not a good idea if you might be pregnant! Blah, blah blah…)

**Not everyone does, if you don’t, then feel free to skip this paragraph. This would be my chi gong influence sneaking in.

Djehuty (Thoth)

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna June 2006 003

I found myself sitting upright on a table. I was in a semi-permanent camp. The roof was made of heavy green canvas, and the table was the folding type. My friend stood in front of me. He was wearing a neat white shirt, black rimmed glasses, and had short black hair. I realized that I was dreaming.

I looked him in the face. Overwhelmed by homesickness, I told him, “I don’t want to go back.” Without moving a muscle, he helped me focus and become more centered in the dream. He calmly suggested that he could take my place. I asked him why he’d want to do that, the people were nuts there. I stood up from the table and kissed him on the cheek. More of a greeting among old friends than anything sensual.

He took me outside to a swampy forest. The trees were thin and scraggly but provided good shade. There were fish swimming in the water, a cross between goldfish and koi.

“These are wisdom,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked. I watched one fish, with part of its tail missing, struggling sideways in water that was too shallow. It didn’t look very wise to me. It ducked down into a tunnel in the rocks and came back out in deeper water. As we walked up the bank, my foot squelched in the swampy mud.

We walked a little way, and without words we talked about how what we saw was just a translation of the real thing. After all, you couldn’t really see the ones and zeroes. He told me that he saw hickory trees and books.

The next day, I realized who my nerdy-looking friend was. It was Djehuty, AKA Thoth. I wanted to write about him, but I wasn’t sure what to say. A dry recitation of his attributes would not convey what I felt about him. To most people, he is Thoth, god of writing. If you’re lucky, they might hit the physician aspect too. Then I remembered that dream. He felt like my oldest friend in the world. His offer to take my burden was genuine, though I’m sure he also knew my stubbornness would have me refuse. I guess if I ever stop being stubborn, than it really is time for him to step in.

He sees wisdom in the struggles and experiences of simple creatures. It doesn’t matter if you’re a goldfish, an insect, or a human. There is a deep knowledge in the things we take for granted. Like that fish with part of its tail missing, sometimes the greater struggle brings greater wisdom. Even that one? “Especially that one,” he’d say. Every life is a rich and complex tale in vivid panoramic HD. He records those tales because he finds them fascinating.