Meatsuit

It’s pet peeve time. I cringe every time I see someone use this word. In all, I suppose it’s not a whole lot worse than when I refer to “dirtside,” except that with a degree in horticulture, I actually have a lot of respect for dirt.

To me, the word “meatsuit” shows a lack of respect for our highly complex and hard working bodies. I know where the sentiment comes from. The body isn’t always a match for the spirit inside. I know the feeling well. I am both otherkin and transgendered, or gender fluid, well, everything fluid. My spirit is a shifty one. The face I see in the mirror doesn’t look like me at all. Even so, this body plays a real part in who I am today. It does the best it can, and I am responsible for helping it in that cause. It is alive, an entire ecosystem within itself, and it deserves respect. If you don’t make it your ally, then it will become your enemy.  If it already feels like the enemy, then it’s not too late to try to repair the relationship. It builds character, as my old Aikido sensei used to say. (I was tempted to tell him that I had plenty of character already, but then he would have made me uke. No, not in the anime sense of the word, nice try.)

I’ve always been just a little bit overweight. I never wanted these lumps on my chest that appeared when I was twelve, and where the heck are my wings? I wore baggy t-shirts in high school because I just wanted to hide it all. Now when I wear baggy t-shirts, it’s simply because they’re comfortable. In college, I took Aikido and archery. I began to appreciate the things I could make my body do. I could fluidly roll across the floor, or fall unharmed with a loud BANG against the mat. I could relax, focus, and hit a target with my arrow, except for that one odd day when I’d switched dominant eyes without realizing it. I told you I was fluid. I realized that the “meatsuit” wasn’t half bad, and that I could learn to have fun with it. (Not in the anime sense of the…oh never mind.) I remember going to the bar with my friends and dancing to any song that wasn’t country. There wasn’t anything else to do in that town. Dance is still a big part of my spiritual life. It’s a nice easy conduit for trance and energywork. It’s fun and it’s exercise. Years of tai chi training makes it even more fun.

In tai chi, we learn about three major energy centers, the lower, middle, and upper tan tiens. We focus mainly on the lower one, the one relating to the physical. The middle is said to relate to the emotional, and the upper, to mental and psychic things. We’re always told to work with the lower one first. Like a pyramid, you need a strong foundation before moving up or the whole thing may become unstable. The physical work you do first will give you the strength needed to endure the ups and downs of the emotional, or the surreal abstract nature of the mental. I’m sure we’ve all met people who have skipped straight to the upper work and have suffered for it. In that category, you’ll find those who are too empathic for their own good, and also those who sound like they’re on drugs when they tell you about enlightenment. Tai chi is all about improving the interface between mind, body and chi. You do that with hours and hours of grunt work and repetition. I think everyone should do tai chi, but I’m definitely biased. The truth is, any exercise that is suited to your ability and interest helps in building that connection.

After all that, I don’t have a meat suit. I have a body glove. I have a highly complex and capable tool that actually helps with my spiritual practices. If I treat it well, I can channel more energy without crashing afterward. I can dance and trance longer. I can think more clearly. I can meditate without falling asleep a few minutes into it. If I slack off and forget, don’t exercise, don’t sleep enough, don’t take my vitamins, all of that comes back to bite me in the butt. I can’t afford to pretend that my body isn’t an important part of my spiritual life.

Mindtrap

I remember when I was a baby shaman. I joined a list. I talked to others who were in the same boat as I was. I championed my causes. I acted like a fool, and I played with fools who were foolish enough to play with me. I hadn’t thought much about that time in awhile. At the end of my Journeywork post, I made a statement that I’m not a shaman. I’m a person who does journeywork. I’m a different person now than I was then. The cause of the dysfunction revealed itself with that statement. I even remember a few scattered people telling me, in their own words, what the problem was, but I didn’t understand. I thought they were just being elitist jerks, and some of them actually were, so the confusion was somewhat natural. Perhaps the elitists were repeating something they heard someone else say that sounded good to them, and thereby muddling the message because they didn’t get it either.

I thought that I should be a shaman. I did the things that theoretically define what a shaman is, so why couldn’t I be one? I did this thing, and people who do that thing are shamans. Oh, but shamans do these other things too! You need to do X,Y and Z. Oh, so if I do those things I will be a shaman! I need to, uh, open a business where people will come to me for help, and I’ll help! I’ll be sooo good at helping! I’ll be the best shaman ever and everyone will respect me!

Did you notice the mindtrap in the previous paragraph? I would have to bend over backwards to fit someone else’s idea of what I thought I should be, in order to gain respect. But it would never come from those whose respect I craved. The gatekeepers are not amused. Some of the gatekeepers truly are elitest jerks. They are the ones who also believe in the trap, of course. However, some gatekeepers actually have some idea of what they’re talking about. They know that trying to be someone other than yourself can never amount to anything good. It can be hard to tell the difference between them. Sometimes they use the exact same words.

No matter how hard I try, I will never be a ritual magician from Siberia. Why did I want to be one of those again? It sounds absurd, doesn’t it?

Now, go back and play the word replace game. I’ve seen the exact same thing played out in a number of different communities. Any place where people spend endless hours talking about who is “real” and who isn’t is subject to the trap. Are you a real witch, priest, priestess, master, magician, otherkin, reconstructionist, LGBT (pick one, or more)? Then you must XYZ! And if you do try for XYZ you’ll become a caricature of the real thing, a caricature of your real self. You know that you’re a real person who does real things. So you want to fight back and grab that honorific with both hands while defiantly sticking out your tongue. Nice try, but the trap has you.

The people who take part of those debates have also been taken in by the trap. The rational people who are no longer part of it tend to sit on the sidelines and silently roll their eyes. You are a real person who does real things. You are a person who does your things. That really is enough, because if you dive deeply into it, you will find a sense of purpose that goes beyond the cookie cutter definitions that you’ve spent so much time trying to squeeze yourself into.

Life, Continued

I get to show off two things at once!

This ankh didn’t break, hooray! It still came out with a matte finish, but you can see a little bit of shiny. I probably need to turn up the heat, or let it cook longer, next time. But I’m getting closer to cracking the recipe. It looks like sculpey with that brilliant blue color, but it’s not. It makes that satisfying tink noise when you click it with your fingernail.

Also, there’s my rock garden. Some of those are things I planted and some are weeds. I’m giving the weeds a chance to prove their worth before I pull them. The rest of the yard is bare dirt, so I’m a bit more lenient with anything that’s green as long as it doesn’t try to stab me in the foot.

There’s a bee in the lower right, and a baby fish and its shadow resting over one of the submerged pads on the left.

Life! The bees come and go constantly, happy to have a readily available source of water in our desert climate. Bees are sacred to Ra, who’s one of my divine daddies. The baby mosquito fish must have been born recently. I saw at least four of them out there earlier today. This is a good thing because I was worried about the grackles eating all of them. They’re smart birds who love to take advantage of free meals. My mom has seen them carefully turning over the lily pads in her pond, looking for snails stuck to the bottom of them.

When I go to the water’s edge, whether in my back yard or out in nature, I love to see tiny things going about their business.

The pond has grown up a bit since the first picture.

You can see a couple lily blossoms in there. The “papyrus” is actually umbrella plant. I went with the substitute because regular dwarf papyrus is not winter hardy. Yes, there’s some grass in there too. I haven’t decided yet whether to weed or not. See comments about weeding above. The trickle fountain uses water recycled from our swamp coolers, in fact, all the plants there do, using tiny drip lines. You can see that I wasn’t kidding about the bare dirt back there. My green is mostly concentrated in one carefully managed area.

The birds love the pond too. I intentionally made a shallow area with submerged rocks so they could get closer to the water without falling in, or could climb out if they did. I’ve seen sparrows, finches, doves and grackles drinking and sometimes bathing there. They also like my yard because I’ve been feeding them. I get yelled at a lot when I go outside and disturb their lunch. There’s also one squirrel who likes to visit for food and water. Squirrels have a hard life out here with few large trees around. It’s rare to see them, and when you do, they’re scampering nervously along the ground. I have lizards in the back yard too. They probably don’t care about the pond one way or the other, but they do sometimes sun themselves on the rocks, when there are no grackles around.

Life

Isis knot and Ankh

Tiet and Ankh unfired faience pieces.

My ankhs always seem to break. Oh, that one up there hasn’t yet, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it survives firing tomorrow. The one I posted before? Yes, that one broke too. One arm broke before firing, and my attempt to put it back on was only partially successful. It held on by only a few grains of sand on the surface.  I think the one up there is attempt number five. Ankhs, like the life they represent, are delicate. Also like life, I don’t know how these will turn out. I switched up my recipe again, trying to get it right. Try, try again. I’m just tripping over metaphor tonight.

No one quite knows what the ankh symbol originally represented. There have been many theories floating around including sandal knots, mirrors and libation bowls. I think it looks like a person with arms outstretched in joy. Sometimes my horticulturalist’s eye takes over and sees a tiny seedling with the two cotyledons open on either side while the true leaves bud in the center. The Isis knot, Tiet, next to it is often used in the same context, but with an added reference to the goddess Isis or Aset.

Life is such a huge subject that I’m not sure where to begin. Words just don’t do it justice and neither do those simple looking symbols up there. This is another of those basic concepts that we take too much for granted. I think of seeds blowing on the wind, and no one knows which ones will take root. Seedlings are so very fragile, that again, you don’t know which ones will live long enough to grow into trees, or flowers, or food. Life is uncertainty, but that never stops it from trying, any time and any way that it can. It thrives, not through perfection, but through persistence.

KRT: How did I get here?

How did you get started in Kemeticism? Tips? Stories?

My first reaction to this prompt is, “Dear gods, I don’t want to tell that story again!”

Short version is that Sekhmet showed up in a vision and I promptly ignored her and avoided all things Egyptian like the plague for years. What do you expect from Sekhmet? Her message was not a gentle one. Ra decided later that that kind of behavior simply wouldn’t stand, and he got involved. I reluctantly began to acknowledge Their existence and influence, but I was still the stubborn horse. They couldn’t make me drink.

Fast forward to the dream. I guess that’s where my formal interest in Kemeticism started.

I was in an old hotel room in a foreign country. I thought it looked like Mexico. The paint was an odd turquoise color that was cracked and peeling in a few places. I stood at the window with my cab driver. He looked tanned and athletic, with short greying hair. He brought my attention to the square out the window, with the park across the street, the shops and the street vendors outside. He especially wanted me to see the Egyptian trinkets they had for sale, the Eye of Horus necklaces and a bust of Nefertiti in the shop. I wondered why he thought I’d be interested in that cheap tourist trash, and yet, there was something I really wanted to tell him, but I couldn’t find the words.

The next morning, I had a change of heart. I thought that maybe one Horus statue couldn’t hurt. I even had an image of one I’d like to have, hand carved from some grey marbled stone, about six or seven inches high. I haven’t actually seen one like that. I looked. Anyway, I realized that some of my previous aversions had let up a little. I found the Kemetic Orthodoxy online, and, here I am. (I’m fairly sure now that the cab driver was Wepwawet, who “opened the way” for this change.)

Unfortunately, not even the gods own “magic wands.” Not even Wepwawet could make old habits disappear completely. My aversions and resistances still crop up. It takes more “spoons” than it should to participate on the forums, or chats. Research sometimes makes me feel ill. Instead of making me feel close to the gods and being a safe relaxing space, I struggle with shrine time, as it only seems to emphasize our separation. I tend to stick to journeywork, random hellos, and the odd project or hobby, but I do those every day. Kemeticism isn’t something I do. It’s something I breathe.

My advice? Join a group, or don’t. Follow the advice, or don’t. Give it a fair try and see if it works. If it doesn’t then keep trying until you find what does work. I can’t really tell you how your practice is supposed to look. No one can. If They want you, it’s usually better to play along than to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend not to hear. There’s only so much of that They will tolerate.

Lightning

…is currently flashing across the sky outside. Hau Wakinyan!

My spouse and I have been making fun of the storm, talking about how wussy it is, and how we should take its lunch money. I might also add that its lack of endowment will assuredly prevent it from taking a whiz on our heads, and that I’ve seen better sparks while scuffing my socks at a slumber party.

This of course, it the proper way to address a Thunder Being, especially if you live in a desert that has been under drought conditions for a few years. …I can hear Them singing. So can the dog whose name I once stole. I shoved a pill down his throat to calm him down.

The sinking air pressure, rising humidity, and low pitched rumbling draw me into a light trance state. I pray and hope for a strong monsoon this year, at this, the first real storm of the season. At least I hope this one lives up to the promise. The previous ones merely dropped dusty mud on my car. I want the windows to shake, the streets to flood, and the thunderbirds to scream with joy as they fly overhead.

But no. This is not that kind of storm. This is the kind of storm that couldn’t drip even if it had the flu in the middle of hayfever season. It’s so weak and slow that a snail could wet my backyard faster.

I remember those days when I had to get outside and walk. I couldn’t sit still at all. Every time, with my music turned up loud in my headphones, I’d see the thunder beings playing on the horizon during monsoon season. I’d nervously walk along, hoping they didn’t decide that they liked me a little too much and decide to keep me as one of theirs, even if, at the same time, I’d be honored if they did.

Welcome back, brothers!