Em Hotep (P is for Peace)

(To catch up with the Pagan Blog Project, I’m snagging and reposting this one for the letter P that I missed earlier.)

When I was at the bottom of the river, spiritually speaking, it was time to think about my last regrets. I’d already given up a lot of things to the river. After everything else, what was left that still disturbed me from my rest?

I never really made peace with myself.

I always thought I wasn’t good enough. I’d been told so, so many times. I was told it so often, I believed it. I thought that if I just did this thing or that thing then I could prove them, and myself, wrong. Well friends, it just doesn’t work that way. You can chase your own tail forever and it will never be enough.

How then? (I even listed it as a goal for this month! Is that hilarious, or what?)

Heru came to see me today while I meditated. He said it wasn’t something to do in a month. It was something to do right now. Make peace in this moment, right here. Then do it again in another moment. And again. It’s not something you can just decide once and for all. Peace is something to exercise like a muscle. If you haven’t used it in awhile, it is weak. You might not be able to keep it up for long before unease sets back in. The more you practice, the easier it gets.

Make peace now. Then do it again. And the next day. And the next day.

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Ritual

I remember watching a nature documentary once about the rhinoceros. A young rhino slowly and cautiously approached a watering hole. It bobbed its nose up and down nervously toward an older rhino that was bathing in the water as if to say, “Excuse me kind sir, I don’t mean to offend, but may I please share your watering hole?” I don’t remember whether the older one chased the young one away, at the point of a very sharp horn, or if it tolerated the company. A rhino’s life is apparently full of such formalities. Heavens help the one that dares to relieve itself in the wrong place! Rhinos are exceedingly polite, because the alternative is to find themselves on the wrong end of a very long horn.

With the rhinos in mind, I find it interesting that Kemeticism is both full of highly dangerous gods, and formalized rituals that keep interactions with Them calm and safe. One of my divined fathers, Heru-sa-Aset, once sliced off his own mother’s head. (He regretted it afterward.) The other one, Ra, once ordered the destruction of all humankind. (He changed his mind.) Among my beloveds I have the instrument of Ra’s destructive judgement, Sekhmet-Hethert, “The Rager,” Sobek,  and that quiet guy, Djehuty, who you should never underestimate because he Knows Stuff. Yikes? I’m glad they’re on my side! It would be wise to keep it that way.

The Names are potentially dangerous. They are not human, and they live in a different world than we do. This can make communication difficult and potentially problematic. Ritual is a formal means of communicating with these beings that is designed to reduce potential confusion and accidental offense. When you meet a stranger in daily life, it is usually better to adopt a more formal and polite tone until you get to know that person. With some people, or those who hold certain positions of authority, you should never fully drop the formality, as with a Judge in a court of law.

The ritual becomes a sort of social contract between the two parties. Gestures, food offerings, specific wording all outline the intent of the petitioner. The Names recognize these forms and generally act within the context given.

Ritual is also soothing. It gives a sense of control and predictability. The words become well-worn and familiar over time. The preparations clear the mind and ready it for a different mode of being. The outside world may be chaotic, but within the shrine, you can enjoy a sense of order.

These are all nice words coming from someone who rarely participates in ritual structures. My Fathers, my Beloveds, their sisters and brothers, and parents, and aunts and uncles and children, etc. are part of my family. They are not strangers to me. The careful formality that comforts others ends up making me feel more lonely and homesick. I do have a working godphone. I back it up with tarot cards when I’m uncertain. If I offend Them, it’s generally not an accident. They also have a working phone in the other direction, and they can see that even at my most annoying, my heart tries to be in the right place. Even at my most “disrespectful” my heart is never without love for Them. It goes the other way too, even at their scariest, they are never without love for me.

I’m glad they’re on my side. I want to keep them that way.  When the biggest and scariest thing on the block has your back, it makes everything else seem less worrisome.

The Good Black Land

When I was young, I lived for a couple years on the bank of an inlet of Lake Springfield in Illinois. I lived alone with my mother in a small house. My reeds were cattails. My lotuses were actual lotuses, not Egyptian lilies. I often perched in a tree on a branch that overhung the water. I remember listening to the ducks and water birds call out in the evening. I remember the red-tailed hawk that perched on the telephone pole on the other side. My friends and I explored the muddy banks and nearby woods. We swam in the murky water. We paddled around in the canoe. I remember coming home so covered in brown smelly muck that my mother insisted on spraying us down with the garden hose before she’d let us back inside the house. Of course, we laughed while she did it.

That mud was absolutely awful. It would swallow an adult sized boot with one step. Putting your foot down while swimming would give you the most horrible squish on the bottom of your foot. Even worse, you couldn’t see what you were stepping in, or on, at all. I earned a tetanus shot doing that once. Many years later, in college, during my agricultural studies, I learned that that kind of muck is the best thing in the world for growing things. It’s incredibly rich and full of the kinds of nutrients that plants love. It was exactly that kind of stinky horrible muck that the ancient Egyptians depended upon for their continued existence.

I look around at the modern Kemet that we have built, and I can’t help but wonder, where is the good black land? Where is the exploration and wonder of the vibrant power of life that remains untamed and untameable? What good is it to have your mother hose you down if you never got dirty in the first place?

Ritual purity is the polar opposite of the rich chaos that life requires to flourish. The effluvia of Wesir is sacred. Blood, sweat, tears, spit and seed are all sacred. Passion, in varying forms, is often a driving force for the deities in our myths. Our gods are not tame, unless they choose to be. After playing in the muck, it is wonderful to have a bath and put on fresh clothes and enjoy some peace and quiet. It brings balance to the day.

But if you never play in the mud in the first place, where is the balance then? Can your ka survive on such meager nourishment? You can’t grow food inside a temple.

(Just in case anyone tries to take this in the wrong way, I’m not advocating anything that could lead to hospital or jail time!)

QWERTY

Where would we be without our trusty keyboards? Somewhere entirely different, I imagine.

The internet is probably the best innovation for religious thought since the printing press made the bible, and literacy, available to everyone. Your thoughts combine with my thoughts, combine with their thoughts, until we all have something new and wonderful to think about. My adventures in Kemeticism probably wouldn’t have gotten very far without it. Yes, I was pestered by Them before I had a reliable internet connection, but that was also before I knew that there were other people who took that kind of thing seriously. I read The Egypt Game in school. I thought it sounded interesting, but it was obviously just a few kids playing around. Who knew that there were people who saw it as more than just a game?

I remember browsing the Kemetic Orthodox forum, before I was a member. I came across the thread about Heru-sa-Aset. I just about cried with happiness. I had no idea that anyone still cared, or that anyone saw Him as anything more than what those stiff looking statues promised. He is the gentle wing that will shield you from your nightmares. He is the sharp blade that slices with lightning fast efficiency. He is the child who loves to laugh and craves sweets. He is the master of heka who will pour his heart and soul into taking care of his people. All those differing perspectives are correct. When I first read that thread, I was thinking, “All of these! Yes!” These strangers on the internet got it right. So maybe there is something to this afterall. Maybe I’m not just making it up.

Connections like these are made all over the place. Ideas build upon each other. Inspiration is gained from people scattered all over the world, whom we would never have met otherwise. We take a piece, add a piece, make some variation and pass it on. We gain confirmation and clarification. We hammer out concepts against the public anvil to see what happens. That can be a tough playground to navigate. We all need a little bit of Heru-sa’s “Little Sh-” attitude to make it through some of the tougher neighborhoods. Despite the troubles, I believe that the good far outweighs the bad. Sometimes it is best to sheathe the sword and bow out to fight again another day, or in another location, or to try to smooth things over. Try not to get too serious out there.

Patterns in Magic

This is my post on How Magic Works. Just my opinion, of course.

Watch this video. I would just point to the video and rest my case, but that’s probably not enough for most people. I will make more words afterward. (Keyword: “Chladni plate,” just in case the video disappears at some point.)

A pure musical tone creates wave patterns, which draws random particles into a definite order. Change the tone, and you change the pattern. The tone must be pure. The plate must also be even, centered, and smooth. A stronger tone, or one that is sustained longer, creates a clearer image.

There are a number of people, happy to sell you their books, who will jump wholeheartedly behind that theory.

If only it were that easy! As I said up there, the purity of the tone is important. When was the last time you resonated your ka, or “sang” your intent, purely unhindered by conflicting emotions or ideas? It’s a really difficult thing to do! Ritual can help, if you’re a ritual kind of person. Meditational practice can help, if you’re a meditational kind of person. You can try borrowing the tone from a deity in prayer, if you can manage to make your ego step aside long enough for the god’s music to flow unhindered.

That’s only half of the challenge. The world does not sit on a flat metal plate. Sometimes you’re not trying to move sand, but boulders of irregular shape. The tone might be pure and loud, but variations in the environment can cause the pattern come out in unpredictable ways. Some tones also work better in a specific environment than others. This is the principle of resonance. A person might resonate really well with one deity, or tone, and really badly with another. A strong tone in the wrong place can even cause harm, as in the opera singer and the wine glass. Not so great to be the glass!

One more monkey wrench in the machine comes from the fact that you’re not the only one who is trying to sing your song. Wave patterns are being produced on all sides, at all times, like waves on the ocean. They might amplify each other in some places, and cancel each other in others. Life is messy. We don’t live in a vacuum.

If magic was easy, we’d all be rich and living in perfect health by now. On the other hand, if it was completely worthless, we wouldn’t keep doing it. Most of us have a tale about the time when it did work in some spectacular way.

Much of the advice you find in magical communities is oriented toward controlling one or more of these factors. Purity, power, resonance, environment, picking your battles, multiplying your effort with that of a group, even dampening excess noise or working in silence and isolation are important points to consider in improving your magical art.

Give it to the River

About a week and a half ago, I had a meltdown. I stayed awake most of the night with Ra, alternating between begging for help and cursing everything. It happens. Instead of getting angry, Ra had Djehuty examine me. The Master Physician said , “Uh, oh.” I had started taking everything too seriously. I became hard and brittle. Instead of bending, I was on my way to a break. They decided that it looked like a job for my Beloved, Sobek.

Sobek did what crocodiles do. He dragged me to the bottom of the river and left me there. I wasn’t allowed to do anything that resembled work while under his care. Any time I started getting anxious or uptight, he would tell me to give it to the river.

Normal me hung out around the house, played games, and watched movies. I did actually get some house and yard work in, not because I “should” but because I was bored and needed something to do. I didn’t touch the public blog (here) and I didn’t touch the faience. I didn’t do any ritual at all.

Spirit me was stuck in the river, slowly decomposing like Wesir. The hardness had to be made soft again. When you give to the river, water replaces blood. Mud replaces flesh. You are not made smaller with the giving. The sunlight was pale, green, and cool. Everything I worried about was far from my grasp. I had occasional moments of anxiety and restlessness, but Sobek’s low voice would return and remind me to let the river keep it. I often had impressions of him swimming close by, keeping watch over me. This went on for a few days. I started to resemble one of those undead pirates of the Caribbean.

On the morning of Wesir’s birthday, there was nothing left but bone. I wasn’t in the water any more. The sun rose, and there was no way to hide from its brightly intense rays.  At first I was a little scared and angry that I had nothing to fight back with. No way to protect myself. Then I saw blood vessels form over the whitened bone. Slowly, the flesh came back, brand new. Exhausted, I fell back to sleep. I had confusing dreams that seemed to be filled with gods in disguise. I saw my dead father in one of them. Happy birthday, Wesir!

I’m free!

Today is Wep Ronpet by the Kemetic Orthodox calendar. That means, I’m not grounded anymore! Yaaay! I will come back here and post more as I get my thoughts organized in some kind of readable fashion. It has been a very busy time. Until then, par-tay!