Grave Moss & Stars

Archive for the ‘Pagan Blog Project 2012’ Category

PBP Fridays: P is for Primary Gods

I know I’ve missed several PBP posts, and I will be writing and posting them when I can; in order to keep from falling further behind, I’m going to try to keep up with the “current” PBP letters and backdate as I’m able.

When one has more than one god, occasionally one runs into the problem of… well, rationing one’s time, energy, and offerings between Them. While I am only speaking for myself here, I imagine other pagans have run into this particular quandary, and I’d love to hear how you portion your attention to your gods!

Since late 2005, I’ve been following Sekhmet; my beginning relationship with Her was trepidatious, but over time, I became very attached and devoted to Her. From meeting Her up until the springtime of 2011, She was my only god. Sometimes She was barely present; sometimes I prayed to Her daily. A dear friend gave me a Sekhmet pendant, and it became daily wear for years; it was, and is, the easiest way for me to reach out to Her. I was a one-god pagan, and happily so.

But in 2011, I took the Kemetic Orthodoxy’s beginner course, and I began interacting with other Egyptian deities over the spring and summer. I met Set. I had rich, fleeting interactions with or impressions of Twtw, Renenutet, Ptah, Yinepu (Anubis). I prayed to Serqet, Our Lady of Poisons. Ma’ahes knocked on my door and met me outside at sunset. I met Nebt-het and bonded quickly with Her.

Summer cooled into fall. In November, I underwent the geomantic Rite of Parent Divination and found that my spiritual parents are Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, my beloveds Ma’ahes and Serqet. I was both surprised and not surprised that Sekhmet was not present. As I began deepening my relationship with those four gods, I found myself spending more time with Set (thanks to my sister’s relationship with Him), too.

It has been a year since I met my Mother, Nebt-het; over a year since I began praying to Serqet, and just under a year since I met Ma’ahes. It has been almost seven full years since I began studying and worshipping Sekhmet.

And I find myself saturated with deities that I love and admire and wish to offer good things to, but no real hierarchy. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, one’s Parent(s) come(s) “first,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one has the closest relationship with Them, or that one spends the most time with Them, or that one even gives Them the most/nicest offerings. “First” is a very nebulous definition that I’m still seeking to explore for myself, especially since I am still emotionally closer to Ma’ahes and Serqet than my Mothers.

For all intents and purposes, I have five or six deities in my life on a consistent, long-term basis, and I have no particular hierarchy for Them. I have situations in which I call on one or another first; I have acts or objects I offer to one or the other first, based on what They like and appreciate. All my physical exercise and martial arts practice is an offering to Sekhmet; my keeping a prayerbook is a service in Nebt-het’s name. I call on Serqet when I need Her protection or on Hethert-Nut when I need comfort and love.

On occasion, it perplexes me, my lack of a primary god. So many pagans have patron or matron deities; so many of my Kemetic brethren have one Netjeru to Whom they are the closest. I struggled with “letting go” of Sekhmet as my only deity, even as She pushed me down this path that ascertained other gods would come into my life. Sometimes, out of habit, I will think of Her as my only, as my primary; but I wear jewelry for Nebt-het, Hethert-Nut, Ma’ahes, and Serqet on a daily or near-daily basis, and I do not forget that my life now includes Them, too.

Having been a person with a “matron deity,” if I can give Sekhmet that non-Kemetic label, I do occasionally miss the simplicity and purity of it. It has been a challenge to give what I deem fair amounts of attention and time to each of the gods Who are active in my life, even when only a couple at a time are standing at the forefront. But all in all, I adore each Netjeru I know, and I feel blessed by Their presence, gifts, and lessons in my life.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: N is for the Circle of N (Nebt-het, Nut, the Nun, and Nit)

The Circle of N

Nebt-het, She Who Borders The Sea
which was once all that existed
as the Nun, primordial ocean
which is deified as, among other Names,
Nit, the Creatrix, all-gendered
Who begat all the world
and can take the form of
the Celestial Cow
which is Nut, the starry heavens,
the uplifted sky arched over
Her lover the earth;

and this enormous divine cow
is also the goddess The Great Flood
and is a form of not only Nut
but also Nit
Who is likewise a form of Nebt-het
and is also the Nun personified;

and so we come full circle,
the proto-ocean Nun
into the creatrix Nit
into the Lady of the House, Nebt-het,
and that House is the sky, Nut.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: M is for A Monstrous Manifesto

In October 2010, renowned badass writer Cat Valente posted A Monstrous Manifesto that stirred my heart and my spirit. In fierce love for her words, I’d like to share it, again, here. It should not ever be forgotten.

If you are a monster, stand up.
If you are a monster, a trickster, a fiend,
If you’ve built a steam-powered wishing machine,
If you have a secret, a dark past, a scheme,
If you kidnap maidens or dabble in dreams,
Come stand by me.

If you have been broken, stand up.
If you have been broken, abandoned, alone,
If you have been starving, a creature of bone,
If you live in a tower, a dungeon, a throne,
If you weep for wanting, to be held, to be known,
Come stand by me.

If you are a savage, stand up.
If you are a witch, a dark queen, a black knight,
If you are a mummer, a pixie, a sprite,
If you are a pirate, a tomcat, a wright,
If you swear by the moon and you fight the hard fight,
Come stand by me.

If you are a devil, stand up.
If you are a villain, a madman, a beast,
If you are a strowler, a prowler, a priest,
If you are a dragon, come sit at our feast,
For we all have stripes, and we all have horns,
We all have scales, tails, manes, claws and thorns,
And here in the dark is where new worlds are born.
Come stand by me.

Written by Catherynne M. Valente, reposted with permission as stated in her original post.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: L is for Magical Language

I love language. Communication methods fascinate me; subtle details and nuances enthrall me. I am a writer, a free-form poet, a song-maker, and so the artistic forms of communication are bedazzling; I am equally intrigued by the body language of the human animal and the less-conscious processes of our psyches that influence how we communicate and translate what we perceive. Art and science conjoin where human interacts with human. Communication is the core of most of our world, whether we’re broadcasting to a known or unknown audience, interfacing one-on-one, interacting with non-human animals, or simply thinking to ourselves. I cannot think of anything in my life and my self that communication does not touch.

In my spare time in high school, I wrote poetry and children’s stories in French. I also developed a “conalph,” a constructed alphabet called Kalash, around that time. I created a cypher – a code that exchanges one letter for another – in order to pass notes to and from my friends without any chance of the teacher knowing what we wrote if we were caught. (Yes, I was the geekiest deviant possible.) That cypher, Khraenian, led to a simpler and cleaner one, Dannu; to this day, I can write Kalash and Dannu almost as quickly as I can write in my native English. I learned to sing songs that had been translated into Dannu and Khraenian; if I am speaking slowly, I can translate into Dannu on the fly, letter by letter into words. I’ve started crafting a full-fledged model language called Uhjayi, complete with its own grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and pronunciation style; I even created written and audio lessons to help explore/explain it. I play games while I drive where I read street signs and other visible words as though I were a native Uhjayi speaker, sounding them out with non-English pronunciation.

And that’s only touching on the linguistic forms of communication– there is not room enough in this post for me to talk about music, about color and shape, about stance and gesture. It would be half a novella if I did.

So, it is no surprise that I am just as hooked on magical language as I am on language in general.

Language is a huge part of my magical and spiritual and philosophical practices and studies. I wrote about heka, Egyptian magic, which invokes the power of the intentional word to create psychological effect and magical change. For the sigils I create, I use Kalash to encode the phrase powering the invocation. For years, I have written little “charms” in Kalash on whiteboards in my workplaces, tucking them into corners; it befuddles and entertains my coworkers, who guess at the meanings. I always reassure them that I write only positive things.

I am always watching what I say and how I say it. From my initial self-training to be clear and honest with myself in what I wanted and needed to being tactful, courteous, mindful, and still honest with other people, there isn’t a moment when I stop paying attention to the words in my head, between my teeth, and on my fingertips. I am less aware of my body language than my words; it’s easier to listen to myself during a conversation than it is to monitor my facial expressions and posture in a mirror the whole time I’m engaging with someone or something. But I try to be mindful of even that.

For me, anything that betters and enhances the self will improve one’s life overall, and magic is one of the crafts that most benefits from a clear, accurate, heartfelt use of language. From prayer to praise, from symbol to song, from spell to ritual, any time we communicate with the Unseen and the deities and spirits residing there, language becomes magic.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: L is for Lugh

When I wrote about Brigid, I said I’d also write about Lugh when the time came. Well, we’ve reached the Ls in the Pagan Blog Project, so time to step up! As with Brigid, I’m going to finally do the basic research I didn’t do as a pagan youth and really dig into Lugh’s mythology and characteristics before talking a little bit about my personal experience with and opinion of Him.

Please note, lovely readers: All of this is a work-in-progress. It will change as I continue digging through books and other sources. Do not take this as a rock-solid encyclopedic entry at any point. :)


– master of all skills
— He is a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorcerer, and a craftsman
— gained entrance to King Nuada’s court in Tara by having all these skills in one man
– harvest
— fertility of crops
– light
— the sun (this is only in modern interpretation; there is no historical basis for this)
— lightning
– storms
— creates storms when He spars with Balor
– warrior
— His spear was Gae Assail, the Spear of Assal, one of the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann; also called “the famous yew of the wood” and/or “a yew tree, the finest of the wood”
— another spear was Areadbhair (“Slaughterer”), whose tip had to be kept immersed in a pot of water to keep it from igniting
— Lugh’s spear was so blood-thirsty that only by “steeping its head in a sleeping-draught of pounded fresh poppy seeds” would it rest and cease struggling to be let free to slay
— His sword was Fragarach, Manannan’s sword
— uses a sling-stone/sling-shot
—— “Lugh’s sling rod was the rainbow and the Milky Way which was called Lugh’s Chain.” (snippet from an untried online source)
– king
— Nuada of the Silver Hand made Lugh king of the Tuatha De Danann
– druidry
— shapeshifting
— magic
– games of skill, including ball games and horsemanship
— credited with creating Fidhchell, the classic Celtic boardgame
– oversees journeys (Julius Caesar)
– oversees business transactions (Julius Caesar)
— Lugh’s name may be derived from lugios, “oath”
— the Irish word lugh connotes ideas of “blasphemy, cussing, lies, bond, joint, binding oath”
– threes (triplets keep showing up in His myths)
– ravens
– lynxes


– Lugos was a consort of Rosmerta, a nature goddess
– Lugh was a consort of Dechtine, granddaughter of the Dagda
– husband to Bui and Nas, daughters of Ruadri, king of Britain, and Echtach and/or Englic
– father of Cuchulainn (by Dechtine) and Cnu Deireoil and Ibic (by Nas)
– son of Cian Mac Diancecht of the Tuatha de Danann and Ethniu Ni Bhaloir of the Formorians
– brother of Ebliu, wife of Fintan
– half-brother to Muirne of the White Neck
– foster child of Manannan Mac Lir and Tailtiu, wife of Eochaid Mac Eirc
– grandchild of Dian Cecht, Balor of the Evil Eye (whom Lugh slew in battle), and Ceithlenn
– His horse was Enbarr of the Flowing Mane, on loan from Manannan
– His dog was Failinis
– slain by Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht, and Mac Gréine; drowned near Loch Lugborta

names and titles

– Lugh or Lug (Irish)
– Lú (Irish)
– Lugos/Lugus (Gaulish) (lacks the “master of all arts” attribute)
– Llew Llaw Gyffes (Welsh)
– Lugh Lámhfada (Lugh the Long-Handed)
– Lugaid
– Lugaidh
– Lonnansclech
– Luga
– Lámfada
– Lugh the Light
– Samildánach (“All Skills”)
– Ildánach
– mac Céin
– mac Ethlenn
– Maicnia (“boy-warrior”)
– Lonnbeimnech (“Fierce Striker”)
– “The Bright One with the Strong Hand” (Lleu’s epithet)


– Lugos was the patron of Lugodunum (Lyons, France) in Gaul.
– Worshipped during the 30-day Lughnasadh festival, along with Rosmerta.
— Fertility magic during this festival was used for good crops and harvest.
— In Irish Gaelic, the word for August is lunasa.
– As king, He led the Tuatha de Danann to victory over the Formorians, slaying His grandfather, Balor of the Evil Eye, with a slingshot and turning that eye’s power back on the Formorians.
– Was prophecied to grow up and slay Balor of the Evil Eye, so Balor locked his daughter away; Lugh’s father found and seduced her, and she bore triplets, two of which were drowned, but Lugh survived and was rescued and fostered.
This is a great article about learning at Lugh’s feet.
A summary of some of Lugh’s myths and attributes.

My experience with Lugh was with Him in a strongly solar role; He was the first pagan god I encountered and spent time following, and I’ll probably always remember Him as the god in the sun Who taught me about the cycle of the seasons. True to my then-Wiccan roots, I followed Him as He crested in high summer, celebrated in August, and died with the harvest; as the sun, He was reborn at Yule, and I waited all the dark winter for His strength and light to return to my part of the world. (It’s important to note that this was about when I first started experiencing SAD – seasonal affective disorder – and so the mythological death of my god each autumn became inextricably linked with the physiological and psychological effects of winter-time depression.) Though Lugh as the sun was of primary importance to me, His mastery of all skills and patronship of human jacks-of-all-trades came in as a close second; as a scanner with a great deal of interests and hobbies, I was delighted to find a god who had more than one single specialty.

I later parted ways with Lugh, amicably and with gratitude, to follow in the footsteps of another deity: Sekhmet. I still feel a great appreciation for what He taught me and a great respect for Who He is.

In parting, a prayer to Lugh, found here:

Great Lugh!
Master of artisans,
leader of craftsmen,
patron of smiths,
I call upon you and honor you this day.
You of the many skills and talents,
I ask you to shine upon me and
bless me with your gifts.
Give me strength in skill,
make my hands and mind deft,
shine light upon my talents.
O mighty Lugh,
I thank you for your blessings.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: K is for Khepri, Khepera, Kheperu

Ancient Egyptians had a thing with having a god for a word or a concept (see ma’at/Ma’at, Sia, Hu, etc); Khepera (also known as Khepri) is both a god and the word “becoming.” He’s also a dung beetle–or, alternately, a man with a scarab for a head. The word for scarab is “kheper,” making Khepera-the-god a threefold pun, which is another thing ancient Egyptians greatly enjoyed; it’s theorized that puns contribute layers of meanings to a thing and thus give it greater effectiveness/power/depth. Some modern Kemetics use “Kheperu!” in the same way Christians use “Amen!” and Wiccans use “so mote it be”; it means “becomes” and is so a suitable way to end a prayer or ritual by supporting and affirming the message and/or magic.

Scarabs were a theophany (animal representation) of the Egyptian sun god(s); large, golden beetles, they rolled balls of dung around like the sun rolled across the sky. Young beetles sprang forth from the balls, seemingly created from nothing, and the ancient Egyptians considered this a metaphor for creation and rebirth. The word for the scarab is thus linked to the word for “to come into being” or “become” and, of course, tied to Khepera’s name along with the beetle symbolism and the attributes of rebirth. Khepera is the god of the dawning sun, harking back to that relationship to creation and rebirth that the baby scarabs represent, and He is thought to push the sun across the sky during the day and through the underworld at night. He forms a triad with other sun gods: Ra is the midday sun, Tem the setting sun, and Khepera is, of course, the rising sun being reborn from the eastern horizon.

A fun example of the many uses of the word “kheper” in its forms:

Kheper-i kheper kheperu, kheper-kuy,
m kheper n khepri kheperu m sep tepy.

“I became, and the becoming became. I became by becoming the form of Khepra, god of transformations, who came into being in the First Time. Through me all transformations were enacted.”

Personally, I really like Khepera, both for the unusualness of His depiction and theophany and for what He represents: rebirth and creation are a big deal in my life, and any god involved in that process gets my notice and appreciation. Dua Khepera!

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: J is for Sacred Jewelry

(I know I’ve missed like three posts, but I’m going to hop in here and make up for the others later. :D)

I have talked about writing music and painting with and for gods before, but at the time, I had never set foot in the seductive manse of beadwork. I think it’s definitely time for me to discuss making sacred jewelry with and for my beloved Netjeru (Egyptian deities).

Myself, I adore the concept of religious and/or spiritual jewelry, especially of the daily-wear variety. I like having something on me to touch and see that reminds me of and connects me with my gods (or a particular ideal or myth or animal or… you get the point). My love gave me a necklace he made and had worn for years before we met, and I wear it every day; it’s a link to him and a representation of us together.

Currently, I also wear a silver lion’s-head ring (for Ma’ahes) every day, a single amethyst earring (for Nebt-het), and most days, either my scorpion talisman or the new scorpion necklace (for Serqet), as well as a pewter Sekhmet pendant. My sacred jewelry is very important to me, and so, it’s not a huge surprise that, once I figured out I might actually be able to craft things that did not look like a middle-schooler made them at summer camp, I wanted to make jewelry for my gods.

To date, I have made six pieces of a spiritual bend:

And I’ve got to say, this is really addictive, guys.

Much like writing a song or doing a painting for a deity, I get the same intuitive nudges on what fits and what doesn’t, the same instinctive yes/no reaction when I ask a question of “want this?” or “how about this?” that helps me flesh out and finish a piece. I have gone shopping in our local bead store and sent out an open invitation to my gods to let me know if They spot something They’d like. It’s an amazing and admittedly strange sensation, to know that I’ll get a very firm answer without having to trance, meditate, or be in ritual space. I couldn’t explain it if I tried, but I can’t complain: so far it’s resulted in a well-received finished piece of jewelry every time!

For my newfound love of beading, and also my slightly-less-new-but-still-immense love of paintings, I decided to open a wee Etsy shoppe to sell sigils, mythological paintings, and hand-made jewelry. My lovely partner, who has been making jewelry for far longer than I, has also contributed his time and craft to the somewhat thrilling project that we’re calling Mythic Curios. I even made a small website to explain the process of making the sigils and the magic behind them. Right now, my favorite part of that site is our Curio Archive, which has a running photographic list of all of our projects, including the ones that won’t appear on Etsy (such as personal projects and gifts).

I can’t wait for Mythic Curios to become a little more well-known – I’m really looking forward to folks wanting custom pieces for their specific gods (or just themselves!), because I adore making items to request! It’s a challenge and an adventure and a chance for me to interact with a new deity– or one I already know in a new way.

To encourage some conversation here, tell me about your own crafting or wearing of spiritual or otherwise meaningful jewelry! I’d love to hear stories and see photos if you’ve got ’em. :)

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: J is for Journeying

Plenty of folks have done this topic for the Pagan Blog Project, but I don’t mention journeying very much on this blog, so it’s worth writing about for me.

I journey, or pathwork, whichever term you prefer; I use both. To journey, for me, means to send my consciousness outside of my physical body and into a spiritual and/or metaphysical location; going to the Otherworld, seeing the Unseen, that’s journeying. (I use the incredibly scientific and technical term of “throwing” for when I’m sending my awareness to visit a place in the physical realm; pretty sure others refer to this as remote viewing.)

I don’t claim to know or even guess at how this works in scientific or spiritual terms, and the “how” doesn’t really matter to me. I may be playing pretend, I may be venturing through the astral realm, I may be inducing minor neurological hallucinations, I may be engaging with various psychological archetypes of my conscious and subconscious, or maybe some combination of the above. What matters to me is that journeying has a positive, beneficial, tangible effect on my own person and practices, and it doesn’t bring any detriment to me, and so I continue on my merry way. :)

When I was wee, or at least more wee than I am now, I got my hands on some Wiccan books, an astral projection how-to guide, and Michael Harner’s Way of the Shaman. I never got the hang of astral projection; I was always too aware of my physical body to make that separation, which is how “throwing” came about in its stead. But I learned different techniques for going to different non-physical “places,” and for a while there, I did so regularly as an accompaniment to my totemism practice, experimenting with more traditional forms of journeying with the aid of drums and more neo-pagan forms of journeying that were reminiscent of creative visualization.

I don’t journey so much anymore; my studies in Kemeticism have taken me more towards the in-person ritual than the in-spirit pathworking. But it still feels like a core piece of my spirituality practice and my magical toolkit, and I look forward to the time that feels right for me to return to journeying on a regular basis.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: I is for Isfet

Isfet is a concept found in ancient Egypt (and in modern Kemetic practices), and it has no direct perfect translation to English. It is the opposite of ma’at, which is rightness and truth, harmony and balance; so isfet can be called wrongness and falseness, disharmony and imbalance. Isfet could be called evil, or chaos, but neither is quite right. It is subtler than “evil,” I think, and is perhaps the closest thing that Kemetics have to “sin.” If one makes a mistake that hurts another person, it is not isfet; to deliberately choose to go against ma’at and bring about harm is isfet.

One of ancient Egypt’s creation myths – the one featuring Nit (Neith) as the Creatrix – states that isfet, in the form of Ap-p the Uncreated (Apophis), came into being while Nit was creating the world. While She spoke life into existence, a drop of spittle fell from Her mouth; it was part of the power of creation, yet without purpose or form. It has attempted to undo creation ever since, a sign that sometimes things happen which even the gods don’t intend.

Isfet itself is a term that refers to the doings of the Uncreated and how they are expressed in the world. Isfet is the concept; gereg is lying (speaking isfet), and binet is akin to oppressing or harming (performing or acting on isfet).

As a Kemetic, I strive to bring ma’at to the world through my words, actions, and heart; likewise, I strive to minimize and extinguish isfet from my person and my life. Much like any standard of purity, it is a constant effort to promote ma’at; however, since isfet is never accidental and always deliberate, I find it much more cleanly-cut to measure against my own standards. For example, I may be having a terrible day and be struggling to be as strong in ma’at as I would like, but I can at least work to curb my tongue and not strike out at others in frustration and pain, and therefore I can avoid creating isfet in that moment.

In Egyptian mythology, fighting the Uncreated is the work of many gods, the strongest of which is Set; but other gods have given humans heka (magic) in order to battle and defeat isfet in our mortal lives. We are not unarmed; we can always strive to lessen the power of the wrongness that crops up in the world. Each day is a new opportunity to rise above isfet and protect each other from harm.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: I is for Immanence

I believe in immanence.

Immanence, or in-dwelling, indicates that the Divine resides within, not (solely) without. I have the spark of divinity within my body, heart, mind; so does every other person alive, dead, or yet to be born. For myself, I also believe that every bodiless spirit and every inanimate object is also part of the Divine. We’re all ingredients in the great gumbo of God. :) I am different from my chair* and from my grandmother who has passed on, but I am no more or less sacred than either, no more or less part of the universe and so the Universal Soul.

(*Why yes, I am frequently guilty of anthropomorphizing objects; you should listen to how I talk to my car. However, that’s one of those personal quirks that has only positive ramifications and no negative side-effects, so I happily and freely continue. I break fewer things this way, that’s for sure.)

This belief– this connectedness, this kinship– is one of the many reasons I practice compassion and study zen. The more gently, kindly, courteously I can treat the world – including myself – the better the world is, in however small a way. The more I can see from another’s view and understand them, the less I judge and the more acceptance I bring to the world. The more connected to the Universe that I feel, the less personally I take negative words, actions, and events.

To put it slightly more practically: Shit happens, and it ain’t about me. It may be about something I said, or did, but my actions or words are not the sole constituents of the person who is me. And when I remember that and reflect that as a two-way philosophy, well, I can engage with people with much more compassion than if I feel like someone did something just to hurt me– or if I feel my mistake was somehow aimed like an arrow at someone else’s heart.

The connection between compassion and immanence may not be obvious, or even sensical, but it’s a necessary bridge in my own eyes. Everything, and everyone, is part of the Divine; everything, and everyone, deserves to be treated with as much compassion and gentleness as I can muster.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: H is for Hethert-Nut, Egypt’s Celestial Cow

This post has become a permanent page on this site here!

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: H is for Heka, Egyptian Magic

The Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) word heka is most frequently translated to be “magic,” but it’s not quite the kind of magic that most of us in the Western world are familiar with. Heka is word-magic, the power inherent in the written or spoken word, the power of authoritative utterance. It most literally translates to “activating the ka,” which is the part of one’s being or spirit that comprises one’s current personality and psyche; the power of heka is tied to the soul and the innate power of who we are. Unlike a lot of modern magical methods, heka does not require casting circle, creating sacred space, raising or channeling energy, or invoking any entities into your personal space. Heka is language at its most powerful, and as language, prayers can be heka just as easily as “spells” can be heka.

Ancient Egyptians and many modern Kemetics place special emphasis on how they speak and what they say (or write). Heka is in every word that passes our lips and hands, not just the words we intend to be magical or prayerful. As I write this entry, I commit heka. As I pray to my gods and sing Them songs, I engage with heka. As I write my little charms in Kalash on the whiteboards at work, I inscribe heka. As I hold a conversation about silly things or deep things with my friends, coworkers, and myself, I create heka.

One of the things I love about the power of heka is that its strength and effectiveness is solidly backed by science. The power of what we say and how we say it has been extensively studied from almost every point of view, from hard psychology to self-help authors to New Age affirmation gurus to modern magicians. There’s a huge difference in how our bodies and brain chemicals and intangible minds react to “I won’t smoke anymore” vs. “I want to quit smoking” vs. “I am quitting smoking” (or “I quit smoking”).

Heka is the understanding that what you say matters. Ancient Egyptians often offered teaching wisdoms to this point: speak only in surety, do not speak out of anger, holding your tongue is to be the bigger person. The value in speaking with care and deliberation has not lessened as the ages have worn on; as a point of self-control, as part of compassionate interaction, heka has a crucial role to play in how we communicate with others and express ourselves.

Not to mention the power of intentional heka used in prayer and magic! To focus all the power of language into short forms of prayer or ritual or spellwork, written or spoken, is an amazing thing. It’s like poetry, like music, able to distill the immensity of the human experience – or at least one facet of it – down to a singular, streaming flow of words. One can bring to bear all the power of linguistic aesthetics and magical potential, calling on positive phrases and avoiding negative ones, choosing particular words for their beauty and their acute meanings. To craft heka as prayer or spell, written or spoken, is to forge a blade and hone it to a glistening, unwavering edge. With intentional heka, one etches oneself upon the slate of the universe, for good or ill, in the name of willful change or gratitude or whatever one sees fit. We can change the world – the big one outside and the smaller ones inside ourselves – with the shapes of our tongues and teeth and ink-bearing hands.

Heka can come in many forms and trappings, including those we more commonly associate with ritual – light the candle, light the incense, say the words of purification, wash, say the words of prayer or of spellwork, and even add raised energy to the mix. Ancient Egyptians so believed in the power of heka that many of their spells and rituals involved taking on a particular god’s name – and thus, all powers and relationships S/He had – in order to accomplish a goal. At its heart, heka is the power of the language we choose and use. Our words have power, and we are responsible for how that power is dispensed through our vocabulary.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: G is for being a GLBTQ Pagan

Disclaimer: Herein lies statements of subjective experience, opinions, and selfhood. The generalizations I make are from my personal experience; I am fully aware that your mileage may vary and that no experience or group of people is without flaw. :) This post is not the post I thought it would be, but I think it’s worth sharing anyways, howevermuch I waffled about posting it at all.

It Does Get Better; hell, sometimes, it starts good and goes from there.

I’m queer. I get mistaken for the opposite sex fairly often in person and online, I identify as genderfunky (genderqueer/genderfluid), and I’m pansexual. I have dated males, females, and a genderqueer person who shared my first name. I see gender as an immense, fluctuating, color-wheel-esque spectrum, not a line from girl to boy, and certainly not a binary of yes/no either/or. On any given day, I may be more masculine or more feminine, depending on the onlooker’s gender paradigm and my own shifting nature. Essentially, though, I am always checking the “Other” box when asked to describe myself, and I am very open and “out” about my non-normativity in daily life, including my corporate dayjob in Texas. (Kid you not: I walk into my nine-story office building every day in blue-jeans and a flannel, sporting a mohawk and a scorpion talisman, surrounded by suits and skirts. No one says a word.)

Given my identity and given the gender binary and heteronormativity of many mainstream types of paganism, what’s a queer cat to do?

Well, when I got into Wicca-flavored paganism, I was a teenager and did not identify as genderfunky yet. I identified as a strong young person who wanted to be proud of everything it was, including its sex and gender, and tell you what, Wicca supported me there. Wicca made pure and powerful both genders, both sexes, finding things for men and women to rejoice in and treasure, both in themselves and in those of the opposite sex. People who were not stereotypically girly or boyish still found deities they could jive with and a subculture that was beginning to explore the potential range of gender expressions.

By the time I claimed the label genderfunky, I was away from any particular brand of paganism and following only the goddess Sekhmet. My companions within sight of my winding path were of all sorts, but many or most of them were some kind of queer or queer-supportive, as well as being some kind of pagan. Now, I find myself at home in Kemetic Orthodoxy, where queerness is welcomed with open arms and even our gods show that it’s not all male/female all the time.

I know there are a slew of potential queer pagan issues out there, particularly in traditions/styles/groups that have a strong duality or sex-based roles. I myself just… don’t really run into them. My path is either eclectic and solitary, where I make my own rules and rituals and magic, or I’m participating in a group that doesn’t even bat an eye when I fall outside the typical gender pronouns. This is one of those cases where my matter-of-fact attitude about my honest self-expression feels like an immovable object: I just don’t have any problems with being queer in a pagan world. I am Queer Rock, hear me roll.

Amidst all the uncertainties and challenges surrounding life as queer, it’s kind of nice not to have to fret about how my gender, sexuality, and spirituality mesh. I know plenty of queer pagans have trouble getting all the ducks in a row, and I am nothing but grateful that I’ve somehow avoided most of the jagged rocks. Now, granted, there are plenty of issues with being queer in the secular world, but that’s politics, and I hate talking politics. I’d rather enjoy the fact that the path I walk feels custom-made for the soles of my feet and leave it at that.

To my fellow queer pagans who may feel there is not enough queerness in paganism: roll up your sleeves and dive in. If you can’t find old-school queer deities to suit you, see if there are any new-school ones willing to say hi – or look at those old deities in a new light. Tired of binary rituals for Sabbats and Esbats? Write new ones. Magic and paganism are very personal paths, and there’s nothing really stopping you from customizing it to fit you (short of inflexible rules of a particular tradition). If the Universe gave birth to the full range of human gender identity and sexuality, then we can certainly expand our spirituality to include this variety and diversity.

Being queer, in any crowd, is rarely easy. I’m immensely thankful that, of all the cats I could hang with, pagans are more accepting of my kind of folks than most. Props to all the wonderfully tolerant and supportive people out there, pagan or otherwise, queer or otherwise. You rock.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.