Archive for the ‘Theory & Thoughts’ Category
Next month, my partner and I will make our yearly roadtrip to visit my family; we’ll stay with my mom and her fiancé in the Appalachian Mountains where I grew up and spend a weekend in Ocean City with my sister and her family. It is one of the high points of my year to see the people I love and be in the places that crack my heart open and let the sun in. The mountains I come from and the sea I pilgrimage to are both beloved places for me, and they nourish my ka like few other areas can.
I live in Texas, and it was not until I was living here that I really encountered any Kemetic gods outside of Sekhmet. I will not always live in Texas, and I’ve thought many times on how the change of land will affect my spirituality and my relationship with the Netjeru in my life. Traveling to see my family – in the Appalachians, in Ocean City, in Seattle, in Nevada – gives me a glimpse of how my gods manifest in vastly different places.
Ma’ahes, in particular, is intensely associated with aspects of Texas: the sweltering summer heat and the long, orange sunsets. When I go to the mountains that I love, be they the Appalachians or the Rockies or the Sierra Nevadas, I don’t see His orange light in the west at the close of every day. In most of these places, the particular combination of humidity and 100+ degrees doesn’t occur. When I walk outside in the summer in Texas, the first breath I take is His, and He thaws me from the ice of the overwhelming air-conditioning that most public buildings provide.
But when I leave Texas, Ma’ahes changes subtly, and I find Him in other summers, other sunsets, other flashes of His vivid, liquid orange. In the Appalachians, He is the autumn leaves; in Nevada, He is the stretching, dry desert; in Colorado, He is the red rocks of the mountains.
And Ma’ahes is not the only one to adapt to His shifting surroundings. Nebt-het touched my face with snow last winter in Nevada, and I stood breathing Her chill until I was covered in slow-motion flakes; I had never before realized She was snow, but in that moment, in that place, She stood with me outside a warm house and wrapped me in Her calm, cold presence like a cloak against the wind.
So I take my gods with me where I go, and it is both a challenge and a delight to spot Them in Their other skins, the bodies They form out of the land around me.
I stayed up until 3 AM reading a novel that I simply could not put down, even though I had to wake up at 7h30 for work. It was a concession I made to my infatuation with the book, which was an urban fantasy featuring libriomancers–people who used books to power their magic. A libriomancer could reach a hand through the pages of a well-loved paperback, using the power of the collective belief of those who’d read it, and draw out anything that would fit between the pages.
The main character is, in part, so likable and enjoyable because he’s a lot like me and many of my friends: geeky, excitable, and prone to feeling awe at figuring out how things work, especially magically. And although I can’t sink my fingers into Tolkien and draw out the One Ring, I can certainly relate to the love and passion that character has for the stories he uses–which he adored before he learned how to do magic with the books.
In many ways, the concepts offered up by that fictional story aren’t so far from the truth for many of us. Reconstructionists, neopagans, and chaos magicians can all draw magic out of the book in their hands, even if it’s not physically manifest. Our subjective reality changes when we read, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or a little of both. The world shifts around us as our minds project the scenery we read onto our own surroundings, creating our own little holodeck for as long as our eyes are on the page–and often long afterwards.
I finally put the book down, 70% finished, because I knew sleep had to happen for me to function the next day at work. I was buzzing with energy, unhinged through a combination of tiredness and excitement over the story. I didn’t drift off until 4, and I tossed and turned until 5 before I finally settled down for a couple of hours of more restful sleep.
Especially for those who do any kind of energywork, reading can feel like unlocking oneself. In losing myself to the book, in the act of fully imagining everything I was reading, I created an energetic echo of the fiction and put myself in the center of the hologram. The illusion faded when I closed the book, but my body didn’t automatically re-seal and re-shield itself; it remained loose, stimulated, tendrils of half-directed intent swirling about and seeking to paint with invisible colors.
That’s pretty “woo” for a reconstructionist, but I have a decade or more of history working with energy and color, and my imagination is well- and fully-formed from being a writer and artist since I was a child. A fictional story about magic being drawn from fiction has let me draw magic into my world, this very real and strange and wonderful world where I worship ancient gods and work magic with the power of my words and with colors that only I can see.
Like the character in those books, I’ve always wished magic was real–and like that character, I found out that it is, in many ways, as real as breath and sparking synapses. And with all the consequences, with all the challenges, with all the “am I nutters?” self-sanity checks, I still love that my reality is a magical one.
Kemetic Orthodox and many other Kemetics employ polyvalent logic, more commonly known as fuzzy logic, to understand and integrate many of ancient Egypt’s myths. Polyvalent logic proposes that true/false is not a binary, a switch to be flipped on or off, but a sliding scale instead—and with that increased vagueness, more than one thing can be true at the same time (even if one is frequently slightly “less” true than the other).
For example, there are half a dozen or more Kemetic creation myths, none of which reference any of the others; rather than choosing one to be the singularly “true” one, they’re all considered to be true. (With the caveat that most Kemetics don’t take them to be literal truths, but metaphorical or symbolic ones.) Similarly, all the gods involved in those myths are all called creator gods, none excluding the others. Nit (Neith), the Great He-She, Who gave birth to the sun and thus created childbirth as well as all of creation, and Khnum, the artisan, Who created Himself in the primordial waters of the Nun and Who shapes each human’s body on His potter’s wheel, are just as much creators as Ptah, the Master Architect, Who made creation from the thoughts in His heart that He spoke aloud. Neither the gods nor Their stories negate each other as true.
This is, in part, because Netjeru are bendy. They flow into each other’s roles. Over time, one can become equated with, syncretized with, or aspected with another. Older gods will get consumed by the popularity of newer gods and fall into obscurity… or They’ll combine, creating an entirely new Netjeru with properties of both. Depending on how you tilt your head, the Horus that you greet may be Heru-wer, the solar warrior and Set’s twin; Heru-sa-Aset, young king and son of Aset (Isis); Heruakhety, of the two horizons; Heru-behdety, the winged disk; Heru-pa-khered, the child; Heru-em-akhet, the divinization of the Giza Sphinx; or others.
I am extraordinarily grateful that Kemeticism supports polyvalent logic, as I have a hard time thinking in true/false binaries myself. I can acknowledge Nit as the Creatrix and Ptah as the Maker of All in the same breath, and neither is false, neither overrides the other. And that fuzzy logic can extend outwards and make room for multiple belief systems in the world, none of them a singular truth and none of them invalidated by the rest. There are many paths we can take, be they spiritual or not, and they are vastly different, and none of them are wrong.
Standard Disclaimer: I do not support paths that promote hatred, unnecessary violence, bigotry, etc. But there are plenty that have a core of love, peace, balance, respect, responsibility, and humility, and those are the ones I write of here.
My Wednesday-Friday post pattern significantly slipped for the first time since I set it in January. I have ideas for backdated posts and will fill them in as I find time, but the past few weeks have been busy and distracting with non-Kemetic life.
I’ve been reading the occasional book and making the occasional art. I’ve joined a new tabletop game with a few friends, which has proven to be hilariously fun. My job is always busy, and now I’ve added a few espresso shots of freelance work on top of it, as I periodically do. My partner’s mom stayed with us for half a week around Mother’s Day, and next week, my sister will come visit, which delights me to no end.
This is probably one of those natural fallow times I keep hearing (and occasionally writing) about. I haven’t done more than a couple shrine visits; I haven’t been writing litanies or prayers. I haven’t been studying or spending a lot of time thinking about Netjer and my gods. I’ve maintained my morning prayer and my akhu thank-yous when driving, but let slip anything larger.
But I am living in ma’at as best I may, and I am still in love with my path, and I am still deeply devoted to my gods.
This post can serve as a gentle reminder to come back up out of the mundane trough… and acceptance that this sine wave is natural, and okay, and not a failure on my part to be a superhumanly perfect Kemetic. :)
I am a child of the sky at all times of day and night, of the cool hands of comfort, of the depths of star-flung space, of the mourner and the psychopomp, of long-eyed seeking and high-lifting protection, of the deepest compassion and the most boundless joy. My Mothers, Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, make more sense to me as divine Parents than I could have ever imagined.
But I have an Other in my life: my Red Lady, beloved Eye of Ra, most brilliant and deadly of Netjeru… Sekhmet. And where my ba (eternal soul) and my deepest nature stem undeniably from my Mothers, my heart and fiercest devotion are laid too at the altar and sand-dusted paws of the Powerful One.
I knew Sekhmet first, you see. She taught me strength and how to create and enforce boundaries. She showed me the necessary balance of contrasts, opposing forces held in dynamic tension to create wholeness. In Her name, I voluntarily undertook challenges that have made me not only a better person, but the very person I am today. It was She Who led me to Kemetic Orthodoxy and to my Mothers (and to my Beloveds, and to my wonderful community of fellow Kemetics).
In essence, Sekhmet has been my surrogate mother, the one Who received all of my adoration and worship, well before I ever “met” the Netjeru Who shaped my soul. And while Sekhmet and I are nearly perfect mirrored opposites, and I am so clearly my Mothers’ child, I am still deeply attached to the Red Lady. In many ways, I consider Her a mother-figure, too. She fills my heart, and I belong to Her, blood and bone.
However, my fervent love for Sekhmet does not lessen my love for my Mothers. My history with Sekhmet does not make trivial my less extensive experience with Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut. Sekhmet is the harmony to Their melody, the blush of warm lighting over a cool-colored backdrop. I am the moon to Her sun, and She is the solar Eye in the celestial house of my Mothers.
This is, to me, a perfect example of what it means to practice polytheism. I do not just believe in many gods; I love many gods. My time, devotion, and worship are multi-track, and while I have unique relationships with each deity in my life, it all comes together to weave one whole tapestry of vivid, fulfilling spirituality.
Last week, my partner J and I had the pleasure of spending some time with one of J’s fellow martial artists, a fellow I’ll call C, who is a deeply passionate Christian. While he’s vaguely aware that J and I aren’t Christian, C certainly doesn’t know how liberal we are or that we’re queer.
Suffice it to say, our informal post-training dinner at Steak ‘n Shake was filled with considerable tact and careful courtesy.
At one point, J asked how the past few months had treated C, and as he relayed his somewhat rocky road to us, I did my best to listen openly. C spoke of God and Satan frankly, personally, having a strong relationship with the one and an alert enmity with the other. His level of traditionalism regarding Christian morals and ideals is, to be quite honest, not something I’m accustomed to digesting in person; normally, folks tote signs with those phrases, and I don’t hear them face-to-face.
What struck me, though, more than the novelty of listening to such powerful religious statements from a fundamentalist angle, were the similarities between us. I don’t run into a lot of Christians who casually but genuinely refer to what God told them; that’s something a lot more common among my polytheist and Kemetic comrades. How strange is it that we of many gods are all over one-on-one conversations with our deities, no middleman required, but when a Christian takes the same matter-of-fact tone about the experience, some of us balk? (I understand that many pagans and polytheists are gunshy about more fervent Christians due to personal history; in no way do I mean to dismiss or ignore that. Consider this as thinking outloud and exploring some common subconscious reactions that many non-Christians may feel.)
Another commonality I noticed was how strongly C feels about God, and how I can grok the depth of his emotions and loyalty, because I feel similarly towards Netjer— towards my name for God and my version of the divine. Many of the theists I know express a deep and boundless love, trust, and faith, and if you strip the names and trappings away, it sure feels like the same kind of love, trust, and faith a vehement Christian can have for God.
I may not agree with the level of control that C and some fundamentalists give over to God – I’m pretty fond of free will and some firm logic myself – but the idea of releasing something we humans cannot control to a higher power is far from alien, even for polytheists. If a situation is out of my hands, or another person’s actions are beyond my influence or assistance, I do pray – and I do my best to trust that Netjer’s got it covered, that the Universe will do its thing, and that my worrying won’t help anything at all. This is a concept that many polytheists and monotheists share, albeit to varying degrees of totality.
Lastly, both polytheists and Christians often pray– for ourselves, for the world, and for others. C has prayed, has meditated, and has fasted to come closer to his god; that’s not a very far cry from many polytheist or shamanic practices, though the definition and understanding of what and who God is can vary. I as a Kemetic may have vastly different conceptions of divinity than a Christian fundamentalist, but with open eyes and a steady heart, I can see where we can find common ground: in our interactions with divinity, in our love for Who we worship, and in our willingness to trust.
And in a society where many paths can be healthy and fulfilling, I find it well worth the effort to bridge the gaps and touch hands with my fellow humans, regardless of their choice of faith.
I’ve been quiet, I know – the onset of winter usually finds me drawing inwards and socializing less – but I’d like to make a concentrated effort to post more here. This isn’t a New Year’s resolution so much as an ongoing goal, a habit I’d like to ingrain into my weekly routine. I’m aiming for every Wednesday. I like Wednesday; it’s a good day.
To get back into the swing of things, I’ll share a few holiday anecdotes:
It took me hours to write up and send Moomas cards. My hand cramped by the end. But it brought me joy to send out these little pieces of me to my brothers and sisters, my Kemetic kin, and I look forward to doing it next year, too. (But I’ll try to start a week or so earlier…!)
I put up all the Moomas cards I received over our fireplace, carefully so we could still read the insides and see the outsides. Seeing them all brings me such happiness. I love my community.
I spent Christmas* week in Nevada, where my partner’s family is and where I’d lived for a couple years before we moved to Texas. We drove, my partner J and I, and our two dogs, and we stayed with Mama J. None of J’s family are very religious in any direction, but Christmas is a time for family and joy nonetheless. Being around people who loved and welcomed us, being able to exchange handcrafted gifts… it felt like a real Christmas for the first time in a while, and I am deeply grateful.
*Christmas, while a Christian holiday, is to me a cultural one. I do celebrate it as a secular holiday, similarly to Thanksgiving; I remove the religious and the materialistic trappings and focus on the cornerstones of family, love, and generosity. And warmth. My childhood Christmasses left deeply emotional and visceral memories, and I strive to recreate that wonder and love each new Christmas.
I did not do much in particular to mark the Solstice, either to celebrate the reborn sun as a pagan or to welcome back the Eye as a Kemetic. I also didn’t do much to celebrate Moomas on the 25th, the Establishment of the Celestial Cow, despite lofty hopes of going back to last year’s Moomas post (which has gotten some link-love this year! ♥) and improving some of the translation quality… or practicing and recording a sharable version of the Moomas song I wrote last year… *sheepish*
I say this not because these holidays don’t matter to me, but because it’s important to acknowledge that, sometimes, I miss even really big days. I love my winter holidays, more dearly than most any others, but this year, being in the presence of my loved ones was enough celebration for me. (Even if I feel I really ought to have done more!)
I hope you’ve all had a blessed holiday season, and I look forward to catching up with everyone in the coming days.
Welcome back, Eye of Ra, we cherish the warmth You return to us!
Hail Hethert-Nut, Celestial Cow, Who holds Ra aloft in the safety and peace of the stars!