So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

30 November, 2012

X is for Xeper

Like a lot of folks who hang with Set (at least the ones who aren't twitchy about Satanists), I'm vaguely familiar with the existence of the Temple of Set.

And one of the things that the Temple of Set talks a lot about is this concept: "xeper".  This is the word commonly transliterated "kheper" by Kemetics, which can be found in the name of Khepri, the One Who Comes Into Being, and the closing word of many prayers, "kheperu", may it become.

So it's an interesting thing.

I've been known to refer to Big Red as the Lord of Initiations.  That power of transformation, that which destroys the life that was before in order for there to be a new one, the new revelation.  (This is narrower than my usual framework of initiations, but Neb.y is not exactly a gentle fella, and he comes with the big guns.)  This concept is not entirely unconnected with the sort of self-realisation and quest for enlightenment that a lot of Satanist organisations put forward.

This idea - xeper - becoming - demands transformation, change, an evolution towards the fullest self.

It's not a bad idea.

Who do you want to become?

And why aren't you doing it yet?

29 November, 2012

T is for the Tree Goddess

One of the things about gods is that they have theophanies, particular appearances and mysteries tied to that appearance.  (I know several people for whom the question "Which Brighid do you get?" is a sensical question.)

And life can get interesting when multiple gods have the same theophany.

So consider the Tree Goddess.  She appears in a number of mortuary texts as a shelter for the dead and source of food for the spirit.  Sometimes she turns up in vignettes as a tree with a woman's head and breasts (and the sycamore fig, the relevant tree, produced sap referred to as milk, so those breasts are rather more literal a figurative than many).  She was a manifestation of the only large tree that grew in pharaonic Egypt, a source of food and shelter and timber.  The gate of dawn was a pair of sycamore figs made of precious turquoise, and the sun passed out between them in the morning.

The Lady of the Sycamore, Hetheru, can be assumed to have the fig as one of her theophanies.  And she brings herself to sweep through that filter: the lady of joy and wealth, perhaps her intoxication coming in the form of a fig wine, the stately lady who is Queen of Heaven.  She comes as the healer of Heru's wounded eyes, and she comes as the Lady of the West who shelters and welcomes the spirits of those who go forth upon their mooring day.  The Tree Goddess is therefore filled with regenerating life, the magnetic draw towards joy that characterises being and creation.

Nut also appears as the Tree Goddess, as lady of the coffin and womb of the dreaming dead, extending her shelter and protection to those beneath her branches as well as those she conceals within her body.  She comes as starry heaven, mother of all things manifest including her grandfather the sun, and perhaps those twin sycamores from which he emerges at dawn are her thighs as she births him.  The Tree Goddess is therefore filled with the power of manifestation and eternity, the light of the unwearying stars, and the birth of reality.

And also, the Tree Goddess is Aset, whose shapeshifting might shall not be limited to merely animal forms.  She comes as the lady of the throne, the one who establishes and nurtures power, whose standards are high and whose glory is great.  She comes great of magic, whose words are underlaid with the ultimate power of the name of the Creator.  She comes as the mourner of the dead, who throws open the coffin and pleads with eternity for the return of temporality.  The Tree Goddess is therefore filled with power and dedication, with yearning and with continuity, the power that takes what is ancestral and makes it live in the now.

Here she is, the great tree: her roots sink deep into the earth, twining with her (Nut's) husband Geb in eternal aching, separated save for this touch at the horizon.  Here she is, the great tree: branches embracing heaven, reaching to mingle with her (Hetharu's) husband Heru in eternal celebration, a house great enough to hold him.  Here she is, the great tree, cradling each star as she cradles her (Aset's) husband Wesir in his eternal reign in the lands of twilight and dawn, standing at the boundary between worlds.  Here she is, the great tree, offering food and drink, offering shelter and healing, her strength an eternity and her trunk reaching across even the horizons between all worlds.

28 November, 2012

L is for Lord

It amazes me sometimes how touchy a lot of pagans are about the concept of entities with power.  For all that there are folks styling themselves Lord Thissythat and Lady Suchandso, the concept of lordship, of actual power and authority, that's a thing.  I mean, there are branches of pagandom who react to any overt acquisition of power as "power-over" which is defined, for some reason, as a bad thing in and of itself.

Hierarchical structures are anathema to a lot of pagans, I've noticed.  Knee-jerk reactions abound, whether it's to bowing to the restrictions placed by a teacher, having a person make a decision rather than coming to some form of consensus, valuing the input of people with greater experience commensurate with their knowledge, or to respecting the gods.  Obedience is frequently equated with abasement, and "... is whatever you want it to be!" is a fucking battle-cry.

And I come into this and refer to one of my gods as Neb.y - which means "my lord".  I come into this as someone who has heavy power-oriented Stuff in my sexuality which I am not ashamed of or willing to repress.  My skills are in realms of support rather than governance, and are best used in support of a competent governor.  None of this is stuff I'm willing to set aside in order to pay lip service to a community that treats distinctions of status as illegitimate - because in that community I am unable to do my job.

And that's what some of this stuff is about, the job.  I Am My Own Authority only gets me so far - because while I may be my own sovereign, I do not command the resources to do everything I want to do.  I have to deal with other entities, each of themselves sovereign, to get what I want, rather than declare by fiat.  I may make long-term agreements about relationships with those other governors, mortal and divine both.  (I may have my name on the deed, but the bank still holds a mortgage, okay?)

The appearance of power is pretty commonly appealing - Lardy Whoosisface is proof enough of that - but the entire shape of actual power, which comes with both responsibilities and the ability to change the world - that's a touchier thing, now, isn't it?  People don't want a god that gets called Lord, that's too Christian after all, isn't it?  And it suggests that there might be a rank difference, that someone might be able to make a decision that other people are expected to care about.  And we can't have that, oh no.

Back in the dark ages, I took a summer course in etymology.  One of our assignments was to go into the Oxford English Dictionary - an epic exploration involving the full-sized volumes in the college library - and investigate the origins of a common word.

The word I was assigned was "lord".

It derives from hlaf-weard (I may be spelling that wrong).

Which means "bread-guardian".  The governor of basic sustenance for the community.

27 November, 2012

I is for Icons

Here's a thing that's pretty popular: statues and other representations of gods.  I tend to refer to this category as "icons", in part for reasons I've gone into before.

There are, of course, several different ways of interpreting what an icon is or how it works.  There is of course what, in many ways, is the most superficial: This Is A Portrait Of The Deity.  The representation is both literalised and limited to what can be achieved in the medium, and here we find the echo of the people who talk about "idols" - the use of images to limit and constrain the divine, to provide a refuge for the literal-minded.

In Egyptian thought, the statues are not images of the gods, but ways in which people choose to represent and symbolise the gods.  The gods have many forms, many appearances and manifestations; we select from among them.  In fact, not all of the appearances of the gods are known even to other gods, and they will introduce themselves by adding familiar attributes to their appearances or deceive each other by appearing in an unfamiliar manner or even trying to pass themselves off as other gods.  (And certain amounts of Egyptian ritual magic depend on a human managing to pass themselves off as a relevant god, besides.)

An icon is a particular kind of tool, one which can help a person come into relationship with a god by giving them a framework for understanding a portion of that god.  It is a particularly powerful type of tool for that purpose, because icons can themselves become ways that the gods reveal themselves - rather than a theophany in a dream, a chance encounter in the natural world, or something like that, the icon itself is a form of the god, and can be related to and respected as such.  In Kemetic practice there are of course ways of "opening" icons, to make them a literal divine presence at all times; personally, I find that the theophany of a simple icon - so long as it is the right icon - is entirely sufficient to anchor a sense of presence, of relationship.  It gives me someone to talk to, y'know?

The right icon matters a lot.  Years ago I commissioned a portrait of Hetharu: she stands before a great heap of modern-world musical instruments cascadng in glorious profusion, clasping her hands together with joy.  Here is a world of abundance, an amazing wealth beyond flute and drum and harp and sistrum.  Saxophones and bagpipes and electric guitars, oh my.  This is an important image to me - not a central icon, but an icon nonetheless, a reminder of joy in abundance.

When I can sculpt again, one of my projects is a Heru-Sa-Aset icon.  Because I could not formulate anything to relate to him for a long time with traditional iconography, until I found something that fit, something a little askew but still in tune with what is said about him.  And so there is the space to make the queer bit of statue that will serve me as an icon there, where the traditional poses and forms will not do.  So that I can build relationship there.

Q is for Quiet

One of the things that I wrestle with a lot as a parent is that it's hard to find space for quiet.  I don't have a regular meditation practice; if I had had one, it would be shot all to hell a lot of the time, because there's a one-year-old and a three-year-old here and I am by default the parent who's on duty and available, and there is no such thing as silence.

But really more than silence, the important thing is the quiet.  And quiet, fortunately, is easier to find.

There is a quiet space at the end of each breath, between the inhale and the exhale - or between the exhale and the inhale.  An instant of stillness that can expand, that can make space for there to be space.

It's easy to lose track of the possibility for quiet, especially in a universe full of yammering.  The job, the schoolwork, the children, the responsibilities, the laundry, the tea kettle: they are all so loud, and it makes it harder to remember why any of it matters.  It becomes a cycle of noise, rolling from event to event without rest.  (But the rests are written in musical notation.  Some vocal notations include suggestions about places to breathe, as well; perhaps more people could do with notations suggesting places to breathe.)

I know several people who embarked on particular courses of study, or particular difficult labors, as matters of spiritual or religious devotion, and who have since gone through periods of being so overwhelmed by the work that the heart of it, the place of meaning that's why the work matters, got lost.  Because there isn't enough quiet.

Or the tendency of all the things, the tasks, the responsibilities, to overwhelm a sense of self, the becoming the job instead of the person with the job, or otherwise getting simply buried.  There is no quiet to be had here, in deadlines and the need to take out the trash on time.

It's easy to get lost, without the quiet.

Your breath is always with you.

19 November, 2012

W is for White Elephants

(Yeah, I am totally bouncing around in this thing and not getting a damn thing done on time.  Life exploded in the summer and I'm still putting together the pieces.  Here's one I'm gonna pretend is on time, ish, rather than spur-of-the-moment topical!)

A number of years ago, my aunt gave me a pair of porcelain elephants for Christmas.  I was never entirely certain what to make of this, to be honest - my family is certainly down with the snarky jokes - but I've moved the white elephants around with me because that is, of course, what one does with white elephants.  Never quite sure what to do with them.

Take that as a little frame story.  I'll get back to the elephants in a little bit.

A couple of weekends ago, I was at a religious retreat.  I'm not going to go into a whole hell of a lot of detail about this, but suffice it to say that I had a major life-transforming experience and have been spending the last few weeks figuring out how to put the pieces back together.

And one of the things that I've been working on is figuring out how to better actually deal with the whole self-respect dealie, which (between various things well-chronicled in the archives) is not one of my better skills.  And it's an important thing to do, and to actually make space for, and it's something that will reliably slip out of my grasp as soon as I have any stress in my life at all, at least going by my track record.

Now, one of the topics we discussed at retreat was time, and having a healthy relationship with time.  And the idea was raised: build an altar or shrine to time, make offerings, make prayers, deal with this Power as any other god or godling and see if being polite to it helps.

And while I have issues with time, they are nothing at all compared to my issues with self.

So I - while putting my room back together after the various crises that made me have to take it apart - decided to put up a me shrine.  Partly recognising what I have, in fact, done, partly aspirational.  I'm riffing on some chaos magic that my liege and I talked about years ago, the idea of writing up a character sheet for now and figuring out where to spend the points and how to get to the skillset that one wants to have on one's character sheet, and so on.  Make a space for it.

So I dedicated a shelf on the bookcase I was shelving tonight to this little project.  I unrolled a scroll of Ma'at that I'd never had a home for (indicative of something, for sure) and set it up so the shelves themselves hold Her in place.  Some tools I use for magical self-maintenance can go up there, sure; all the books I contributed to (or wrote) on one side of the shelf to remind me of real accomplishment; the weird black heart a friend gave me; my Lilith icon, since She's certainly one for demanding a bit of fucking self-respect ... and I propped the corners of it all with those two white elephants.

You see, white elephants, they have a bit of a troubled reputation, because they're those things you can't get rid of.  That's the idiom - nobody wants them, they kick around as tchotchkes forever, what have you.

But back it up a little.  The white elephant is particularly sacred and holy.  Being given a white elephant is an extreme honor, being given the caretaking of something so precious and rare.

Yes, it's high-maintenance taking care of a me.  But it's nonetheless a sacred trust.