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

31 December, 2012

A is for Apotheosis

Your purification is the purification of Heru

Your purification is the purification of Set
Your purification is the purification of Djehwty
Your purification is the purification of Dwn-Anwy
Your purification is the purification of your ka
Your purification is the purification of your purification
and this purification of yours also
Is among your brethren, the gods.
- Pyramid Text 36

Your brethren, the gods.

What kinship is there between the human and the divine?

Well, there's the ka, of course, as explicitly mentioned - which is fundamentally the many-divided and multiply-intertwined ka of the Creator, differentiated unto millions.  But the ka is a different sort of identity than is addressed with "you", most times, so that is at best only an incomplete suggestion of an answer.

The word for 'god' in Egyptian can be translated with, I feel, more nuance, as 'divine power'.  And I would suggest from that that there is a gradation there: one can have divine power, and one can also be a divine power.  Certainly, there are cases in Egyptian lore of a human accumulating sufficient netjer to become netjer - Imhotep being a primary example of such a person (who was not previously a bearer of the Kingly Ka, which complicates the whole divinity question a touch).

Heka - the most commonly discussed power of magic - was a gift granted to humans in order to "ward off events", or something rather like that.  It is a divine power.  (It also means 'activation of the ka', and thus resonates with that deep divinity.)  Akhu, another magical word, is also the word for "ancestors", and indeed the ancestors are commonly thought of as closer to the gods in some ways than the living.

But there is the inner truth, the personal netjer, that ideal and aspirational being, the personal power within.  That which you are the only one who can achieve it is bound up with that personal divinity, that personal place.  The intimate and most individual of powers, the purification of which is also the purification of your brethren, the gods.

Who is this flower above me

And what is the work of this god?
I would know myself in all my parts.
- "The Flower Prayer"

30 December, 2012

Z is for Zenith

The more one cares about paying attention to astronomical phenomena, the more there are these moments, the points at which things reach their height, from which they then drop.

The celestial falcon, the distant one, spreads his wings over the skies, the sun at peak, the noonday light blue and gold over his wingfeathers.  This may be only a moment, but it is an eternal moment: to be fully ensconced and balanced within power may only happen for an instant, but it is an eternal instant.

The falcon remains in the heights.

Noon will come again.

The stars rise and set.

Time is an endless dance of zenith and descent, revival and climb.

Ascend and descend; descend with Ra, sing into darkness with Ndi.

Ascend and descend; ascend with Ra, rise with the Great Float-User.
Ascend and descend; descend with Nebet-Het, sink into darkness with the Night-bark.
Ascend and descend; ascend with Aset, rise with the Day-bark.
- Pyramid Texts 222, mostly as translated by Faulkner

Y is for Yard Spirits

Taking a moment to wander back from the fields of the abstract and philosophical for a moment...

I think it's important to get to know your local spirits.  It's not like the only spiritual world one can find is either off in the realm of the gods or out in the deepest wilderness; the local life participates in an ecosystem, is shaped to a land with a history, and has things to say.

Part of living within the world and as a part of it has to be living with the realities of right here and right now.  And that can mean learning about the life cycles of dandelions, cultivating the acquaintance of bats, and sitting on the back porch having a long heart-to-heart with whatever entities happen to hang out in the backyard.

They have things that they care about, attitudes, preferences.  And they vary a lot - the personality of my front yard spirits is rather different from that of the back yard spirits.  Some spirits are permanent residents; some will be more transient visitors.

If nothing else, learn to listen.

Perhaps give a little back.

28 December, 2012

X is for X______________

Okay, yeah, whatever, that's excessively meta.

But that's where you sign your name on the dotted line.  Put down your mark, all of that stuff.

It's worth thinking about what you put your name to, where you put your commitments.  And this isn't just a "which god do you swear to" (or by, or at) sort of thing.

Because your commitments are a part of how you build your worth, your personal authority: the point of pride that is your personal law.  Your discipline, the spine of your practice.

This is the root of magic, among other things: being able to stick to your intention.  Whether your magic is based in word or will or some other thing, you need to bloody well follow through.

It seems like a simple thing, but it really rather isn't.  Everything slips, everything loosens up at times.  Meaning to do it isn't doing it.  (And that's what Yoda was on about, right?  Don't intend, act.)  This is one of those Witch's Pyramid points, to will, to put creation in motion in the forms you demand of it.

This point of pride, of action, these things make up how your identity is defined: what you follow through on, what you affiliate with, what you allow to shine.

(I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful one hundred percent.)

26 December, 2012

V is for Vino Veritas

Hetharu is the Lady of Intoxication.

There's a lot to be said around that, and a lot of it is actually kind of difficult to express.  I mean, there's the obvious point that the use of alcohol is not something problematic, but it's hard to avoid that on a culture that is heavily constructed around beer in any case.

But here is a thing: one of the effects of alcohol is what gets called "lowered inhibitions".  It brings forward all of those desires that one wouldn't admit to ordinarily, and takes the brakes off, meaning they're more likely to happen.

There is a peculiar honesty to alcohol.

I suspect that's where "in vino veritas" comes from, that sense that people who have been loosened with that particular drug will show something less constrained, something that is in some way more real.  (It will reveal people whose secret desires are foul and antisocial as well, which is knowledge worth having at times even when dealing with someone who is a "good person" when sober....)

Not all the things people feel constrained from are awful.  Some of them are small things.

It's worth knowing where the narrow spots are, sometimes.

(Tipsy, I stop fixing my typos.

I make broader, more expansive gestures with my hands.

I poke people in the nose.  Generally people I'm close to who won't mind.  Much.

I pun.)

25 December, 2012

U is for Unexpected

One of the basic tools of humor is surprise.

Juxtapose something expected with something surprising and bam, there's that funniness creeping in, the sudden jolt of rupture.  There's the unexpected, and the unexpected often makes people laugh.

Religion - if really done right - often works the same way.

Doing the work, really doing things, eventually it makes shapes that will shift suddenly.  And religions are work, they come with obligations.  (This isn't to say that everyone who claims a given religion is good at doing its work - but that doesn't change the nature of the thing.)

If the work is to comb through one's life in order to figure out how to be better to other people, well, eventually some realisation is going to demand a change.  Sometimes a hard one, and that's not going to be expected, it's a result of doing the work.  The same for any other religious principle - of adhering to the rules, of developing personal strength, of whatever else.  It changes people.

Initiations are of course one of the more dramatic forms of changing people, and they - also - work with the unexpected.  The sudden putting together of pieces to make for the moment of sudden realisation.

If it just keeps being the same, all the time, nothing calling for change, for deeper work, for more dedication, for more something...

... is it really having any effect?

21 December, 2012

Z is for Zep Tepi

Zep Tepi: the first time.  (Sometimes translated 'the first occasion', or similar other things.)

Here is the crack of cosmic dawn, the Big Bang if you want: out of nothingness, light, matter, form.  All things in their proper place, the divine order making itself manifest, the out-folding of being from the spark of potentiality.

The heart of ritual is Zep Tepi.

The heart of the temple is Zep Tepi.

If you have no Zep Tepi, you got nuffin'.

Most seriously: there is an instant of crystalline perfection, that first moment, that first blink of dawn, utterly pure, utterly right.  That is the origin point of being.

And because it is the origin point of being, it is everywhere, an immanent presence.  Now exists - in all its glories and all of its muck - because Zep Tepi.

Which means you can get there at any time.

It is always, always possible to come to alignment, to open, to find that perfect note.  The song is always there, waiting for your voice.

The candle you light always has the potential to be the First Light, because the First Light is why there is a candle.  The incense you burn always has the potential to be the breath of the gods, because the breath of the gods is why there is incense.  These are ever-present, ever-available, there is no falling away and being lost from the possibility of clarity because clarity is wound-through and a part of every moment of living, if you just know to reach for it.

This is the Original Sinlessness.

You inherited it.

20 December, 2012

W is for Worship

A pet peeve: pagans who appear to be afraid of the word "worship".

It's really a thing.  "Oh, I don't worship gods.  I work with them!"  "I honor them!"  "I am devoted to...."

But never worship.

All of those acts of religious devotion directed towards a deity? Not worship.  Somehow.

Showing reverence and adoration?  Nope, not worship either.

It's a weird thing to me.  All of this activity that is on a literal level worship is defensively declared to not actually be recognition of the worthiness of the gods to be honored.  And I know it's a connotational thing for some people, the whole history of experience in religion that was big on self-abasement and all, but self-abasement is still a different thing than worship.

I think sometimes it's something more insidious, though, kind of a Buddy Christ phenomenon.  Working with gods, being a kind of professional colleague, it feels like being more important than worship, which recognises and differentiates between categories in a kind of rank-acknowledging way.  And that rank thing, it's touchy, isn't it?

And sometimes there actually is stuff about meeting the gods as a comparative equal, individual to individual, but I do tend to think that that needs to come with respecting the existence of differences.  A god is still out there manifesting on a much more cosmic level than I manifest, so if the standard of equality is "two manifesting beings", well, we've got that, but it remains a difference of kind.  And if worship requires a difference of kind, well, it's there.

I light my candles, I burn my incense, and you know - if you're out there lighting candles and burning incense to me you're a bit confused, and probably have a bit of category error going on.  Different categories, different types of attention paid.

It's a thing.

19 December, 2012

U is for Undefined

I was in a conversation earlier today that kind of orbited around the subject of what one calls one's religion.  Which is an interesting subject in a lot of ways, because there are times where - if one even has a simple word - the more one goes into a particular path or way of being, the less the simple word describes it.

It's worse, of course, if there isn't a simple word or phrase to run with, if the explanation to "what is your religion?" comes in pieces and assemblages of concepts, not in a handy label that someone can then take away, look up, and gnaw on in quiet.  At least if I say "Kemetic" someone has something to start from, and while they might get it bass-ackwards in practice there's at least a thing to point at that will get all but the most clueless aimed in roughly the right direction.

But of course that gets less and less true the more you look at it - and not because I'm a wacky Crafty mystic.  Or not just.  Because for all that state cultus would be largely the same no matter which Egyptian god was tucked away in the heart of the temple, that doesn't mean I do state cultus.  Or that the gods I deal with were the sort of gods who had temples dedicated to them.  And when you get personal with things, the sorts of things that people are called to do vary widely, and since I'm household-oriented which is not exactly a going thing in a lot of mainline Kemetic practice, it goes ...

... well, pretty sideways, without touching any of theological points, differences in reconstructive practice, differences between mortar choices, concurrent practice, or anything else ....

If you want to know what's really going on with someone, the handles aren't going to be good enough, not unless you get a whole big heap of them in a pile together and achieve critical mass.  (When writing a short bio for a conference I'm going to be presenting at, I cited "Egyptian reconstructionist", "student of the Craft", and "hardworking mama" as critical threads - and that's all religious information, even though some people will pretend that the third one isn't.)

And then there are directions where it has to go undefined.  The same conversation led me to starting to make math puns about divinity, and I suspect there's some truth to this: that the practice of mysticism is pretty much a process of division by zero.  The rules don't work there anymore, and you can get nothing or the infinite or for all I know a ham sandwich out of it, because this is undefined.  The divisor which can be spoken is not the eternal divisor.  There's a tension between nothing and everything, between the bounded and the endless, that rattles around in the asymptote that can be drawn between the infinite and the negative-infinite, encompassing all things when nothing is on top.

I don't think I'm a liminalist.  Or at least I'm not a liminalist anymore, which is a funny place for someone who has for a long time self-defined in shadows and penumbras.  But it's not the fringes I'm there for, anymore, it's the bridges.  That funny place in the world where the entire span of being from one infinity to its negation hums on the one point.  It's not the boundary-zone between worlds, it is Yggdrasil, you see what I mean?

Aleph ... NOT.

18 December, 2012

S is for Sovereignty

It is all well and good to talk about sovereignty, about personal sovereignty, about sovereignty goddesses, and all that stuff, but it is not as easy to do that work.

The trick to self-rule is knowing how big you are.  Which is an interesting thing, in a world that wants to simultaneously crush and inflate people, now, isn't it?  It's almost as though there are people who would benefit from most folks not knowing how to own themselves.

Having permeable boundaries and an inability to defend them, so that minor offenses can escalate into major ones without causing a hassle.

Having no sense of responsibility or consequences for actions, and thus being able to blame The Bad Parenting or The Culture of Violence or The Difficulty Being a Whatever These Days or Falling In Love Makes Everyone Stupid or whatever other handy-dandy get out of jail free is being pawned off here.

But go back to the beginning.  To govern yourself you need to know who you are.  Not what other people want you to be, not what the little voices suggest, not what a history of glamour or pain would like to bind you to.  To know your actual strengths, your actual weaknesses, the actual steps you need to take to reach your actual goals.

Working on that will keep you busy for a few years.  It is not simple work to find yourself in among the coils of everything else - there's a lot of clutter in the average mind, after all.

And of course, then there's the doing it.  And accepting the consequences of each of the parts of it.  Because the thing about sovereignty is that - even if one chooses to do a job, or take a service role, or become a priest of a god, or anything else - one bears the burden of that work.  "So and so told me to do it" is no more a free pass than "I had a troubled childhood."

The thing about troubled childhoods is, okay, it sucks to have one.  Much like it sucks to have triggers.  But - much like the damn triggers - it's a thing where, okay, at some point "Mama never loved her much and daddy never keeps in touch and that's why she shies away from human affection" or whatever the sad story is, it's nothing other than a tether: hold on to that to have a reason not to do otherwise.

Actual liberty is hard work.  It does not allow for excuses.  It is the singing octave of power, that vibration of the self acting as itself, moving to its own music.

To own oneself fully is a freedom that is difficult to bear, because the responsibility of it can be overwhelming.  This is the call of sovereignty.  This is the seat of power, and the heart of governance.  The sacred path to the holy kingdom is the apple of your I.

In order to say "yes" you must also be able to say "no".  And in order to say "no", you must also be able to say "yes".  There is no escaping the nature of meaningful choice.

And bear the responsibility for either choice.

17 December, 2012

Q is for Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

(Yeah, I know.  But 'queer' and 'questions' were too predictable-feeling, and anyway I write about that sort of thing all the time and doing it over just didn't give me any warmfuzzies.)

It's always an interesting question, the one of "Who is one answerable to?"

One of the reasons that a lot of pagans have anarchic tendencies is that, having grown up observing Organised Religion Tee-Em, well, a lot of us see that Organising tends to encourage people to get themselves into positions where nobody will feel able to call them on their shit.

One of the other reasons that a lot of pagans have anarchic tendencies is that they don't want to get into a position where someone will have the authority to call them on their shit.

Both of these approaches have their problems.  (She said blandly.)

Here's a fact of life: we're all of us going to be full of nonsense at some point along the line.  Sometimes it'll be a lot of nonsense, sometimes it'll be a little nonsense, but there will be nonsense.  With a little luck, we'll usually be able to notice that we're talking bollocks and stop doing so without making damned fools of ourselves - or doing harm to others.

I tell you something: there's stuff I dealt with when I was younger, where I genuinely don't know even with adult perspective how much of it was "real" and how much of it was some sort of contagious delusion.  (I can only be grateful that it was perhaps less grand than The War On The Astral and was less publically proclaimed.)  But one of the things that I think good about that time in my life is that - while a bunch of folks got quite wound up about it - we then went and dealt with it, and as far as I know nobody did a whole bunch of talking it up as a grand mystical experience or proof that this particular bunch of young folks had an especial type of experience unfamiliar to anyone else.  Or what have you.  We kept a decent watch on ourselves.

And that's part of the process, isn't it?  Run checks.  Try a couple perspectives on to see how what I'm doing looks if I don't assume that it's "real".  Whatever.

I wrote a bit of a checklist a while back which I will now cannibalise:
  • Is this thought/experience/role/claim something that serves primarily to inflate my ego or serve as self-aggrandisement?  Is it a claim of specialness or separation from others?  (Is it heavily distinguished from the types of experiences that other people have claimed to have within my knowledge, for that matter?)
  • If the information from this process is about me, is it something personal to me ("I need to pursue this work/clean my room/quit my job/etc.") or is it something that I think other people should know about me?  Do I make it all about me even when it oughtn't be?

  • What fraction of stuff-about-me is "That's awesome!" or "I'm so cool!" and what fraction is "Fuck, I have to deal with that?" or "You want me to do what?"  (Work doesn't mean it's genuine, but actual effort required is more plausible than the universe handing out free cookies.)

  • What are the actual risks - to myself or others - from listening to the little voices and doing what they suggest?

  • Is the danger of listening to the little voices commensurate with the value of what is being pursued by that action (to both me and the entities thus proposed)?

  • IS MY SHIT SORTED RIGHT NOW?  Because if my shit is unsorted, then it's much more likely that I'm hearing my own emotional damage than something external, or my own insecurities, or simply my own potential for an epic stress meltdown.

  • Do I currently have the capacity to express good judgement in my ordinary life?  Am I expecting myself to have better ability to make significant choices than evidence suggests is a good idea (perhaps because I think dealing with esoteric/spiritual/whatever stuff will have fewer consequences than staying up so late that I get late to work in the morning and can't do my job or something)?

  • Am I working with spiritual/magical/religious tools that are supposed to produce this kind of experience, or is this totally random crap that I'm trying to organise?

  • If I am dealing with a known entity, is the sort of stuff I get from that entity consistent with other experiences of that entity?  With the lore, with the experiences of other practitioners, with mythology, with recorded ritual practice, etc.?  Do I get confirmation of unexpected details when I do further reading or talk with others?  (I had a fascinating confuence of similar experience when talking to other dedicants of Neb.y about our hair color ... which was also consistent with the lore.)

  • If I am in fact making up this experience, how would my behaviour patterns change, and are those other behaviours notably improved?  If I clean my room as part of a spiritual devotion that's one thing - but if I do spiritual devotions instead of cleaning my room, that's rather another.

  • It's worth having a checklist to keep a watch on oneself.  It's also worth having a community who can help run this and other checklists for each other.

    But the problem in greater pagandom is a lot of people run into groups that don't run any sort of checklist.  It doesn't matter what crap they make up - they'll run into someone who'll believe it.

    This does not serve us well.

    11 December, 2012

    R is for Red

    I can't write about Black without writing about red.  (Of course, the post about Black was way more important than this one, so if you missed it the first time around on the guitar go read that one first.)

    The Red Land and the Black Land is sort of the founding drama of Egypt - the desert and the fertile strip along the Nile, Set and Wesir.  There are a lot of these dances to be had in mythology, the brother/other tango.  And a lot of people want to offload the "bad" onto redness - much like they do onto blackness, though it's generally a different bad.  Red is for rage and lust and all of that stuff that good people don't do, right?  Red is that sign to Stop Doing That, or the mark for danger: don't go here, don't try this stuff, stay away.

    Red is also at the root of "rubric", the set of instructions and procedures for a ritual, written in red ink.  Write your names of dangerous beasts and demonic figures in red - and write your gestural procedures and your steps of what to do in red, too.  This is a guide, a structure, and it crops up in rather more than medieval manuscripts; you'll find those red-written liner notes in the Book of Going Forth By Day, too.

    Red is for blood, that dangerous color to see on the outside of your skin - but redness flows through you all the time, and it is that redness, that blood, that pulse that unifies your parts, causes your organs to function as a whole.  (This is not a statement about biology; this is a statement about etheric anatomy from an Egyptian perspective.  The fact that it's also kind of true physiologically is also a thing.)  That redness is made of iron, your life built out of the deaths of stars quite directly.  (Trace elements are trace elements, but iron is the star-killer.)  That redness is fire, and its heat is what drives your personal engine.

    Which isn't to say that I'm okay with that sidelining of those red emotions, the rage and lust end of things - because those are things which are filled with life.  The idea is not to not have them, it is to have them in appropriate circumstances, to deal with them appropriately, to keep them aligned and, as a different tradition would put it, under the hand of love.  That these things can be a manifestation of the destroyer is a given - but that simply means that they are not an exception to everything else.  Treating them as such because of their intensity is a good way to go completely askew, and that pulls things out from under the hand of love ... and thus more free to smash shit up.

    Redness is not the enemy.

    10 December, 2012

    V is for Version Control

    One of my stock rants about other reconstructionists has to do with footnotes.  Basically: there's a lot of stuff out there, but not a lot of stuff that says "And I got this from this book, this teacher, or this document; this part of it I made up as a bridge based on this related culture, this modern practice, or this looking really shiny."

    And in this subculture which talks about resources and references and historical accuracy, there's also a lot of games of telephone, in which someone's offhand comment gets blown into canon, or a personal practice gets taken for ancient procedure, or some other thing gets reinterpreted into unrecognisability by the time it gossip-chains its way around to its original source.

    And this means that the corpus of standard procedures tee-em gets turned into a hash - a process which is not helped by the tendency of some recon-types to treat academic research as if it were the Bible in the hands of a particularly pernicious young-Earth creationist.  There's research of various degrees of datedness mixed in with the bridging material someone created for a coven, someone else's interpolations from African Diaspora Religions, a stray leavening of the Golden Dawn, the thing that that priest said once which was certainly an ancient source somewhere right?  It's a mess.

    It has no version control.

    One of the things that I try to do with my work is footnote.  (I actually, at one point, got an email from my boss when he was putting together the ebook version of my book, saying I owed him a bottle of something because formatting footnotes in an ebook is apparently a real pain in the arse.)  It's not enough for me to come up with answers to things - I want other people to be able to know where I got them.  To be able to check my work, come up with alternate interpretations, or go further without having to first reconstruct my footsteps in order to figure out how I got where I was.  Can't do that without having the work in context.

    I have a calendar; it's in its first revision.  I explicitly note that, because version control means that at some point I will supercede it with something that I like better, whether that's for completeness or for accuracy or for fiddly bits of math or whatever else.

    I'm a syncretist; I work within multiple religious traditions and construct bridging material so that they do the same thing.  And that's multiple layers of versioning - tracking where things came from, revising things for better fit and coherence in the long run, and so on.

    The structure around the system, the stuff that reveals where the system came from, it matters too.

    No version control means that thing we did a half-assed job on that one time gets done over and over again even when we have better resources because we've forgotten that that was a hack job.  It's just The Way We Did It, so it might be the traditional thing to do... right?

    07 December, 2012

    Y is for Years

    I think it's something about becoming a parent that has given me a greater tendency to look at the rhythms of years.  It's also something about being a calendar nut, religiously, and doing that building work, trying to get a sense of rhythms of the year from that way.  Some of it has to do with the holistic look at the year I was asked to take as part of my training, figuring out my own seasons of action and recovery.

    Twenty years pagan, now, more or less.  I suspect maybe someone might start taking me seriously.  Probably coming up on ten of those Kemetic, goodness, I almost might know what I'm doing by now.  Time is a complicated and confounding thing, and I'm not used to being on the experienced end of things - but I suspect, these days, that I might be.  Seven years studying the Craft, on and off.  And so on and so forth.

    I think about the shapes of years.  Ebbs and flows, where they flex.  Solar years, stellar years: not quite the same thing.  Twelve-month lunar years, thirteen-month lunar years, lunar years with great years to keep things evened out a bit: also complicated.  When does the year begin?  Solstices are nice points, with their extremes of day and night; other events might matter more, though, and the shapes of things are complicated.  The Western secular calendar year is not well-attached to its origins anymore, and the why of when things fall is one of those things that takes research too.

    It's worth thinking about our years.  When do you fall in love?  When do all your projects stall out?  What are the patterns, if any?  (It's interesting to me how oddly similarly my personal calendar maps to the school calendar in the United States, in its way, as if I never shifted the shape of my year from my childhood - or as if that particular set of rhythms happens to be one congruent with my own, and someone who would rather start their new projects in the summer rather than the autumn would be stymied by the vagaries of grade school.)

    A year is a huge span, and a blink: having children certainly changes the view of time.  A year ago there was an infant blob in the house, fussing and squalling, and today a toddling gleeface tacklehugged me on her way to investigating the books left out on my floor.  That is huge.  And yet I so often feel I am doing the same things all the time, the things that I've done every day, and the only way I can tell that I've actually been working is that the shit I'm shovelling has changed.  It's an Aegean life, sometimes.

    I don't know.  I'm philosophical tonight, or something.  It's getting towards winter, which is a time for secret growth for me.  Perhaps that means philosophy, in its season.

    06 December, 2012

    J is for Justice Comma Connective, A Rant

    I am making a political post and a back PBP post simultaneously.  Fear my power of multitasking, or something.

    Another black teenager has been shot and killed for no damn reason whatsoever in Florida.  It's just ... what the everliving hell.  What on earth is going on in a world where people are so separated from each other, so disconnected, that a guy can not only shoot up another car because its music was too loud, but - upon hearing that he had killed someone on the news later - not consider that this might bloody well matter?

    Every so often I hear a lot of Kemetics handwringing about the fractiousness of Kemetic community, about how, well, aren't we supposed to be together and supporting each other and interconnected and isn't that what ma'at is all about?  And instead we have factionalism, backbiting, vicious behind the scenes gossip, accusations of petty theft, the occasional hex, ranting about thoughtcrimes, the odd bit of speaking ill of the dead, and a lot of stuff that looks like petty witch wars without the witches.

    Oh woe is us, with our diaspora condition and our petty little self-absorbed personal vendettas.  How can we truly make a community when yadda yadda yadda.  It's nice to live in a goddamn bubble, isn't it?  Where the fates of the maybe couple thousand people in a tiny minority religion are the important community to connect up.

    I think maybe a little bit more connective justice concern might maybe be directed to shit that actually matters for once, rather than whether this schismatic group of Egyptophiles can be seated with that schismatic group of Egyptophiles at the next debutante party.

    Some gaps actually signify a bit more than others.  Some communities are actually real and on the ground, where people actually matter to each other.  The good opinion of some supposed co-religionist I'll never meet is less significant to me than the life of some black teenager I will also never meet.

    05 December, 2012

    I is for Inspiration

    Inspiration is a fiddly thing.

    Sometimes it gets talked about as a divine gift, a state of ecstasy that can only be courted, not created deliberately, a magical blessing.  (And many artists of various sorts - I first encountered this as a writer, but I've seen it in other fields - have commented that depending on inspiration to get any art done is a good way to guarantee that no art gets done.)

    It's treated as a will'o'wisp, a thing over the horizon that will lead one to the promised land.  Perhaps it's pursued like any other form of ecstatic experience, carefully, within its own time and place, circumscribed by rituals.

    There is this idea that one can give oneself over to it and be transformed, that it will lead to great art, or at least something better than the usual Pagan Rhymed Couplet Sing-Song To A Dirge Tune.

    Inspiration, if you break it down ...

    ... is a drawn-in breath.

    What you say with that is unspecified.

    04 December, 2012

    R is for Railway Spine, Battle Fatigue, Shellshock, and Other Clever Ways of Saying PTSD

    I have a problem.

    I don't trust the world.

    The theological upshots of this for a person dealing with a non-transcendental religious system are not minor.  (If I were looking to get out of my body and get to heaven, not trusting the world would probably be some kind of bloody bonus.  Of course it is a vale of tears and a source of trauma, right?  Pfeh.)

    All those immanent, pan(en)theistic, naturally manifesting gods and spirits, they're part of the world, right?  And the world ...

    The world has a lot of things in it.  And a lot of my experiences with those things have been unsettling.  (And I'm explicitly being personal here, not geopolitical.) I'm not just talking about sexual violence or harassment here, though that's the obvious thing that people leap to and something that's on the mind lately.  There's bullying, there's emotional abuse, there's lack of privacy, there's disrespect for boundaries of all kinds, there's a lack of awareness of the potential for differences among people leading to the erasure of some experiences, there's the full panoply of -isms and -phobias, there's ....

    A long time ago I happened to look up the symptom-set for PTSD and I had all of them but one.  My liege, training to be an acupuncturist, says that the defensive layer of my energetic bodies is hair-trigger and twitchy, which he suggests may be part and parcel of the same sort of thing.  And, in all things, my response to the world's minor inconveniences and issues is to ... go away.

    Dissociation is a skill, actually, and it's one that I'm pretty damn good at.  Reflexively good at.  It's not just the year or more of my teenage years where I have no memories written to disk, though that's a pretty primo example of not being in the world or of it.

    And being reflexively good at absence is a bit of a problem when cultivating presence.  When the work has to do with being embodied, with engaging with the world, the fact that there's a soul-presence that responds to the concept of the world by whining like a tortured puppy and retreating into a corner to minimise potential avenues of attack is ... a problem.

    It's not a problem I know entirely how to address, though I've been talking with my inner puppy a lot and asking about what could help....

    (I think "railway spine" is actually "whiplash" but you know that works as a metaphor too.)

    03 December, 2012

    J is for Juxtaposition

    It's not unrelated to syncretism, actually, the setting of things against each other to form a contrast, the way contrasts and shifts produce enlightenment.

    But it matters, really.

    It matters to see that the crown is placed - the plants of south and north bound together - by both Heru and Set, that order and chaos combine to produce this whole.  It is not something achieved by one overwhelming the other, but a tandem function, strength as an individual and the collective heart of the community.

    When a symbolism works with contrasts - the bird and the snake, red and black, male and female, whatever other things are framed as dynamic balance with each other - there are always those stark places where one meets the other face to face.  And those places matter, fundamentally.

    One of the things that bothers me about my surrounding culture is the mutually annihilatory contrasts.  Good and evil, say, that whole Manichaean god-and-devil dance in which each is attempting to destroy the other, or whatever the fuck that's on about, and the world doesn't actually work that way at all so it all comes across as trying to turn reality into a big game of chess to me.  There Are Two Sides, They Are White And Black, And There Is Nothing But War.  Doesn't look a whit like the real world to me, so whenever I run into this kind of cosmology I'm at a loss.  It's like talking to people who are seriously waiting for their Hogwarts admission letter, really.

    The real world is predator and prey, and there is no mutual annihilation there.  If the prey 'loses', vanishes away, obviously the predators die off.  If the predators vanish, the prey die too - starving in the winter because there are too many of them to survive on the forage, if nothing happens because their weaker members are no longer culled.  You put those together and you don't get Good Vs. Evil World-Annihilating Cagematch, you get a self-balancing ecosystem.  You get synergies and transformations and all kinds of interesting and flashy stuff.

    That's what real juxapositions produce, this flash of something larger, more complex, in the give and take available.  These create edges, liminal spaces, in which one can find transformational magic.  This and that has its realm of thisandthat, even when it is an interplay of opposites.

    02 December, 2012

    S is for Syncretism

    A lot of pagans are pretty down on eclectic pagans.  With good reason, of course, because a lot of eclecticism is done really crappily, with a lot of shallow cherry-picking of shiny objects out of their context and not a whole lot of thinking through systems and their implications.

    One of the nice things about syncretic practice is that it requires at least one reasonably whole system.  One coherent worldview resonates with another set of practices, or even a few singular things, and eventually they can glom together tidily.

    I started out what I thought of as dual path a number of years ago.  And the thing I found was that the more work I put into each path, the more it resembled the other.  While the trappings - the structure of ritual, say - were very different, a lot of the values, core goals, and even symbolism were very similar, so I find myself now reaching from one system into the other when I perceive a gap or something more directly addressed by one system.

    It's all one thing.

    It's hard to talk about what it is, though.  I talk a lot about my reconstructionist stuff, in part because I think it is an obligation as a reconstructionist to talk about my practices, my sources, and so on, in order to make the entire structure more accessible to others who can then build upon it and elaborate to meet their own needs.  I don't talk about my Craft stuff as much, because it's more personal and harder to talk about, and because other people don't need to know.  But actually as I do the work with these things, they're the same, and it's not straightforward to draw a line and say 'this is reconstruction' and 'that is Craft'.

    I'm pretty sure I'm Not A Real Recon by a lot of people's standards, because I have this other stuff that threads through, and I patch my gaps with something other than whistling and vigorously flapping academic books over the holes in the hope that nobody will notice the vacancy.  And the 'other stuff' isn't academic - patching with different cultures' academic works would probably be more okay, if it's all "Okay instead of Egyptian I'm going to do Graeco-Egyptian and extrapolate back a bit" - which I also do.  But talking about a line with a nameable founder, that's way too woo and recent for a lot of reconstruction.

    (To which I say "Unscrew you, at least I put footnotes in my work so you can fucking well go check my references yourself.  I may not be recon enough, but that's more than most of the 'legitimate' recons can be bothered with doing.")

    It's nice to have the resonance box that can be built between multiple systems, especially when they're the same instrument in the end.