Pagan Blog Project: M is for Mentoring New Pagans

Ten years ago, I discovered paganism and gave it a shot. Being thirteen, completely inept at any sort of serious research, and without any kind of guidance ended the attempt after only a few months, but I did eventually return to the path. I started afresh with more information at my fingertips, thanks to websites like The Cauldron and Henadology. I stumbled along, more or less.

We all start somewhere.

After three years of serious study and practice, I have a tiny bit of knowledge and experience under my belt. I’m nowhere near worthy of considering myself a mentor, teacher, or elder, but I offer what I can. It’s fortuitous, then, that within a week of each other, some close friends of mine expressed interest in paganism. For their privacy, I will keep details to a minimum in this post.

Of course, the first order of business was providing as many resources as possible so they could read at their own leisure and make their own decisions. But there are certain aspects of being a new or seeking pagan that books and articles and blog posts don’t always address: questioning your own sanity. It took me a year and a half to finally overcome that hurdle because, for the most part, I was doing everything by myself. Though I had support from an ex-boyfriend, he never experienced what I experienced. It made me feel all the lonelier. Kierkegaard’s observation below resonates with me so strongly:

The consequence of having seen God is madness, not in the sense that one becomes mentally ill, no, but that a kind of madness is set between you and others: people cannot nor will not understand you. —Provocations 388

As a new pagan, having people–especially friends–who have experienced what you’re experiencing and can remind you gently that everything is normal and all right is a huge relief. I’m overjoyed that I can share paganism with my friends, but I’m more pleased that I can provide them with a certain level of support that I never had when I first started.

Pagan Blog Project: M is for Meeting the New Year

As the Epagomenal Days drew near, I knew that I had to do something special for this year’s Wep Ronpet. I had flaked out of the past two years, so no matter how busy I would be today, I wanted to do something for the holiday. Yet even then, I didn’t bake a cake. I didn’t prepare an elaborate ritual for the gods. I didn’t spend the whole day in quiet reflection.

I execrated.

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I wrote down all of the issues I have–all of the problems I’ve been striving to rid myself of. Then I drew Apep along the pot with his head cut off, signifying the slaying of Apep in my act of execration. I lit the candles on the shrine, lit incense, and spoke aloud my intention for the new year.

And then I smashed the pot.

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I worked calmly and thoroughly. For me, it indicated an excision not done in rage and disdain but in systematic coldness. Perhaps that’s just how I face my demons.

The execration felt successful, and I thanked the netjeru and promised to continue to serve ma’at to the best of my ability every day.

I hope everyone else had or has a great Wep Ronpet this year!

Dua Netjeru!

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Pagan Blog Project: L is for Liberty: Honoring a Nation

Hail,_Columbia_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_21566I believe there’s a huge distinction between loving one’s nation and agreeing with the politics of its government, and I never feel it more strongly than when I’m witness to the latter. It grows old so quickly. Perhaps I’m an idealist or romantic in some way, but during those moments, I always turn to my other goddess and try to focus on what She represents today.

Columbia began as a reference to the United States of America during the years of the Revolution, becoming a poetic, endearing term for the young nation thanks to patriotic songs like John Hopkinson’s “Hail Columbia” (Mass. Historical Society 159). The use of the name continued well into the 19th century, as referenced in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society and in John Gast’s painting American Progress. Usage of “Columbia” as an alternate name for the United States began to wane as the years progressed; nowadays, you will rarely hear it used.

Nevertheless, the goddess persists.

One of the biggest challenges when dealing with a “new” or “young” deity such as Columbia is the lack of historical references. In a historically-inspired religion such as Kemeticism, I can easily peruse texts written by Egyptologists to develop a greater understanding of my beliefs and practices. A whole civilization dedicated itself to the gods of Egypt, but the same cannot be said of Nation or City worship. Being that such practice is a facet of urban polytheism, any understanding of Columbia is, inevitably, largely doxa- or UPG-based.

And so, here is the disclaimer: Any and all text from this point on depends heavily on doxa, and should no way indicate how your personal relationship with Columbia “should” be.

I have always had a strong sense of patriotism. I love my country and the values on which it was founded, but I’m aware that the “American dream” is often viewed as a crock of nonsense these days. Still, that has not stopped me from believing in the United States, in feeling proud to live in this nation, and in feeling kinship toward my fellow Americans. I’ve come to understand that Columbia the goddess inspires that in me. She personifies those founding values, that dream, that pride and kinship. She is the nation, and She is its people.

Sadly, I don’t really do anything for Her. I don’t make the time for it, so we have a very distant relationship. But on the Fourth of July, the day of America’s independence, I set out with a purpose to honor the goddess of my country.

It was really simple: I laid out the American flag on a small table and lit a candle. I offered what I considered a typical American meal: a cheeseburger and French fries. I’d struggled for a while to decide what else I could give Her, but contented myself with a trip to the state capital to watch fireworks with my significant other. They were held upon the harbor by the Naval Academy.

Symbolism upon symbolism.

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I wish I could say that I’ve done more since then, but I haven’t. I think She and I are satisfied with the extent of our relationship at this point; at least, She has not made it aware to me that She expects more from me. In the future, perhaps, I can set up a small shrine for Her… but until then, the love of one’s nation will suffice.

REFERENCES

  • Massachusetts Historical Society. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Boston: Society, 1859. Print.

Pagan Blog Project: L is for the Lovers (Reversed)

After an informal conversation with Persephone a few days ago, I drew this card for my daily tarot reading.

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I’d said, “Lady, I wish to become strong like You. I have many emotional and mental blocks–issues caused by past events and relationships that have damaged me. You inspire me to overcome them, to become strong like the rock of the throne upon which You sit, yet passionate and graceful in the way You carry Yourself.”

And through the card, She’d replied, “It begins with self-love. Love yourself first before all others, and you will strengthen.”

The reversal of the Lovers means a lot more, of course, but time and time again, its meaning for me has always been self-love–or, specifically, the lack of it. And, time and time again, I always look to Persephone for guidance. I admit I haven’t the chance to begin researching Her; books are not within my budget at this time. Nevertheless, She appears to me clearly, with the grace and power of the Queen of Haides. She overcame Her trials and struggles and sits upon Her throne with all of the qualities I admire–and all of the qualities I wish I possessed.

The question remains: How do I practice self-love?

It’s not something that happens overnight. I know that the transformation will take months–perhaps even years, but I’m willing to keep going until I achieve it. I’ll have to keep in mind that it’ll all be for me, too; if other people’s lives become easier thanks to my strength, then that’s great, but this is my hardship and my struggle. This is not for them, but for me.

Step one: I think an execration is in order.

O Persephone, guide my thoughts and actions, that I might accept when things are good and adapt when things are bad. May Your strength be my strength, Your compassion be my compassion, and Your grace be my grace.

(KRT) Working Outside Kemeticism

In February and March of this year, I felt what many polytheists and pagans call “The Nudge.” It’s that sensation that Someone is trying to reach out to you for reasons unknown, and it’s both terrifying and intriguing (but mostly terrifying). Many people initially balk at the thought of a relationship with a new deity or entity, and I am no different. It happened with Wepwawet last year, and it happened again this winter. The origin and nature of this deity, though, gave me more reason to be apprehensive–or so I thought.

Persephone was figuratively knocking on my door, and She is not Egyptian. She is thoroughly, wholly, and unquestionably Greek.

So naturally, I balked. I dug my heels into the dirt and clung onto Ra’s barque for dear life, going “Nope!” the whole way.

Oddly enough, this coincided with a slew of posts on various blogs about being a polytheist. After much reading, I realized that by believing and worshiping many gods, I have naturally made myself more open to relationships with Them, and I shouldn’t consider it a flaw to feel a connection with more than one or two.

So, after calming myself down, I opened myself up to Persephone.

Does worshiping a Greek goddess make me Hellenic? No; it just means I worship a Greek goddess. Does it make me any less Kemetic? Not at all. I can, of course, choose to become more Hellenic in my practice and beliefs if I feel they make sense and fulfill me spiritually, but at this time, they don’t. Kemetic beliefs and practices do.

So if Thor or Cernnunos or Brighid or Hera or Lilith are calling to you, yet you consider yourself Kemetic… Well, why not take the plunge?

When it came to physically honoring and worshiping Persephone, though, I found myself at somewhat of a loss. I certainly wasn’t going to perform Kemetic rituals before Her images, and while I had a very, very, very basic understanding of Hellenic rites, performing them didn’t really feel fulfilling. Sure, they were proper, and I sure did them, but it felt a bit flat on my end.

While I haven’t yet tackled this obstacle, this doesn’t mean that beginners can’t experiment and perform rituals on the fly, using their own imagination as their primary resource. Just because you’re Kemetic doesn’t mean you can only perform Kemetic rites, and if a deity you worship isn’t of the pantheon, it may be best to look at Their own culture of origin for ideas and cues.

I think the most important thing, above all, is to never limit yourself.

(KRT) How It Started

I was thirteen years old and online during a time when the most popular social websites were LiveJournal, Xanga, and MySpace. tumblr and WordPress didn’t exist. The communities I consider myself a member of did not exist. But I was online anyway and killing time on LiveJournal, trying to expand my list of blog groups (“communities”) to follow. I typed anubis into the search field and found a group called Children of Anpu.

I was, quite frankly, floored. I had no idea prior to that moment that there still existed people who believed in many gods. (Having graduated from Catholic private school earlier that year, the idea that Jews and Muslims existed was still new to me, too.) My next reaction, though, was typical of any thirteen-year-old: “I want to do that too.”

What followed were the first few months of any conscious religious journey. Sure, I had attended Catholic school, but that hadn’t been my choice, and I didn’t connect with YHWH in the same way I connected with Anpu. Those few months ended, though, as high school slowly dominated my life. Perhaps I made the decision to wait until I wasn’t busy, or perhaps I literally lost interest. I can’t remember. It was over ten years ago.

After about six years of atheism, I experienced the sudden urge to reread all of those websites. I hunted them down–all of the blogs, groups, and terrible GeoCities webpages. Many no longer existed, but some remained, and I picked them apart sufficiently to take away some key words.

Anpu.

Kemeticism.

The Internet had evolved in an unimaginable way in six years’ time. So much new information was readily available, and though many old communities no longer functioned, many new ones–some of which were only new to me–replaced them. I found myself setting up a shrine again, but this time in an open space, and I was far enough away from home that I didn’t need to fear my parents’ scrutiny. Anpu had brought me back from my wanderings, and ever since then, I’ve been a faithful servant.

I’ve learned a lot since my return to polytheism. I learned which books are useful and which I should take with a grain (or a handful) of salt. I’ve met many new people–both Kemetics and non-Kemetics–and engaged in a variety of discussions. I’ve learned to keep things simple and heartfelt, and I’ve learned when something is too much or not enough. All of this comes through research and experience. You can do one or the other, but I feel it will never be a complete religious journey unless you do both.

Pagan Blog Project: K is for Keeping It Simple

Part of the reason I decided to forgo meeting the deadlines for my blog projects is this post. I had a couple of ideas for the second letter K–an academic look at Kebechet and a devotional art piece dedicated to Persephone Khthonia, to name them–but both require time and energy that I currently don’t possess. I still want to do them in the future, but for the purpose of this project, I had to come up with something else.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been dragging my feet around in a metaphoric sense, watching things transpire on the Internet but not actively participating, making offerings to the gods but not actively engaging. I have already voiced this on my tumblr, but I’ve recently realized that it’s easier for me attend to my ancestors daily–with the lighting of a candle and a stick of incense–than to attend to my gods daily. I described the former as “like clockwork”: it’s part of my daily routine now, and I flow so easily into and out of it that I don’t really give it a second thought. It has become second nature, which I’ve been struggling to achieve since the beginning. In this sense, I’ve succeeded, but only at one aspect of my practice. Now it’s time to address daily offerings to my gods.

But what do I do?

Several people have already suggested that I “trim down.” That’s a good way of putting it. Or, per this post’s title, “keep it simple.” When I’m fully invested in worship, I go all-out: I prepare food offerings and fresh, cold water; I perform Reidy’s rite; I go through all of the motions and recite all of the words as I should. I’m very formal. But when I’m like how I am now, toeing the line between Fallow Time and active worship, everything formal becomes burdensome.

I want daily practice to flow easily with my schedule. I want it to become second nature, and pious formality and complex rituals aren’t going to help in that regard. I need to keep things simple. Candles, incense, water libations… and some kind of prayer or hymn. I remember the 99 Adorations that were popular a while back; I would like to write 14 Adorations for Anpu and Wepwawet separately, and an appropriate number of them for Persephone. (Is there a sacred number? Sadly, I haven’t had time to research anything.)

I’ll see how it goes, and if anything improves.