Category Archives: indigenous

Seriously, Pagan Community…WTF!?

wtf by jason borreroI am seeing some very disturbing trends in pagan writings, communities and the like that seems to be spreading like an epidemic.  Some of it isn’t new. However, there are some really disturbing trends I want to address.

Lately, there has been loads of butthurt, overly sensitive, politically correct, anti-Christian, anti-intellectual hubbaloo of the most absurd pagan ghetto thinking and laziness that I have ever seen.  Whenever a debate on any subject happens, inevitably, someone decides that disagreeing with their viewpoint, even if there is nothing even remotely resembling an ad hominem attack, it somehow equals “bullying” or “hate speech”.

I have been reassured by others that it isn’t just within pagan communities, but throughout the world in general.

1) Expecting that all knowledge, books, artistic expression since it is on the Internet should be FREE. for the taking.  Whenever an author releases a new book or musical album, there are those that will want to get it for nothing. Getting this knowledge, according to these folks, is a right. Initiations, Degrees, and the milestones that indicate to the Community as a whole that you have achieved a certain level of knowledge and mastery is all just superfluous nonsense.  I blame Raymond Bucklnand’s Complete Book of Witchcraft that was put out over 30 years ago that is lovingly or not so lovingly referred to as Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book O’ Wicca. This book claims that after reading it, you will know just as much as  any Third Degree Initiate into Wicca.

Bullshit.

Gaining knowledge is not just perusing it in a book or online or in a Facebook group or on Usenet or something you can get like an online gamer racks up points.  Most of this kind of ‘knowledge’ is only gotten through hands on, heart in, mind on and DIRECT experience.  There are no shortcuts. No herbs to smoke, drink or ingest in order to get you there quicker.   It doesn’t come easier if you are living in a legal cannabis state or drop peyote with your friends on a weekend and yowl unintelligibly at the full moon out in the desert on a “vision quest”.  The skies will not open up with extraterrestrials, nor will the Star in the East rise, complete with wise men, foretelling the rest of us of your imminent arrival.  You get to lump your own luggage and do the actual work.  I am truly sorry if that bursts a few bubbles out there.

2) Professing to love Mother Earth so very much and then engaging in very bad, consumerist behaviors.   Seriously.  I am sick to death of hearing and reading everyone recommend “saging” or “smudging” away negative energies.  I used to work for one of the world’s largest natural foods co-operatives that supplies bulk herbs to just about every health food store and natural food store in the US and Canada.  There were years when because of drought and/or wildfires there was just no white sage to be had.   For a period of time, sales of this herb were suspended in the interests of being good stewards and ensuring the survival of the plants in the wild and as cultivars. It got so bad that some Indigenous Nations were begging us to sell to them so that they could do ceremonies with what they needed.  We had a bit on hand that had been set aside, and we were able to help them.  The situation involving sage has corrected itself over time, but the opposite reaction is also going through the Pagan community and we have people claiming the plant is currently endangered. Trust me. It isn’t.

Similar circumstances arose with Frankincense (Bosewelia carteri) because of overharvestation and crops of these precious trees have been damaged in regional conflicts.  The same was true of yellow sandalwood when the government of India, which technically owns all of the sandalwood forests in the country, suspended the sale of everything except sandalwood essential oil. Poaching during that time was rife.  We found similar sandalwood in Australia that helped in other formulas calling for the yellow species and it worked out well.  The ban has since been at least partially lifted, but we still have to be mindful of the resource.  Right now, however, the price of yellow sandalwood, regardless of form, has skyrocketed.

The point of this is that Pagans / Wiccans et al need to stop thinking so much about their own selfish, self-involved bullshit and think about the Earth that they claim to care about. There seems to be a real dichotomy with regard to what is good for the planet with increasing environmental challenges and the people who act out selfishly.   There are substitutions for any herb you care to name.  It’s time to pay attention and walk the talk or get out.

3.  Racism –  I have become aware of more racism within both the Pagan and Kemetic communities. For whatever reason, there are those that insist that it is ok to discriminate against someone on the basis of skin color, race, ethnicity, sex, sexual preference etc.  One Big Name Pagan or BNP who shall remain nameless because they have a large, if not sychophantic following, recently posted some of the  most racist vitriol I have ever seen within Paganism.  It was nauseating enough that I suspect that they lost at least a fair number of followers  because of it.  At least they lost a good number of people who  actually take them seriously.  I can only say that I was never impressed with this particular individual’s  arrogance in the past.  Their latest and decidedly bigoted posting just underscored that what my gut had been telling me all along.

I don’t give a damn who you are, or what your tradition is.  Engaging in bigotry is flat out bullshit.  Racism, sexism, elitism, or any other ism you care to name is not how it’s done.  Rule number one where I come from is. “Don’t be a dick.” If you’re a racist or a bigot….well, draw your own conclusions on that.  I won’t tolerate it in my groups and I sure as hell won’t sit quietly by when it’s said or posted in my presence. We have one planet, one chance, one shot to get it right.  It’s time to celebrate the beauty of our diversity and appreciate and respect it without devolving into something that none of us wants.

 

 

 

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Filed under herbs, indigenous, mystic woo-woo, pagan, politics, rants

Finding Our Way Back to Kemet

Mash_signThis post started with the intention to give those who call ourselves Kemetic a place to look to find resources. I know that I am not the first to talk about this. Certainly Devo Kraemer with the Kemetic Round Table and her blog, as well as Helmsman of Yinepu, Henadology and countless others have stated the same goal.  This post is to essentially open up the dialogue and throw out ideas to the greater Kemetic Community as a very small piece of a much grander puzzle.  If we can just figure out where we are going, we might end up getting something that has a bit less in fighting and is a bit more cohesive.

All of we Kemetic folk are different. We come from different places, have had different sebau  (teachers) It feels a little  bit like that road sign on the set of M*A*S*H* that showed where everyone at the 4077th where home was.   The road sign served as a starting place,  rather a map of  how to get there. More than simply telling someone that there is just one temple, one group or one single right way to get to where to go, it will, I hope that something like this might serve more people without any accusations of an agenda.

The truth of the matter is that civilization was born in Kemet.  The pharaohs were black, and varying degrees of brown and every other skin colour that was known in the ancient world at the time. This is inevitably what happens in an integrated and cosmopolitan society.  By my saying this, it does not make me a revisionist or a racist. Speaking only for myself, my goal is to welcome any and all evidence and discussion, except that which promotes racial hatred and modern cultural divisions that seem to have escalated to all time highs over the last few years.

Like most within the pagan and polytheist sphere, we Kemetics have our share of issues to deal with. We have our dramas and disagreements but overall, I don’t believe it’s anything that cannot be overcome.   So…..we can choose to continue to arguments over religious doctrine or other points of contention, or point fingers about who “stole” what from whomever else, or we can acknowledge the fact that for each or us Kemet is a constant call in our lives.  Just as in Kemet’s  antiquity, I believe that  cultural exchanges and sharing were and are the norm.  Someone who was well-traveled or could appreciate the customs of the people and places that they visited was welcome as a guest and greeted as a hero or heroine when they returned home to share the knowledge that their travels had afforded them.  Being a good, respectful guest was the most important thing of all.  I think the akhu (ancestors) have plenty to teach us on many levels and it is something that the world desperately needs.

I believe that we can have that and be the richer even if all we do is try.  We are most us here because we love Netjer or the Netjeru and honoring the akhu.  The land of Kemet IS Zep Tepi, the First Time.  It is inevitable that it calls to our kas with such depth and intensity that we cannot turn away – not even if we wanted to.

But what about Kemet is it that calls us?

Is it the sophistication of design? Is it the fact that science and medicine, literature and the beginnings of writing were born on the banks of the Nile?  What do we as modern, 21st century people hope to gain by reviving the religion, the culture and the values of that bygone time?  I believe for everyone the answer is different.  Even as a child, I dreamed of a day when more people would realize how wonderful ancient Kemet was and there would be a push to restore temples and bring a language back from the Realm of the Dead.   With the advances in Egyptology and the push to reconstruct events, study DNA and analyze the overwhelming amount of data coming out of Egypt on an almost daily basis, we may very well see some of these ideas and pushes become a reality.

Hedwig Storch via Wikimedia Creative Commons LicenseWhat I want, what I am asking in this blog entry is for people to think long and hard about what it is in Kemet that draws them so deeply.  I sincerely want to hear from each and every one of you – not because I am starting a new group; but rather because it’s something I’ve felt called to ask and to do.  I am not doing this for any group, even though I am currently a member of a group.   I respect and care for enough people outside of my own respective group and have the luxury of conversing with them in a dialogue of mutual respect.  It is of paramount importance to me that this spirit of cooperation continues.    For some, such as myself,  Kemet was a call felt at a very young age that simply would not let go.  For others, it is a reconnection to their own proud history and culture.  For others, it might be something else entirely.   Whatever it is – it’s important.

It is my hope that the dialogue between all  of the different groups can somehow push us a little closer to having a clearing house of knowledge, lists of books to read, online courses being offered for free or at a nominal fee, groups that get together socially for no other reason than to share that interest. Later, we can discuss the potential of boards, or groups on Facebook or Google+ in order to discuss those resources that we find.   Whether any of us views it as a culture, a spirituality, a passing interest or even a fandom, it is my personal belief that  none of us individually knows nearly as much as all of us do collectively.  It is also my belief that if we try we may yet make even more of our dreams about Kemet come true.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under indigenous, Kemet is Cool Project, kemetic, Ma'at, pagan, politics, racism, rants, Religion, Sekhmet, Uncategorized, update

Regarding Spiritual Arrogance, Racism & Bigotry

arrogance“Do not be arrogant because of your knowledge, but confer with the ignorant man as with the learned for the limit of skill (art) has not been attained, and there is no craftsman who has fully acquired his mastery.”  – The Maxims of PtahHotep

Sooner or later, we all have to come face to face with the spiritually arrogant.  It may very well be, that we ourselves have bouts of spiritual arrogance of our own to contend with.  It can be as simple as looking down our noses as to why we are right in our beliefs and the other party or parties are wrong.  The whole phrase, “Religious tolerance”,  is not the same as religious acceptance.   Tolerance infers that we are putting up with something, and yet all the time view our way as being superior.  Acceptance means that we can accept the differences in how others do things and how their approach practice without being judgemental about it.

Being Kemetic, I find that this often raises its head.  The leadership or membership of one Kemetic group disagrees with and/or dislikes another group because of doctrine or practice, or there is  just plain jealousy.  Accusations of one sect or another being a ‘cult’, or ‘mindlessly dogmatic’ are hurled and understanding is nowhere to be found.

One of the best cures that I have personally found for such an affliction is interfaith work.  It is the choice to leave our own neighborhoods where the spiritual ghettos seem to get constructed without our even realizing it that seems to help the most.    For me, it began doing interfaith work with Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida.  The experience of having attended Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati’s birthday celebration and fire puja where several dedicants were committed to priesthood at their Senyasi was a profound one.   Ma taught that her way was not so much a religion but a way of being in the world and to practice kindness wherever possible.   That meeting and that event, however, led me to doing more research into Hinduism and interfaith work with the local Hindu community.  I am of course, no expert, but I do feel that the experience made me, I believe, a better Kemetic.

Even with all of this,   after a time, I realized that I was feeling particularly smug and condescending toward other Kemetics and Neo-Pagans in general. I wanted to get back to my own Zep Tepi – the foundation of spiritual belief and doing ritual work and heka that would make me a better Priestess of Sekhmet.

In recent years, there has been a new resurgence of groups in the sphere of religion that focus on race and skin color.  I have even been in the vicinity of one that insisted all of its members get DNA tests to ensure that they are of the right blood group in order to prove their lineage to certain bloodlines that mark them as “superior” to their human counterparts, claiming to hail back to either the bloodlines of the Tuatha de Dannan or to the Annunaki. They fervently believe that rulership, nobility and everything that sets them apart entitles them to be a part of a higher caste and class that the rest of humanity and everyone else are more or less shuffling herd animals incapable of real thought or magical/spiritual ability.

Unfortunately, this sort of ridiculously bigoted nonsense has migrated its way into the realms of Kemetic groups.   Afrocentrist philosophies are not new. I am actually in agreement with many of the assertions that yes,  the world’s greatest civilizations began in Africa.  Homo sapiens (humans) began in  Africa, so we all ultimately have a tie there, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

In the early days of the internet, the militancy of some afrocentrist groups were reaching a fevered pitch.  Some would troll the newsgroups on Usenet such as alt.archaeology, sci.archaeology or alt.culture.egyptian, screaming about blackness and racial issues that really had less to do with ancient Egypt at all and more about some sort of bragging rights or never-ending angst over an inaccurate, rendition of history that had Napoleon or his troops testing their cannon out on the nose of the Great Sphinx because the obviously African features of the ancient monument offended their eurocentric sensibilities.

For the record,  that particular rendition of what happened to the nose of the Great Sphinx is patently FALSE.  Napoleon was very much into Egypt at the time that he was in the country. He enlisted an entire corps of artists and engineers and as a result produced one of the greatest inventories of the ancient monuments, le Description de Egypte.  That inventory compiled by Napoleon is still the most accurate one that we have to date.    He would have likely put to death anyone who would do something that horrible -though some of his men left initials behind on some of the monuments.   At any rate, the heinous Sphinx defacement was in fact done by a Muslim cleric in the 13th Century AD.  That is just a little bit too early for even Emperor Napoleon, I’m afraid.   Apparently, this particular Muslim cleric was quite upset that tourists went to the desert to see or ‘pay homage to’  a graven image,  and he considered such reverence to be very ‘Un-Islamic’.   He was going to put a stop to it….not unlike what some within more radical factions of Islam are proposing now by covering the ancient monuments in wax or destroying them in the same fashion that the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan.  The marks from the pry-bars are still there on the Sphinx itself as evidence. You can see them if you can get close enough while they are trying to preserve the ancient beast.    So much for the usual claim of Europeans trying to obliterate the monument because of alleged ‘racist motivations’.

Now there are even more scores of books and web pages just about everywhere you look that posit the notion that melanin = spiritual enlightenment and the inherent birthright to the kingdom of the Pharaohs.  According to them, people who don’t have sufficient levels of melanin have pineal glands that are pretty much non-functioning.   Proponents of this line of thinking propose the idea that if you don’t have enough melanin in your skin, you are told that you may admire ancient Kemet, its culture, people, history, etc.  from afar but that you have absolutely no business worshiping the ancient Kemetic Netjeru at all.  I have experienced this myself. When I was in my late teens, a  woman noticed the pendant depicting a winged Aset (Isis) and proceeded on a tirade. How dare I worship African gods?  I should find my own heritage and get my own gods!

The experience was devastating.  I was quite honestly shocked and hurt at being the recipient of vitriol that came out of nowhere.    From what I have been told, this experience is unfortunately not at all unusual and many others, who have lighter skin and are not distinctly African looking have suffered similar incidents. I know that I didn’t choose the Netjeru.  I believed at that time, and I still firmly believe that They had chosen me.  I was always happiest when I could look to the sky, catch the sight of a hawk or a falcon overhead.  It served as a personalized reminder that Aset and Heru (Horus) were watching me from overhead and that things were going to change and inevitably everything would be alright. Now, some woman whom I didn’t even know, inexplicably walks up and tries to tell me that  my connection is not mine at all and to wear Egyptian themed jewelry just smacked of wishful whitebread, honky, wannabi  fantasies and that I should move along and get me back to a church pew at the nearest Christian house of worship?  It was beyond belief.

Racism or bigotry of any sort,  between one culture or sect of humans against another,  is a horrible stain upon humanity.   It is becoming sadly, more and more prevalent in the past decade and more specifically since nationalist sentiments have insinuated themselves in governments throughout the world.   Political correctness discarded for the moment,  I will say that, ‘Yes, we do need to discuss the past.’  The slavery that happened in the Americas from its inception till after the Civil War and beyond as well as the many, many horrific injustices that happened to African Americans from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights era right up to the present day should never be forgotten.   I would never expect anyone  who is of African American heritage to ever “get over it” any more than they should expect me and mine to ever “get over” the Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee I and II, and the enforced sterilization of American Indian Women. That and scores of other dirty little secrets that were a part of BIA policy up to as late as 1976.  My Aunt Lucille was one the ones who got sterilized because of it.  The wounds are fresh for many of us, and we are not likely to forget them soon. Sometimes even forgiving seems like an impossibility.

Yes, we need to acknowledge the pain and the sacrifice of the ancestors on whatever side of whatever equation actually went through.  We carry those memories in our DNA.  We carry all of the prayers, the horrors, the sacrifice and the tremendous accomplishments deep within ourselves.  The prejudice, the discrimination, the snide arrogance of stereotyping people into groups – it still goes on.

Racism and bigotry, especially within spheres such as religion and culture really are about ignorance. Culture is not something that boils down to skin colour or even regionality. I know what is like to have a  bigotted person tell me I shouldn’t worship Egyptian deities because my skin isn’t the right colour. I also know what it is like to have been raised Indigenous and know that when you are “claimed” by a People as one of their own and adopt that culture as your own in terms of how you identify, NO ONE (!!!) can gainsay that.

One of my favourite examples of this is in the person of Mr. JDK Chipps, of the Lakota Chipps family. JDK was born into a white family. That family is not particularly notable excpt that he is in no part Native by blood.  However, because of his devotion to the Lakota People and to the preservation of lands and especially the buffalo, he was adopted by the Lakota Nation as one of their own. He is a Lakota now.  Period. Those who have dared to tell JDK or any of the People of his Nation and especially his family that he is not Lakota because his skin is the wrong color finds out otherwise very, VERY quickly just how wrong they are in the assumption. What’s important is that the Lakota Nation and his community knows who JDK is and vice versa.  In the end, that is all that is necessary. Those are the kinds of things that simply don’t fit into neat little boxes of blood quantum and DNA. Racism and bigotry are both complex issues. However, knowing who you are, who your People are, and devotion to that – without trying to hold yourself above others, that’s the point.

Even with all of this acknowledgement, however,  it doesn’t take much to realize that we do not solve the issues by screaming at people who are appreciating something beautiful and wonderful throughout the countless civilizations throughout the world, and all of the vastly diverse peoples who created them.   It does not help anyone to act belligerently toward sincere people who love the gods and love ancient Egypt or any other culture for itself.  Telling them to go away, and judging them as some other, or “Them” inevitably ends up being a kind of racism or bigotry itself.    What happens, then, when children come from a mixed racial background want to find out who they are? What is considered “African enough”?    What is Indian enough or Asian enough or European enough or whatever?   What parent, ancestor or heritage should someone eschew in order to fit into these newly constructed ideas of race = culture are?    These days, DNA testing can narrow down where certain groups of people were and how they migrated.    Humanity has been meeting, mingling throughout history.  PBS has had some wonderful specials on just that. It is amazing and awe-inspiring just how far science has come in that it has determined that we truly do carry our akhu (ancestors) within us, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the issues surrounding race or culture.

So what happens, if after the DNA test results come out, and a person is actually presented with the scientific evidence and knowledge that none of their blood ancestors cannot be traced to a specific tribe, area, country or culture?  What if certain people of colour have no connection to the spiritual things that resonate most to them?  How far does it go when someone finds out that their own bloodline has been “polluted” somewhere along the way, and they are not purely one thing or another?  When does it stop and where does it end?

Certainly, our akhu of ancient Kemet would not do that. They had no problem with people worshiping their gods – or allowing them to bring their own into the country just as long as the ideal of Ma’at was adhered to.    If faced with such a reality, does that mean that those with no DNA connection would also have to stop paying attention to the Netjeru and go only with what their true ancestors did and how they believed?  What about those who are called – though we may not ourselves understand what a specific Name of Netjer may have in mind for that person – and they are still called?  Is it ‘cultural appropriation’, then, to love something and want to appreciate it and give thanks for it by murmuring a prayer to Sekhmet or to HetHert or Ptah somehow wrong?  Is holding one’s hands up in the gesture of henu or praise at seeing the sunrise and giving thanks to Ra somehow taking away from another culture and ‘stealing’ from it?

I don’t believe that it is.

There is also another disturbing trend within the ranks of Afrocentrists and Afrocentrism and that is the use of materials that are 1) completely out of date, eg. the public domain works of Sir. E.A. Wallis Budge.   I have written about this before.   Yes they are cheap, sometimes they are even free – but during the time that they were created, the author was clearly a citizen within a large empire, populated by people who did not appreciate the Egyptians for who they were but rather wanted to do as much as they possibly could to make them like themselves.  During the Victorian era, expeditions, particularly to Egypt and the ancient world, were more easily funded if it promised to underscore the thoughtform and religious beliefs of the status quo based on some ancient model that it was allegedly derived from.   These same people were the very definition of eurocentrism – far more than current Egyptologists who offer more current up to date and affirming works.   Many if not nearly all of those early authors were racists.  They believed in things such as the heiress theory and the idea that a certain caste and class of people oversaw the darker skinned commoners and did everything that they could to keep those bloodlines pure.   One of these authors went as far as to say, “Egypt must never be allowed to partake of Africa’s spirit.”

Budge and his contemporaries were cut very much from the cloth of eurocentricity during that time.  Of course, the times have changed and we now have in the ranks of egyptology, those who are not just native born Egyptians – but also Americans, Europeans, Asians,  and Africans from all over the continent.  In the days that Sir E. A. Wallis Budge was penning his works, there was an underlying idea of an apartheid system with a ruling class made up of a white minority who oversaw all aspects of power.  They set themselves up so that they might oversee the majority of darker skinned non-European people.  Budge ‘s works does no one any favors – except he had some good typesetting, but his translations were completely off in many ways.  To the point, we need to not only take the contents of books into account but also the the eras in which those writings were produced and how the cultural mindset of the authors whose views very probably bled over into the thesis and conclusions that were made.

How is this sort of prejudice and racism any different from what the slave masters of the south believed?  How is it different from the views that were put forth in Nazi propaganda by Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich? How tolerable would it be for those who are not of African American decent to make the same sort of bigoted claims that many within afrocentrism seem to make today?

My guess is that the public outcry and the flurry of social media backlash would be astounding if not downright deafening.  What makes us different in terms of religious beliefs, culture, and out outward appearance is, I believe, what makes us beautiful.    There is a line in that wretched film, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” when a little English girl  comparing her skin colour to that of  the Moor, Hakim (played by Morgan Freeman), “Why did God paint you?”   And Hakim smiled at her and gave her the most simple, yet breathtakingly beautiful answer:   “Because He loves infinite variety.”

Infinite variety should not instill arrogance in any of us. If anything, it should instill an almost overwhelming feeling of awe.

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Sources Cited

Furr, Grover. “Fallacies of Afrocentrism.” Fallacies of Afrocentrism. Monclair State University, English Department, n.d. Web. 18 June 2014.

Jaroff, Leon. “Teaching Reverse Racism.” Time. Time Inc., 24 June 2001. Web. 23 June 2014.

Ortiz de Montellano, Bernard,  Melanin, Afrocentricity, and Pseudoscience”, Academia.edu

Ortiz De Montellano, Bernard. “Magic Melanin: Spreading Scientific Illiteracy Among Minorities.” CSI: Community for Skeptical Inquiry. N.p., 30 Dec. 192. Web. 15 June 2014.

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Filed under afrocentrist, akhu / ancestors, indigenous, Kemet is Cool Project, kemetic, racism, Religion, sekhmet

God Is Not Your ‘B*tch’!

Recently the question came up in one of the discussion forums I am in as to whether or not we need Divine and vice versa.

Inevitably, we get the well-considered answers, and then we get the children who think that the profundity of the entire Universe is somehow in that precious treasure trove between their ears, and that everyone else is dying to find out what it is that the rest of humanity has somehow missed.

Does the scientific reality of photosynthesis cease if plants don’t pay attention to it or believe in it? No. It still exists. I think humans like to console themselves on the arrogant notion that somehow the Divine would be somehow gone or irrelevant without our participation in the equation.

In my not-so-humble opinion: Bullshit.

I’ve been referred to all sorts of arguments by anyone and anything from the penned opinions of the late Isaac Bonnewitz to Terry Pratchett’s books and frankly none of it has any relevance whatsoever to my personal practice or praxis on the matter. I am Kemetic; Kemetic Orthodox to be exact. I have been at this as a practitioner of the Kemetic religion in some form or another for 30+ years. I think I know by now what it is that I am doing and are pretty secure in what I believe without the compare and contrast inserted by others into the equation, thank you very much. Purity, piety and fear of Netjer is a part of Kemetic religious devotion and practice, and that exact phrase goes back to antiquity and carries a lot of weight. However, that idea is not as dogmatic as that might sound. Nature IS. Netjer IS. It will be there – as a constant. Our participation is not necessary in either case. Both Netjer and humanity get something out of the deal and I believe that love on both sides of the equation has a great deal to do with why it works to this day. That is, I know, my opinion. Y’all are entitled to your own.

Which brings me to this: The God(s) are not our bitches. Add to that the notion that He/She /They is/ are not necessarily our “buddies” either. We don’t get to haul them out and play with them like Celestial Barbies or G.I. Jove. It is not all fun, or warm or fuzzy. It is hard WORK and sometimes that is necessarily difficult and frustrating. You will probably shed tears from time to time.

Get over it.

The relationship between humans and the Divine is just that….a relationship. All relationships if they are worth a damn at all, take work on both sides or it is just superficial and has no sort of depth or intimacy to it. To really know another, be it a person or a Deity, there has to be deep levels of insight on both sides. That is the hard part.

God / the Gods (the One in the Many or the Many in the One) Netjer is/are not here as the Eternal Wish Grantor(s) to be approached only “when we need something” or to be blamed when stuff goes wrong. It fascinates me just how many people become suddenly religious when they are faced with a crisis of some sort of another. We need money, we need a Divine pep talk, we need to see what lies beyond the bend in the road and we suddenly go into “religious mode”. We light a candle, or bow our heads, or get suddenly reflective or we scream to the sky, “Why me?!” Some of us may choose to perform magical rites and do heka or authoritative utterances, demanding to get our way. Sometimes we might think that resorting to threats and having a temper tantrum to get our way is the approach. We need a sign. We need reassurance we need something, and in the darkest reaches of our hearts, we know if we just get a teeny, tiny glimmer of hope, everything will be ok.

However, just as soon as some of us get that, and the crisis is seemingly over, too many simply skip along our merry way after saying, “Thanks, God! That was mighty cool of you!” And then quickly and ever-so-conveniently forget. That is they forget until the next crisis rolls around and the whole process begins all over again.

Is this any way to live our spiritual or even our day-to-day lives? Is this any way to navigate our way through the things that keep us motivated and moving? Does this give us any real connection to the Divine or even to our deepest selves? I personally don’t believe so.

I recently read a wonderful blog post by Adam Sicinski, God Does Not Grant Wishes but rather Opportunities to Make Wishes Come True that was written almost seven years ago but I found to be both lucid and insightful. Beyond the fact that Adam did not try to ram Christian-themed belief down the throat of the reader, he rather neutral on the subject; the post contained some real gems, such as this one:

“There are so many of us out there who rely on God or an Infinite Power to heal them, to make them rich, and to make their dreams come true. What these people fail to understand is that God will not fulfill their desires. It is rather up to the person asking for these things to keep an eye out for opportunities coming their way that may possibly enable them to fulfill their needs and wants.”

Even when you practice magic, or the Craft of the Cunning folk, heka. spells or whatever you want to call it, things can go wrong. Sometimes the answer is,”No.” Or it is, “Not now.” Sometimes the things we ask for or the things we think we want are better left unfulfilled. Being prepared to take on the responsibility of the thing or situation desired is important.

I have seen far too many people, Neopagans especially, pick up specific deities or entire pantheons because they think that going to that Deity or that set of Deities will get them the results that they want. If Deity has the least little bit of intelligence that we believe that it does, do you think maybe that it is possible to determine when someone is hanging out in their shrine or making alms and prayers that the person is after something? Sincerity, or lack thereof, does have a certain air to it. Most people can discern whether or not someone likes us, or is talking to us or saying complimentary things out of sincerity, and when someone is trying to get something out of the person that they are making overtures to.

The Divine is not so insecure as to need to be flattered, or plied with copious amounts of food and drink in the guise of “offerings”. It’s not unlike the husband who takes his wife out to dinner and plies her with candy and flowers and wine and maybe even some bling in order to get something or make nice. She’s no fool. She knows that this is all a part of the negotiation for whatever it is that he is after – sex, forgiveness, telling her that they are moving to South Dakota in the middle of nowhere – whatever it is. He wants something. Or the televangelist who tells viewers to send in $100 and God will “press it down and multiply it and turn it into $1,000!” In return, that viewer gets a special “prayer cloth” made of 100% polyester, cut with pinking shears to prevent ravellng and to be kept in your wallet as a reminder of your faithful covenant with God. Why do people do that? Does it have to do with faith as much as it has to do with wanting something in return?

I am fairly certain that the Divine is smart enough to figure that sort of thing out, too.

So why do we do any of this stuff? Why do we erect shrines in our homes? Why do we make offerings, why do we even bother with all the ritual and the reflection and everything that goes with it?

Speaking only for myself and my relationship that I have with the Netjeru, I do it because I want to. I enjoy spending time in my shrine with the perceived presence of Sekhmet, or Amun, or Aset or Heka – or Melek Taus or Durga or even with my akhu (ancestors). It’s a relationship. Relationships take work. I am willing to do the work, make the effort, not just because I want something, or that I hope to get anything out of it except a clearer sense of myself and where I am going, the world and how I can be in it and assist others, not just myself. That has nothing to do with being a priestess or a retired priestess. That has everything to do with humanity needing to work with our environment, with the people and even the experiences that seem to be ordinary, and yet there are inexplicable things that are extraordinary. Power or Sekhem comes in many forms. It exists deep within us, but it also can be found in the ordinary. Seeing the power of a rainstorm or seeing the blood red sky in the morning both remind me of Set. Such a simple thing was not something I asked for, but it is no less a gift for which I am thankful. Seeing the vultures fly overhead remind me of Mut and Nekhbet. The cry of a hawk outside my door reminds me of Heru and that His Eye is always upon me. The herbs that I harvest and the power to heal with them reminds me of Sekhmet. Those are the big things in all of the “little things” that make a difference in our lives. When we remember that, what part of our lives does not, therefore, become a prayer?

The gratitude for each and every day and the countless experiences we can find to remind us that we are not alone, that we are a part of a greater whole. God is not here to grant wishes, necessarily. I do not foresee Yinepu going into the kitchen any time soon to fetch a chicken pot pie. What the Divine does do is provide us the inspiration and the sense of accomplishment in creating things for ourselves. In that, lies the true gift.

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Words and Symbolism

In the beginning there was the Word. Communications, writing especially, is the ultimate priesthood. Within it we can heal, we can harm, we can convey the very contents of our souls, our dreams and aspirations. We can create, we can destroy – and they can live beyond us. The Word creates the world.

That is why the sacredness of words is so central to the Ancient Egyptian or Kemetic belief system. The ancient Egyptians held that the word was sacred. They believed that uttering the true name or ren of something or someone could either create or destroy them. You could, make or unmake if something was uttered absolutely correctly. If not, and something is misspoken? Well, we Kemtics have a saying that “the Mysteries protect themselves.” In my experience, that has been very true. The chances of disaster striking is less likely because unordered words were not and are not effective.

Behind this notion is the power of the Word. This concept, which is also a Goddess in her own right, is Ma’at. Ma’at is the right order of things, the balance of the sum total of everything. Ma’at is the moral ideal, and that which judges us in the end. There is Universal Ma’at, but there is also personal ma’at and only we can determine what that is or is not for us. Through our words and our deeds, ma’at is that which we are responsible for, each of us every moment of our lives. Every contract we sign, every promise or vow we make holds us into account for what we have done, and ultimately feeds into who we are as a person. Either we are trustworthy or untrustworthy, balanced or out of balance. It is something that is with us for every moment of our lives. As Sir Lawrence Olivier once said about life and livelihood: “Everything we do is autobiographical.”

The Goddess Maa't

This Ma’at through our words is all stored within the heart. And it is that which is, at the time of our death and in the Halls of Double Ma’ati in Amenta or the Underworld, weighed against the feather of Ma’at. This is the purpose that the Negative Confession, often mistranslated as being the 42 “Laws” of Ma’at, provides. The “confession” served a purpose. In the litany of denials of all the things we have not done to disturb not only universal ma’at but our ow. The Negative Confession was used so that your own heart would not rat you out or betray you. In antiquity, this meant the difference between joining Wasir (Osiris) and the rest of the gods in the Field of Reeds or ending up as a snack for the Ammit, and dying the second death, from which there was no return. If anything, this negative confession gives us pause to think before we act or before we speak.

It also underscores the idea that whenever we know something in our heart, we can feel it. This feeling is right in that undeniable spot. When we are stricken to our core, it is in that place where we feel it most profoundly. From there it spreads out to the rest of the body and in some extreme cases, can even strike us down where we stand. It can keep us up many a sleepless night and dog our every step during the day. We may try to drown it in drink, alcohol, drugs or any other external pleasure or inner escapism, but still it waits for the moment where it can niggle at our innards and we essentially eat ourselves via that reminding voice.

Immortality lies within our words. That is why writing is so vital for those of us who call ourselves writers. Some, like me, cling to this notion. We tear into it ravenously upon waking or even before sleeping because we know that ultimately it is what is at the very core of us. Getting those words out, whether it is by telling stories that are inside of us via fiction, non fiction, film or by some other means, it is as important to us as breathing. We do not feel right with the world or ourselves if we sit on the words that are inside of us.

In the beginning was the Word…

My own mouth came to me, and Magic was my name.

The Ancient Egyptians understood something that we moderns quite often forget. Within the pictographs of the language was also housed a deeper, unseen meaning. There are literal and symbolic meanings. Most indigenous cultures still tap into this symbolist’s viewpoint. Symbolism often can bridge the gap between literacy and illiteracy. Though literacy, as we know it today, was not as widespread in antiquity as it is now, there is always something that resonates through the world of the symbolic ‘word’ to the world of form. It is not just a primitive and simplistic superstition. It is a reality. Look at the symbol for the word life – the ankh. Ankh This has been incorporated into so much of what we know today. You don’t even have to know how to spell the word, ankh, the symbol by itself conveys several thousand years of the idea behind it. Ancient mirrors were shaped like an ankh because they reflected life. The same is true of so many other symbols. Another symbol, the eye – the window of the soul, what you serve, what sees, what bears witness, what punishes us for the wrongdoing, what protects us in the end from enemies that might wish to do us harm.

This is why, to my mind, the works of R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, his wife, Isha, and his stepdaughter, Lucie Lamy had it right. Recent offerings from Jeremy Naydler and Richard Reidy also tap into this idea using ancient symbolism along with what we know archaeologically and egyptologically. Somewhere between the ridiculous offerings of new age hucksters and the staunch, unwavering scientific certainty of liturgy that has been “proven” is something else. Between those two extremes is a middle ground where our words are felt by instinct. Of course, modern language is not nearly as complex as that of the ancients. Their words, comprised of hundreds of symbols could have as many as seventeen tenses and double and triple entandres in addition to the symbolic meaning. No wonder so few were scribes or even literate!

But all of this aside. Study and absorption are all a constant for each of us. Writing is part of that process and if we are alive and conscious, especially within this social media driven world, some of us have become determined to prattle less, write more. Within that resolution, came the newest nighttime behaviour: less awakened by nightmares, I have been awakened by insights rather than nightmares of ruin and destruction. These insights are the very things that I have hoped for. It’s the feverent wish to be given a small clue, realization or insight that are needed. As I write this, there is a small gold statue of Djehuty (Thoth), the god of Wisdom and writing watching over me. I think sometimes he must somehow just blink ant my unordered thoughts!

To my mind, I have been sitting on my words for too long. I have endless reams of what I have written either on Livejournal, PanHistoria, Dreamwidth and my various blogs. The hardest part for me is organizing it and perhaps that is where my use of Scrivener comes in. It allows me to do what needs to be done and pass it between PCs in smaller files that are more easily arranged. It’s long since time to actually do something with it.

We are surrounded by words on a nearly constant basis. We are rarely able to escape from them for any length of time and we are immersed in them to such a degree that we barely have time for our own thoughts. But perhaps thinking about the words that we write or that we utter, we can come to an understanding about how and why words were considered sacred. This is especially needed in a world where our words will undoubtedly outlive us.

BD Hunefer cropped 1

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Filed under fiction, indigenous, kemetic, Pan Historia, writing

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I am grateful for the incredible life I have lived, but I do not think will never come to truly embrace the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Growing up of mixed heritage, Cherokee and European decent, it is easy to feel torn. Like every grade school kid, I got that bullshit story about the Puritans being shown by the Indians how to plant corn and save themselves for the bad winter. The idyllic poses of bowed Pilgrim heads and those of Indians in feathers gathered around a plank table near a log cabin, the surrounding forest, a riot of colour as if to say, that yes indee, God approved of the feast and all of the harmony and love spoken of in the Christian bible could be attained in this vast land of plenty.

Then I grew up watching the civil rights of the seventies, of Wounded Knee II, the occupation of Alcatraz Island, and the incident at the Jumping Bull Farm where two FBI agents were dead and three men, all of them Indians, were tried for their killing. Two were acquitted. Leonard Peltier got to serve out two life sentences for a crime supposedly committed where the bullets don’t match the gun.

ames like Dennis Banks, John Trudell, Russell Means, Anna Mae, and words like COINTELPRO and AIM came up regularly. It didn’t take long to listen to my brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles from the part of the family that had been separated from our branch and realize that the majority of folks eat lots of food, watch football holiday and thought little of a day in the past that had more behind it. Even as a small child, something about Thanksgiving always felt “off” to me. When I found out about the over 700 men, women and children that were slaughtered on that day, it made my heart sick. My Seneca ‘brother’ Fred jokingly referred to the holiday as “Pilgrim Welfare Day” and it stuck for me. It was a stab back at the dominant culture that made a great noise about giving thanks to God for all that they had, and yet never acknowledging how ill-gotten those gains had been achieved through the blood of ancestors.

I often get chastised and chided that I should let the past of that event die and stop trying to foist guilt upon those who obviously had nothing to do with any of it. They claim that it wasn’t their fault and pontificate that we are a nation that is grateful for all we have and choosing to have collective amnesia about many of history’s finer points. I have personally found that When the story of the true first Thanksgiving is recounted, the listener, should they be non-Indigenous, tends to get extremely uncomfortable. The accusation of just trying to be politically correct is flung out and protests ensue. Such a discussion, to their minds, is misguided and they think that your anger at how your ancestors were treated is somehow aimed at them. “Oh, no!” they cry, “My ancestors never did ANYTHING to yours! You can’t include me in all of that!” The sins of the fathers cannot now be visited on the children this far down the line. It no longer applies now. “Besides,” comes the last indignant remark, “you should be thankful we brought your murdering savage ancestors law and civilization!”

The inclusion of those who feel that they are above what happened by whatever reason,does, by the way touch on some of my own non-Indigenous ancestors as well. This inclusion is by culpability. We all are collectively responsible for how we are as a Nation. It is a Nation that has now become one that does not think of what or how consumes. We as a people tend to live in the moment. We more often buy what we want when we fancy it, choosing to put it on credit. And how we pay for these things is that we owe our existence more and more to corporate entities. Those entities which care only for their bottom line and the profit margins of the investors on Wall Street. Barely a second thought is given to environmental concerns or the Walmart worker who does not make a decent living wage and is forced to go on public assistance. The high paid executives of these same corporations grumble that they cannot provide things like healthcare benefits for them, even as consumers will elbow past fellow shoppers, squabbling over that last wide-screen television set for $198 that is only available from 11PM-12AM on the night of Thanksgiving: The L-Triptophan and starch haze from too much turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie having barely lifted its fog from their senses.

When I outwardly shudder at those who think participating in the Black Friday shopping frenzy is the highlight of the year, they think something is wrong with me. When I bemoan that the Cedar Rapids Gazette, now three inches thick and ts cover price having been tripled is all made of ads and only ten pages of “news”, I am just embittered. Of course, who can blame the Gazette, that Fisher-Price of newspapers? That they, too, should be able to take advantage of the selfish shopping habits of Americans who MUST spend their way through the holidays, shouldn’t they? Never mind that another paper will be out a mere three days later for $2.00 with many of the same glossy advertisements just overflowing with materialistic temptations for our nation of consumers. Watching all of these people salivate for Black Friday deals is like watching the modern-day equivalent of Pavlov’s Dog. It’s all conditioned behaviour, and yet if you confront these people they have no idea that they are being maneuvered and managed by the corporations to consume on command. The greatest irony of all, I think, is the fact the day most know as Black Friday, was recognized and signed into law by President George W. Bush in November of 2008 as National Native American Heritage Day.

All of us are all grateful, even in these hard economic times, particularly if we still have jobs, or we are able to keep a roof overhead, or feed ourselves without public assistance or even if we do get assistance, grateful to be alive, to have our health or that of our families. There but by the Grace of the Creator, would any of us go. And yet there is this underlying spirit of mean-spiritedness and greed that permeates even the airwaves. Mocking those on food stamps or EBT, looking down its nose on those who must take advantage of Pell Grants or student loans just to be viable in the job market. The new buzz word on Capitol Hill is “Entitlements”, as if people have a sense of entitlement to these things that they invested in via their paychecks and now the richest 2% don’t want to pay, because it just takes away from their own bottom line.

But even with all of these things that I hate about this holiday called Thanksgiving, I have witnessed first hand some wonderful testaments of the ultimate good in people. One of my regular customers at the store where I work spent over 14 hours of the previous night helping to prepare Thanksgiving at his church for a couple of hundred people who would otherwise have no Thanksgiving dinner at all. This same man brought a plate of food for those employees who were working. The bosses, a wonderful couple, would have loved to have closed the store, but their biggest consideration and worry was for their customers being able to get that last minute gallon of milk or gas to get to Grandma’s. Then there was the retired Sheriff who came in with a large plate of banana bread he had baked himself as well. So many others of my acquaintance opened their homes as well and shared what they had with those who had none.

To my mind, that is the biggest part of what our Indigenous ancestors meant when celebrating Thanksgiving. It was being thankful that we had plenty, and that those whom we love were once again near and we could share in that moment once more. I wish that I saw more press and air time given to that sort of celebration of Thanksgiving rather than to the consumerist’s stampede that inevitably comes after.

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On being a woman and why politics matters

I don’t often talk about politics. I try not to wear my beliefs or anything else like that on my sleeve or publish it on my blog. This post will be the rare exception to the rule. I hope those of you who are regular readers, especially those who re more than a little sick of all the political din will at least hear me out. It’s important, no matter who you vote for, which I personally believe should be according to one’s conscience.

Recently, in this present election cycle, there have been certain politicians who have said things about women and women’s issues that have me more than a little concerned. First we had the candidate for the Senate, Todd Akin (R-MO) make some sort of claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” What exactly is a “legitmate rape” vs. an “illegitimate” one? No one has been able to answer that one for me yet.

Then within the last couple of weeks, some other dim bulb by the name of Mourdock quips, “….I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

Seriously. What is wrong with these people? Have the last fifty years in women’s rights not taught us anything? Did our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and colleagues that bravely went before us fight for nothing? Is it really inevitable that women will never truly attain equality? Was all the progress we made in the sixties and seventies and even into the eighties with regard to civil rights for everyone in vain? Why are there still small pockets of people, mostly corporate plutocrats, who honestly believe that women, minorities and those of different sexual orientation are somehow inferior? Thank the Gods for a generation who mostly know that all the rhetoric and cited scripture or legal precedent used to discriminate against others is just flat out wrong.

I do not and cannot share the belief that any Creator of any credibility whatsoever would ever approve of the heinous crime of rape. You can couch it and rephrase it any way that you like in order to soften it, but it really boils down to an act of violence against a woman is committed. And according to these men’s’ personal religious beliefs, she should be required to give birth if she is unfortunate enough to become pregnant as a result. This of course goes to an even deeper issue that women are somehow not people, or they are of less value or violence against them can be ultimately excused or hushed up or even discounted. If a man raped another man and could potentially become pregnant, do you think the reaction to the situation would be any different?

Not on your life!

Many politicians within the GOP keep abdicating responsibility for acceptable social behaviour and passing it off onto their religious beliefs. There is a holier-than-thou false morality that seems to want to turn back the clock to the 1950’s. They acre continually trying to push for it as if somehow, if we can just manage to get the genie on women’s issues back into the bottle, then everything will be so much better socially and economically!

To that I say, “Bullshit!”

These people don’t (or won’t) ever say it out loud, but it is really quite clear that they would rather that women would mostly be back home, in front of the stove, taking care of the kids and accepting whatever hand that the men in various positions within her sphere want to deal her. Really when you look at the rhetoric that is being espoused on the campaign trail, some of it may as well have been a statement made by the Taliban. To my mind, there is really very little difference between the Talibn and what I not-so-lovingly refer to as the ‘Christoban’.

In past elections, I always made my voting decisions along the lines of the things that politicians did with regard to First Nations / Indigenous issues. It is something that I grew up with my whole life. I cut my teeth on the Mohawk Nation’s paper, Akwasasne Notes and also the Cherokee Advocate. I was reading those sorts of “radical rags” from age 9 onward. I watched what was happening then, and I remember the riots and the siege at Wounded Knee II. Seeing the perspective outside of mainstream media was deeply ingrained in me long ago. Civil rights for everyone is an issue that cuts deep within me. I am always shocked when people from my generation or in the rare instance, of those who are younger, act as if these things should somehow be up for debate. I was raised within a culture that is largely matrifocal and matrilineal. No man or woman can be Chief within the Nation without the approval of the Clan Mothers and the Grandmothers, and they can remove him or her if they feel that he or she has betrayed the People. To my mind, that is the way it should be. If we had that sort of checks and balances in place, we might not have half the issues that we do right now in the realm of politics. No doubt certain people would never hold public office!

As a woman, and a divorced, single mother, things are tough enough without some men in public office, many of whom make many times over what I have made in the last ten years, deciding whether or not I am “worthy” to be able to choose for myself what I can do with my own body, whether or not I can see to my healthcare through an organization like Planned Parenthood, who not only provide birth control, but also preventative care for women of all ages, including mammograms, pap smears, and other preventative care. As a woman I am also deeply concerned that my child, now an adult, will get to stay on my healthcare plan, and that he can finish his education and I can finish mine. I cannot fathom how in the 21st Century we are even entertaining the possibility that these same men could potentially take away many of the choices that we women have taken for granted for at least the last 30 years.

This year, when I cast my ballot. I will have made certain to take a look at the voting record on how every politician voted and introduced legislation not only for Indigenous First Nations issues, but also with regard to women’s, LGBT, student, the poor and all other forms of civil rights. I would encourage everyone, if they have a bit of time, to do at least a little research in that area and make sure the candidate of your choice really does have your best interests at heart, or if they are just conveying a message that they hope will be just enough to get them elected.

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