More than a decade ago, I started out blogging on Livejournal.In that time, I met tons of friends, many fabulous writers, talented artists. Many of these people are still my friends today. I even purchased a permanent account when they were being sold for very little money. Back then, Livejournal was the place to be – more than Twitter and MySpace – Facebook was barely a backwater bulletin board at that point. Or maybe it hadn’t even been invented yet. At any rate, Livejournal was an important beginning as to what social media was to later become.
Livejournal changed hands a couple of times and was later bought by SUP, a Russian company that has very strong ties to the Kremlin. Almost immediately that the site came under Russian ownership the spam bots were let loose. Having a permanent account, I was mostly protected, but from time to time I would get spam commentary, some of it with malware links attached. I set my comments on screened and the problem went away for a time. Now, everything has changed. The servers for Livejournal are now residing in Russia.
Now there have been even more changes. The servers for Livejournal now reside in Russia. What’s more is that Livejournal has just recently changed their user agreement so that in order to continue to use the site, you must agree to Russian law. Part of that law is most adamantly against the rights and even tolerance of LGBT folks.
This morning, I got up and deleted all of my communities on the LJ site. The only exception was Writers_Muses, a prompt community that had prompts and responses every week. A little over a year ago I ported Writer’s Muses over to Dreamwidth, mirrored it over on Pan Historia, and just a few hours ago, Writers Muses is its own dot com, hosted here on WordPress. Soon the community that remains on Livejournal will be deleted.
I know that it’s going to be hard, but I also intend to delete my permanent account on Livejournal as well. SUP isn’t making any money off of me anyway. I will probably just need a few more days in order to gather up the rest of my “things” before closing that door and walking away forever. I am quite excited about Writers Muses moving on to possibly better things. I have a client quite interested in my prompts, and there is a Writer’s Muses writing prompt book in the works. I also suspect I will be doing some video work and setting up a video channel for it as well on YouTube. So many things that can rise up from the ashes that are now smoldering somewhere in Russia.
If anyone needs any assistance in porting their content from Livejournal over to Dreamwidth, or if they are curious about PanHistoria, or want to follow the Writer’s Muses blog, please feel free to drop me a line at fannyfae at gee mail dot com. I will be happy to help. It’s hard to leave those memories and those friends behind, but the future could be even brighter, I think.
I 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.
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.
It boggles my mind that those in the neopagan and Wiccan community that believe in the law of return also believe that it is perfectly ok to download books and music of authors in the form of PDF’s online. There are those who honestly and sincerely believe that “all knowledge should be free and made available to everyone”, or they spout some twaddle about being “poor pagans.” Yet these same people think absolutely nothing of quoting the “Law of Three” or “Law of Return” when it’s situationally expedient for them to do so.
With all the latest news about plagiarism in the news after Melania Trump copped major parts of First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech, I am always amazed at how often the plea for folks in the so-called pagan “community” falls on deaf ears Maybe the hearers or readers of the message simply don’t care. Maybe they simply cannot relate, and tell themselves there is absolutely nothing wrong with stealing the hard work of others and reposting it. For years, I have seen many even dare to take entire passages from websites or books and even pieces of art and pass them off as their own. They think nothing of using plagiarism as a way to show off to the community that they are somehow “someone in the know.”
Most of the books that I am seeing posted in places such as Facebook and Tumblr as in this post.Master PDF list are also publishing scores of books that are not in the public domain but raather are under copyright (the life of the author plus 70 years). Many of these authors are friends of mine, and they have given of themselves. In this particular example, I have let a few of them know. Of course, given the nearly 2,000 times that Tumblr post was reblogged, combatting the problem is whole lot like spitting in the wind. When you call someone out about it, they accuse you of being a hater, a bully, or a shill for the greedy publishers who want to deny them knowledge.
That isn’t it.
What it is about are the men and women, the elders and mentors, authors and artists whose work we admire who more than deserve to be fairly and justly compensated for their work. What so many people assume is that these people are somehow rich because they are a BNP (Big Name Pagan). Too many of them struggle with expenses just as much as their audiences do and those works are what keeps a roof overhead, the doctor paid and gas in the tank while they make it to the next gathering, book signing, appearance and so on. How many who do this sort of thing would justify someone breaking into their own home, taking stuff out of their fridge, siphoning the gas out of their gas tank or just helping themselves to whatever else and not object to that? Why then, should it be any different in the digital world?
In the Facebook and Google+ communities I have a policy: If anyone posts or even so much as asks for a list of free, plagiarized material, that person will be removed, they will be reported to both the website, the author or artist and the publisher. Much of this is based in not only self righteous indignance but just ignorance about copyright and how our creative people are compensated. They just see the cover price and make the assumption that most of the money goes to the author. Many only see pennies on the dollar if they are with a large publishing house, and now with what Amazon is offering via their Kindle Unlimited program it can be barely anything at all.
Of course, that can be frustrating when a book is out of print, the author has passed to the West and the estate has no plan to reissue the works – or copies that can be found are in the realm of price gouging, getting one’s hands on a book that one really wants or needs for research can be maddening. There are things such as Interlibrary Loan where a request for a book can go out to all libraries in the program who may have a copy of that work for low cost or no cost to the library patron. Many works are in the public domain and can be gotten for free.
Another solution is that many scholarly works, for example, are offered for free as a download from the University Press that offered them in the first place. I have gotten some near-to-impossible books in the realm of Egyptology that way and all obtained legitimately. Companies often will release a report for free about a topic or notes from seminars for free. There are tons of works through the Creative Commons. It really does not need to come down to copyright theft, but too often it does.
Many of those authors who are now being blatantly stolen from on a regular basis, as well as their agents and publishers if they have them, are on a Facebook group called Pagans Against Plagiarism. It isn’t a perfect system, but suffice it to say that those of us who write, have small businesses and care about this issue have each other’s backs. There is regular reporting of these links among the membership – so if you have a database of “free” PDF’s of stolen works, it is likely you will be served with a DMCA notice sometime in the future. We may not be able to fully stamp out the practice of theft amongst the hypocrites who like to quote the Law of Three or the Law of Return that is akin to the fire and brimstone many were served up in their parents’ religion, copyright laws are put in place for a reason.
In an ongoing situation such as this one, all I can say is that I wish them Ma’at in every sense of the word.
(Note: This is a blog post that I posted over on my other blog at Niankhsekhmet.com. I am re-posting it here in its entirety. If you’ve read it before, please forgive the redundancy.)
The adage that we are known by the company we keep probably is very true within the Kemetic Community – perhaps even doubly so. It has become frustrating and disheartening to be judged by people whom you don’t know, who don’t know you, or your specific religious path – nor do they care really! For someone to offhandedly decide that you are not with the “in crowd” or that somehow, will pronounce that not to be of a certain religious affiliation, or sect will deem you unworthy to be given the time of day. Some of course, fear recruitment or being indoctrinated into some sort of cult based on internet rumours that they may or may not have heard.
I am Kemetic. I was trained and ordained as a Kemetic Orthodox Priestess of Sekhmet/HetHert in 1998. I stepped down a couple of years ago by choice, or as one internet website geared toward atheists said, “I retired.” I kind of laugh at that. One does *not* retire from Sekhmet’s service. Your service may change, but it is absolutely for life! At any rate, my reasons, initially, were because I was attending college full time and could not give the level of service required. My situation has changed a bit, and so now my reasons of not wanting to return to it again are deeply personal. I can and will say quite clearly that it was not because of any rift with the Temple, or disagreement between myself and any of the membership. I have been listening to Sekhmet’s call and it has been specific and in a direction by necessity. That doesn’t make anyone bad or wrong. It just makes it a different route that I have chosen to take.
All of us must by necessity approach our spiritual life on a personal level. We may choose to join or Initiate in a specific sect, temple or path, but ultimately, only we as individuals can decide when to move on. Each of us, who are Kemetic, have personal rites. Sometimes this entails a daily practice that follows a formal outlined structure, such as that which is outlined at the Temple of Horus at Edfu. While at other times a practitioner may choose something more fluid, eclectic or non-traditional. Each is a valid structure and approach to the connection to the Netjeru.
That being said, the only things that become annoying are those who insist on the belief of either a maddeningly absurd UPG-type of approach, or those who cannot and will not move outside the formal scholarly sanctioned type of practice. I have found by direct experience that there are deep pitfalls within each extreme and either can be deleterious for spiritual understanding or growth. Egyptology does *not* know everything. Conversely, I have seen so many ridiculous, crackpot theories that should never have made it outside of one’s own personal headspace, let alone made it into print for others to try to decipher.
One extreme, that of the scholarly community only, and especially within Egyptology’s ranks, often eschews and ostracizes those who “actually believe in any of this stuff”. In some place it becomes so much of an issue that those who have made it into those hallowed halls of the scholarly ranks take great pains to either conceal, downplay or flat-out deny that they actually do worship the old gods. These individuals dare not speak of it or it may cost them their entire career or get them passed over for any future projects because their beliefs are not considered “objective enough”. I personally know of several tenured professors or professional Egyptologists who by necessity are very guarded about their personal beliefs. I can state quite clearly that their fears are absolutely justified. Egyptology is neither easy nor cheap to take up as a scholarly pursuit. Admissions into these programmes are prohibitively expensive and generally only accept a tiny handful of students each semester or once a year. Most of these who are accepted have and/or have maintained a 4.0 GPA. Further, that high GPA must be maintained or that student will get a boot planted in their posterior and find themselves completely washed out and with student loan amounts that are nothing less than nightmarish and just shy of the national debt.
The Kemetic Community, I think, is going through something that much of the so-called Pagan “Community” is going through. I believe that there is far too much backbiting, petty, catty and deeply personal bitching among the ranks. People either are wrapped up in an idea that if you do not belong to X group, you obviously are “doing it wrong”, and if you are a part of that group – or have been trained by it, have handed your brain, your soul and your personal assets to some sort of mindless cult of personality that does not allow for personal considerations.
I call “Bullshit,” on both points of view.
Even with my training and years in the priesthood, I interact with those who are not Kemetic Orthodox. I spend a great deal of time with people who come from many different faiths and belief systems, and each gives me a perspective that I would not have had otherwise. In so doing, I am able to form my own opinion that has nothing to do with toeing a party line, a religious canon or being a spokesperson for any given temple or group.
If I see a person make an incorrect, ill-considered or socially repugnant statement to the general public, I have no compunction but to call them on it and tell them why I feel that way. Conversely, I expect to be accorded the exact same service be done to me in return. I also expect that it will be done without the need to resort to ad hominem attacks. I think that is more than fair. Of course, there will always be those who claim to be holier-than-thou, or claim some sort immunity because of the number of books they wrote, lectures at Pantheacon they conducted or letters after their names in terms of university degrees. The political correctness and personal butthurt needs to be put away and replaced with something that resembles common sense. If we cannot have that, then what’s the point, really?
All of us who consider ourselves to be Kemetic have a single and solitary foundation. That foundation is not exclusive to any one group, or leader or anything else. We have nothing other to worry about than the idea of Ma’at. Each of us must decide what that is and where we are at personally. Under that one single idea / ideal, there is enough there that is complex enough to keep all of us occupied for the whole of our personal and spiritual lives. We are held responsible and we hold those whom we associate responsible as well. When we do this, we are held responsible for our own actions and words in the context of not only our own lives but the greater whole within the Kemetic community and within the world at large. With this single understanding, some of the petty, single-mindedness is stripped away, and we by necessity have to sit down and listen to the thoughts, concerns and observations of others. Being able to see that perspective and say, “Yes, you are right,” does not, therefore, declare us to be lepers within the groups that we are a part of – or not a member of. It means that we can each be viable on our own, and that we can stand up for ourselves and what we believe, rather than hiding behind an organization, a label or anything else than our own sense of rightness – or our own sense of Ma’at.
Earlier this week I splurged and bought the DVD set of the mini-series, Tut, starring Ben Kingsley that aired on Spike TV. I confess, I was really excited when I saw it and got it a day before my paycheck was in the bank. Hey, it’s ancient Egypt. Some things get prioritized!
I excitedly loaded the DVD into my PC, I had a few hours before I really had to settle into watching the series. I suffered through the previews and finally got the feature film. I had my double espresso and I was ready to enjoy watching from the comfort of my home office.
Within the first fifteen minutes, I knew that I hated it. There is no real mention of Nefertiti, or Kiya, Tut’s supposed mother. before we learn that Akhenaten has allegedly been poisoned and just before being sent to his deathbed, he manages to exact revenge on the plotters – or so he thinks. It wouldn’t have taken much for the show’s writers or producers to even bother to read history and center their script around it. Instead, they took the term ‘creative non-fiction’ to a whole new level.
Kingsley being cast as the elderly Ay is actually an excellent choice. Kingsley plays at being ‘bad’ really well. The rest of the cast, not so much. To be completely honest – I absolutely hated the show. I hated it for the fact that the pruduction values were low enough that I could determine when the producers used repeated clips of film over and over again. No one, not even someone who has a film background, should be able to spot something like this. How is it in cheesy 80’s movies such as The Awakening with Charlton Heston, Stephanie Zimbalist and Susanah York can they get the film props to look like real antiquities – and in modern miniseries such as this one we have props and costuming that looks so incredibly bad and historically inaccurate? Did the costume designers even study the period? Nevermind that in The Awakening, Susanah York, who was allegedly playing an accomplished Egyptologist, just so happens to forget the first lesson of translating hieroglyphs and is seen on screen reading them backwards.
The one good thing about some of the Egyptian-themed movies of the past is that producers actually availed themselves of the expertise of egyptologists. For Stargate and the subsequent Mummy movies, Dr. Stuart Smith was consulted to reconstruct spoken Kemetic.
The high priest in the movie, (of what Temple? Of What God?) is a man with an unshaven head? Historically, that didn’t seem too likely. And if he is praying to Amun-Ra – then they definitely got a statue of the wrong god in the picture. It was a statue of Horus – or Sokar, but it was absolutely not Amun.
At least the lead character playing Tutankhamun, Avan Jogia, said his name and made it at least sound right. When Jogia even used the title, “Nisut Bity”, I nearly fell out of my chair in shock. How can a three part miniseries where everything else is so abysmally wrong, actually get that one teeny detail of Ancient Egyptian titulary right?
The “tragic” queen, Ankhesenamun, played by Australian actress, Sibylla Deen, flounces around the set like a very bad Bollywood actress. She doesn’t act like a woman of royal blood by any sense. But then again, neither did Leonor Varela when she played Cleopatra VII in that particular mini-series either. Both of them sounded like shrill fish wives in their roles and the suspension of disbelief was too much even for those of us who truly wanted to believe. I half expected a song and dance number to break out among the courtly plots that were going on unbeknownst to the King.
This show is so much like every other show that Hollywood attempts about Ancient Egypt in the last two decades. They cast the wrong people – usually Americans or Brits – to play ancient Egyptian people. In other words, they need to stop casting white people for these roles – I don’t care how good an actor or actress they are. Let’s stop with the historically inaccurate portrayal of historical figures. This is just as bad as when they cast white actors to play Indians back in the 50’s and 60’s. Egypt was a very cosmopolitan country, and the people in it were pretty much varying degrees of brown, etc. That’s what happens in places that are trade centers and there is food. People tend to go where the food is and where they can be assured of relative safety.
Coming at the end of February is the long-awaited trainwreck…erm, film “Egyptian Gods”. The buildup toward final release is beginning. Needless to say, the buzz is beginning, and not all of it is positive.
My opinion on the film is that it’s meant to be a money maker. Hollywood producers and financiers especially have no imagination and are obsessed with profit margins over quality by putting out things with lots of special effects and flash but very little else. Investors in major motion picture projects like this one want a sure thing so that they can not only get a return on investment (ROI) but also make a profit – whether at the box office or in DVD sales and streaming or a combination of all of the above, that is what their chief motivator was and is. Right now, Egypt sells. In fact interest in Egypt is at an all time high with the latest discoveries of a possible additional tomb attached to that of Tutankhamun, and by the Gods, the studios want to cash in.
I have heard lots of screaming in various forums, and not just on Facebook, about what color the actors playing the Gods are. As I mentioned earlier, I do agree it is both sad and frustrating that actors of color for the most part were passed over and the major roles went to mostly white, A-Listers such as Gerard Butler. Let’s set that issue aside for just a moment.
Brian Blessed as Vultan, Prince of the Hawkmen in ‘Flash Gordon’ (1980)
Going beyond that argument and taking it a step further, in my not-so-humble opinion, the most objectionable part of this film is the absolute bastardization of our mythologies to the point where they no longer resemble the original at all. I’m sorry, Kemetic culture was more poised and gracious than that gaudy mess! The costumes with capes for the men and plunging metalic-clad cleavage ever seen since Flash Gordon in the 80’s! Maybe that’s what they were going for with the color palette and the “Hawkmen” getup.
Hathor, of course, certainly looks expensive. The sets look more Greek or Roman than they do Kemetic. Why? Multi-million dollar budgets, that’s why.
I don’t believe for an instant that even an all black cast and crew could salvage any of what promises to be just more vapid, Hollywood dreck. If this film had been true to it’s real Kemetic roots and written decently, I doubt that the investors would have ever let it be made into a movie. That to me is the deepest crime of all; that Hollywood culture thinks nothing of insulting the intelligence of everyone with more bullshit and glittery crap that has nothing to do with historical or cultural accuracy. We Kemetics are going to have to explain the glaring inaccuracies to people who think of entertainment films as being just spicier documentaries.
Will I watch this film?
Probably. But I definitely won’t purchase it or stream it until it reaches the used book store. I don’t want them to make a single penny of profit off of me.
Piye Victory Stele from the 25th Dynasty
My biggest dream for a film on Ancient Kemet is to see the entire film first of all follow accurate history, and be done entirely in spoken Kemetic – like Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, which was done entirely in Mayan and Yucatec with English subtitles. I know such a thing is possible in Kemetic because of the bits of the original Stargate and The Mummy films employed the language. Ancient Kemetic history is filled with good stories that could be used such as the Harem Conspiracy of Rameses III, or the re-unification of Egypt by 25th Dynasty Pharaoh, Piye, who swept in from Nubia in order to reunite the Two Lands. (He also launched the first amphibious attack in world history, but that’s another very cool story for later).
Would it be difficult? Absolutely. Would such a film be a high budget expenditure? I don’t see how it could possibly be done any other way.
But then, that’s the point, isn’t it?. The 1963 release of Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor was originally 8 hours long and it ultimately caused the studio that produced it to go bankrupt! I actually own a shooting script for that film, and I have to say that for all its faults, they got much of the look and feel of Alexandria during the Ptolemaic period correct even if bits of history were wrong here and there. Today, however, instead of Hollywood spending all the money that it does on inaccurate, digitized imagery that looks like it was pulled out of a graphic novel or a video game. Why is it so difficult to give audiences something that is real and respectful? If they did, perhaps such a worthy endeavor would last long past the box office or DVD receipts are calculated and banked by the suits in Hollywood who no longer care for or believe in anything else except return on investment and profit margins. It would, that is, if they’re lucky.
I am absolutely not interested in hearing any excuses about this. Theft within the Pagan community is so rife that people are all but desensitized against it. As a writer and publisher and someone married to an artist, I know quite well the costs of intellectual property theft. Stealing from fellow Pagan and Polytheist authors, artists and craftspersons needs to end, and it needs to end NOW!
I don’t give a damn if you personally believe that “all knowledge should be free” and shared freely. Creativity, whether writing a book, making a piece of artwork or anything else is hard work and deserves to be valued. Everyone has bills to pay. It is nothing less than hypocritical of folks who spew the so-called 3-fold law at every turn, and yet are such cheap @$$ b@$t@rd$ that they think nothing of stealing from others. I am betting, however, that if thieves were wearing the show themselves and were the author or artist etc. they’d be screaming like holy hell about it and wanting just compensation!
This 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.
What 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.
After losing my name on Facebook to a vindictive high-visibility online troll, I penned a blog post, “The Importance of Names“. In recent days, I have been able to reclaim my online name / DNA intellectual property. This has been made possible because of the diligent efforts of a very organized and tenacious community of drag queens and others within the LGBT sphere. I am grateful more than I can say to Miss Roma and Lil’ Miss Hot Mess and all who fought so long and so hard for their patience and dedication and sense of fairness in going after Facebook’s real name policy.
Recently, I have seen posts coming across my feed that somehow Pagans et al are being “targeted” by Facebook in some sort of modern day persecution. I am never sure why these folks seem to think that everything is an inconvenience is somehow someone “targeting” them because of their beliefs or how they look, dress or how they think. While it is true that the dominant culture, and especially corporations within the dominant culture do this, unfortunately, I think that the concept of persecution in this case is more than a little inaccurate.
Let me state at the outset to those in the Pagan and Polytheist communities that this is not about your religion. My case was very probably a personal vendetta by someone else, and Facebook’s real name policy played right into this. For most people losing their chosen screen names, whether they be professional names, pseudonyms for those who want to avoid abusers, American Indian tribal names, or Initiatory names of those within the alternative faith communities, it is only about one thing. It is about the money that your information, online and buying habits represent to advertisers, both current and potential, on Facebook. Having demographics be as accurate as possible to those potential advertisers who are more than a little interested in what you do, what interests you and how you spend your money online .
In short this is not about “targeting” any group for who and what they are. This is about Facebook selling YOUR demorgraphics and YOUR information to advertisers. They cannot effectively do that when you have a pseudonym of any sort. When I lost the name of Fanny Fae on August 29th and had to use my birth name up until last week. With the help of Lil Miss Hot Mess and her forwarding my information as per the instructions, I was able to get my name back in less than 12 hours. YMMV.
If you have lost your chosen Facebook name for WHATEVER REASON, please click the bright “My Name Is” button below and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. There are no guarantees, but if people are losing their names, then they must be both methodical (and CALM!) about getting them back. All of the bleeping screaming about religious discrimination, ranting and online petition signing isn’t going to do a goddamned thing. Beat a pillow, scream if you need to, but wait and come back to the keyboard when you are calm. Sure it is frustrating and it hurts and it can leave you exposed and vulnerable and it can cut at the very essence of who you are. Those things can make it feel as if it is very personal. I promise you, it most probably isn’t. The key, however, is to keep your wits about you and push back with singular determination. Facebook sees you as just a packet of information to be packaged and sold. That’s the business they are in. Changing an imbedded corporate policy is never easy, but if you are tenacious, it can pay off.
It is more than past time for the pagan community etc. to quit their mooing and start doing! It would also be a wonderful gesture if some who are able to benefit and get their names back after this Facebook fiasco to actually remember to take the time to thank Sister Roma and Lil’ Miss Hot Mess for what they have done to make this possible. Because of them and their efforts Facebook has now implemented the following policy – which many still are unaware of. Facebook just implemented the policy allowing people to select names other than real names so that they know – but that you can keep yourself safe.
As I have said repeatedly, there are no promises for everyone being able to get their assumed names back. However, since I am writing this after having direct experience I have found that if you really are focused, it is possible to get what you want in all of this. Try it and see.
We just need to dispassionately lay out the facts to the powers on Facebook that be because each request to get a name back is being reviewed on a case by case basis. Speaking only for myself, I know that I am fortunate and probably got my name back very quickly because I have been branding with this name for more than a decade. I own the domain, I write on multiple sites under this name and it is pretty clear that I have been out there. Others may not be so lucky, but when you are armed with as much of your information as possible, chances are Facebook will take that into consideration. It is up to each user to make their case, because to Facebook’s marketing team, you and your habits online are $$$. They are in the business to make money.
So why did this happen in the first place?
Let’s be honest; in spite of Mark Zuckerberg’s frequent and very public protestations to the contrary over the years, Facebook’s Real Name policy is NOT about safety or trust. It is about money, and the bottom line is always about the bottom line in corporate culture. While Zuckerberg thinks that anyone who uses a pseudonym or alternative name has a personal integrity that is lacking, that argument is disingenuous. What is really being left unsaid is that the users who use an alias only have “less integrity” in terms of the data that those who use of Facebook provide to their real customers: the corporations and advertising folks who mine that data in order to sell we the users of Facebook to those advertisers or those interested in all of the things we do and are interested in online. The deal is that those advertisers want your eyeballs and what’s in your wallet on their merchandise.
In a word, WE and our buying choices as consumers, are in fact, the product.
This is why the Facebook website / service is “free”, and is almost certainly likely to remain so because your information is just that valuable to them. We need to now ask ourselves, just how much are we willing to give up to Facebook and other companies who sell our information to those who wish to buy the best and most information according to that demographic data.
Another point of interest is that around the time all of this real name push started was when Facebook announced the launch of its Atlas system, which was created as a direct competitor to Google’s in terms of demographic information that could be sold to advertisers and influence the buying public. Facebook acquired Atlas from Microsoft and recently announced the relaunch. Atlas essentially measures demographic information of users so that marketers can use that online information to target advertising to the right place. If you are using Gmail or using Google as a search engine of choice, you see this in action without even thinking about it. Facebook wants to compete with this for their own profits and consumers are being managed any way possible in order to insure this.
Thanks to one of my Facebook friends, I found in a USA Today news story that Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox recently apologized for the outing off the Drag Queens and LGBT community at large for forcing them to use their real names. I applaud the apology, but nowhere in the article was it outlined how these brave queens and others in the LGBT community, including myself, would be able to get back our assumed names. That, thankfully, would come later. I have my feelings about who the single user was who outed or doxxed so many, including myself. But of course, I know that we probably will never know for sure, but I am absolutely certain that Facebook never let any of those who were harmed know who was responsible. However, the chain of events were far too closely related in my humble opinion to be mere happenstance. I don’t trust either party in this case.
We certainly should be aware that corporations such as Facebook care little to nothing about the individuals behind the accounts or their reasons for choosing to use a pseudonym or assumed name. They only know that when a user chooses not to use the name that is on a birth certificate or driver’s license, the information it can present to those wishing to know the most about you (eg. advertisers and marketers) have skewed information and is not worth as much as if you were to use your given name.
If you are a witch and you use your initiatory name online as a way to keep yourself safe and your boss and coworkers out of your private life, for example, that is not going to be the name on your credit card or your PayPal or bank account. Advertisers want you to make buying decisions based on the information they serve up to you on a constant basis. This is how if you click a story link, three other “related stories” will pop up under the link to the story that caught your eye in the first place. Again, that adds up to clicks per view and companies pay handsomely for those ratings. And they are not content to just be on your desktop at home or at work: They want to be on your mobile devices and be able to locate you and market to you based on where you are and what you are looking at or near on a real-time basis. If Facebook can pull that off, that is big time money. If you use an assumed identity, that again, changes the viability and the effectiveness of that information. Facebook and the advertisers purchasing that information know that all too well. And now, so do you.
Say it with me so that it really sinks in this time: “We are the product.”
Being forewarned is being forearmed and representing yourself online as you see fit and insuring your own personal safety, Facebook’s marketing demographics be damned, is all about getting your own power back.
All too often, the topic of copyright infringement and out and out stealing is a raging plague of pandemic proportions among Pagan groups on various social media. Every day we are treated to links for ‘free” downloads of books that are still under copyright. I am no stranger to this. A book that is under my independent publishing company, Ma’at Publishing, was photocopied, converted to PDF, our copyright notice stripped out and uploaded to the web. I recently found two incidents of it on Scribd and showing proof of copyright, the offending documents were removed within hours.
What is so galling is that far too many Witches, Pagans, or just people in general feel it is their “right” to have this information for free. That all knowledge should be shared in an internet Kumbayah sort of thing – yet they never think for one moment that the very people they are stealing from are the writers, artists and others who have spent much time, effort and money of their own and above all the love and devotion of a subject. Sometimes a book is out of print and out of copyright – and sometimes is offered free either through a promotion such as through Amazon, or directly from the author themselves. At any other time, however, if you want to read something, either cough up the necessary dosh to purchase it – or save up for it. ..or borrow it from a library if you are truly a “broke pagan and can’t buy books.” Anything else is theft.
Josephine McCarthy is one of those few authors in the genre whom I also value as a teacher, a colleague and someone I consider a friend. As such, I would purchase any of her books upon their release. I will never dicker about the price, because I know what she puts out is worth the expenditure AND she has offered so many other supplemental resources online for free. The article linked to in this post is about this issue. I encourage every Pagan; every person to read it. Reblog it or link to it on social media. We need to support our authors, artists and others so that they can afford to focus on those things that we find so valuable in their work.
Sometime on Good Friday, the Goddess Temple in Cactus Springs, Nevada was invaded by thieves. The space that had always been open to anyone wanting to come visit the Goddess, to pray and to enjoy the peace of the sanctuary could do so unhindered. It was this that made it possible for those with a more heinous mission in mind to succeed in stealing the centrepiece of that place, a four foot tall statue of Sekhmet that weighed just under 100 pounds.
The Priestess in Residence came into the Temple to find Sekhmet gone. The thieves had left behind only tire tracks, and in them was the necklace that the statue had been wearing, indicating that she had been tipped while being spirited away in the night from the place that had been her home for the last 21 years.
For the celebration of Earth Day that was scheduled to be held at the Temple, a picture of the statue was set in the place of where the image once stood. The Earth Day Celebration went on as planned.
Right now, there is much speculation within the Pagan community as to why it happened or who might have done it. The first thing that came to mind is that somehow, since it was done on Good Friday, it was religiously motivated, as if to remove an image sacred to those who are not a part of the Big Three monotheistic faiths. Others have suggested someone just wanted to make Sekhmet their own. Others have posited that because of the area of the country and because Sekhmet personifies power itself, that the culprits could be drug dealers who believe that stealing a bit of mojo is perfectly acceptable. Whatever the motivations are, the Pagan community and all those who love Sekhmet are upset by the theft.
Initially $500 was being offered for information that led to the arrest and prosecution of the culprits. That has since been kicked up to a $2,000 reward. I would not be surprised if that figure increased yet again.
The unfortunate byproduct of this tragic event are those Pagans who wring their hands and drape themselves over the furniture, wailing that this is about religious persecution – or that if this had happened in a Christian church or Jewish synagogue, the press coverage would somehow be more than it has been. I understand the deeply personal feelings that people have toward Sekhmet and that someone would do something so terrible is frustrating and brings up anger, sadness and the overall feeling of somehow being violated. I also know what it feels like when the issues and events we hold near and dear are not adequately covered as we feel they ought to be. I think anyone who is on the receiving end of being even in a small way touched by any sort of crime – be it a hate crime or something else must feel that irritation that no one could possibly understand. Pagans in particular, seem to love to latch on to crises of this type because it makes them feel as some “persecuted other”. I never saw much use in wallowing in that sort of self-pity, personally.
To be honest, I never thought I would see the day Sekhmet’s children would resort to playing the victim card and yet I have in these past few days. Some have resorted to comparing and contrasting our religious site being desecrated and comparing our pain to the pain of others when thier faith was lashed out against. Somehow they conveniently have forgotten in another crime that is unrelated but took place just before Easter where three innocent lives were lost last week during Passover. Ironically, all three of the victims who were slain by a white supremicist were Christians. It is my view and in the interests of ma’at that I believe that no one should be singled out, begrudged or feel persecuted for their beliefs, or have their sacred spaces violated. The ones who whine about how we of “Other” faiths that are not Jewish, Christian or Muslim are so very persecuted and discriminated against conveniently forget the burned churches, the desecrated mosques, the ravaged Sikh temples, that have all have been the scenes of senseless violence and desecration, all based on hate and intolerance. Our prayers go out to their families and our voices whisper hopes toward peace and understanding. It is what we should do for each other as human beings. Skin colour, race, religious conviction, sex, sexual preference and any number of other things does not trump the fact that we are all human beings and have to share the space, so to speak.
While the stealing of the statue is a tragic, heinous thing, too many within Paganism’s ranks love to use that common excuse that gets handed out is to blame the media – especially when screaming “religious persecution”.
This, in my personal opinion, is not an act of persecution. We need to stop with the assumptions that somehow it was. There were no slurs painted over the space, the building was left intact- they took the statue, something that cannot be replaced. It’s a theft. Cameras may be necessary as a precaution to insure against future thefts, or worse, the safety of worshipers. That’s the way of things these days. It has to be, unfortunately. Slanting the story is not helpful. We now live in a world where that kind of trust is not something that can be easily given to just anyone. We used to sleep with our doors unlocked and our kids could play in their own front yards. Both things are becoming increasingly rare now – but of course, that has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with a society that is largely out of control.
We are not the dominant religion, that is true. We are not Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, but we can practice our religion for the most part unmolested. Do people lose their lives here over being pagan? Hardly. That is what the comparison with the Passover shootings was about – and it is relevant. Can people in India, Africa, and even Egypt itself say the same? Absolutely not. I know of native Egyptians who do worship Sekhmet – but they cannot do so openly or it is a death sentence.
There is no point to the practice of comparing and contrasting of pain and transgressions and tresspasses against “Us” versus the ones suffered by “Them” – whichever side we happen to be on. Any religion being oppressed, any desecration of a holy site is an outrage and intolerable. As a Priestess of Sekhmet, I ask is our suffering any greater than the churches that get burned down, the mosques that are desecrated, the medicine wheels that are destroyed? No. Absolutely not.
Whomever did this – be they someone who lusted for Sekhmet’s image itself, or someone in the drug cartels or someone just doing something ignorant and hateful, I can say without reservation that they will have literal hell to pay. In spite of Sekhmet’s loving, healing aspects – and She has many – there are very dark parts of this Goddess that are invoked when Ma’at has been transgressed. To those who know Sekhmet and those “darker” aspects of Her, know without any shadow of a doubt that the move was a very stupid one indeed.
That statue will be returned – or not. But we are undamaged, and Sekhmet’s worship is undeterred. One thing is for certain, however, those who stole Her image will get what they have coming to them. I know for a fact, Sekhmet’s Arrows Do. Not. Miss.
In my years of experience, Sekhmet, as far as Deities go, is most definitely NOT a victim; and neither, I dare I say it, are Her children. We will not curl up into a ball and wail and bemoan the situation. We will not stop doing what we have been doing since the resurgence of Sekhmet’s worship in the world. We know who our Mother is, and She knows us. We who know that we belong to Her carry Sekhmet within us. Our minds hone in on Her with a singular focus. We do this because She IS the very Personification of Power or Sekhem itself. To succumb to this blow is to give that Power away.
Rest assured, we have absolutely no intention of doing that.