Public Faces and Private Faces

I was away this past weekend at a gathering, and it gave me a whole hell of a lot to think about in many ways.

One of those things: people have public and private faces. I am, perhaps, more prone than most people to think of that private face as the “real” me, the one that I don’t show to everyone, the one that feels more in tune with my genuineness. What comes out in public is much more controlled, much more filtered, much more passing through layers of what is and what is not likely to cause conflict that I do not want (or, for that matter, fail to produce conflict I do want; “Let’s do some good,” said Granny Weatherwax in Maskerade, sporting a savage grin as she drew out a sharp hatpin). I am pretty attached to my illusions, including my illusions of privacy.

This blog deals almost entirely with what I think of as public religion. This is a deliberate choice: to address models of and possible implementations for a rebirth of some form of ancient Egyptian religion or another. Yes, it dips into mystical practice on more than a few occasions, but these are all things that are, for lack of a better phrasing, unthreatening. (At least as unthreatening as being devoured might be considered!)

When I write about sex (and I will, it’s on the list of things that go under the ka posts, and I will probably be doing posts on that subject as I work on the ka book to help sort my brain out on the matter), it will be theoretical, thought-based – more a deconstruction of the meaning and significance of sexual acts and activity than a rumination on a good fuck. I leave it to you, the reader, to think about implementing that. When I write about food, I will leave an obligatory link to the amazing Fat Nutritionist if it’s a general conversation, or maybe talk about the specific recipe I prepared for a festival if that’s relevant without suggesting how it might fit into your meal plan for next week. That’s not my job here. (I will, however, be doing some semi-reconstructiony work around recipes at some point. I need to test the theories in the kitchen first.) That kind of thing.

The personal may be too much to show in one place, because it is, after all, personal. It may be something that has a higher risk than average of provoking a negative reaction – there are plenty of people who do heavy-duty spirit work or mysticism who don’t tell anyone, because there is a list as long as your arm of people and reasons who will suggest that direct engagement with the gods does not happen, or does not happen like that. People who use socially controversial matters in the context of their personal rituals know how the backlash could be – that many pagans fancy themselves more enlightened socially than a prudish mainstream, there are plenty who would be horrified by, say, sex magic, even though sex is a thread of metaphor running straight through the middle of mainstream generic paganism.

One can make excuses: private religion doesn’t survive well in the archaeological record. Yadda, yadda, yadda. The facts on the ground are that the personal religion and the social religion are – or at least ought to be – in a state of communication. There is no ‘this is the real me’ and ‘this is the public face’ in an ideal state; there is one person, who modulates by situation. We, like the gods, have the potential for many appearances, which does not change that the same force is the one manifesting in each.

It is a difficult thing to imagine, that kind of unity. And there is a lot of stuff going on in deciding what and where to show something usually hidden.

I am thinking, the last few days, a great deal about Aset – specifically the master shapeshifter. (For many and complicated reasons; one of them being that the Tree Goddess is a manifestation of Nut, of Hwt-hrw, and of Aset, primarily, and to think of that appearance, I ought not neglect its third Lady.) I am also a shapeshifter, an illusionist, bringing forward and pulling back information as suits my ends, knowing how to lie with the truth – even and perhaps especially to myself (a lesson that I had driven home rather painfully this weekend).

And the shape I have shown here has been one of a researcher, a writer; a mother, a devotee of the netjeru. None of these are a lie; they are a truth and a mask. I have mentioned that there is more to my practice, that my production here is informed by other things, as well, so the mask is a tiny one, hopefully holding back nothing relevant. To me, the threads are one and the same, in so many ways; that does not mean that someone else with the same textual information would reach the same conclusions as I do, using, as they may well be, very different threads.

I had a lot of assumptions about what of the private practice would show up in discussions of public practice when I started writing. I think I need to revisit those – not just now, but regularly – to keep me honest.

May Aset guide me in my transformations, so that I may know when the trick of changing shape is warranted and will serve me. May I use it as she won her son’s throne in court, may I use it as she turned spit into skill and wrested the name of power from its owner.

Dua Aset!
Kheperu.

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