Ecumenical

I went to Paganicon again this year, though I did not present because – as you can probably tell from the fact that this is my first post since the autumn – it has been a rough couple of seasons.

I actually went to fewer rituals this year than last – just the one – but I wound up leaving that one and pondering the nature of the skillset required to attend other people’s rituals. I don’t know that a lot of people have actually thought much about that one, though it’s been relevant to some of the conversations I’ve seen going around.

It’s pretty much a given for me that if I’m attending a public ritual, I’m going to have to adapt on the fly in order for it to be meaningful for me. There are very few public rituals out there that are conducted in my symbolic idiom, just to start with, and of those, I’ve not encountered many that are actually done by coreligionists; sometimes, actually, it’s even more jarring to deal with ritual to the Powers I honor or using symbols I recognise, because if it’s being done in a way totally alien to how I conduct myself the cognitive dissonance can get really bad.

So when I’m considering attending a public ritual, I have to not only judge whether I want to participate in the purpose and perhaps whether or not I can honour the relevant Powers (if any) or usefully associate them with my own Powers, but figure out whether or not I can manage the relevant translations. The odds are good that most public ritual will be in a Wiccish format in most places, for example, or at least some kind of open-source Craft, and I can do that if need be – I’ve had to learn. But I’m unlikely to get much out of it, in the grand scheme of things.

I wound up thinking about this because of the Golden Calf ritual, where there was a part of me appreciating the spectacle of the staging, part of me dealing with the fact that I’ve researched enough Judaism to get some of the juxtapositions, a part of me dealing with my own Powers’ bleedthrough as I translated idiom and actually got something out of it. But it was a very complex and cerebral experience for me.

There are times I don’t want cerebral. I just want the thing that works. And I’m dealing with a lot of liturgically heavy stuff – which is pretty brain-oriented rather than gut-oriented – but.

I don’t know. I’m stoned to the gills on Sudafed and not at my most coherent, but I was reminded of this thought.

Omphaloskepsis

I read a lot of blogs. Some of them more closely than others.

But my RSS reader sucks down stuff on a huge variety of topics: blogs about children and childcare, blogs about weaving, blogs about the law, tech blogs, political blogs, science blogs, linguistics, commentary, writing.

And, of course, the religious blogs. Kemetics, heathens, witches, magicians, Baptists, Mormons, Jews, Church of England….

I worry, sometimes, about my communities. I go to slacktivist and get extensive sets of links to matters of social justice, politics, concern about the ascendancy of conservative Christianity, critique of the public construct of religion, and a whole lot of other food for thought; I visit Richard Beck (who I linked to back in June) I find discussions of prison ministry, of the perils of complementarianism, of the theology in karaoke, of the nature of power and the nature of evil; I go to the Velveteen Rabbi and find questions of how to properly live the values of the week’s reading, wrestling with forgiveness and family and despair and truth and the nature of holy land.

I find a lot of stuff that’s real, and vital, and while it’s rooted in one religious tradition or another speaks to the human experience, human needs. And these people often link to other people doing some of the same substantial work, wrestling with their religion and with the world like Jacob wrestling with the angel at the ford.

I commented a while back that the more actually religious I get, the better I get at doing religion, the more the gods send me away. The more I am told to heal the ancestors, to understand the nature of power and of evil, to demonstrate that Opet actually means something in the world by organising a community to do charitable work, to think about what my devotions actually mean in terms of politics and society. And the more my mysticism deepens, the more I pay attention to holy mother death and other things about the patterns of death and life and the great breaths of the year. And these are not separate and separable things, the chiaroscuro of time and the need to understand the shape of presence within the world rather than separation from it.

In the end I worry, sometimes, about transcendentalists.

This Year for Opet

Opet, as before noted, is fiddly.

However, this year some folks (primarily at eCauldron) have gotten organised about it, and we’ve formed a Kiva lending team, called The Emboatening Crew. We have thus far emboatened one person, have nearly finished emboatening a second, and have a third loan queued up.

If you’re not on Kiva already and join using that link, you (and I) will get a free loan token worth $25 – I believe both our current targets for emboatening can be helped with that money. If you are on Kiva, we’d be happy to have more folks helping us with our Opet charitable work.

This is what communities are for.

Perils of Overintellectualisation

I am at the moment working on a manuscript for work (which I am enjoying immensely, and if I ever get my shit together and make a Recommended Book List For The Stuff I Do I will probably put this on it, because for a book about Shinto it is brilliantly Kemetically-relevant – though I’ve long thought Shinto had a lot to reveal to Kemetics).

One of the things the author keeps talking about is a resistance to theologising, to thinking too much about religious matters, rather than performing the recitations and rituals appropriately.

Which is a thing that I think is worth keeping in mind – that the idea that religious thought must be tightly systematised is likely not entirely native to practices that we are reconstructing, regardless of the culture of origin of those practices.

Too much thinking about it gets in the way of doing it, as I commented before. Too much being bound up in being Right about the way to do things rather than doing them, likewise. “Here are three ways of interpreting this word in context” is not something that sits easily with a lot of theologies, that are all about trying to make things tidy and clean and clear, rather than the ways that three different things layer to create a complicated nuanced thing which is all and one and none of these things.

A message I can take from what I’ve read so far goes something like, “Out there, there is the world; relate to it with clean senses and a pure heart. That is the natural and divine way of being.”

Not bad, for Kemetic ponders, is it?

Spiritual Convection

Doing a bit of reading has me pondering basic cosmological structures. Which I touched on, briefly, when I posted the map that was published in the Guide, but I’m looking from a different angle at the moment.

There is a gradient of formlessness and form to be seen in that image of the cosmos: we, resident primarily in the world of that which is knowable and known, visible and seen, bounded and contained, and having a distinct shape, have our residence primarily in the top half of the world, where potential has, for the most part, been realised – or is in the process of becoming so.

But if we enter the akhet and the realms of dream, the residences of the blessed and mighty dead, the personal homes of the gods, we have crossed a gate to a realm in which shapeshifting – a subject of a huge number of spells – is common, though one must take care not to adopt a form that falls too close to formlessness (such as a fish), where the rules of the seen world risk becoming inverted, and the powers can be seen more readily wearing their own faces.

And if we go deeper, the perils are sharper – the nightmare forms dwelling in Rosetjau, the lair of the enemy.

And if we go deeper still, back into the depths of the past and the bottom of the bottomless, the very edge of being where it melts into the Nun, we find the Mysteries, through which possibility and growth are released into the world of the existent, to bubble upwards, conveyed by the Boat of Millions towards the surface, carrying life by which forms may be animated.

It is true that the ancestors are guardians of the flow of life into and out of the Duat, that their blessings come with the turnings of the year: the ancestors are the mirror into which we look, seeking our origins. The flow of that which the gods bring up from the Nun passes through their hands as it reaches the gates of morning.

And of that we make worlds. We choose how we conduct our lives, we eat and offer and live, and we pass back the forms that we have created into the akhet in the evening, in the shapes of our dreams, the passage of our travelling souls, our own selves when we come to our mooring day.

Blue is Red

The trip out had been full of storms, which both delayed us and made me fret about whether the beach would be open, because my daughter was demanding, at irregular intervals, if we were at the beach yet, and explaining disappointment to the four-year-old birthday girl is difficult.

When we got there, at eleven, the clouds were thinning, though the wind had a chilly bite to it at times, and the parking lot was nearly empty. We spilled out of the van, all seven of us, and claimed a spot on the beach, dividing the labor of minding the children and each taking our turns at other occupations.

I spent a while building fortifications out of sand, and watching them collapse into the moat (though the tide was heading out, digging would suddenly reveal the sea resting like the Nun under the sand).

Eventually, covered in sand from these diversions, I made sure that the kids were watched, and I walked out into the Bay. The sea had receded to reveal one sandbar, and I crossed that and kept going.

There was a patch of red water a bit further out, as if the sea had been stained with blood that never dissipated, and I waded out to it, finding a brick-red sandbar hidden beneath the waves, and I sat on that, letting the water come up to my ribs, contemplating. My foot dug into the sand, and the redness gave way to perplexing swirls of purple and green.

By the later periods, storms had been also bound to sea, and I thought about that, and thought about the way the storms of the drive had kept a place for us on the beach, and many other things besides.

Schools of little speckled fish, moving like my memories of guppies (because they were that size, and thus they move like fish of that size) eventually gathered around me, swimming fiercely this way and that in the various currents of the receding tide. The waves slapped me with gentle force, and once I saw a hermit crab marching the length of the sandbar past me (as the children playing elsewhere in the water occasionally cried “Hermit crab” and charged in one direction or another in pursuit of similar sightings).

A helicopter buzzed overhead, an odd and artificial menace, and I watched it go; when it was gone, the waves resurged more firmly, as if to remind me that there are more dangerous things in the world than men.

When I stood up, the fish scattered, suddenly terrified that the immobile feature of the sandbar that was myself had shifted and cast a different shadow on the sea.

“Everything’s a storm to something,” I thought, as I walked back to shore.

Black is Green

These are the days of ablutions.

The water is drawn, the beer poured in, tracing patterns of color in the tub. (The tub is not large enough for this, but one makes do with what one has.)

The beer bath is for curing the evil eye, they say, and the echoes of bad will and jealousy and ill intent. Whatever might have accumulated in bits over the year can stay with the old year, and here in the between times, it is washed away.

Under the water, with closed eyes, it is dark, and in the blackness the seeds take root, they sprout, they brighten, they fade. Here in the Hall of Doors, life and death blend into each other, until here is the grain, here is the beer, here are the drowning waters.

Dua Wesir, fair of face.

The New Year Approacheth

Summer has always been hard for me. It’s not just the heat of it, but certainly that’s something to consider, but something about the way the energetics of it go. The Kemetic idea of the recalibration of the books, getting everything tidied off and properly dealt with for the new year, the purifying Eyes of Ra striking down that which has yet to die, has always been my experience of summer.

My health has been poor; not deadly poor but bound up with a weariness and a lack of flexibility that has meant that my work in my home has greatly suffered. Not to mention my work of writing here! Tomorrow is the last full moon of the year, and how much of the Nut Cycle did I actually write up? Not even half.

But here it comes, the New Year. The Days Upon the Year may be an unsettled time, a dangerous time, but perhaps because of that they are a time when I can let go of the failings of the last few months, cleanse myself, and start again fresh at Wep Ronpet. The idea of cleansing times, of time out of the ordinary, of a place where disruption gives way again to healing and order, that seems very precious to me right now.

I expect to redo My Week In The Bath. It feels like the thing to do.

And we will see what the new year brings us.