I’ve updated my bio page with a link to Les Cabinets Des Polytheistes, where my story “Spine of the World” is published (and in which people can play Spot The Netjer if they are so inclined), and my less-specific webspace Suns in Her Branches, which is broader than this space (which is specifically for reconstructionist-derived Kemetic theory and practice). Suns also has static page resources for … stuff. Though that’s nowhere near complete. I should consolidate my research notes over there at some point, waugh….
Among the things that I do is attend a UU church. Last week, the ministerial intern asked if anyone would be interested in volunteering to give a little speech on the topic of “This I Believe”, based on NPR’s ‘This I believe’ series, and I said I would be.
This is the thing I did.
It has always sort of seemed to me that things fall apart in the summer. All of the ideas and energies of spring encounter the blistering heat and fade away into nothing. Perhaps when I was younger I felt crises didn’t have enough space to fit into my schedule during the school year, so they would wait until there was time to properly consume me.
Some years ago, I started work with a spiritual mentor, and one of the first things she asked was “What is your year like? When do you tend to get ideas? When do you tend to fall in love? When are your good times? When are your bad times?” And, dutifully, I went and wrote it down, and said, “Oh. No wonder,” because there were these gaps in the summer and the winter where I just had a hard time doing anything. It was impossible to build up any momentum.
Then I learned that I have an autoimmune disease. That the pain in my joints was not a normal thing that everyone has to deal with. That the mental fog isn’t universal. That a whole bunch of things.
That I am abnormally and particularly sensitive to extremes in temperature.
It was like being reborn. Like a sudden cool drink in the desert. Not that it made everything better, but it made everything make more sense. This was something I could get a handle on. And I started rebuilding my year, with these two tools – my mentor’s questions, my understanding of the failings of my body – using my own religious background as a tool.
So, yes. Things fall apart in the summer.
And then come the waters, and they wash it all away, everything that’s come apart, and in that clean new place, things grow again. And eventually – inevitably – it will work its way around to summer once more, and sure, it will all go to pieces.
But the waters, eventually, will come, and they will destroy everything that is there to be destroyed, but also, they will bring relief. They will bring a fresh start.
Happy new year!
I know it’s probably not any of yours, but it’s mine.
To be precise, Thursday was my liturgical new year. I celebrated yesterday with a number of people, and it wasn’t their new year either, but that doesn’t matter. Community is what matters, that thing that makes people flow together like water, that makes them find each other and support each other and develop that interdependence that means that when our worlds fall apart, someone is there to bring the flood again, to wash away the debris, and to say “We will make something grow.”
I’ve told any number of people this over the summer, so I will say it again: I was here five years ago or so, when my family lived in Billerica, when my oldest child was a toddler, and I kept telling people every time I came to Bedford, I knew that the sermon would be about a particular form of justice that is about relationship with and among people, about community, about the values in the particular affirmationt we recite. I don’t expect anyone to think of it in the terms of my specific religious background, but it kept calling me back; and when my family moved, I would say, occasionally, “I really mean to get back to Bedford”, but never managed it, not before that oldest child started asking me all these questions. And I said, “I know where to go for questions.” And so we’ve been back.
Last week, Joshua read a bit of the Book of Amos, saying, “Let justice roll down like the waters.” And it has been quite a summer, looking at the world, things falling apart in so many ways, but we can look for the waters to come. We can look, and we can dig the channels to get it flowing to our fields and grow good things, and we can do the work to find them and help them flow.
Because this I believe: that the world is made good. That every summer’s falling apart, that every plunge into darkness, has in it the chance to find the waters, to clear away the debris, and to be reborn. That dawn will come again, and so will the chance for things to grow. And that it is our responsibility, as human beings, as a community of people, to make space for the waters to flow, to drink deep, and to make certain that nobody goes thirsty.
Happy new year. May the promise of the waters coming sustain you through the summers in your life, and the certainty of dawn carry you through the dark nights of the soul. Drink deep.
Every so often I come across someone referring to something I wrote – sometimes attached to me, sometimes broken loose and wandering free across the wild internet – and tagged with “of course, a priest would say that” or “this person is a priest” or some other thing.
Other times I encounter people taking some of my work as some sort of scriptural revealed text, a The Right Thing To Do, some sort of authoritarian declaration of correct practice.
These things make me want to ragequit and stop putting my research on the internet. They make me tired.
Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.
– Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay
I am not a priest.
To the extent that I am training to be a priest, it is not Kemetic, and I am for damn sure not your priest.
I am a researcher. I am a scribe. I am a writer. I am – occasionally – a mystic. I have aspirations to being a rekhyt and a sau.
I am putting out ideas and information in the hopes that some people find it useful, while I work it out for my own usage and systematisation. Take what you find useful. Ignore what you don’t find useful.
Do I think I’m right in some abstract sense? No. That would be stupid. I don’t think it is possible to be right in some abstract sense. There is no perfect reconstruction, and no way of making one. Everything is adaptation from limited information, and tweaked to work for the people building it.
Do I think I’m making something that works? Well, that’s the goal. If it works for you too, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Your personal practice, your involvement with your gods, your responsibilities, those are certainly not my business. I neither desire nor value your ritual compliance. Your piety is a problem for you, your ancestors, and the Powers.
Put the shopping carts away or don’t.
And come up with a word for someone who says things other than “priest”, damnit.
(Nothing active is making me feel the need to say this right now, mind, it’s just something that’s been stewing for months.)
Today, 3 December, it’s 35% with the code BESTGIFT35.
Sorry about no quote of the week yesterday; my computer’s on the fritz, and the baby and I are under the weather. If I manage to get myself together I’ll try to get one up later.
Lulu (the printer I use for my calendars) is currently having a sale. Today (Sunday), 30% off things with the code TWOMOREDAYS; tomorrow (Monday), 25% off things with the code ONEMOREDAY.
I have three calendars up now – Kemetic, Wheel of the Year, and Holy Fuck There Are A Lot Of Pagan Holidays And This Isn’t All Of Them. I was hoping to have another by this point but I haven’t managed to arrange the art for it, and I may have to scrap the project and redo with that one waiting until next year when I have more time.
They are available here.
Today, I am listening to this sermon and thinking about the night battle against the Uncreated One.
That’s the thing about it, you see, that there is no escaping this struggle, its inevitability; there is so much to do, and the great serpent is overwhelming. If its jaws are capable of unhinging wide enough to swallow the sun, what can we do? If it has the capacity to drink the river of heaven, what can we do?
But like I quoted last week, the ancients saw that there was no moment that could not be improved, could not be brought into better alignment with the first moment, nothing that could not be made purer and better. They did not say “I had no part in making that serpent,” but made their wax images and trampled them underfoot, and measured their time, in part, in widows and orphans fed, clothing given, boatless emboatened.
It is not about putting down the serpent once and for all; there is no space in this cosmology for final cataclysmic battles of that sort, after which there is only the celebration of triumph for all eternity. There is putting down the serpent in his time, so that there will be tomorrow – knowing, again, that the battle will be rejoined tomorrow as well, so there can be the day after. It is a long-term commitment, not to attaining some perfection and laying our burdens down afterwards, but to acknowledging the burden – the responsibility – the glory that is our reciprocal duty to creation.
We are building the world, we and the Powers; what are we building, right now, by our choices?
Give the sermon a listen. It’s a bit more of a commitment than the quote of the week, but hey. I like going to church every so often, to listen to other people talking about ma’at.
And it’s this brave honesty that gives us at least a chance. It reminds us that part of how we face the enormity of the work is together; we help each other to see the truth, and to bear the pain of really feeling it. We help each other to speak the truth. We protect each other when we are punished for it. We feed each other’s hopes.
– Elena Rose Vera, preaching at The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples on 15 November, 2015
(There’s your quote, if you must have one.)
I will occasionally be blogging things that aren’t my Kemetic research over at my personal site. That’ll cover my witchcraft, my other cultural studies, various ruminations relevant to my spiritual life, announcements of projects (though some of those will probably make it here as well), and related things. I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things sufficiently to pick up my Agora column again, if they’ll still have me.
The rss feed for that blog is here.
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.
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.
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.