We all have milestones that we go through in our lives. When we’re younger, these milestones are set before us by doctors and teachers and our parents: learning to stand, learning to walk, reading, driving, algebra. When we get older, we start evaluating our lives and making milestones for our future: going to college, graduating, starting a career, starting a family, buying a house. It’s like a bucket list of essentials.
Each year, many people, including myself, make New Year’s resolutions. I wrote a post about it earlier, but I do New Year’s Resolutions a little different. My list is a list of items that I want to have completed by the end of the year. I figure since we’re three months into the year, I would do an update so that I could keep myself motivated.
1) Continue to not smoke for 2014.
This one is probably the easiest for me to do. I quit smoking on January 13, 2013. It’s been a year, and after a year, it’s easy to keep doing something you aren’t doing anymore. Just maintaining the status quo! And it feels fantastic.
2) Get to a weight loss mini-goal of 170 (that’s roughly another 35 pounds) by December 31, 2014.
This goal is turning out into something different than what it originally was. Erin and I have started working out more, so I’m building a lot of muscle, which is replacing the fat, but it’s not making the number on the scale go down. I’ve lost four inches off my waist and once inch off my hips. There’s weight loss, but it’ll take a few months before it starts showing up on the scale. I’ve really enjoyed the time Erin and I get to spend together at the gym. It gives us a lot of us bonding time while doing something productive.
3) Cut my meat intake down to once a day, three times a week by December 31, 2014.
Hah! We’ve added more veggie-only meals to our dinners, but I’m definitely still eating meat on a daily basis. I need to switch to vegan lunch “meat” for my wraps, but I just haven’t gotten around to doing that. It’ll drop my meat intake down from sometimes twice a day to always once a day. From there, I’ll be able to drop down the days during the week. We’ve added red meat back into our diet on a very limited basis: One of Erin’s client’s mother takes her to Happy Cow Creamery each week and about once a month for a “field trip,” and Erin picks up some organic grass-fed beef. It’s the absolute weirdest thing, but if you cook this meat on the skillet on the stove there’s next to NO grease/fat left over and it’s fantastic. It’s like a treat for us on a rare basis.. (Sidenote: Erin works one on one with kids who have autism to help them with daily life skills and learning. It’s a really tough jobs some days, but she always talks about how rewarding it is as well.)
4) Work out three days a week on a regular basis by December 31, 2014.
We’re actually working on more than three days a week. If we have a good week, we’re at the gym five out of the seven days. We aren’t at the gym three days a week every week, but we are doing really well with going at least twice a week. By the end of the year, we’ll definitely have this one down easy, hopefully, even, by the end of next month. I really use to hate going to the gym, but I love this place. Erin has really motivated me to be a healthier, better person. We’re making some big plans for the next couple of years, and I want to be physically ready for those.
5) Read 12 books (one a month) in 2014.
I’m doing well on this one, too. So far, I’ve read:
Bumped by Megan McCafferty
Crossed by Ally Condie
Matched by Ally Condie
I’ve technically read The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly, but I started it at the end of last year, so I didn’t count it. Right now, I’m reading Jesus Through Pagan Eyes by Rev. Mark Townsend and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. I want to read World War Z some time this year, so that’s on my “planned to read” list.
6) Finalize my spiritual calendar, creating spiritual practices to solidify my focus on the gods in 2014.
I haven’t started this one yet. There hasn’t been enough time. I figure I’ll do this one during the summer when I’m not so consumed with grading, graduate school classes, and testing.
7) Meditate at least once a week for ten minutes on a regular basis by December 31, 2014.
I haven’t started this one either. You’d think it’d be easy, but it’s hard to find all the time. I guess I need to work this one into my days off from the gym. Eventually, I want to work up to an every night thing, but I have a few years before I want that goal completely met.
8) Write a minimum of 24 blogs (that’s two a month) in 2014.
I’m ahead of this one. When I published my blog yesterday, I got a notification that I had reached blog 20, which means I’ve written 19 blogs this year… And this one is blog 20! Four more blogs for this resolution to be met, but I’m definitely not going to stop writing. As part of the Pagan Blog project, I’m writing on a letter every week like you’re supposed to do. There’s 52 weeks in a year, 26 letters in the alphabet, so spending two weeks per letter seems like it was meant to be!
On a different note, I’ve been thinking about other milestones I want to reach sometime within the next few years and decided to create a sort of bucket list:
Within the next two years:
- Replace the carpets in my house with bamboo flooring on the second floor and both sets of stairs
- Redo the backyard
- Get engaged and then get married…
- Go to either Hawaii or to Europe. I’m more partial to Europe for two weeks than to Hawaii because I feel like Hawaii could more easily be done with a family instead of Europe (Honeymoon anyone?? Hello! I think yes.)
- Complete the required graduate classes to get a $5,000/year raise
- See Erin graduate from her Masters program and get her BCBA
Within the next three years:
- Have a baby
- Determine if I want to go back to school for administration or another field in Education and then apply for doctorate programs to possibly go into policy at the district level.
Within the next five years:
- Have a second baby
- Sell or rent current house
- Buy second house with bigger yard and fence that is stand alone
Now, some of these are assuming that Erin and I don’t move out of state in the next three years. Her BCBA could take us anywhere in the country if it’s the job she wants and it’s going to pay well. If that’s the case the selling of the house might happen sooner than within the next five years.
As for the house, I love this place. It’s the best place to start out homeownership because I get all the perks and responsibilities of being a homeowner but without the added stress of keeping up a yard or paying for the exterior if something goes wrong. Got a roof leak? The homeowners’ association pays for that. Back deck board loose? Don’t pay for that either. It’s fantastic. I haven’t had to mow a lawn in the entire year I’ve been here. My mom told me today that she said my aunt was talking about how well I did for a first place. It was move in ready when I got it, but I’m doing some stuff (like fencing in the backyard, putting in deck stairs, ripping up the carpet, getting new appliances, etc) so that it will sell for more when I get ready to move out. That was a huge and exciting milestone for me when it happened.
Another big milestone that I felt like I’ve reached in the last year is being out at work. When I first started teaching, I felt nervous about having my partner at the time come to any functions with the school, and when people threatened to out me to my boss, it made me really nervous because I was scared of losing a job that I had worked hard for and loved. But after I started dating Erin and I knew that we were going to be it to win it, I stopped caring about what other people thought. I also had my continuing contract, so it’s difficult to fire me for stupid reasons, like being gay. Now, my closest coworkers all have met Erin and ask about her often. Even my boss, the principal, asks how she’s doing. She’s brought me dinner to many of the late night functions and even spent the day with me at work as a guest speakers. Most of the students at the school know, and as far as I know (or care), they don’t care and actually think it’s cool to have a “gay teacher.”
On a sidenote: Those that do care or don’t like me, I don’t care. I’m not there to be their friend. I’m there to be their teacher. Not every student is going to like me, and I got over that bullshiz after my first year of teaching. I’ve heard from some other teachers that I’ve gotten the rep of being one who “doesn’t play around,” and I’m A-Ok with that. I got voted, by the students, for Teacher of the Month with “more votes than anyone’s gotten ever,” so obviously some students out there like me. Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s perfectly okay. If you spend all your time trying to be friends with everyone, you lose yourself and your purpose in the process. /Rant
Okay, that was another ramble post, so time for bed.
This is another one of those random rant posts, but it’s not as much as the previous post. Erin and I try to throw a party every so often. It’s a gathering of friends, nothing super crazy. We have dinner, we have a few drinks and there’s a lot of laughing to go around. We had one for National Raccoon Day, which was really just a reason to have people over, and we also had a holiday party with a white elephant gift exchange. That party was a huge success. Not that the first one wasn’t either, but the second one was a lot fun. It was Mexican themed and I made shrimp tacos. Do not diss that til you try them because they were damn good.
Erin and I had talked about doing a prayer flag party at that event too, but then we figured it was going to be too much to do the white elephant, the tree dressing, AND a prayer flag event. We cut the prayer flags out, but now I really want to bring that part back at the next event that we throw.
I got my mother’s hosting genes, I think, because I’m itching to have another get together. We haven’t picked out a date yet, but I we have to wait to find out some big things happening in April first before we set anything down.
I want to do this one with the prayer flags. We’ll have good food and good conversation and we’ll make prayer flags and then hang them up on the deck in the back yard of our house. I’ve heard about prayer flags before, but it wasn’t until I attended a class at Central North Carolina’s Pagan Pride Day weekend that I actually got to make one.
From what I gathered in the class, prayer flags are traditionally used to bless an area, but they can also be used to carry prayers out into the world on the wind. You put the prayer on the flags either written out or in picture form or in a combination of the two and then you hang them outside so that the prayers can be carried out into the world. I have a vision of having two or three rows of these flags out on my back deck because I think they would be beautiful out there, but I just have to get together the time to either make them myself OR get the supplies together to create an event where people put communal energy together to create the flags.
I love the idea of communal energy work. I think it magnifies the affect of any one person when you’re putting energy out into the world to make a change in a group setting rather than just individual. Not to say that the individual can’t make a difference, just saying that differences tend to be larger in groups.
How awesome would it be to hold an informal ritual/spiritual night with friends over food and positive energy? I’m so excited about it that I could bust!
The last few days have been an interesting mix of just regular every day life, which started me down a path of thinking about the Bible. Don’t ask me why my thoughts connect this way, they just do. And I started to think about how the Old Testament is a collection of historic stories and laws where the God of the Bible is attributed to the lot of it. The New Testament follows a guy who completely turned everything upside down in a really radical way and the follows the early church after his death. When you have a group of God-fearing people, the easiest way to control that group is to make everything, good and bad, God’s fault. Which is what the Bible does, it some respects. It really does two big things: it describes phenomenon that people couldn’t understand at the time (such as creation) and says that God did it, and it describes how God interferes in the every day lives of mere mortals.
Well, I’m a mere mortal. And the Gods are acting in my every day life.
Ancient Egypt has three main creation myths that I know of. The Bible has two. How we’ve interpreted these stories has changed over the years. We’ve gone from a vengeful-wrathful God of the Bible to a loving and caring being and then back again in some regards. Ancient myths are being retold with different morals: The story of the celestial cow isn’t about Ra’s vengeance on humanity for not believing, but his saving us from another world-ending apocalypse.
I wonder, and this might be where it starts getting random, if someone in the distant future will look back on our history books, interpret the stories to be acts of the Gods and create new religions. There’s been a debate about “modern mythology” and “pop-culture” Paganism, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about ancient stories… our current history… being reinterpreted in the distant future to become the new “Bible” or holy book.
And for that matter, what if I kept a journal now and wrote my life down with stories that heavily involved religious-lingo… and someone found it and decided it was divinely inspired, published it, and then started preaching about it. I’m not saying that I should become the next holy person, but I’m saying that any of us could be. I doubt Jesus wasn’t expecting to become who he became to Christianity. The stories of his life were written well after his death. Maybe the authors saw his life and believed it divine so they wrote it up that way.
I’m just saying, in the future, we could all be worshiped… /RandomRant
This is technically my second E post for the Pagan Blog Project, but I’ll probably write a third since I’m posting this second one so early. I wanted to write on the elements first, but I couldn’t find the words. When I pulled out my old spiritual journal, I reread some of the pages and found what I wanted to say.
To write this blog, I actually had to finish writing in my physical journal. Some would call it a “Book of Shadows,” but I don’t like what the word shadows implies to those not “in the know,” so I just refer to it as my religious/spiritual journal. I’m one of those “not in your face” Pagans, as I wrote about previously. I enjoy being one of those people who works to change minds from the inside out by being the best version of me that I can be so when others “make the discovery,” they are forced to challenge their preconceptions.
Kemetics are big on the past and never forgetting where you’ve come from, and as a Kemetic, I am no exception. My past comes from a history with Christianity and Wicca, and I continue to learn from those traditions as I move forward in my faith as a Kemetic. My formal ritual format is much less ceremonial than that of Wicca or what I like to call “basic-non-defined Paganism” where corners are called to cast a circle as a protective measure for magical workings.
As a Wiccan, I followed the rules and called the corners, but my callings always felt strange. I had a love of the elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, but I don’t think I ever truly understood them. There was the common information about Air corresponds with yellow and the East, but I didn’t know why. Then, one day, I bought a new journal and decided I wanted to write in it with my research and a experiences, not just my experiences. I had two books with “Elements” in the title: The Elemental Tarot by Caroline Smith and John Astrop and Elemental Witch by Tammy Sullivan. These books talk about the personality of the elements, which allowed me to finally see a connection with them.
Even after leaving Wicca, I still felt a deep seeded love for the elements, and I wanted to find some way to work them into my practice as a Kemetic. My research led me to the understanding of the elements and how you can work them into your every day though process, not just in formal ritual.
In a formal ritual, the elements are called to raise a protective shield. Some traditions call north first, and some call east first. The spirits of each element are asked to come in to protect the practitioner in his or her workings and create a connection between this world and the spiritual world that allows for magical workings to take place. Finally, Spirit or the Gods are called and then the circle is closed/cast and the actual working of the spell or ritual can begin. Afterwards, the Spirit/Gods and the elements are released in reverse order and thanked for their help.
“Magical Workings” and the works of the Gods happen every day in our lives. We perform “magic” each day through the choices we make and how we carry ourselves. What if we could bring the power of the elements with us every day and use those powers to help us in our work?
Air – East, Yellow
Air is the first element generally called in a ritual. It’s towards the East. I use to always think about yellow being an odd color for air until I thought about the Sun and how it’s technically yellow, and each new beginning of each new day begins with that yellow Sun rising in the East.
Air is about beginnings. It’s about thoughts. It’s about life. Think about this: when a baby is born, all the elements are present (Earth in the body, Water in the blood, Fire in the heat of the pulsing heart), but it isn’t until that baby first takes it’s first breath and cries that we celebrate it’s new beginning and new life in this world. When my Goddaughter was born, I bit my lip until I heard that baby’s first cries. I didn’t relax until I knew that baby had air in her lungs, breathing into her new life and new experiences.
When we want to begin something new, we have to first begin with an idea or a thought. What do you want to accomplish in this life? What do you want to see happen next? Every new thing that happens to you started with an idea. When we call the element of Air first, we are recognizing that idea and allowing the idea to come first. To call Air in our daily lives, we simply have to think on that idea and recognize it’s importance in all new beginnings.
Fire – South, Red
In an Air first ceremony, Fire is the second element called in a ritual. It’s towards the south, and works in what is known in the Northern Hemisphere as a positive clockwise direction. When you are working to create, you generally move clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. For us, south is towards the equator. The further south you go, the hotter it gets. That was a fairly easy conclusion for myself to draw about fire.
Fire is about passion, strength, and intensity. In the rotation of elements, it’s easy to see why Fire comes second to Air: You need passion and strength behind your ideas to make them happen. No idea goes anywhere without the desire to make it something. When we stop in our daily lives to work with the elements, stopping at fire is recognizing that there is a passion and desire to make sure that our ideas will come to fruition.
Air is the idea, Fire is the will to make it so. But with all good ideas and desires, we have to make sure that our passions don’t get the best of us. Fire may be an element of creation, but it is also an element of destruction. Without the balance, disaster could strike. It’s important when we reflect on the element of Fire that we make sure or passions are there but that they are so manageable and being managed.
Water – West, Blue
When Air is called first, Water is called third. Water’s direction is west, and I always remembered that because they both started with W. Where I live in South Carolina, going to the east is towards the beaches while going to the west is towards the mountains. For me, water has a cooling and a calming affect. The mountains represent that for me, while the beach represents fun and action. When I want to relax, I go to the mountains, when I want to have fun and maybe party a little, I go to the beach.
Water is reflective and it represents our emotions, generally the emotions behind a desire or idea. When we think of an idea and we get the passion behind it to want to see it come to fruition, we need to stop and think about why we want our ideas and thoughts to happen. Do we want them to help ourselves or others? Are we seeking out revenge for the wrongs caused against us by someone else? Are we struggling to make ends meet and desiring a way to come out from debt? Why do we want what we want?
We have to realize that when we put energy out there, it will affect all things around us, including ourselves. Our interactions with others create a reaction that has an affect on us. According to Newton’s Laws, all reactions have an equal and opposite reaction. If we put energy out there, we get energy back. You hear this a lot when people talk about living a positive and happy life or surrounding yourself with positive people. The idea is simple: If you put out positivity, you get it in return.
If you look into a pool of water, you see yourself reflected back at you. Since water is reflective and represents our emotions, water is the opportunity to reflect on our choices and the underlying emotions behind them. When we reflect on water, we reflect on our own emotions and on ourselves.
Earth – North, Green
Earth is the final element called when an individual begins with Air. It’s towards the north. And it was usually just the last one, so I remembered it through the process of elimination. As an air sign myself, Earth is my exact opposite, but needed necessity to help me stay grounded. Earth represents the tangible and physical aspects of reality, but it also represents acceptance and understanding. It’s often associated with grounding and the saying “down to Earth.” It represents rationality and all things concrete.
When Air is called, we think of an idea. When Fire is called, we realize the passion and drive to see that idea come to fruition. When Water is called, we reflect on our emotions and intentions behind the idea. And when Earth is called, we accept and understand to see the idea become concrete and tangible, to move from the spiritual world into the physical world.
When we send out our ideas and thoughts and energy, we lose control of them. Our intentions must be thoroughly thought out so that there aren’t any unexpected consequences. Earth represents the understanding and acceptance that once we follow through with our thoughts and energy and actions, moving our ideas into reality, that we lose control over the reactions. It’s an understanding that we have carefully crafted our thoughts, ideas and plans to carry out a certain task so as to minimize the consequences of our actions in undesirable ways.
After we reflect on Earth, to full close and become full circle, we return to East and to Air. It was the beginning, but now it is the final step in creation. We began with the mere thought or idea and we end with the screaming of new life.
These ideas don’t just apply to the formal ritual of casting a circle, they apply to our every day lives filled with every day actions. When faced with a big decision or even a small decision, taking the time to reflect on the elements will not only draw clarity towards you, but the energies that you wish to have for you to accomplish your task.
My job requires early mornings. Not as early as it has been in the past because we start later this year than we have in the past, but they’re still early nonetheless. Usually, when I wake up, the room is dark. My alarm is flashing a strobe to wake me, and the sound is that of a pulsating foghorn. I hit the snooze button.
At that point, Erin usually snuggles up and puts me into some sort of Judo hold where I can’t get out of bed. And it’s super cute and I love cuddles, so I don’t immediately get out of bed. I wait for the second round of foghorns.
But today was different. It’s been happening slowly, more and more each day, but today was the first day that I noticed, I mean really noticed that the sun was coming back. I was born and raised in the south. The sun has always been a thing that’s just always around.
Now this may seem elementary, but I love the sun. I love the heat of the sun. I love the light, and the little bits of radiation that create vitamin D in my skin to boost my mood and calcium levels in my bones. (That escalated quickly, didn’t it?) I lived in Massachusetts for a year a few years back. I moved up there for graduate school so I could go through what was basically my ideal graduate program for education training. My friend, Alex, warned me about the sun, but I really had no idea. I thought I was prepared, but I so very much wasn’t.
School there started at 7:30AM. Even though I lived just down the road, I was still up at 5:45 every day. Then I was inside… And then driving or riding with friends to class until 7:00pm at night. The short time I was out in the sun was just that: a very short time. When the sun rises late and sets early, it’s hard to catch some rays. And before I even really realized it, I was buried in some fairly dark seasonal affective. I looked into buying a UV light, but I couldn’t afford it. It was the first year that I really noticed the sun coming back and realized what it meant to me personally.
But when I really saw it coming back that year, it brought with it such an amazing hope of better things to come.
Since then, I’ve been super sensitive to the sun. I feel its disappearance more, but with constantly reminding myself of its return, I can maintain a more positive outlook on life. Then, when days like today happen, and I actually see it coming back, that hope and excitement fill me again.
I can’t wait for the sun’s full return. I can’t wait to be back out on the lake kayaking or hiking. Erin and I have a goal of hiking Table Rock this year, and I’m so very much looking forward to it. It’s, from what I’ve read, one of the hardest hiking trails. I also want to hike hospital rock, which is *the* hardest trail, from what I’ve been told. That’s off topic. I’m just excited.
There’s so much that I want to accomplish in the next few years, and the returning of the sun reminds me that it will be possible. The season of fulfilling dreams is back! We’re moving out of the season of hope into the season of fruition, and I’m so excited that it’s happening!
The last few weeks have been insanely hectic. South Carolina loves to cancel/delay/dismiss school if someone whispers the words snow or ice somewhere in the dark back corners of a third story room. I’m a teacher, so it highly affects me and my job if there is snow or what someone might think of as snow on its way. In the last month, we’ve lost about two weeks worth of instructional time over the “snow and ice.” (I put this in quotes because I lived in Massachusetts for a year through what we affectionately call the Snowpocalypse of 2011. One of my professors in graduate school continuously reassured me that “it’s not always like this every year.” The North’s definition of snow and the South’s are two very different things.)
The end result has me (and every other teacher in this district) being very, very behind. Now, with one of my non-state-tested classes, this isn’t a huge deal. We’ll catch up, and if we don’t, then it’s not a huge deal. With my biology classes, I’m under pressure to make sure that we get through every tiny standard to insure that the students are well prepared for their state finals, which will help to determine what “grade” the school makes. They won’t push back testing, and they’re probably not going to make us make up these days, so we’re screwed.
So what does that have to do with my faith?
Well, a little bit of everything.
Energy comes in many different forms: chemical, electrical, mechanical, light, sound, etc. We, as humans, are actually more nothing than we are something. Our tiny little atoms are held together by energy, and they hold to each other by energy. When we touch something or when something touches us, the atoms interact and create a change-reaction that tells our brain we’ve had a sensation of touch. When light enters our eyes, the energy from the light interactions with he energy of our atoms and does he same thing, only creating vision.
We are, in the most basic sense, a walking, talking sack of chemical reactions that is interacting and creating more chemical reactions with all the walking, talking and not walking or talking sacks of chemicals and chemical reactions out in the world. We are, honestly, energy.
The thing about energy, though, is that it cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred from one state to the next. The planet gets it’s most basic energy from the sun and then releases its most chaotic energy as heat. It’s a cycle.
When we perform actions, we use energy and release it into the world. That energy goes out and it interacts with whatever it is that we’re doing. If we are helping someone, that energy goes out and helps that person. It’s transferred from us to whomever we’re helping. If we put out energy to harm someone else, that energy goes out and does just that: harms another.
In both cases, we expend energy out and transfer it into another form, which leaves us with less energy than we started with. Much of the day, we put energy out, out, out. Maybe it’s work or school or volunteering or just whatever our daily life requires, but we spend our energy during the day. Then at night, when the energy level usage in the planet is low (because the majority of species that are major energy users are active during the day only), we sleep and gain back a level of energy to get us through the day.
But I know I’m not the only one who, at the end of the day, thinks “There’s not enough time or enough energy for me to complete everything I need to complete.” Why is that? Because all we do all day is give out our energy to everyone and everything else, and we tend to leave very little to ourselves.
Now, I’m just as bad at making time for myself as the next person, but it’s important. That’s why, in so many books, there is such a focus on making sure to meditate and take time to recenter, ground and bring back your focus. It allows us time throughout the day to regain some of the energy that we’ve spent.
In every ritual I’ve seen, the first thing you do is ground and focus. It’s to gain energy that’s needed to perform what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. Imagine if we took that philosophy into our every day rituals: working with others, helping others, teaching others.
If, before we open the door to our next course of action, we stop, ground, focus and visualize what we want and what we are trying to accomplish, we can gather the energy we need to accomplish our tasks. It’s taking our ritual practice into the every day life.
Positive visualization can play a huge part in turning our lives into what we want them to be, and grounding and focusing can help us get to that point that we see.
A few years ago, I wasn’t in the place that I am now. I hadn’t done well on an important test for the graduate school that I wanted to attend, and I was starting to question my future and what I wanted to do. It put me into a fairly low place emotionally and spiritually. It wasn’t until I stepped back, refocused and visualized that I was able to see where I wanted to be and how to get there. Then I was able turn my life into what I wanted. It wasn’t any formal ritual, but it was still a form of heka, or “magic” as the Kemetics call it.
When I finally got around to visualizing my ideal mate, that’s when she walked into my life. I wanted someone funny, nerdy, healthy and well educated. Someone I could spend my time with and not feel bored or burdened. I visualized her in my mind and refocused my life onto a more positive path. When I did that, she appeared.
There are still days when I feel like there’s not enough energy to accomplish what I need to accomplish, but there are also times when I feel that way, refocus, and then make it easily through whatever it is I am trying to accomplish. The idea is to not spend so much time focusing on the everything and just focus on the current task at hand.
My challenge to everyone this week, including myself, is to evaluate what your formal ritual practice is and see how you can “informalize” it to incorporate it into your every day life so that you can gain back some energy throughout the day rather than just using it all up trying to complete everything you have to do.
I’ve decided to keep this blog faith-focused, so I’m moving my education stuff to a new place.
A coworker and I are planning on Flipping a Classroom next year, so I’m blogging about the process and journey. If you’re interested, check it out here: Flipping EHS.
I’m stepping off my normal podium for this post to talk about something that I don’t necessarily consider a major aspect of my religious belief and practice: divination.
Back in my generic-Pagan and Wiccan days, I was very big into divination, especially Tarot. I would take my cards into school (high school at the time) and do readings for people who asked me. Always for free. It gave me a lot of practice time. I still, to this day, do not have the cards memorized. I don’t see much reason to because I usually only do reading for friends or myself, and I never have people pay for them. My philosophy is that once the cards are down, the meaning doesn’t change; therefore, it’s okay for me to not have the cards all memorized.
Some people would disagree with me, and that’s okay.
I’ve been called a Reader by quite a few people, many of them strangers. When I do a Tarot reading, I get images and actually see visions of what it is that the cards are telling me. My biggest problem is this: I sometimes also read of the people I’m doing the reading for and I’ll see what they hope the cards say. I struggle with discerning the two.
I did a reading one time for a man who was struggling to determine if he should date the girl he just met or go back to his ex of multiple years (who was trying to make necessary changes to be with him). The cards were telling me that he needed to stay with his ex and work it out, but he wanted the cards to say the other girl. I struggled with determining the two stories.
I don’t do readings as often now as I use to, so my abilities are lacking. I’m out of practice.
I lack a certain discipline, I guess you could say, for the art. I love divination. It’s my favorite type of spiritual practice, and when I can work through the muck and get the true story, I am very rarely wrong.
I miss it, honestly.
There were times when the cards gave me clear warning signals that said: Do not past go. Do not collect $200. And I chose to ignore them only to have everything they said come true. It’s difficult though, delivering bad news to someone you’re invested in and care about.. who’s sitting right across from you looking at you for the “we’re going to make it forever and ever.” And the cards are clearly saying, “no, you aren’t. And if you choose to continue forward, then you’re going to have a really horrible experience and things will end very, very badly.”
I did, for the longest time, have trouble sticking up for myself. I went along with what everyone else was saying or doing and just sorta accepted things for how they were. It was the worst in relationships or when it came to people I was interested in. It was a never ending cycle, it felt like, and it got worse as the years went on.
Divination, or future-telling, can happen in many forms. There’s Tarot or dowsing or reading tea leaves. You can see it in people’s auras or in dreams… or simply just by examining the world around you.
When I do divination, especially with Tarot, I ask the cards and the Gods to simply show me what I need to know or what the person I’m doing the reading for needs to know. It may not be what I’m looking for, but it’s what I need. Sometimes, people will come in looking for relationship advice, but what they need to focus on isn’t love… it’s money or education or something else that needs to be taken care of before love can be found.
For me, it was standing up for myself, and the Gods were doing everything they could to show me this, and I kept completely ignoring it. I would be in an emotionally abusive or controlling relationship and just let the other person treat me like crap for months before finally leaving (generally in a way that wasn’t really me sticking up for myself). I would secretly hate every moment, dread coming home, avoid confrontation by running, but I wouldn’t leave. I would have people tell me that I was a doormat or that I was easily taken advantage of. My friends would try to warn me about dating so-and-so because they wouldn’t be good to me. But I never changed.
Until late 2012, I let everyone run all over me. And finally, I found myself in another one of those situations, and finally, I stood up for myself and said no. I finally said that it wasn’t okay for someone to talk to me or treat me in a negative way when I was doing absolutely nothing but being good to them. I said no.
And then in January 2013, I met Erin in person after talking and being pen pals for five months. We started dating in February 2013, and it’s been amazing ever since.
The last time I did a reading for myself, it gave me the “don’t go down this path. Very bad things await.” I went down the path anyway and ended up at one of the lowest points of my entire life. My discipline and focus for doing readings has gone way down since then because I’ve been too busy to practice. I need to get back in the habit… Maybe start offering them for friends for free or something. I don’t know. I want to make it a priority in my life. Maybe I’ll add it to my New Years Resolutions list.
When it comes to divination, it takes practice to get where you want to be and stay there. To get in the practice, you have to be disciplined and dedicated to improvement. The first step, as always, is a decision, a choice that you make to change. And then from there, comes the follow through.
Life is about choice. Life starts with choice. Make sure that you’re making the ones you want to get where you want to be. As for me, I’m going to try to get back into Tarot… But having missed two weeks of work due to weather (yay, South Carolina!), it may have to wait until this summer.
I treat how I see the Nisut as how I see Jesus and the Pope, which may seem really strange coming from a Kemetic. The Kemetic Orthodox view the Nisut as a kind of pope, in a way. ”In Kemetic Orthodoxy, the Nisut is the head of the faith. She is responsible for keeping the members of the faith spiritually satisfied, as well as for providing guidance on various matters.” She’s seen as the bridge between the people and the Gods. She felt called by the Ancients to reconstruct Their ways, so she founded Kemetic Orthodoxy. She acts as a leader and teacher to her people.
She’s revered by the Orthodox as the one who houses the kingly ka here on Earth. She’s seen as the first servant to the Netjeru. She’s the connection between the people and the Gods, much like Jesus was seen as the Son of God and the way to Heaven and to the Father, as Christians see it (John 14.6). And much like the Pope is seen by Catholics as the leader of the faith, the Nisut is seen as the head of the Kemetic Orthodox faith.
As a person who was raised a protestant, I view the Pope as a teacher to his people and not the one and only leader of a spiritual system. As a Pagan, I view Jesus as a controversial and liberal teacher who wanted to radically change the way things were happening. As a “protestant Kemetic,” I see the Nisut as a wise teacher, but not as the leader the Orthodox see her to be.
With that being said, in all the copies of the 42 Purifications, or Negative Confessions, I like the Nisut’s translations and interpretations the best. As I work to become a better Kemetic, I am constantly reminded that if I were to die tomorrow, I would pass through the Duat to recite the negative confessions on my way to have my heart weighed against a feather of truth and justice.
Now, I view the Negative Confessions/Purifications as just that. They aren’t commandments that if they aren’t followed to the letter require an admittance of guilt followed by forgiveness of the sin done. In the Kemetic faith, there is no “original sin” or fall from grace. We were created in divine love, and that love hasn’t changed since day one. Our nature as humans isn’t seen as evil, it is seen as divine because it was given to us by the Gods.
I believe that when I die, I will go through the Duat to judgment where I will have the opportunity to be fully and completely honestly with myself about my actions in life. If I am unable to accurately say “I have not told lies,” then I will need to be able to say when I have said those lies and admit to my wrongdoings as an act of honesty and purification. When my heart is weighed, the Gods will determine the truth in my confessions and decide if I have lived a life more of ma’at or more of isfet.
As a human, I am not perfect. I make mistakes, but I own up to my mistakes by being honest with myself and those around me. To better live a life in ma’at, I believe that I need to be fully aware of the 42 purifications and work to better fulfill them here on Earth, so I try to study, pray and meditate on them as much as I can… but I fail a that many times as well.
I went through the first few purifications to pick out some of my favorites, which tend to be the ones I struggle with the most. I thought I’d share some of them here today.
Hail Strider coming from Iunu (Heliopolis), I am not doing (making) Isfet.
Hail Beaky-one, coming from Khmun (Hermopolis), I do not harbor enemies.
Hail Bast, coming forth from the shrine, I do not eat my heart.
I’ve talked about isfet in previous posts, but to summarize: isfet is the opposite of ma’at, which is truth, justice, balance and harmony. I love how purification 1 sets the tone for all the rest of the 42 because it’s the epitome of everything the purifications warn us against: don’t do evil, do good.
I also love that the purifications are written in present tense, which then makes it seem like isfet is something you are doing currently rather than something from the past. It makes me feel that so long as a person learns from their past mistakes and grows as an individual, their past transgressions will not be held against them in the next life. After all, it’s not divine forgiveness that we need, it’s forgiveness from within ourselves and those around us, so that we can make this world, our lives and the lives of those around us better.
Isfet can be tricky, and in any situation, it can change. What is good for one instance is not always good for all instances. Not every person is the same and not all people will react to every situation the same way. For example, my god-daughter was born this past week. I was very blessed to be able to be there for her mother every step of the way, from driving her and her mom to the hospital on somewhat icy roads to being in the room when a new life made it to this world.
We (and we being myself, the nurse, the doctor, my god-daughter’s father, and the mother of my god-daughter’s mom) were trying very hard to be encouraging. I’ve never helped deliver a baby before. I’ve never seen a human being born. So when the nurse directly asked me to help her in the delivery, I said yes even though I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I watched the nurse and did as she did, pressing against her leg as she pushed and encouraging her each time.
At one point two more nurses showed up in the room and also started to encourage her. We were all doing what we thought was right, but eventually our voices overwhelmed the one we were trying to help and she told us that she only wanted one person to talk, so then no one spoke. And my god-daughter was born almost immediately after. Our encouragement impeded her progress. What we thought was good was actually bad in that situation, but the end result still saw the birth of a beautiful baby girl.
Each day, we have to ask ourselves what would be “good” in the situation we find ourselves in and then we mus follow through with that. Once we have determined the “good,” we have to complete our action and then move forward.
Sometimes, what is good for us may not seem like what is good for others. Maybe you are in a relationship that isn’t healthy. Maybe you find yourself surrounded by people who are taking advantage of you. Maybe there’s someone out there who is physically or spiritually attacking you.
These are situations that are allowing isfet to grow, and to stop them, you have to get out of them. That’s where purification 3 comes in. It says that you “do not harbor enemies.” This could mean that you allow people who would do you harm to continue in your life or it could mean that you just think about them enough to influence how you act in certain situations.
Harboring enemies in your mind is to not forgive those around you for the problems they have caused. It creates a negative state of mind and also creates isfet in your life. This isn’t exactly the easiest purification to live by for many people and if you find yourself having trouble letting go of a past situation or a person would could cause you harm, my first situation is to pray and ask the Gods to help you lift your burden. I’m a huge proponent of “giving it up to the Gods.” Their ways and abilities are greater, and if we lean on Them, we will see great things happen in our lives.
Which brings me to the third and final purification that I’m going to talk about in this blog: number 13: I do not eat my heart. Now, obviously, this isn’t literal. The heart represents emotions, and “eating one’s own heart” is to destroy it. We eat to nourish ourselves, to help ourselves grow. If we eat food that is bad for us, we will destroy ourselves. If we eat food that is good for us, we will live and thrive.
To eat one’s own heart, we feed our emotions with negativity: hate, anger, jealousy, lust, revenge, (to some extent) karma. **sidenote: I say karma here because wishing negative karma on another is just as bad as wishing revenge on someone, it just “absolves” you (or so you think) of guilt, but that’s for a different blog** When we feed our heart with negativity we kill it, slowly at first but faster and faster as the negativity grows inside us.
The best, and probably hardest thing to do, is to let go of those negative emotions completely and fill your heart with love, compassion and positivity. At that point, you won’t be eating your own heart, you will be nourishing yourself in ma’at.
Being a Kemetic isn’t just following a religious dogma and believing a certain way or certain God; it is a lifestyle that helps you reach connection with the Divine and understand and connect with your own divine nature as a human. You were created in perfect love. As you live your life, you are loved by the Gods unconditionally. You are not perfect, and struggles will happen, but the love you are surrounded by doesn’t come with ultimatums. It comes with understandings.
There’s 42 purifications in total, and I’ll cover some more in another post, so look out for that in the future… as well as that post about karma…
- a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.
As a Pagan, I believe that the divine dwells in all mankind and in all life. I believe that what we lack is the realization of that, which creates a separation of our physical selves from our spiritual selves and the divine. We aren’t separated from the divine, but we might not realize that the divine is all around us at the same time. Think of the divine like the ocean. We’re the fish swimming in that ocean, sometimes aware and sometimes not aware of the water that we live in.
I’m currently reading a book called Jesus Through Pagan Eyes by Rev. Mark Townsend. This book is amazing so far, and I seriously suggest that everyone read it, whether you’re Christian or Pagan.
One of my favorite statements in this book so far is this: Townsend quotes Fr. Sean O’Laoire by saying, “[The Christian] God is the only “person” in the universe, to use an anthropomorphic term, who can’t forgive and doesn’t forgive. Because in order to forgive, He first has to hold a grudge against me and then subsequently let go of it. And since God, as the ineffable ground of being is totally incapable of holding a grudge, God is the only person who can’t forgive. Forgiveness comes from inside each other.”
The deal with dogma is that it is supposed to be laid down by a figure of authority, but who determines who that authority is? In all honesty, we are all an authority on ourselves and what we personally believe; therefore, we’re all capable of determining our own dogma.
Being from the South, I feel my spiritual dogma (that of Independent Family Reformed Kemetics) has to involve/include my stance for/against the mainstream religions and faith practices, not because I hate or am again Christianity (being the Bible Belt), but because it make it easier when explaining it to those around me who aren’t IFR Kemetics or even Pagan.
My personal beliefs are that all Deity are part of The One, so when determining what it is you believe spiritually, focus less on names and more on practice, faith, and principles. The wonderful thing about Deity is that Power hasn’t changed sine the dawn of time. Deity has loved creation from the dawn of time because Deity is Creation. You, as a human, are created (and someone can argue evolution, but I’m talking egg and sperm making a baby created, not humanity as a whole); therefore, Deity loves you. And it doesn’t matter if you know Deity’s name(s) or not, Deity will love you regardless.
Now, with that said, consider this: in order to grow, you must start somewhere. If you are looking to discover a new spiritual life, you need to consider where you come from and why that spiritual journey isn’t the one you should be on anymore. For me, and for many Pagans for that matter, it started with Christianity. Please be aware that I’m not here to dog on Christianity because I’ve reconciled my faith with Christianity and no longer hold the grudges I once did, but I am here to explain how to begin to determine your personal dogma and it starts by examining your past.
My past is from a very Christian upbringing in the Presbyterian Church. My family and I believed that God had a chosen people and those were the Presbyterians. Everything in your life was already written, and you were simply fulfilling God’s plan as long as you stayed on the righteous path.
So when I came away from that I wasn’t one of those that fell away from faith, I was simply labeled as not being “one of the lucky chosen.”
There’s plenty of Biblical evidence to support this type of thinking as well as there being other Gods and Goddesses that are worthy of worship. Religious pluralism wasn’t some foreign concept and the “Gods of your ancestors” weren’t Satanic like they’re labelled today, but that’s definitely something I want to write about in a different blog.
When I’m thinking about what my dogma is as an IFR Kemetic, I think of it first in terms of how my beliefs now compare and contrast with my past Christianity and then expand on it in a purely IFR Kemetic way.
So I’ll answer some questions that relate to my past and expand on them:
1) What/Who is God?
What most people thing of as “God” is what I call the Higher Power or in Kemetic terms, Netjer. But Netjer isn’t exactly a power that is comprehensible by humans. Netjer is in everything, around everything, beyond everything. Netjer dwells inside and outside all. Netjer is the life force, the connection to the cosmos, the binding existence of life. Netjer is creation, love, acceptance. But, as humans, we cannot fully understand what this means and who/what Netjer is, so then we have the Netjeru.
The Netjeru are the faces of Netjer, and there are many faces. Commonly in Kemetic faith, there are the Egyptian Faces of God, but all faces of God are part of the One. In this, I include the Christian God. What this means is that when I kneel to pray to Ubasti or Ma’at or Anpu or Bes, I pray to the same life-giving-love-force that Christians pray to when they kneel to God.
2) What’s your thoughts on Jesus?
I believe that Jesus, the man, existed. I believe he came and taught a radical message to the Jewish people that God didn’t exist solely in the temples, that He was accessible to all people, that He dwelled in all people. He went out and broke bread with people deemed unworthy by those in charge. He angered both religious and secular authority who didn’t believe the same way that he did. I believe the he was a Son of God just as every human and living creature on this planet is a Son or Daughter of God. I don’t believe that he is my savior, someone to pray to and welcome into my life so that I can be forgiven of my sins and wrongdoings by God. And I believe this for a few reasons: 1) I don’t believe that was the message he taught to begin with. 2) I don’t believe that I need to be forgiven my “sins” and 3) I don’t believe in sin.
I’ll address number one in a different blog, but the skinny on two: If I do something wrong or stray from the path, I come back and say that I’m sorry and the response I get from Deity is this: There’s no reason to apologize because I’m not angry or upset with you. There’s no reason to apologize because there’s nothing to forgive. You are where you need to be, and that’s all that matters.
3) What do you believe about sin?
The simple answer is: I don’t believe in sin, as most people define it. As a Kemetic, I believe in upholding the principles of ma’at as set for in the 42 Negative Confessions. They’re kind of like the ten commandments, but forty-two of them. This isn’t my favorite translation of them, but it gives you an idea. By living by these principles, one upholds ma’at, the concept of truth, justice, order, and balance. When we uphold ma’at, we feed the Netjeru and sustain them with our actions. We glorify them in our behavior and how we treat the world.
When we don’t live in ma’at, we are creating or doing isfet, which could be considered “sin” but isn’t really. This site says it best, “Isfet is the force that negates your existence.” It’s not chaos or destruction because those lead to a renewal. Death leads to birth in all cases: we live because other life dies (the plants and animals we eat) other life continues on because we die (our bodies decay and get used by decomposers to sustain future generations of organisms). But a force that negates your existence might be difficult to really wrap your head around, which is why there’s actually a lot of ways to define isfet. Isfet, depending on who you talk to, can mean “uncreation,” but it can also be as simple as “the opposite of Ma’at” or whatever harms creation. I’ve seen people say whatever impedes ma’at.
If ma’at represents the actions that support creation, then isfet represents the actions that support uncreation. If we live in ma’at, our actions support creation and feed the Netjeru. If we do not live in ma’at, we live in isfet, and our actions support uncreation and feed
Apep. Ma’at is determined by the 42 negative confessions and a close watch on our personal well being and the well being of those around you. I’ve seen people say that living in ma’at is like living in a society as “do unto others how they do unto you” or “an eye for an eye,” but I disagree with that.
Negativity hurts your health and well being, so I feel that if we respond to others negative actions against us with negative actions back at them (the eye for an eye bit), we introduce negativity into our personal well being, thereby hurting us and creating isfet. Sin is defined as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” In Kemeticism, a transgression isn’t necessarily against divine law as much as it creates isfet into your life. You aren’t against the Netjeru, you’re for
Apep, the Uncreated One who’s name is best not invoked through speech.
(This isn’t something that easy, and it’s definitely something I struggle and work with on a regular basis.)
4) What do you believe about Satan?
I believe in one Higher Power with many faces. I believe that we are all children of this higher power and that the divine spark of life lives within us all. I believe that we feed that spark by living a life in ma’at and shunning isfet. By not living in ma’at, we create and live in isfet, which feeds the Uncreated One,
Apep. Now, here’s the thing about the Uncreated One: it’s not like the Satan of Christianity.
Satan in the Bible is referred to multiple times throughout the New Testament as the tempter. He tempts people to sin. The Uncreated One isn’t simply trying to test your faith and get you to fall into a state of rebellion. Satan tries to destroy the good in the world and replace it with the bad. The Uncreated One tries to destroy the good and the bad in the universe.
Ma’at is balance. Balance contains both the good and the bad in the universe. The chaos and death we see allows space for new creation.
Apep doesn’t want new creation. In fact, Apep wants creation to simply not exist. Not now. Not ever. The Uncreated One was never worshiped, only worshiped against. The rituals surrounding Apep were to banish it as to prevent it from destroying all of creation. Apep, it is said, was created accidentally at the time of creation of the universe. When all creation occurred, uncreation happened as a response. Creation includes positive and negative within its balance, so uncreation lies somewhere outside of that.
5) What are your thoughts on forgiveness?
A few months ago, my roommate and I had some issues. Erin and I were having a hard time. We were busy and stressed, and the house cleaning slacked off. My roommate wasn’t feeling well and was going through a lot of stuff herself. All of us weren’t in a good place. There was some conflict. This past weekend, I called her to talk about some stuff that had come up. I wanted to hear her opinion or her side of things, even though I was fairly certain I already knew. After we talked, she apologized for how she acted the past few months, and I said, “There’s no reason to apologize. We both weren’t in good places, and I don’t hold any hard feelings against you. I understand that things just weren’t right.”
Forgiveness is “the action or process of a readiness or willingness to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” To gain forgiveness, there has be an offense (sin) that someone feels resent or angry about. Then there has to be an act of letting go of that anger or resent to gain back a feeling of peace and oneness.
An apology isn’t so much asking for forgiveness as it is to recognize that you have done something wrong, admitting to doing that something wrong, and then telling someone what you did and explaining that you won’t or will try not to do it again. Forgiveness, then, becomes the act of the other person letting go of the anger they feel towards the transgressor for the transgression.
I don’t believe in divine forgiveness because I don’t believe in divine anger or resentment.
At one point in time, humanity turned away from the Netjeru and planned to overthrow Them. Ra got angry and sent HetHert in the form of Sekhmet to punish humanity. Once He sees that She may destroy humanity completely, He gets her to stop and to prevent Himself from unleashing His anger on His creation that He loves, He distances Himself from the physical plane of Earth. If you’d like a more detailed explanation of the story, go here. Ra recognized His error and took responsibility for His actions and determined to not let it happen again. And Ra’s love for us is never-ending. Even if we choose not to worship or believe in the Netjeru, They will love us anyway. When we mess up, They still love us.
Forgiveness isn’t something I ever need or ever get because the love of my Gods is so great that they never feel anger or resentment towards me for my actions. When I mess up or commit isfet, it is my responsibility to recognize my actions as negative, apologize as a public announcement that I have done something wrong and correct them. I don’t need forgiveness because the Gods aren’t angry. They’re actually glad and happy that I’ve come back and recognized the errors of my ways, but they’re love is so great that they were never once angry at me for my wrongs, so they don’t have a reason to forgive.
I’ve believed this for so long that when I read the earlier quote in Jesus Through Pagan Eyes, it felt so absolutely wonderful to see that I wasn’t the only one (or that Pagans weren’t the only ones) that believed and felt that way.
This gives you an idea about the principles behind my belief, my dogma. As a teacher, I’m taught to discover what the students already know and then build on that knowledge with new experiences and new information.
As a spiritual seeker, you can do the same thing on your journey. Look to your past. Think about what you were already taught. Think about the dogma of that past spiritual path. Then, sit down and really examine your past experiences with that dogma. Determine if there are parts about that dogma that don’t necessarily fit with the experiences that you’ve had.
For me, my past and my experiences showed me the parts of the dogma of my past that didn’t add up to what I knew to be true from my life. I experienced the divine in a way that Christian doctrine didn’t fully form to. When I analyzed the differences, it led me away from Christianity and towards my new path, Kemeticism. I determined that remaining on the path I was on would compromise my spirit, so I left it.
Now that I’m older, I don’t deny Jesus as a great teacher and spiritual leader, but I don’t believe he is any more a son of God than I am a daughter of God, and I definitely don’t believe he is my savior because I don’t see that there’s anything that I need to be saved from. I am a blessed child of the Netjeru who strives to live in ma’at and shun isfet.
When you’re on your own journey, I challenge you to think critically about your past to best determine your path for the future. If you’re seeking guidance, pray. If you’re seeking dogma, think critically. And above all, have patience. All will be revealed in time.