I taught myself to live simply

Source: I taught myself to live simply

Possible posts, a Neopagan/Earth-centered grad student support community, and the lack of time to do it all

I have a few posts I’d like to make…

One about how I’ve been looking into atheopaganism, naturalistic paganism, and exploring my thoughts on theism and agnosticism in general.

One on change and self-transformation, a lesson given by chlorophyll and autumn, regarding how leaves that change color aren’t leaves that die but trees that adapt.

One on mindfulness and anxiety.

Another on how my practicing is changing in a really, really good way…how I’m finally blending my love/reverence for nature with my Kemetic paganism in a way that is meaningful to me.

One on how I am learning to be myself at a time when my sense of self is challenged.

Another on how my spirituality, loved ones, and honestly counseling are helping me to navigate the changes grad school and love are making in my life.

But…that grad school thing is an awful time-sucker. I thought many times about starting an online group for grad students who also practice a neo-pagan and/or earth-based spirituality. It can be hard to branch out from the people you see at the office…because you spend that much time there. I know a woman who is also Kemetic who lives just an hour away. She and her husband are the sweetest people…when I moved up here, they truly and generously extended their welcome and kindness. But I struggle to find time to clean my house, speak to my relatives, and engage in self-care. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I haven’t had more time to visit her. But, due to the internet, we can keep in touch via other online groups.

Its not that I need the support for spiritual reasons. Its just nice to have others with similar spiritual outlooks who are also in a similar spot in life. Grad school is one experience that can challenge you in a lot of ways, and its good to have a few support systems. In some ways, academia is its own, strange sub-culture. You learn about your field and who you are…and that can challenge the structures you’ve built in your head. Its good to talk about that cognitive dissonance…or at least have the resources to straighten it out. The internet is a blessing, because if used properly, you can pull a truly diverse group of people together who share a common interest or two and a few shared experiences.

I’m not sure there are enough people who would desire such a group. It makes me wonder if there is enough “demand” for it…because without that diverse sample, there’s little point, eh?

Day of the Dead Meditation: “Spirits” by Birago Diop

Originally posted on Humanistic Paganism:

Listen to Things
More often than Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the sighs of the bush;
This is the ancestors breathing.

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The Powers of an Atheopagan

Originally posted on Atheopaganism:

They aren’t gods.

They aren’t self-aware, and thus have no agency. They don’t communicate.

They simply are. Irrefutably.

And they are not “worshiped”. They have no egos with which to soak up adulation.

They are here. They are real. They are honored, revered, contemplated with humility and wonder.

They are the Powers of this world.

Earth. Sky. Sun. Moon. River. Ocean. Mountain. Desert. Forest. 

Yes, we Atheopagans can speak to these. We can tip our heads forward to rest upon the cool rock, or plunge shrieking into the cold water or climb to the airy summit, knowing we are small and temporary and they are…well, also temporary, but large, and well out of our time scale. Knowing that in doing these things, we are communing with the vast, the practically eternal, the capital-T Truths of life on Planet Earth. We find revelation in encounters with the Powers: wisdom, humility, poetry…

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Piety, Relationships, and What-if-I-make-it-all-up

Yesterday, I posted about whether the rewards of religion extend past what the gods can give us. 

And while I answered my own question…some things still weighed on my mind.

The one thing I am thinking of at the moment is whether piety/devotion puts you in the favor of a particular god. I said that I didn’t think this was fair. But. But.

In many ways, I see the relationships others have with their deities to be very reflective of human relationships. They wax and wane. There are times of distance and times of intimacy. Some deities take time to “get to know”; they want to see serious commitment before they really reach out. Others seem to embrace anyone at any time. There are those that are in your “inner circle”, and those that are periphery (like the girl at work you only ever see when you go to pick up your paycheck because neither of you have direct deposit yet).

In human relationships, people vary with respect to how readily they offer help. Some will give more freely of their resources, others are very selfish. And yet, unless people are at one extreme (Siddhartha Gautama, who gave away all of his possessions to mark the start of his journey to enlightenment) or another (Ebenezer Scrooge), I don’t really bat an eye over their decisions. They have their reasons for giving or withholding, and though I might not agree, their aid is theirs alone to distribute. Wouldn’t this same kindness, the right to distribute one’s possessions as one sees fit, be due to the Netjeru as well?

A pivotal question at this point is: Do human-netjer relationships have the aforementioned variations because this is the way the Netjeru actually operate, or because humans merely perceive them that way? In other words, Do humans influence the perception of the relationship so much that we actually dictate how hard-to-know/generous/interactive deities are? Or are the Netjeru really as “human” as we are?

For example…Let’s say John is a very passive, conflict-avoidant guy with low self-esteem and a reserved (but still healthy) libido. John is the antithesis of Set in a couple ways, and thus this lack of “commonality” may make it hard for John to establish a relationship with Set, even if he wants to. Set (or any deity) may (hypothetically) kick off every relationship with the same amount of openness…but the roadblocks stopping John from cultivating a relationship with Set dictate how easily this openness is perceived (much like if John met a super-sexual, confident, in-your-face human in real life).  (Forgive me if the example isn’t perfect).

A different example may be: there is a “cultural understanding” in some forums that Aset is a “tough love” kinda gal. Jarrel, who is coming to know Aset, becomes aware of this collective mental model. He also begins to notice that his relationship with Aset is of the “tough-love” sort (confirmation bias, yo).  In both cases, our human tendencies set the tone for our relationships with the Netjeru. The traits we give the gods shape our perceptions of and relationships with the Netjeru (one could take a very atheistic/agnostic view and assert that the Netjeru are entirely manufactured by us, anyway, and thus have very few if any characteristics we don’t give them).

In these cases, human-netjeru relationships mirror human-human relationships because its all we know how to do…humans can only go so far out of the “human box”, and the Netjeru may have to meet us half-way.

But what if this ISN’T the case? What is the gods really DO vary in how they interact with people (i.e. different Netjeru behave differently from each other, and Netjeru behave differently towards humans)? What if we aren’t perceiving these differences, but they actually exist? But most importantly…Does this absolute truth really matter, since all we can ever know is what we can perceive? In which case, the Netjeru interact differently with different people.

From these thoughts, the following key points arise:
(1) People have different relationships to different deities, and vice versa.
(2) Human-netjer relationships can mirror human-human relationships
(3) Humans vary in how selective they are in sharing their resources.
(4) The relationship a human has with the would-be recipient influences if and how much they will give.

**EDIT: I have to stop here to clarify something. When I say that someone is a recipient, I do not mean they receive physical things. I personally don’t think the gods can do much on that front. I’m speaking more to psychological things…awareness, insight, that sort of stuff. **

So, if human-netjer relationships mirror human-human relationships, wouldn’t the Netjeru be selective in their giving?

Which takes us back to piety (finally, right?). Those who have a more “devout” relationship may be more likely to to have more intimate relationships with the Netjeru, which would, for one reason or another, afford them a stronger connection and possibly more resources (whatever they may be) from that Netjeru.  The intimacy of the relationship may afford some the same benefits the intimacies of human relationships affords us. This could be because the Netjeru act (or are perceived to act) as humans in these relationships. But that’s not the biggest reason why this intimacy affords more devout practitioners more “benefits”.  From our end (the human end), a greater intimacy can allow us to more quickly “connect” to our Netjeru.

Following this logic, the “pious” are favored, but perhaps not because the Netjeru play favorites. Maybe its just because they have more practice connecting to those things which bring them peace, wisdom, and joy? Maybe its because devotion hones certain abilities or thought patterns so that we can manifest positive changes ourselves.

Reaping What You Sow: Does Religion Reward (Even If It Doesn’t)?

*CAUTION*: As I look back over this, it seems very Christian. I come from a Catholic place and a Catholic school system and a (mostly) Catholic family…and I’m fine that my practice still has some roots in this tradition (so long as the roots nourish). I think the theme here is, “Humans seek control in a chaotic world….religion helps humans achieve this to some degree.” I think this theme can be found in many religious or spiritual paths, including paganism. But if you feel this type of content might be triggering for you, please tread with care :D

I was thinking of a church camp I attended as a kid. They taught us that by putting God first, you actually put yourself first (because you get grace and eternal life and all that jazz). In this light, piety seemed selfish: put God first, get good prizes!

So I wondered, “Would I still practice my faith (pray, meditate, give offerings) if I didn’t think I would get anything from it?”

I try not to think of offerings/piety as a bartering system. I don’t think the gods play favorites, and I don’t think it would be fair if a large amount of piety and devotion got one person into a more persuasive/lucrative position with the Netjeru as compared to someone without that relationship. I sometimes do acts of devotion to cultivate some spiritual virtue, but I don’t think I’m showered with more privileges because of that. I am not so ignorant as to fail to admit that some portion of my success stems from the many privileges I am afforded, which stem from being white and “educated” and living in a “first-world” country that allows me many freedoms and priveleges. There are definitely aspects of my life that I cannot control that contributed to my success. There are also aspects of my success that I can control. There are many things that I did (perhaps unknowingly at times) that contributed to my success. There are both things I do and do not control, things that I did or things that are simply products of society, that contributed to “how my life is turning out”.And while I am very blessed, I have bad luck, too… the Fortuna Rota always turns.

My opinion is that we do have control over our own futures…actions have consequences, and hard work, awareness, and responsibility can pay off. Even still, sometimes good or bad circumstances can happen to people regardless of the work ethic, level of awareness, or level of responsibility. Fortune or misfortune aren’t always black and white indicators of the correctness of someone’s choices. Even when they are, I don’t think its wise to live by the maxim that good or bad circumstances are a product of that person’s piety. Full transparency: Aside from the fact that I htink this maxim goes against Ma’at, I often struggle with whether or not the Netjeru can affect things outside of my own psyche (i.e. things in the world around me). Though two separate issues, they affect each other.

That being said, I am only human. There are moments when I experience such duress (or such joy) that all I can do in these moments of either fear or ecstasy is cry out to my Netjeru and ask for aid, mercy, health, laughter, their presence OR thank them for allowing me the pleasure (because even when it is of my own doing, as my accomplishments certainly are products of my own hard work, I still feel appreciation is warranted). Yet I’ve noticed that I do (unintentionally?) have a tendency to think (whether this is logical, ethical, or correct) that serving the gods, in whatever small ways I might do so, does allow me certain benefits.

I grew up in a very Catholic place, where novenas and rosaries and candles and prayers and fasting are given in an effort to win grace…and perhaps divine aid. And there’s a part of me, as illogical as it is, as unfair as it is, that feels that maybe if I do selfless acts of piety or charity, with the intention of helping someone else or myself on a particular, articulated issue…I can. That maybe these relationships (with my Netjeru) I’ve cultivated might afford me some benefit when dealing with stress or poor judgement or bad luck. That prayer and offerings and devotions over the years offer me something that can directly help in times of need. In times of true duress, I wish that this “something” is direct divine intervention… that the hand of the Netjeru can touch my situation and change it.

In times when I am more level headed and philosophical, I doubt that such a thing would occur…because in essence, it conflicts with my own belief: I don’t think the gods play favorites, and I think outcomes are the result of a myriad of causes.

Offerings, prayers, devotions…are these acts of both piety and magic? Do they direct energy and will in and of themselves? Are they a mix of spellwork and persuasion, convincing the Netjeru that a deed is worth doing while also psychologically preparing us to do mundane actions towards the same goal? Could a human even convince a Netjer of anything? (The 42 confessions and various stelae seem to say so…but that’s a tangent).

I don’t know. Part of me does feel that prayers and devotions send out energy. And part of me also feels that the Netjeru are often merciful, and that under the right circumstances, if you have cultivated a relationship with them over time, they might help you out in in whatever way they might be able. Maybe they can offer something when you show you really need it and are ready for it. Now, whether this mercy and compassion from the gods is substantiated in formal Ancient Egyptian belief…I still need to look into that. But honestly, while I don’t think they “live” to do us “small kindnesses”, I would like to think that Netjeru have some place in their hearts for us, if only because I feel they care for all of creation and we are a part of that. If anything, I feel that when we cultivate relationships with the Netjeru, we awaken a part of us (a part of our ka) that allows us to be…more aware?…which in turn allows us to gain wisdom from hardship and carry on with resolve. (*teaser alert*)

So…my Vulcan Mind tells you all that I don’t barter, but my Human Heart (or perhaps more accurately, my Freudian Id) obviously does.

So back to the original question: If the Netjeru don’t go around interfering on our behalves, would I still cultivate a relationship with them? If they couldn’t offer me anything other than the stories surrounding them and the practice I do for them, would I still practice?


The biggest thing I get out of my practice is a sense of peace which allows me to better cope with all the shit that comes my way. It’s that “awakening” or that “connection to the Netjeru” I was talking about earlier.

And that’s the bottom line for me. That’s one of the biggest goals of religion (for me). Spirituality, for me, serves the purpose of allowing me to meet my potential, be “happy” (whatever that means), and experience a sense of calm. Keeping me mindful and aware of what’s important and CALM to deal with things that are stomach-churning or anxiety-producing…that’s a huge payout. And, frankly, its probably the most important, because it affects how I can change my own situations. Even in circumstances when I am powerless, it gives me a little bit of control over the only thing I can actually ever really control…myself.

People > Gods

Source: People > Gods

I’m a Bad Kemetic.

I’m a Bad Kemetic..

There are so many times we could berate (or praise) ourselves, in faith and in our mundane lives.

But this post really puts things into perspective. I’ve always felt Ma’at was a process, something you always work towards maintaining…you don’t ever really achieve it (not for long anyways).

Reflections from Wesir: Cultivating Wisdom

As I mentioned before, I’ve been looking at particular themes on each of the epagomenal days and contemplating them in relation to my own perceptions. Last night, I thought about ways I might cultivate wisdom. I came up with 10 things I feel I should keep in mind.

1. Be self aware. This means knowing how I act, feel, and think in certain situations, as well as how my actions and words are affecting others and myself. Knowing my behavior is integral to reflecting on it.

2. Have experiences. Experiences provide me with the opportunities to gather new information about the world and ourselves. At times, experiences come easily. Opportunities and challenges present themselves when I wasn’t even looking for them. At other times, I might become “stuck in a rut”. At these times, it behooves me to seek out experiences and provide myself with fodder for growth.

3. Reflection. Its not enough to simply have experiences. Those experiences have to be thought about, particularly using self-awareness and the new things that the experience has taught. Reflection also entails meditation.

4. Honesty. Being honest with my self as well as others can often expedite understanding. I do feel that honesty should be tempered with compassion.

5. Humility. This should be balanced with confidence and self-assuredness. Remembering how small I am in the grand scheme of things, and at the same time, how connected I am to all the grand things can be uplifting and humbling. Remembering how little I know allows me to reflect on the possibilities and to check my own bias (hopefully).

6. Patience. Experience takes time to occur. And often, the lessons of experience take time to settle in. At times, those lessons may only be understood when enough maturation has occurred.

7. Courage. Because being honest and having new experiences can be scary.

8. Appreciation. Taking nothing for granted reminds me that all things are worth inquiring about, and that most things can be awe-inspiring and wisdom-bringing.

9. Being flexible while remembering your values. While some values should be the foundation of my life, even these are subject to change. Remembering to adapt, to go with the flow, and to take life as it comes is a lesson in and of itself. This can be hard when I prefer predictability and control to unforeseen obstacles…which dovetails into the next post I’ll be making.

10. “Keeping to your center”. I’m not sure how else to say it. I feel best when I’ve discovered a place of peace inside, one that remembers what is truly important, has most things in their proper perspective, and is both content and also disciplined enough to push forward. To remain tethered to this realization of calm and joy is so integral to my search for wisdom, I often wonder if it isn’t at its heart. Meditation and regular practice helps to cultivate this in my life.


What about you all? What are some ways you cultivate wisdom?

Days Upon the Year: Game plan & Attempting to cultivate wisdom

I’ve been waking early in order to celebrate the epagomenal days. Yesterday was Heru-wer’s celebration, and today was Wesir’s. I think I may post a picture on the day of Wep Ronpet. I may also type up some of my reflections from each day and post them as small “mini-posts” (compared to the diatribes I usually post). I am pretty psyched. This is the first year I have a full and planned calendar beyond Wep Ronpet, and I have an awfully nice structure going as well.

Each day consists of offerings, praise, a short song for the occasion (no…its not “Happy Birthday”…not the traditional American “Happy Birthday” anyway), and a contemplation.

Recipe for Celebration: The process for creating and completing the contemplation/meditation is as follows:
– I looked at the myths, epithets, and themes surrounding each Netjer. I came up with 4 to 6 words embodying those themes for each epagomenal day.

-Using those themes, I wrote 4 to 5 questions for each day to guide my reflections on that day. The questions invite personal development. For example, two of the themes for Heru-wer’s day were “victory” and “courage”. From these, the questions, “What do I fear?”, “What are my goals?” and “Why I will succeed anyway(what are my strengths)?” were born. These overlap with the other two themes as well. Making sure questions address multiple themes ensures that I had only 4 to 5 questions, and not 50.

-For each celebration, before eating the offerings, I meditate. I contemplate the themes. Then, I read the questions, think about them, and write the answers on small strips of paper. I placed the paper in a jar I painted a sickly green (in my head, Apep/uncreation is a sickly yellow-green and/or blueish black).

-On Wep Ronpet, I will write the “positive” things and things that give me direction (e.g. plans to overcome any negatives) on card stock. I’ll refer to them regularly during the year. I’ll rewrite the “negative” things on paper strips and put them back in the jar.

– I’ll soak the papers in a little wine in that jar, screw the lid on tight, and write the major themes from the “negatives” with a black sharpie on the outside of the jar while the paper soaks up the wine.

– The jar goes in a ziplock bag with the air squeezed out (and placed inside another bag in case any rips happen). I’ll smash the jar and its contents with a hammer. Finally, I’ll throw the whole mess away. Execration complete. Enjoy cake.

Thoughts on cultivating wisdom. Today, some of things I thought about were “How can I cultivate my own wisdom?” and “How can I be more just/live Ma’at?” I came to the conclusion that wisdom is largely a product of (a) having experiences (which may mean actively seeking out experiences), (b) being self-aware and observant during those experiences, and (c) reflecting on the experience afterwards. I don’t think its a failsafe plan, but I think its a good place to start.  After some reflection, I also concluded that a large part of justice often entails kindness. I want to collect these thoughts and make a separate post on them later, but I figured they were worth mentioning now.

Self-awareness. During both today’s and yesterday’s meditations, I realized how much the experiences in the past year have changed me and made me aware of the full extent of some of my traits (good and bad). A different environment highlights different aspects of the self that were before unseen or peripheral. While we all grow and change constantly, the next year or so of my life will possibly expedite this process, painful as it may be. And yet, I’ve come to find that this painful pushing often lends itself to an overall well-being and sense of happiness, accomplishment, and confidence.

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