Not All Polytheists

The Twisted Rope

This past weekend I noticed a thread on tumblr circulating about a new post over on Gods & Radicals about extreme-Right politics and it’s appearance in Paganism/polytheism. When I first saw the thread, I skimmed through the post, shrugged my shoulders and moved on. To me, there wasn’t anything particularly earth-shattering written in said post. It discusses some of the hallmarks of authoritarianism, and how it can manifest in people’s ideals, and then goes over some people and groups that have been shown to have these ideals and/or purport them. It then discusses how the New Right might be influencing certain groups, which groups are possibly more at risk than others, and then discusses some ways to (possibly) combat Fascism in our communities.

I don’t know that I agree with all aspects of the post and I don’t know that I would have written about the topic in the…

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Being a Pagan of Color- Cultural Appropriation in Kemeticism

Hi ladies and gents and those in between, I’m back! For a while I’ve been trying to figure out this thing called life and religion, so my blog has run quiet for a while now. I’ll try and be more up to date, but I make no promises. I got this idea today to write about being a Pagan of Color, specifically a Black Pagan, since that is my primary identification and experience. If you have any suggestions for posts, feel free to ask and I will get back to you.

Today, however, I specifically wanted to talk about this accusation of cultural appropriation in Kemeticism. I really hate white people telling me what to do, but I hate it even more when they ignore my existence. See, in the community, especially on Tumblr, it seems like we have at least one person trolling some newbie Kemetic’s blog and telling them they’re racist and appropriating because they’re white. Or rather, because it’s assumed they’re white and that only white people are trying to be Kemetic. Um, no, for one thing I and many other black people exist in this community thanks.

Second, you can’t culturally appropriate from Ancient Egypt (modern Egypt, on the other hand, is a different story). Here’s why: first, Ancient Egypt was an open culture. They were so open a jumbo jet cargo plane could do loop-de-loops through it and not hit a closed door. Any closed doors were closed for reasons other than what culture you were from (like educational level). Second, Ancient Egypt didn’t have a modern concept of race. You were either foreign or you weren’t, and if you did the legal citizenship thing you were Egyptian. Sometimes you didn’t even need to do that, just assimilate enough of the culture and bam, Egyptian.

Let me just pause to make a particular point. The Ancient Egyptians were not black. Technically speaking, no one born and/or raised in Africa is black. They’re African. This is a very important distinction and the terms African and Black are NOT interchangeable. I am Black, I am not African. I will never be African and will always be black. My family tree stops at plantations and native tribes, with two branches reaching into the Philippines and Germany. I will never know my African heritage or anything about those ancestors, that is the legacy of slavery. I have been severed from that continent and can never connect with it again, not as an African, not even as a black person. What would I connect with? How? Africans may experience racism when they move to America, but they are not black. Their experience with racism and blackness is separate. They and their families didn’t go through slavery and the stripping of their culture and history, at least not at the hands of American slavekeepers. They cannot connect with Black culture the same way. Further, Africa has thousands of cultures and identities within it, you erase those when you equate Africans with Black people, just the same as you erase the heritage of Black people when you call them African. This is why most Blacks call themselves such, instead of African-American. If you meet an African immigrant or the children of said immigrants, you had better mind yourself and ask them what country/tribe/identity they hold and call them that. Do not insult them and erase their heritage by calling them Black. You’re proud of your Italian or Irish selves, they’re proud of their Yoruban, Eritrean or Nigerian, etc selves.

But the Ancient Egyptians were not black. Besides the fact they didn’t have the same concept of race, genetic studies have shown that they weren’t very different from modern Egyptians, who are Arabic and Semitic and otherwise Mediterranean. During ancient times, they were considerably mixed, due to their open culture and imperialistic ways (kind of like America, we’re a melting pot partly because we keep invading other countries and forcing them to assimilate our culture) as well as their relations with Nubia, parts of Europe, the Ancient Near East and parts of the Middle East. On the by and large though, they were Arabic and Semitic, just like they are now. Claiming cultural appropriation on these grounds is just ludicrous. They wanted their culture spread and weren’t black, no matter what Afrocentrists say (newsflash Afrocentric people, you’re not actually afrocentric you’re just obsessed with Egypt. There are thousands of supremely awesome cultures, both ancient and modern, in Africa that actually had what we would today consider of African descent, like Nubia, just to start with. You’re trying to erase history and a modern culture, and take something that was never yours, while ignoring and erasing the rest of the continent. Knock it off. Look up Shaka Zulu or something).

Next, Ancient Egypt is a DEAD culture and DEAD religion. It would be one thing if some part of the culture or religion was still alive, being used by modern descendants, but the culture died out in its entirety and was replaced. Extinct cultures are more eligible for use by modern people of all stripes. Further, the people of Ancient Egypt were not subject to modern issues of racism, oppression, imperialism and colonialism. It isn’t stealing and spitting in their faces, treating them and their culture like a commodity, a shiny thing, a unique thing to be used like paint to spruce up your life or be special. It isn’t ignoring their protests, their history, their suffering, it isn’t exercising privilege and disrespecting and discarding what they have to say and how they feel about their culture, or how their culture is viewed and used. It isn’t stereotyping and simplification, it isn’t stripping their identity down to a couple points and wearing it like makeup. Especially since their culture was open and imperialistic, meaning they wanted it to spread.

Lastly, there are black Kemetics! There are Kemetics of other races! It ain’t just white people looking for some shiny thing they can stick their hands in. It is true that we have some white members of the community who are racist and act grossly, but on the by and large white co-religionists do their damndest to be respectful and socially aware.

I’d also like to make a comment on this accusation that we’re disrespectful to our gods because of the Kemetic Fandom. Mind. Yo damn. Business. We don’t have hubris in Kemeticism. Our gods can defend themselves. And have you seen the Ancient Egyptians? They put puns in their hymns and prayers. They literally threatened the gods. They bribed them and identified as them for spellwork. They would identify each part of their body as a god to be even more powerful. Dick jokes are everywhere. They drew porn on walls for fuck’s sake. They were banned from practicing law in Roman courts because they weren’t serious enough and made too many jokes. Leave us the fuck alone and mind your fucking business. Why don’t you focus on your own divine relationships and religious practice instead of wasting your time trying to boss us around? Keep in mind that just because you see a lot of jokes doesn’t mean we’re not serious behind the scenes, or that we don’t take our gods and religion seriously. We do, but we’re not obligated to show that to you or tell you about it, especially when you barge in bossing us around according to your standards and disrespecting us and treating us poorly. You aren’t the be all, end all of religions and piety. You don’t have a right to define anyone’s practice or judge whether someone is “serious enough”. Handle your own business and we’ll handle ours.

So that’s my take. Questions, comments and concerns are welcome, and if you have suggestions for other topics (keep in mind that I am primarily black and will not write about other races and their struggles as pagans, nor will I comment on lgbt issues as a straight passing bisexual) say so!

 

Spirit Work & Mental Illness

The Twisted Rope

Alternate title: Quit romanticizing my illness.
Alternate title #2: Quit demonizing my treatment.

Every so often I will see little flare-ups in the pagan community that center on two fairly unrelated topics: spirit work and mental illness. Don’t get me wrong, these topics can be related, but they aren’t necessarily related, though many people try to make them out to be. I’m sure many of you have seen articles like this and this that go on and on about how we’re killing our spirit workers because they have mental illness and are not handling it “properly”. And if we’d only just learn how to “properly” handle these “gifts” that we’ve been bestowed, we’d suddenly find that our problems would poof out of existence.

Being a spirit worker myself, I read these posts and feel my jaw clench shut as I find rage welling up in my stomach. These posts are…

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Empty Pill Bottles Desperately Needed (Take your meds & help others!)

ginger ail

Pill bottles: they are those translucent orange soldiers that pile up all around us… in our drawers, bags, cabinets… sometimes I wonder – if I had saved every empty pill bottle since I got sick, what would that look like?
Mountains of Pill Bottles
One of the things I have always hated the most about being sick, is you often need more help than you can give.  That’s not always true, but there are definitely days or weeks like that for even the most functioning among us.  I see those specials on tv and think: I want to build a Habitat for Humanity house or dig wells in Africa (this might be a late night, insomnia induced thought but the general sentiment still stands).

Neither of those will be happening in my lifetime, but that’s okay.  There really are other things we can do, all of us, to help other people no matter how…

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Fallow Time: Idleness Is a Virtue

GODS & RADICALS

Work is a very human concept. If the animals related closest to us are acquainted with its tedium, it is because they are domesticated by us and forced to aid us in our endeavours. Other mammals tend to take shortcuts through life. If their needs can be met by doing the bare minimum, they will, anyone who has ever had a pet will agree. It is highly likely we lived in much the same way for most of our history. Even though our lives were short, and harsh, a nomadic hunter gatherer lifestyle would guarantee ages of empty time. Time must have seemed as abundant as the vast landscape that surrounded us. There hardly was an elsewhere to think of, and as a consequence, people must have lived fully present in the here and now, eating, hunting and sleeping in accordance with the demands of their body and their environment…

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People > Gods

The Twisted Rope

I remember seeing posts a year or two ago from various Piety Posse members who were attempting to draw proverbial lines in the sand. In these posts, they stated that they didn’t want certain people in their religion. Mainly, these people would be those who didn’t honor the gods in a certain way. People who didn’t give the offerings they deemed proper. People who didn’t practice their religion in exactly the same way that these people believed to be “fit”.

It is funny that we draw our lines in the sand over offerings. Over shrine adornments. Over UPG and personal interpretations of myths. We draw lines over things that are personal aspects of each person’s religious practice, and are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

We are okay with drawing lines in the sand over people who we deem as being disrespectful to the gods. But we…

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Frustration

I’m very frustrated right now. My health is back and forth rather constantly the last month. I’m not even sure what it could be anymore, although currently MS fits the bill best. Sometimes though, I do wonder if it’s all in my head. Is that such a bad thing? No, not necessarily, but if it isn’t and I ignore it, well that’s a bad thing. My symptoms mostly just don’t add up, or they wax and wane so erratically that I can’t necessarily make heads or tails of them. What’s important? What’s just random? Will this particular symptom stay? Is this a product of insomnia, or albuterol, heat or just because I’m thinking about it? For example, increased heart rate, blood pressure and trembling, albuterol side effects that I’ve had before and readily recognize. Sometimes though, they’re there anyway, even though I haven’t used my inhaler or had any caffeine. Even then, my shaking isn’t usually this bad unless I used my nebulizer, and I haven’t used that thing in literally two years. It actually needs to be replaced. So why is it so much more intense lately? I don’t know.

Then there’s this whole religion thing. I’ve been too tired or sick lately to really get much of anything from anyone. I wish it would rain, I’ve been having a hell of a lot more clarity and calm when it’s rained ever since I started trying to connect more with the weather and water as a whole. I’m also reminding myself that one can be Kemetic without the gods, not that I necessarily want to be godless. I’ve spent several mornings greeting Heqat and Qebechet, because why not? One is my good friend’s “grandmother” and the other is one I’ve always been interested in. Maybe I’ll just surround myself with ladies, because I also thought of Serket. It makes me think of an old dream where four or five goddesses were watching me walk through a corridor. They were observing me like scientists, but also guiding me.

Earlier in the month, I had a dream about carnelian beads, a prayer necklace with a pendulum at the end. I have no idea what the thing as a whole means, but certainly not with the pendulum. I own a pendulum, but it’s quartz, not copper or gold (could have been bronze, it was yellow-y and metal, I dunno) like the dream necklace. There were also statues of a fox, wolf and Anpu. His statue wasn’t the focus, and it was above my head, something important to me because, as a short person, I’m more likely to look down for something than up. I often find things on a lower shelf than taller people and look under things first. They often see things over my head. Basically, it means he’s staying out of the way, where I won’t see him. I only just now thought of this because I was remembering grocery shopping this weekend and completely missing things I was looking for because they were on a top shelf. The fox and wolf statues though, they were just above eye level, where I frequently look for things. They were warped, but the fox was smiling. Zolfyer’s fox promised me help if I was her liaison to him. I haven’t taken her up on the offer.

I honestly feel more receptivity from the goddesses. Perhaps I needed to go through all this frustration and such. I dunno, but this morning I reached out and got Aset. Quite clearly at that. Really, I was poking at Anpu, asking what was I supposed to do now, was I supposed to move on, are you listening? I kinda blew it off, wondering if anyone would listen to me. Low and behold, a familiar feeling, and then Aset. “I’ll listen to you.” Devo made a suggestion when I told her about my dream with the prayer beads/pendulum (which also included my mother telling me she had the same beads, showing me the carnelian string that was twice as long as my actual prayer beads) that I sit with them and see what impressions I get. I haven’t really had the energy or concentration, and I’ll admit that I was rather jaded and ticked off too, but recently I did and I couldn’t quite figure out who or what it was. It felt familiar, and definitely feminine, insistent too, but at the time I was very distracted and exhausted. So, who knows. Another dream comes to mind, a scene of Aset arguing with Anpu about his plans and walking away crying. Perhaps she was upset at his plan to teach me to be self-reliant and look for what I really want and what can genuinely work for me, even if it’s hard and annoying and incredibly frustrating. Even if it makes me feel abandoned.

So many perhaps’ and possibilities. So much frustration.