Monthly Archives: January 2013

Words and Symbolism

In the beginning there was the Word. Communications, writing especially, is the ultimate priesthood. Within it we can heal, we can harm, we can convey the very contents of our souls, our dreams and aspirations. We can create, we can destroy – and they can live beyond us. The Word creates the world.

That is why the sacredness of words is so central to the Ancient Egyptian or Kemetic belief system. The ancient Egyptians held that the word was sacred. They believed that uttering the true name or ren of something or someone could either create or destroy them. You could, make or unmake if something was uttered absolutely correctly. If not, and something is misspoken? Well, we Kemtics have a saying that “the Mysteries protect themselves.” In my experience, that has been very true. The chances of disaster striking is less likely because unordered words were not and are not effective.

Behind this notion is the power of the Word. This concept, which is also a Goddess in her own right, is Ma’at. Ma’at is the right order of things, the balance of the sum total of everything. Ma’at is the moral ideal, and that which judges us in the end. There is Universal Ma’at, but there is also personal ma’at and only we can determine what that is or is not for us. Through our words and our deeds, ma’at is that which we are responsible for, each of us every moment of our lives. Every contract we sign, every promise or vow we make holds us into account for what we have done, and ultimately feeds into who we are as a person. Either we are trustworthy or untrustworthy, balanced or out of balance. It is something that is with us for every moment of our lives. As Sir Lawrence Olivier once said about life and livelihood: “Everything we do is autobiographical.”

The Goddess Maa't

This Ma’at through our words is all stored within the heart. And it is that which is, at the time of our death and in the Halls of Double Ma’ati in Amenta or the Underworld, weighed against the feather of Ma’at. This is the purpose that the Negative Confession, often mistranslated as being the 42 “Laws” of Ma’at, provides. The “confession” served a purpose. In the litany of denials of all the things we have not done to disturb not only universal ma’at but our ow. The Negative Confession was used so that your own heart would not rat you out or betray you. In antiquity, this meant the difference between joining Wasir (Osiris) and the rest of the gods in the Field of Reeds or ending up as a snack for the Ammit, and dying the second death, from which there was no return. If anything, this negative confession gives us pause to think before we act or before we speak.

It also underscores the idea that whenever we know something in our heart, we can feel it. This feeling is right in that undeniable spot. When we are stricken to our core, it is in that place where we feel it most profoundly. From there it spreads out to the rest of the body and in some extreme cases, can even strike us down where we stand. It can keep us up many a sleepless night and dog our every step during the day. We may try to drown it in drink, alcohol, drugs or any other external pleasure or inner escapism, but still it waits for the moment where it can niggle at our innards and we essentially eat ourselves via that reminding voice.

Immortality lies within our words. That is why writing is so vital for those of us who call ourselves writers. Some, like me, cling to this notion. We tear into it ravenously upon waking or even before sleeping because we know that ultimately it is what is at the very core of us. Getting those words out, whether it is by telling stories that are inside of us via fiction, non fiction, film or by some other means, it is as important to us as breathing. We do not feel right with the world or ourselves if we sit on the words that are inside of us.

In the beginning was the Word…

My own mouth came to me, and Magic was my name.

The Ancient Egyptians understood something that we moderns quite often forget. Within the pictographs of the language was also housed a deeper, unseen meaning. There are literal and symbolic meanings. Most indigenous cultures still tap into this symbolist’s viewpoint. Symbolism often can bridge the gap between literacy and illiteracy. Though literacy, as we know it today, was not as widespread in antiquity as it is now, there is always something that resonates through the world of the symbolic ‘word’ to the world of form. It is not just a primitive and simplistic superstition. It is a reality. Look at the symbol for the word life – the ankh. Ankh This has been incorporated into so much of what we know today. You don’t even have to know how to spell the word, ankh, the symbol by itself conveys several thousand years of the idea behind it. Ancient mirrors were shaped like an ankh because they reflected life. The same is true of so many other symbols. Another symbol, the eye – the window of the soul, what you serve, what sees, what bears witness, what punishes us for the wrongdoing, what protects us in the end from enemies that might wish to do us harm.

This is why, to my mind, the works of R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, his wife, Isha, and his stepdaughter, Lucie Lamy had it right. Recent offerings from Jeremy Naydler and Richard Reidy also tap into this idea using ancient symbolism along with what we know archaeologically and egyptologically. Somewhere between the ridiculous offerings of new age hucksters and the staunch, unwavering scientific certainty of liturgy that has been “proven” is something else. Between those two extremes is a middle ground where our words are felt by instinct. Of course, modern language is not nearly as complex as that of the ancients. Their words, comprised of hundreds of symbols could have as many as seventeen tenses and double and triple entandres in addition to the symbolic meaning. No wonder so few were scribes or even literate!

But all of this aside. Study and absorption are all a constant for each of us. Writing is part of that process and if we are alive and conscious, especially within this social media driven world, some of us have become determined to prattle less, write more. Within that resolution, came the newest nighttime behaviour: less awakened by nightmares, I have been awakened by insights rather than nightmares of ruin and destruction. These insights are the very things that I have hoped for. It’s the feverent wish to be given a small clue, realization or insight that are needed. As I write this, there is a small gold statue of Djehuty (Thoth), the god of Wisdom and writing watching over me. I think sometimes he must somehow just blink ant my unordered thoughts!

To my mind, I have been sitting on my words for too long. I have endless reams of what I have written either on Livejournal, PanHistoria, Dreamwidth and my various blogs. The hardest part for me is organizing it and perhaps that is where my use of Scrivener comes in. It allows me to do what needs to be done and pass it between PCs in smaller files that are more easily arranged. It’s long since time to actually do something with it.

We are surrounded by words on a nearly constant basis. We are rarely able to escape from them for any length of time and we are immersed in them to such a degree that we barely have time for our own thoughts. But perhaps thinking about the words that we write or that we utter, we can come to an understanding about how and why words were considered sacred. This is especially needed in a world where our words will undoubtedly outlive us.

BD Hunefer cropped 1

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Sarduríur’s Academic Sources Guide for the Unversed

As someone who is both immersed in academic work and writing my own book, I find it wonderful! I have also shared the link on the writer’s muses group on FB.

Shadows of the Sun

Hello once again, gentle readers! It’s your friendly neighborhood Medievalist and former Classical/Near Eastern Studies-ist Sarduríur Freydís Sverresdatter, here with some tips regarding proper sources, academic discernment, and citation. Now in a super-informal colloquial format! Huzzah!

Historical research is a major part of many Polytheist communities. Whether a Revivalist or Reconstructionist, to a lesser or greater degree, we all turn to the written word of History at one point or another. History is the backbone of all we know and understand about ourselves as literate, self-aware creatures. However, many Polytheists have not had formal University training in the professional field of History to any extent. Quite a number of Polytheists, both seasoned practitioners and “newbies” alike, feel lost in the stacks — whether they care to admit it or not — and don’t know where or how to begin to sift through the thousands of publications on any given subject.

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The Importance of Being Able to Self-Define

Recently, blogger, Star Foster, announced that she no longer defined herself as a ‘pagan’ in large part, she says, because of the community itself. Star’s announcement was met with horror by some, celebration by others, and the odd shrugs of indifference. Really, why would anyone care whether or not someone chose to call themselves a “Pagan” or a “hard polytheist” or soft- polytheist?

This sort of running away from the word ‘Pagan'” seems to be, I believe, a gut reaction to the trend to either embrace or eschew certain labels when they are applied to who we are and what we believe.. This is especially true when the labels do not seem to fit. An example I would use is the realm of Witchcraft. To some, Witchcraft, goes back to the Anglo-Saxon word, ‘wicce’, meaning ‘to bend’. This, word, courtesy of Gerald Gardener and later adherents of the religion he publicised, goes now, by the name, Wicca. There are a few very formal, specific Initiatory groups, namely Gardnerian (named after the founder and the lineage that goes straight back to Uncle Gerald) and Alexandrian, founded by Alex Sanders, who founded it, rather than after the Ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria, where some of the most ignorant of Wicca’s adherents erroneously like to claim their religion came from.

In these groups, there are specific things that are done – the casting of Circles, the worship or honouring of a Goddess and/or God, etc. It is a lovely system to those who are a part of it. It can be “pagan” or some even insist that they are Christo-Wiccans – Witches that see Jesus as the male “God” figure, and perhaps Mary Magdalene or Mary the Mother as the “Goddess” figure. That’s fine. Call yourself what you like, do as you wish. It’s all good if it works for you.

Others who practice Witchcraft, do come from family traditions which are handed down generation after generation. To them, it is a “craft”, not a religion, and is not unlike practicing herbalism, midwifery, embroidery, growing your own food, etc. In fact, many of these things may play a part in any individual’s “Craft” that have nothing to do a religious undertaking at all. They may or may not have a patron deity or saint. Some of them couch their practices well within the Christian bible and are for all outward appearances, Christian. Indeed, if you look in some of the old grimmoires, you see, several instances invoking Jesus, YHWH, the archangels, etc. in order to help effect a spell or magical undertaking. I would certainly put many British Traditional Witches under this heading who are neither Alexandrian or Gardnerian or anything other than their own insular tradition that uses whatever elements that work for them as either individuals and/or groups. They may or may not call themselves “pagan”. Again, it is all very personal and it’s all good.

The problem comes largely from those who are not a part of either of the aforementioned groups who like to assume that all Witches are “just like them”. To these, if you call yourself a Witch (Capital or lower case “w”), then you must be Wiccan. No. There are many who practice witchcraft who would be extremely upset at the ‘Wiccan’ label and there are still others that would waste no time in correcting you if you were to assume that they are pagan. They eschew the very idea, and they want no part of that definition, or the people who wield it and apply it so liberally to anyone and everyone who is not J, C, or I. It is uncertain as to whether this trend is because of the mass marketing of Wicca by authors and publishers in the effort to sell to mostly dissatisfied, do-it-yourselfers who don’t know any better than to just lump everyone together or it goes even deeper than just commercial interests. The assumption on the part of many of these types of folks is that anyone who is not Jewish, Christian or Muslim, is indeed therefore a “pagan”. Is it because of the human need to define who makes up the “Us” and who is “Them”? It is human nature to desire a sort of “assumed commaraderie” with those who are “other” or those who are “just like us”. In the end it tends to feed into victim mentality that so many cloak themselves in when they leave one of the Big Three monotheistic religions. They seem to want constant reassurance that their choice is the right one, yet never themselves being strong enough to stare down anyone who would dare put their personal beliefs under scrutiny.

Offering to Sekhmet

I am absolutely not a Pagan. I am proudly and unapologeticaly Kemetic Orthodox. That makes me a decided monolatrist, much in the same way that specific sects of Hindus are. It was Roman paganism that destroyed the religion of ancient Kemet by outlawing it because it undermined the absolute authority of the Emperor. It was the pagans of the ancient world who did not understand either the indigenous religious views or the Egyptian / Kemetic culture. Look at the discrepencies between Pharaonic Kemet and after Ptolomaic and Roman rule. It is a striking contrast.

This declaration on my part does not mean I am a henotheist, a “soft” polytheist, a “hard” polytheist or anything other than what I just said. I expect and demand that my self-definition will be honoured and that no one would have the temerity to try to correct me about it. I will accord anyone else with that same privilege. This definition means I practice the ancient Egyptian religion in a way that I interpret to be as close, or at least a derivative of what was practiced in antiquity. Thankfully, with Champollion’s deciphering of the Rosetta Stone, the improvements over the last two centuries in ancient Egyptian translation and philology, we can read the inscriptions on the actual temple walls. This more or less provides us with the “crib notes” on how it was all done. Fathoming the 400+ symbols, seventeen tenses, double, triple and even quadruple entendre’s as well as the symbolic meaning of what is being read, can be another matter, and we who practice this way of doing things do disagree quite often.

For the record, most legitimate Egyptologists, do not ever acknowledge that they honour the old gods and the ancestors, nor do they ever even remotely infer that they actually “believe in any of this stuff”. To do so, can very well be the death of a professional career. Professional scholars tend to be rather ruthless about things like that. Personally, I don’t have to worry about it. The scholarly community views folks like me with a sort of amused disdain and the unfulfilled desire to hand us a cookie, pat us on our rumps, and send us out of the room with explicit instructions to quit bothering the adults. To the academic scholars, it makes no difference that the person may have written very well researched papers and books on the subject, or even acquired the relevant degrees to call themselves an Egyptologist, or are professors in their own right. The bias against believing is quite palpably there. I personally know of many within the field who do practice, or it is obvious that they do – but in the interests of professional courtesy or self-preservation, no one breathes a word

This sort of bias can definitely backfire for them, too. Afrocentrist scholar, Professor Maulana Karenga wrote probably the most comprehensive, well-researched book on the ancient Egyptian concept of ma’at ever published. He wrote it according to Egyptology’s own rules. Karenga’s research and referencing are impeccable – there are few, if any who can find fault with his work. Personally, other than the minor detail that he does not put an accent mark between the “A’s” on, Ma’at, I am quite impressed.

What are the benefits of “pagans” – neo or otherwise, even having a community? Even by the loosest of definitions, this so-called “community” is more along the lines of a tenuous peace between tribes that tend to squabble endlessly over the most petty details. Otherwise, they’d have precious little good to say about one another at all. I saw this behaviour years ago within the Indigenous community for decades, and unless there is a concerted effort toward real respect amongst each other, then there is no “community” to speak of at all.

It all boils down to the respect of an individual to allow them to decide for themselves what they personally believe. It’s human nature to want to put the people with whom we identify under the same big tent that we are under in a sense of community. For whatever reason, for some, it is not enough that we are members of the human race, or that we are spiritual beings, but rather it has to be parsed down to a simple either / or dilemma. Either you are Pagan or Not Pagan. Either you are one of “Us” or you are one of “Them”. Respect can consist of simply being a good guest at religious ceremonies and rituals and not necessarily being a member. Respect is about shutting up and listening to how someone speaks of their beliefs without the need to apply any other descriptive other than the one that the individual or group of individuals defines for themselves. To my mind it is such a simple thing, but all too often it just gets lost in the dialogue.

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The Battle of Evermore

The profound words of a friend, that really hit home at the exact time I needed to read them.

People of Goda, the Clan of Tubal Cain

Image

“The Battle Of Evermore”

“The Queen of Light took Her bow, And then She turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom, And walked the night alone.

Oh, dance in the dark of night, Sing to the Morning Light.

The Dark Lord rides in force tonight, And time will tell us all.
Oh, throw down your plough and hoe, Rest not to lock your homes.

Side by side we wait the might of the darkest of them all.

I hear the horses’ thunder down in the valley below,
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the Eastern glow.

The apples of the valley hold, The seeds of happiness,
The ground is rich from tender care, Repay, do not forget, no, no.

Dance in the dark of night, sing to the Morning Light.”

{Copyright of Led Zeppelin}

Raging against the Machine, the heart reaches forth to all…

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