Category Archives: indigenous

God Is Not Your ‘B*tch’!

Recently the question came up in one of the discussion forums I am in as to whether or not we need Divine and vice versa.

Inevitably, we get the well-considered answers, and then we get the children who think that the profundity of the entire Universe is somehow in that precious treasure trove between their ears, and that everyone else is dying to find out what it is that the rest of humanity has somehow missed.

Does the scientific reality of photosynthesis cease if plants don’t pay attention to it or believe in it? No. It still exists. I think humans like to console themselves on the arrogant notion that somehow the Divine would be somehow gone or irrelevant without our participation in the equation.

In my not-so-humble opinion: Bullshit.

I’ve been referred to all sorts of arguments by anyone and anything from the penned opinions of the late Isaac Bonnewitz to Terry Pratchett’s books and frankly none of it has any relevance whatsoever to my personal practice or praxis on the matter. I am Kemetic; Kemetic Orthodox to be exact. I have been at this as a practitioner of the Kemetic religion in some form or another for 30+ years. I think I know by now what it is that I am doing and are pretty secure in what I believe without the compare and contrast inserted by others into the equation, thank you very much. Purity, piety and fear of Netjer is a part of Kemetic religious devotion and practice, and that exact phrase goes back to antiquity and carries a lot of weight. However, that idea is not as dogmatic as that might sound. Nature IS. Netjer IS. It will be there – as a constant. Our participation is not necessary in either case. Both Netjer and humanity get something out of the deal and I believe that love on both sides of the equation has a great deal to do with why it works to this day. That is, I know, my opinion. Y’all are entitled to your own.

Which brings me to this: The God(s) are not our bitches. Add to that the notion that He/She /They is/ are not necessarily our “buddies” either. We don’t get to haul them out and play with them like Celestial Barbies or G.I. Jove. It is not all fun, or warm or fuzzy. It is hard WORK and sometimes that is necessarily difficult and frustrating. You will probably shed tears from time to time.

Get over it.

The relationship between humans and the Divine is just that….a relationship. All relationships if they are worth a damn at all, take work on both sides or it is just superficial and has no sort of depth or intimacy to it. To really know another, be it a person or a Deity, there has to be deep levels of insight on both sides. That is the hard part.

God / the Gods (the One in the Many or the Many in the One) Netjer is/are not here as the Eternal Wish Grantor(s) to be approached only “when we need something” or to be blamed when stuff goes wrong. It fascinates me just how many people become suddenly religious when they are faced with a crisis of some sort of another. We need money, we need a Divine pep talk, we need to see what lies beyond the bend in the road and we suddenly go into “religious mode”. We light a candle, or bow our heads, or get suddenly reflective or we scream to the sky, “Why me?!” Some of us may choose to perform magical rites and do heka or authoritative utterances, demanding to get our way. Sometimes we might think that resorting to threats and having a temper tantrum to get our way is the approach. We need a sign. We need reassurance we need something, and in the darkest reaches of our hearts, we know if we just get a teeny, tiny glimmer of hope, everything will be ok.

However, just as soon as some of us get that, and the crisis is seemingly over, too many simply skip along our merry way after saying, “Thanks, God! That was mighty cool of you!” And then quickly and ever-so-conveniently forget. That is they forget until the next crisis rolls around and the whole process begins all over again.

Is this any way to live our spiritual or even our day-to-day lives? Is this any way to navigate our way through the things that keep us motivated and moving? Does this give us any real connection to the Divine or even to our deepest selves? I personally don’t believe so.

I recently read a wonderful blog post by Adam Sicinski, God Does Not Grant Wishes but rather Opportunities to Make Wishes Come True that was written almost seven years ago but I found to be both lucid and insightful. Beyond the fact that Adam did not try to ram Christian-themed belief down the throat of the reader, he rather neutral on the subject; the post contained some real gems, such as this one:

“There are so many of us out there who rely on God or an Infinite Power to heal them, to make them rich, and to make their dreams come true. What these people fail to understand is that God will not fulfill their desires. It is rather up to the person asking for these things to keep an eye out for opportunities coming their way that may possibly enable them to fulfill their needs and wants.”

Even when you practice magic, or the Craft of the Cunning folk, heka. spells or whatever you want to call it, things can go wrong. Sometimes the answer is,”No.” Or it is, “Not now.” Sometimes the things we ask for or the things we think we want are better left unfulfilled. Being prepared to take on the responsibility of the thing or situation desired is important.

I have seen far too many people, Neopagans especially, pick up specific deities or entire pantheons because they think that going to that Deity or that set of Deities will get them the results that they want. If Deity has the least little bit of intelligence that we believe that it does, do you think maybe that it is possible to determine when someone is hanging out in their shrine or making alms and prayers that the person is after something? Sincerity, or lack thereof, does have a certain air to it. Most people can discern whether or not someone likes us, or is talking to us or saying complimentary things out of sincerity, and when someone is trying to get something out of the person that they are making overtures to.

The Divine is not so insecure as to need to be flattered, or plied with copious amounts of food and drink in the guise of “offerings”. It’s not unlike the husband who takes his wife out to dinner and plies her with candy and flowers and wine and maybe even some bling in order to get something or make nice. She’s no fool. She knows that this is all a part of the negotiation for whatever it is that he is after – sex, forgiveness, telling her that they are moving to South Dakota in the middle of nowhere – whatever it is. He wants something. Or the televangelist who tells viewers to send in $100 and God will “press it down and multiply it and turn it into $1,000!” In return, that viewer gets a special “prayer cloth” made of 100% polyester, cut with pinking shears to prevent ravellng and to be kept in your wallet as a reminder of your faithful covenant with God. Why do people do that? Does it have to do with faith as much as it has to do with wanting something in return?

I am fairly certain that the Divine is smart enough to figure that sort of thing out, too.

So why do we do any of this stuff? Why do we erect shrines in our homes? Why do we make offerings, why do we even bother with all the ritual and the reflection and everything that goes with it?

Speaking only for myself and my relationship that I have with the Netjeru, I do it because I want to. I enjoy spending time in my shrine with the perceived presence of Sekhmet, or Amun, or Aset or Heka – or Melek Taus or Durga or even with my akhu (ancestors). It’s a relationship. Relationships take work. I am willing to do the work, make the effort, not just because I want something, or that I hope to get anything out of it except a clearer sense of myself and where I am going, the world and how I can be in it and assist others, not just myself. That has nothing to do with being a priestess or a retired priestess. That has everything to do with humanity needing to work with our environment, with the people and even the experiences that seem to be ordinary, and yet there are inexplicable things that are extraordinary. Power or Sekhem comes in many forms. It exists deep within us, but it also can be found in the ordinary. Seeing the power of a rainstorm or seeing the blood red sky in the morning both remind me of Set. Such a simple thing was not something I asked for, but it is no less a gift for which I am thankful. Seeing the vultures fly overhead remind me of Mut and Nekhbet. The cry of a hawk outside my door reminds me of Heru and that His Eye is always upon me. The herbs that I harvest and the power to heal with them reminds me of Sekhmet. Those are the big things in all of the “little things” that make a difference in our lives. When we remember that, what part of our lives does not, therefore, become a prayer?

The gratitude for each and every day and the countless experiences we can find to remind us that we are not alone, that we are a part of a greater whole. God is not here to grant wishes, necessarily. I do not foresee Yinepu going into the kitchen any time soon to fetch a chicken pot pie. What the Divine does do is provide us the inspiration and the sense of accomplishment in creating things for ourselves. In that, lies the true gift.

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Filed under akhu / ancestors, indigenous, mystic woo-woo, pagan

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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Filed under fiction, indigenous, kemetic, Pan Historia, writing

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I am grateful for the incredible life I have lived, but I do not think will never come to truly embrace the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Growing up of mixed heritage, Cherokee and European decent, it is easy to feel torn. Like every grade school kid, I got that bullshit story about the Puritans being shown by the Indians how to plant corn and save themselves for the bad winter. The idyllic poses of bowed Pilgrim heads and those of Indians in feathers gathered around a plank table near a log cabin, the surrounding forest, a riot of colour as if to say, that yes indee, God approved of the feast and all of the harmony and love spoken of in the Christian bible could be attained in this vast land of plenty.

Then I grew up watching the civil rights of the seventies, of Wounded Knee II, the occupation of Alcatraz Island, and the incident at the Jumping Bull Farm where two FBI agents were dead and three men, all of them Indians, were tried for their killing. Two were acquitted. Leonard Peltier got to serve out two life sentences for a crime supposedly committed where the bullets don’t match the gun.

ames like Dennis Banks, John Trudell, Russell Means, Anna Mae, and words like COINTELPRO and AIM came up regularly. It didn’t take long to listen to my brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles from the part of the family that had been separated from our branch and realize that the majority of folks eat lots of food, watch football holiday and thought little of a day in the past that had more behind it. Even as a small child, something about Thanksgiving always felt “off” to me. When I found out about the over 700 men, women and children that were slaughtered on that day, it made my heart sick. My Seneca ‘brother’ Fred jokingly referred to the holiday as “Pilgrim Welfare Day” and it stuck for me. It was a stab back at the dominant culture that made a great noise about giving thanks to God for all that they had, and yet never acknowledging how ill-gotten those gains had been achieved through the blood of ancestors.

I often get chastised and chided that I should let the past of that event die and stop trying to foist guilt upon those who obviously had nothing to do with any of it. They claim that it wasn’t their fault and pontificate that we are a nation that is grateful for all we have and choosing to have collective amnesia about many of history’s finer points. I have personally found that When the story of the true first Thanksgiving is recounted, the listener, should they be non-Indigenous, tends to get extremely uncomfortable. The accusation of just trying to be politically correct is flung out and protests ensue. Such a discussion, to their minds, is misguided and they think that your anger at how your ancestors were treated is somehow aimed at them. “Oh, no!” they cry, “My ancestors never did ANYTHING to yours! You can’t include me in all of that!” The sins of the fathers cannot now be visited on the children this far down the line. It no longer applies now. “Besides,” comes the last indignant remark, “you should be thankful we brought your murdering savage ancestors law and civilization!”

The inclusion of those who feel that they are above what happened by whatever reason,does, by the way touch on some of my own non-Indigenous ancestors as well. This inclusion is by culpability. We all are collectively responsible for how we are as a Nation. It is a Nation that has now become one that does not think of what or how consumes. We as a people tend to live in the moment. We more often buy what we want when we fancy it, choosing to put it on credit. And how we pay for these things is that we owe our existence more and more to corporate entities. Those entities which care only for their bottom line and the profit margins of the investors on Wall Street. Barely a second thought is given to environmental concerns or the Walmart worker who does not make a decent living wage and is forced to go on public assistance. The high paid executives of these same corporations grumble that they cannot provide things like healthcare benefits for them, even as consumers will elbow past fellow shoppers, squabbling over that last wide-screen television set for $198 that is only available from 11PM-12AM on the night of Thanksgiving: The L-Triptophan and starch haze from too much turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie having barely lifted its fog from their senses.

When I outwardly shudder at those who think participating in the Black Friday shopping frenzy is the highlight of the year, they think something is wrong with me. When I bemoan that the Cedar Rapids Gazette, now three inches thick and ts cover price having been tripled is all made of ads and only ten pages of “news”, I am just embittered. Of course, who can blame the Gazette, that Fisher-Price of newspapers? That they, too, should be able to take advantage of the selfish shopping habits of Americans who MUST spend their way through the holidays, shouldn’t they? Never mind that another paper will be out a mere three days later for $2.00 with many of the same glossy advertisements just overflowing with materialistic temptations for our nation of consumers. Watching all of these people salivate for Black Friday deals is like watching the modern-day equivalent of Pavlov’s Dog. It’s all conditioned behaviour, and yet if you confront these people they have no idea that they are being maneuvered and managed by the corporations to consume on command. The greatest irony of all, I think, is the fact the day most know as Black Friday, was recognized and signed into law by President George W. Bush in November of 2008 as National Native American Heritage Day.

All of us are all grateful, even in these hard economic times, particularly if we still have jobs, or we are able to keep a roof overhead, or feed ourselves without public assistance or even if we do get assistance, grateful to be alive, to have our health or that of our families. There but by the Grace of the Creator, would any of us go. And yet there is this underlying spirit of mean-spiritedness and greed that permeates even the airwaves. Mocking those on food stamps or EBT, looking down its nose on those who must take advantage of Pell Grants or student loans just to be viable in the job market. The new buzz word on Capitol Hill is “Entitlements”, as if people have a sense of entitlement to these things that they invested in via their paychecks and now the richest 2% don’t want to pay, because it just takes away from their own bottom line.

But even with all of these things that I hate about this holiday called Thanksgiving, I have witnessed first hand some wonderful testaments of the ultimate good in people. One of my regular customers at the store where I work spent over 14 hours of the previous night helping to prepare Thanksgiving at his church for a couple of hundred people who would otherwise have no Thanksgiving dinner at all. This same man brought a plate of food for those employees who were working. The bosses, a wonderful couple, would have loved to have closed the store, but their biggest consideration and worry was for their customers being able to get that last minute gallon of milk or gas to get to Grandma’s. Then there was the retired Sheriff who came in with a large plate of banana bread he had baked himself as well. So many others of my acquaintance opened their homes as well and shared what they had with those who had none.

To my mind, that is the biggest part of what our Indigenous ancestors meant when celebrating Thanksgiving. It was being thankful that we had plenty, and that those whom we love were once again near and we could share in that moment once more. I wish that I saw more press and air time given to that sort of celebration of Thanksgiving rather than to the consumerist’s stampede that inevitably comes after.

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On being a woman and why politics matters

I don’t often talk about politics. I try not to wear my beliefs or anything else like that on my sleeve or publish it on my blog. This post will be the rare exception to the rule. I hope those of you who are regular readers, especially those who re more than a little sick of all the political din will at least hear me out. It’s important, no matter who you vote for, which I personally believe should be according to one’s conscience.

Recently, in this present election cycle, there have been certain politicians who have said things about women and women’s issues that have me more than a little concerned. First we had the candidate for the Senate, Todd Akin (R-MO) make some sort of claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” What exactly is a “legitmate rape” vs. an “illegitimate” one? No one has been able to answer that one for me yet.

Then within the last couple of weeks, some other dim bulb by the name of Mourdock quips, “….I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

Seriously. What is wrong with these people? Have the last fifty years in women’s rights not taught us anything? Did our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and colleagues that bravely went before us fight for nothing? Is it really inevitable that women will never truly attain equality? Was all the progress we made in the sixties and seventies and even into the eighties with regard to civil rights for everyone in vain? Why are there still small pockets of people, mostly corporate plutocrats, who honestly believe that women, minorities and those of different sexual orientation are somehow inferior? Thank the Gods for a generation who mostly know that all the rhetoric and cited scripture or legal precedent used to discriminate against others is just flat out wrong.

I do not and cannot share the belief that any Creator of any credibility whatsoever would ever approve of the heinous crime of rape. You can couch it and rephrase it any way that you like in order to soften it, but it really boils down to an act of violence against a woman is committed. And according to these men’s’ personal religious beliefs, she should be required to give birth if she is unfortunate enough to become pregnant as a result. This of course goes to an even deeper issue that women are somehow not people, or they are of less value or violence against them can be ultimately excused or hushed up or even discounted. If a man raped another man and could potentially become pregnant, do you think the reaction to the situation would be any different?

Not on your life!

Many politicians within the GOP keep abdicating responsibility for acceptable social behaviour and passing it off onto their religious beliefs. There is a holier-than-thou false morality that seems to want to turn back the clock to the 1950’s. They acre continually trying to push for it as if somehow, if we can just manage to get the genie on women’s issues back into the bottle, then everything will be so much better socially and economically!

To that I say, “Bullshit!”

These people don’t (or won’t) ever say it out loud, but it is really quite clear that they would rather that women would mostly be back home, in front of the stove, taking care of the kids and accepting whatever hand that the men in various positions within her sphere want to deal her. Really when you look at the rhetoric that is being espoused on the campaign trail, some of it may as well have been a statement made by the Taliban. To my mind, there is really very little difference between the Talibn and what I not-so-lovingly refer to as the ‘Christoban’.

In past elections, I always made my voting decisions along the lines of the things that politicians did with regard to First Nations / Indigenous issues. It is something that I grew up with my whole life. I cut my teeth on the Mohawk Nation’s paper, Akwasasne Notes and also the Cherokee Advocate. I was reading those sorts of “radical rags” from age 9 onward. I watched what was happening then, and I remember the riots and the siege at Wounded Knee II. Seeing the perspective outside of mainstream media was deeply ingrained in me long ago. Civil rights for everyone is an issue that cuts deep within me. I am always shocked when people from my generation or in the rare instance, of those who are younger, act as if these things should somehow be up for debate. I was raised within a culture that is largely matrifocal and matrilineal. No man or woman can be Chief within the Nation without the approval of the Clan Mothers and the Grandmothers, and they can remove him or her if they feel that he or she has betrayed the People. To my mind, that is the way it should be. If we had that sort of checks and balances in place, we might not have half the issues that we do right now in the realm of politics. No doubt certain people would never hold public office!

As a woman, and a divorced, single mother, things are tough enough without some men in public office, many of whom make many times over what I have made in the last ten years, deciding whether or not I am “worthy” to be able to choose for myself what I can do with my own body, whether or not I can see to my healthcare through an organization like Planned Parenthood, who not only provide birth control, but also preventative care for women of all ages, including mammograms, pap smears, and other preventative care. As a woman I am also deeply concerned that my child, now an adult, will get to stay on my healthcare plan, and that he can finish his education and I can finish mine. I cannot fathom how in the 21st Century we are even entertaining the possibility that these same men could potentially take away many of the choices that we women have taken for granted for at least the last 30 years.

This year, when I cast my ballot. I will have made certain to take a look at the voting record on how every politician voted and introduced legislation not only for Indigenous First Nations issues, but also with regard to women’s, LGBT, student, the poor and all other forms of civil rights. I would encourage everyone, if they have a bit of time, to do at least a little research in that area and make sure the candidate of your choice really does have your best interests at heart, or if they are just conveying a message that they hope will be just enough to get them elected.

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