Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chats, Aliens, and Pyramids, oh my!

I kind of have a love-hate thing with yahoo chat. I love the opportunity to talk with many people from all over the world, I have had some good discussions, and dare say, made a few friends. I hate that it's so easy to be nasty, hateful, all big and badass from behind the keyboard, and while it increases opportunity for interesting discussion, it also increases the chances of talking with someone very ignorant or plain nuts.

Take the good with the bad, I suppose.

Today, something was brought up by another faceless name on a screen that irked me. Thing is, it wasn't the person who irked me so much, as the subject it devolved into. It's a particular pet peeve of mine, nearly always involving my beloved ancient Kemet. Ancient astronauts. Well, that's what the proponents of this "theory" call it, with such stunning academic backgrounds as a degree in sports information communications. They make shows, write books, and have people believing that beings from other planets created all kinds of ancient cultures. Because disparate cultures can't figure out that pyramid-shaped is a convenient building style for stone, or that the stars follow patterns, or figure out complex mathematics and calendars, because well, our ancestors were dumb as dirt, because they didn't have things like lattes or snuggies or Jersey Shore.

*breathes deeply for a moment*

As you can tell, this kind of thinking insults me. Are there mysteries from the ancient world we don't have a "conventional" explanation for? Sure there are. Isn't it fascinating to find out that there are some things the ancients had that we never anticipated? Very much so. What I don't buy is the jump to a conclusion that these things simply weren't possible by a culture in ancient times without visitors from space. It smacks of hubris, an assumption that without the European Enlightenment, we'd all be apes clubbing each other, so it must be aliens! I also notice that it's usually non-European cultures that get picked out for these "alien interventions," so it seems a tad racist.

We're not smarter than our ancestors. We have learned more about many things, but our brains are not significantly better, and large portions of our population, in certain ways, are dumber. Why is it so shocking that the ancients could build monuments and write calendars that related to celestial events? They didn't have television, I'm sure they looked at the night sky an awful lot.  Maybe they spent more time thinking, writing, computing, exploring, than the current world spends on facebook, twitter, and playing Angry Birds. (facebook and twitter can be used for good, don't get me wrong, but most of it is...ick.)

By no means am I saying that extraterrestrial life does not and cannot exist. I believe it most likely does. The universe is vast, and the chances of some other life form we don't know about not existing are pretty slim. We're still finding new life forms on our own planet. There is always more to learn, but some "theories" need to leave the stage. Aliens building the pyramids is just silly.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Am I done wandering?

Djehuty & Shu lure Hethert back from the desert

Would I really reject a religion that has been a joy to me these past months, based on a divination I didn't agree with? Seems childish. Yet as time passes, I'm so very convinced that Hethert in my mom. It feels like a conviction, and in the face of the caveats to not expect X netjer to even show up in the lineup, I can't shake it.
I left christianity for many reasons, but one of them that stuck with me was my dislike for authoritarian religions. For years, I never even considered letting anyone tell me who to worship, how to pray, what rituals or rites are "correct." I was often disdainful of the thought that anyone knew anything more or better about the Divine than myself. Why should I let anyone get in the way?

I seem to be changing my mind. A little. I still fully believe (and know) that I can have a direct experience with the Divine without any organization or clergy being involved. What I am learning, however, is that organizations don't have to "get in the way." In Kemetic Orthodoxy, I've found a very helpful community.
 While they don't deny the UPG and experiences of anyone, they are always available to add their wisdom, their own experience and teachings, and a structure on which to build more meaningful relationships.

I'm still nervous about my RPD, nervous that I will lose my independent spirit to an orthodoxy (that word seriously gave me the shivers when I first read it connected to my beloved Kemet), but it is waning. I think there will always be that free, rebellious part of me - yet I'm finding that having a framework for practice and belief is helping me at this point, and not hindering me. And that's the most important part, isn't it?

Would I leave if Hethert didn't show up in my lineup? I don't know. I know that it wouldn't stop me from being devoted to Her. It might be something to learn from (but I think every RPD should be a learning experience, if I understand it correctly). I have high hopes for my experience within KO, so I shall have to see what will happen.

I am excited, however.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Make a Soulful Noise

Arveyda was experiencing something amazing as he sat over the stones, beginning to strum his guitar. He knew, he finally knew, why he was capable of falling in love so easily, even with his own wife's mother. It was because he was a musician, and an artist. Artists, he now understood, were simply messengers. On them fell the responsibility for uniting the world. An awesome task, but he felt up to it, in his own life. His faith must be that the pain he brought to others and to himself - so poorly concealed in the information delivered - would lead not to destruction, but to transformation. 
-Alice Walker, The Temple of my Familiar

I couldn't imagine a spiritual life without music. I honestly don't think it's possible - every faith has their sacred music. There are differences on what is considered sacred, but I think whatever speaks to the human condition has a potential to be sacred. I remember a religious studies professor telling the class that the closest that the modern world gets to the kind of ecstatic mystery religion rites of ancient Greece are rock concerts. With events like Bonnaroo and Burning Man, this theory makes a lot of sense.
I usually include some kind of music with my shrine time, and a good bit of it is what some would consider "secular." I tend not to make those distinctions. That's not to say that I find any music at all spiritually moving, but I don't think an artist has to declare themselves a religious musician for their work to move my spirit. My "Temple" playlist range over many artists and genres. Depending on the deity I'm working with, it can vary even more.
Here is one of my favorite "temple" artists, with one of the best spiritual offerings I've heard in a long time.

"Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together."
-Anaïs Nin

Gotta put some feet up under these prayers!

Courtesy of the Shamanic Cheerleaders

In my discussions about my spirituality, or politics, or the state of the world, some people claim you "just have to pray to God." Now, I would never disparage prayer, since it's something I do, just mostly not to the deity that most people around me talk about. Then there are the materialist atheists, who scoff at all prayers, and say it's only a way to feel like you're doing something when you're doing nothing.

I tend to fall in the middle. While I fully believe in the power of words, I do see that following through with action is the best thing to do in a situation. Prayer, to me, is a conversation with the soul, or even larger powers, where actions may be worked out.

Apparently, I'm not alone in this idea. I recently watched a film three times that is all about this very concept. It is Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action, by Velcrow Ripper. It is a gorgeous film, but I won't say that it's easy to watch. It is heartbreaking at times, but it is honest, soulful, and amazing. Not only does it feature such luminaries as Thich Nhat Hanh and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but one of my favorite modern, lovely, glittered and rose petal covered fire eating angels, Sera Beak. She's a self-described spiritual cowgirl, a lovely writer, and every woman should read her stuff. In my opinion.

In any case, this film makes me want to get a heart chakra tattoo on my breastbone and storm city hall - I want to travel to Africa, plant millet, and dance to their drums, and ingest iboga root. I want to weep and then build schools for girls in Afghanistan. 

I value heka, but I still believe one must act to make this world a better place. And I think the Gods would agree.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Totally new territory

Ok, so I haven't posted in a stupid long time, but a lot of personal problems have beat me over the head. So I shall try to soldier on from here on out.

Latest personal spiritual news: I have become a remetj in Kemetic Orthodoxy (KO). I have also witnessed a naming ceremony, and both have left me quite excited about growing in this faith. I'm considering my rite of parent divination (RPD), which brings up all kinds of questions, fears, hopes, and squiggly feelings in my head and stomach. I have read about "RPD anxiety", and now I know what they mean.

I came back around to KO because of a very moving and strong interaction with Hethert. I have also had many more interactions with Her since then, though She did wander a bit for a time (She is the "Wandering Goddess"). I have never doubted that She loves me, and in meditation, more than once, She has hinted that She is indeed my Mother.

I have not only been warned about presuming a netjer is my parent before the divination, I am also personally aware/worried that I could just be indulging wishful thinking, or "making it up" subconsciously. The monkey wrench in the whole process is that Set has shown up, and given similar hints as to Him being my Father - which is not something I would think I would guess or hope for. He's still rather alien to me. I've interacted with him, but the experiences have all been rather - well, reserved and/or stern. Not intimate and obviously loving like Hethert.
I have also been told that plenty of people have "known" who their Parent(s) is(were) before the RPD, so I could be right - but I've also heard stories where people have either had no clue, or were convinced it was X, and it turned out to be Q.

This is such new territory for me, because not only have I never had someone else tell me who my gods are, but this is the first organized religion I've ever taken part in. But I'm excited. Nervous, still, but excited. I have had certain fears assuaged, such as no one would ever stop me from having a relationship with Hethert or any netjeru, whatever my RPD lineup happened to be, as well as observing the rather heterodox practices and beliefs of the members. Some things are very much "by the book", as it were, but personal devotion is pretty open.

Also, I can still practice any religion besides KO I wish - which is good, because I don't think Erzulie Dantor would ever let me go! xD And it appears that Vodou and KO work well together, seeing as the Nisut (AUS) is also a Mambo. There are also many members that practice various other devotions next to KO, so that's not a worry.

Going back to the "RPD anxiety", right now, I just don't see anyone being my Mom other than Hethert. As i wrote before, when I first opened myself to all of Netjer, She charged in, with a huge "FINALLY! Baby, you're home!" And, generally, the guides into KO are Bast and Wepwawet.

So, I guess I'll see.