A Pleasing Offering

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in July 2006.

“Why do you worry so much?” a friend asked after my ramblings on researching and writing a daily rite. “Offering is offering, right? I don’t think the gods care so much about what’s offered as they do about the attitude it’s offered in.”

“I know that,” I said, brushing it off before going right back to puzzling over a daily rite.

I didn’t really think about it till much later. In a way, my friend was right. What need have gods for chocolate and shiny things? There’s a deeper reason behind ritual, offerings, and the apparent pickiness of some deities over what they’re offered. It’s not that Anpu really can’t stand fish, or absolutely adores rum, though that may be partially the case. The core reason is the concept of sacrifice.

An offering is many things. It’s a sacrifice, a form of worship, recognition of the roles the gods play in human lives. It’s a form of prayer. In kemetic practice, it’s also communion, a shared meal and shared time.

The value of an offering is what the offerer puts into it.

It’d be easy to offer Anpu money. It’d be a sacrifice – I don’t earn a lot, and there’s all sorts of items and trips and outings I would love to spend it on instead. Yet I don’t offer Anpu money. Why not? Because it’d be easy. It requires no thought, effort, or time on my part. It’s a sacrifice, but not a sacrifice of self.

Jesus knew the value of offering. The story of the widow and her two copper coins illustrates it perfectly. She offered only two small coins, and Jesus noted that she offered more than the sacks of gold given to the temple by the rich men, saying “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” She was saying with her offering that she trusted her God enough to give him all she had. Her sacrifice was a gesture of trust, a sacrifice of self, not of convenience. It’s a case of money being a valuable offering. In my situation, my living expenses, schooling, and books are all paid for by grants and scholarships – I don’t need money to survive. Giving money would be giving “out of my wealth”, to use the biblical phrasing.

I also don’t offer money because Anpu doesn’t ask for it. A pleasing offering-gift is one that shows the giver listened to what the recipient wanted. I don’t know if Anpu really likes rum chocolate or honeycomb, but it’s what he told me he wanted, so I bought it for him. Offering him only the money that those items cost would have been a lifeless offering; giving him the items showed I took the time to listen and cared enough to follow through.

Time and effort is another part of offering. I fold origami; never tried giving any to Anpu, but I’ll use this as an example anyway. I could fold a sloppy, half-assed flapping crane out of notebook paper. It would take me three minutes. Yet even if Anpu decided he wanted origami, I don’t think he’d like it. I’d probably get the “What the hell is this?” look. However, I could also hunt around and find a store with colorful, high-quality origamiy paper and then take my time folding the crane, making the creases precise and sharp. I’d likely get a much more favorable reaction from that, because it took time and effort and I put my best into making it.

An offering must also be from the offerer. I missed having tea with Anpu one day. A coworker bought me a cup of chai tea because we were all frazzled and she wanted to apologize for snapping at me. My reaction was something along the lines of Ooh! I can use this for tea with Anpu! But the instant I started my ritual routine, I got the spiritual equivalent of a wrist-slap and a stern look. ‘That was a gift to you. You neither bought it nor made it, and it was intended for you. You will not offer that.’ Oops. I must have looked a bit shamefaced as I set the cup down and apologized to the Jackal.

Another story to go with the above point: During the Yule of honeycomb and rum chocolates, I had originally bought nothing to offer to Anpu. I suppose somewhere in my mind was the idea that I’d offer him something of the ritual feast. (I was clearly not thinking.) I accompanied my boyfriend to a wonderful Italian grocery so he could pick up mead, and I halted at the door as a thought occured to me. “Crap – Anpu’s gonna want something.”

“Of course I do. You weren’t going to give me someone else’s offering, were you?”

So I got him Holland gouda cheese and Amish honeycomb honey and rum chocolates, and he was very pleased, bouncing about as Yinepu, the Divine Child. It was a good Yule, and I learned a lesson about offering.

Every time I’ve given (or tried giving, or thought about giving) an offering of convenience, I’ve gotten an unfavorable response. There was the Yule incident as described above. There was the sushi, given because it was what was in the fridge and hey, I like it, maybe Anpu would too. His distaste probably came less from some dislike for sushi and more from the fact that I didn’t check if he’d like it or not, I didn’t listen, and I put no effort of my own into it. It’s possible that there will be more incidents in the future, because I can be lazy or rushed at times and will grab for what’s convenient. That’s not a sacrifice. It’s a lifeless offering.

Finally there’s the component of offerings I believe to be most important in kemetic practice: communion. Sacrifice is different when it’s practically a requirement to use the offering. In other religions, you are truly giving up any food (and usually any items) offered. They’re burnt, thrown out for animals and plants, tossed in a well, or otherwise disposed of. With kemetism, the idea is that the gods consume the offering’s essence, its ka, and the offering’s khat or physical part is consumed by the offerer or someone close to them. If you offer food, you get to eat it. If you offer ink, you get to use it. Indeed, you must consume or use said items. There’s no possibility of going hungry because you offered a slab of meat and bread.

Therefore, communion gains importance. A hasty thoughtless offering, given without meditation or time or thought, is a poor offering. Offered food becomes a shared meal. Offered items become shared actions. When someone gives the offering, she should be spending time with the netjer, her thoughts on the one offered to, open and listening and sharing her heart.

To me, daily ritual is a time of fellowship with Anpu, the time when I get to sit down and have a one-on-one chat with the Jackal. It’s a time of reverence, yes; but more than that, it’s a time of closeness. Sure, I can chat with Anpu any time, but it’s usually like talking on the phone. Ritual is when we meet face-to-face.

So what do I see as the necessary components of an offering? I believe a pleasing offering is one that is a sacrifice of self rather than convenience; it comes from having listened and cared enough to comply with what’s wanted; it’s an offering that took time and sincere effort to provide; one that is offered in mindfulness and openness to communion and communication.

In the end, a pleasing offering is one of the heart, however that may manifest. It all sums up to sincerity.

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To the Jackal’s Gate

November 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

Written in January 2006.

Anpu, called Yinepu-Wepwawet, called Anubis by the Greeks. He who is named Guardian, Challenger, Guide of the Dead. Jackal who places the heart on the Scales of Ma’at; Divine Child, Opener of the Ways…

When I started out in paganism, I knew that a lot of people had a patron god or goddess or both. Without questioning the why and how and who of it all, or where the idea of patrons came from, or the validity of it, I accepted the idea and decided I ought to figure out who my patron was. My more experienced friends (dedicated to such pleasant deities as Kali and the Morrigan) warned me, said I’d know if I belonged with someone specific. They said such things as “Trust us. Belonging to a specific deity is not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a lot more trials and a lot more work.” They said, “Don’t go looking unless you have to.”

I didn’t listen. I wanted to have a patron; that was normal procedure, right? I was excited about this new path, I was eager and serious, I wanted to immerse myself and do things right. I’d longed for so long to be close to God as a Christian; I’d wanted so badly to believe and be, but the closeness and faith I’d had as a kid remained always out of reach. Now I’d found something I could believe in and immerse in and feel, and I wanted more.

So I looked, kept myself open for signals and possibilities. I thought at one point I was Heimdall’s, but learned better; I thought then that I was Sekhmet’s, which led me into a flurry of research about kemetic reconstruction and Egyptian belief.

It fit. Kemetism fit me and my beliefs like nothing else I’d encountered. After a while, I came to realize that Sekhmet had served only to point me to kemetic paganism, that I’d just jumped to conclusions again. Embarassed once more by my hasty thinking, I finally heeded my friends’ advice and stopped looking for “my patron”. Instead, I focused on learning about kemetic beliefs and practices; I concentrated on my own personal growth, on fundamentals.

It wasn’t until August that the subject of personal deities came up again with a vengeance, and not of my own accord. I tried avoiding it, but any time the subject rose, I felt a restlessness in my stomach that refused to leave. I finally gave in and set about to researching deities of various pantheons, determined not to jump to conclusions in any way this time.

The research dragged on for a month and more. I refused to make any hasty decisions – or any decisions, for that matter. I felt prodded and pushed, a sense of impatience from someone or some ones. My excuses of “I need to do more research!” weren’t holding up. I finally buckled down and started narrowing down my list of possibilities.

When I got to Anpu, it was like a shockwave of recognition as I read information on the Jackal and the experiences various individuals had with him. I described my reaction in my LiveJournal:

Holy crap. It’s Anpu. At least one of them is. Yinepu/ Anpu/ Wepwawet, whatever name, but… holy crap. I’m reading the descriptions people are giving and on a lot of them, I’m sitting there going “That’s what I’ve been feeling, that’s one of the presences I’ve been sensing!” And the feeling just kept getting more intense and clear as I was reading peoples’ stories and thoughts on Anpu, to the point where I had tears in my eyes and a fullness in my chest coming out of nowhere.

It was like being embraced, almost; warm sleek jackal-body curling around my back; a canine sigh. And then, in my typical fashion: “…All right. Back up. Go through procedure. Nothing hasty.”

I tried going through a systematic process and tried looking at everything logically, dispassionately, objectively. But the decision wasn’t mine, and I had to admit that in the end. The recognition described above settled the matter in my heart; my mind was slower to realize the truth. There came a point where I had to do away with the pretense of method; had to admit that it was nothing more than pretense, and bow to the conclusion my deeper self came to long before.

A friend remarked on my usual logic, and said it seemed odd that I let intuition and instinct guide me in this matter. After all, I usually followed my head. Why was I now letting my heart lead?

I replied that logic does not solve everything, and too much reliance on logic alone can cause problems, as I’d learned the hard way. I had to listen to intuition as well as logic. Logic tempered with instinct; intuition tempered with reason. It’s a fine line.

Yes, I used feelings a lot in my narrowing down of things. I did my research and learned about each deity in consideration so that I knew precisely who I was looking at, and so I had more information to react to. But in the end the matter fell to gut reactions – because I believe that the gods choose their own. How will using solely logic help me discover which god has chosen me? There’s no real way; it takes paying attention to symbols and feelings and intuition.

If I used solely logic, I’d be reduced to picking names out of a book. Going “Hey, so-and-so sounds like someone who I could work with, and I like these various domains of this god better than these others, so I think I’ll go with this one” is… well, it doesn’t make sense to me that it would work too well. Going up to a deity and saying “Hi! I’ve chosen you to follow/ worship/ work with!” just doesn’t make much sense to me. If I believed that the gods are all just archetypes and thoughtforms, psychological tools – then yes, that would make perfect sense. Then I’d definitely pick and choose the archetype I’d work with for a while to improve myself. But that’s not what I believe.

So my path led me to the Jackal. Since accepting his call, I’ve experienced much of him, grown much, learned much – and still have a long way to go. I’ve experienced his love, his challenge, his disappointment and his approval. He guides but does not coddle. He guards his own when they are in danger that they cannot survive by themselves – but he also challenges them, allowing them to face alone those challenges they can overcome, so that they will be strong enough to someday overcome those trials they cannot currently win. He is a guide, and protects those he guides, but does not shield them from all challenges. That would be no protection at all.

My God is velvet shadow and sleek black fur; my God is alertness and silent knowing in the Hall of Two Truths; my God is jackal-laughter and child-wisdom and father-wisdom; He is ancient and proud and honor and truth, He is sternness and playfulness and innocence and understanding. So many things all at once, sometimes seeming paradoxes but never truly so.

Anpu, Wepwawet-Yinepu, Lord of the Hallowed Land…

I accept.

Where Am I?

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