Non-Binary Mysteries 2: Solar and Lunar Symbolism

March 7, 2015 § 3 Comments

(This is my submission for Prompt #2 of the Non-Binary Mysteries. See the masterpost here.)

The sun rises, dawning color and warmth into the world, nurturing and burning, illuminating and changing. It visits any given area for longer and shorter times throughout the year, rising through the sky, falling through the season. Hours and seasons are set by its movements, heating and cooling, growing and harvesting.

The sun sets.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a researcher found that people who fit solidly into the gender roles proscribed by society were far more likely to assign gender to words and objects than people who didn’t fit so cleanly into societal gender norms. Read up on Gender Schema Theory by Sandra Bem and the fascinating research and ideas within it. It’s a bit dated and incomplete, and yet it has usefulness within its limitations, like any model.

During a cognitive task study, people who were strongly gendered and gender-normative (“sex-typed” in Bem’s theory, meaning they process and integrate traits and information in line with their assigned gender, conforming to the cultural definition of what it means to be “male” or “female”) tended to remember more traits assigned with their gender role, and processed “sex-type congruent” information more efficiently… perpetually reinforcing their concept of gender normativity, a continual process of confirmation bias. When given a list of words to cluster either by semantic meaning or by gender, they were also more likely to cluster words by gender. They are “gender-schematic”.

In contrast, “cross-sex-typed” individuals (in Bem’s theory, people who processed and integrated information and traits in line with the opposite gender role from their assigned gender) had the lowest percentage of words clustered by gender, followed by “androgynous” individuals (people who process and integrate traits and information from both genders). They are “gender-aschematic”.

Strong gender-schemata provides a filter through which people process incoming stimuli… making it easier ability to assimilate information that matches the stereotypes, which further solidifies the existence of gender stereotypes. It is one model through which to approach reality, and a highly dominant one in a number of societies, enforced and reinforced throughout the culture. It is incredibly prevalent, too, in much of Neo-Paganism: Lord/Lady, God/Goddess, Male/Female, elements and correspondences all sorted into Masculine and Feminine. Sun God and Moon Goddess, in so much of mainstream Paganism.

The moon rises, lining the world in silver and shadow, the cool colors of night. The face of the moon waxes and wanes, cast in growing shadow, brightened in growing light. Months are measured by its cycles. Its pull sets the rhythms of the oceans, the tides and waves, and perhaps it even influences the rhythms of mind and heart.

What, then, for those of us who are gender-aschematic?

I am fortunate in that my tradition leans gender-aschematic, itself. Kemetic philosophy is non-dualistic and polyvalent, the One and the Many, both/and. Many seemingly contradictory things can be true all at once. There are deities with the title of “The Great He-She”. There are deities that are explicitly hermaphroditic, deities that are very male, deities that are very female, and deities that are downright sexless. There are deities that are more concept than person. There are deities that merge into one another, split into pieces, and those pieces join with pieces from other deities to make new ones, fission and fusion and fluidity.

The sun is a goddess and the sun is a god and the sun is a scarab. The moon is a child and the moon is a god and the moon is only rarely a goddess, but the gods of the moon are not strongly masculine. The sun and moon are not so much gendered as they are personified in many different ways.

The sun takes the form of scarab, cow and bull, lioness, falcon, cat and leopard, cobra, vulture, and heron. The sun is nurturer, warrior, queen, king, healer, lover, creator, avenger, guardian, mother, father, and son. The moon takes the form of ibis, baboon, and falcon. The moon is healer, defender, scribe, protector, creator, child, traveller, embracer, time-keeper, mathematician, magician, judge, mediator, arbitrator, counselor, and scientist. Both sun and moon are incredibly multi-dimensional, and go so far beyond gender.

Wepwawet is my Parent deity, and I associate Him with shadows and night – though not the moon itself. So often for me, He is gentle soothing darkness, and also an edge of mischief and unknown mystery. He is the moonlit crossroads where your shadow stretches black and long before you at the point of choice and possibility. He is a magician and something of a gambler, a warrior and a scout, the standard-bearer and guide. Yet He has never seemed strongly gendered to me, this wolf-wanderer of the ways between.

Bast-Mut is my Beloved deity, and She is most definitely the sun. She is Bast on Her throne, Bast Who is Mut, the Devouring Lady, the hunting-cat goddess crowned with uraei. She is an Eye of Ra, a title given to a number of martial or protective solar deities. Fierce yet motherly, regal yet warm, and I see Her in the kind of sun-warmth that invites basking, the sun that warms me slowly and gently down to my bones. For me, She is the revitalizing warmth of the sun, and I feel Her most strongly in the dark of winter when the sun shines forth and brings me back to life. She is joy and care, protective nurturing.

The sun has many different faces to me. There is the harsh beating sun-in-summer, Ra as King and Sun, the Apis-bull, Sekhmet’s wrath. There is the warming sun-in-summer too, Mut and Heru and Wadjet. There is the cool distant sun-in-winter, hawk and scarab, watching, becoming. There is the warm revitalizing sun-in-spring, Hethert returning from Her travels, Bast crowned in glory. There is the fading sun-in-autumn, Hethert-Nut as the Wandering Eye in Her departure.

Sometimes the moon sings to my blood, intoxicating and invigorating. Sometimes the moon is a rabbit and sometimes the moon is an ibis as Djehuty or a falcon as Khonsu. Sometimes the moon is a mystery, magic, and the hunt. Sometimes the moon is madness, its fullness corresponding with a spate of crisis in the mental health centers I’ve worked in. Always, the moon is genderless. Never have I experienced it as feminine, and never have I identified with the menstrual cycles that so much of modern mainstream Paganism associates with lunar cycles. I love the moon and thrill to the sight of it, sparking dreams and visions in my mind.

The sun is a different thing entirely. I connect so strongly to the sun, and I am keenly aware of its seasonal increase and decrease. The seasonal rites of equinox and solstice resonate with my heart and biochemistry, not for their celebration of the cycles of agriculture but rather for the marking of the sun’s departure and return. My mood brightens with sun’s presence and suffers significantly in its absence, seasonal affective disorder weighting my body and mind. The hawk in me is a solar creature, thriving in the daytime, hunting in the sun’s light. The phoenix I identify with at the core of my soul is solar above all else.

The moon sets.

The sun rises.

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Guardian, Challenger, Guide

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

[1]
Anpu, Guardian, Challenger, Guide
He who opens the ways
Jackal black with my heart in his hands
Waiting to be weighed.

[Refrain]
Tepy-Dju-Ef
Wepwawet
Khenty-Seh-Netjer
Imy-ut
Khenti-Imentiu
Yinepu and Neb-Ta-Djeser

[2]
You who formed my eternal ba
Father of my self
You who know my truest Name
Let me honor you.

[3]
Guide me through the shadows of night
Challenge me in the dark
Guard me when I cannot guard myself
Open the ways of my heart.

[4]
I shall follow ma’at in word and deed
Keep my feet from isfet
Balance my heart with the Feather of Truth
I live in ma’at.

[5]
Dua Anpu, Lord of the West
I accept your challenge!
I will not flee, nor will I back away
I am your own!

Notes:

This is a song to my god, Anpu (better known as Anubis). The refrain is a listing of the Names he’s known by. I used some Egyptian terms and words, so here’s translations:

  • ba: The immortal part of the soul.
  • dua: “Hail” or “honor to”. It’s the equivalent of saying “praise [deity]!”.
  • isfet: “Discord”, “Wrong”, “entropy”. It’s sort of like the concept of “evil”, only not quite.
  • Khenti-Imentiu: Name of Anpu meaning “Foremost of the Westerners”. The Egyptian lands of the dead were perceived to be in the west.
  • Khenty-Seh-Netjer: Name of Anpu meaning “Presider over the Gods’ Pavilion”.
  • Imy-ut: Name of Anpu meaning “He Who is in the Place of Embalming”.
  • ma’at: “Right”, “balance” and “Truth”. It’s sort of like the concept of “good”, only not quite.
  • Neb-Ta-Djeser: Name of Anpu meaning “Lord of the Sacred Land”.
  • Tepy-Dju-Ef: Name of Anpu meaning “He Who Is Upon His Mountain”.
  • Wepwawet: Name of Anpu meaning “Opener of the Ways”.
  • Yinepu: Name of Anpu meaning “Divine Child”.

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.

Soul Pieces

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in July 2006.

One of the concepts in Egyptian belief that makes most sense to me is the idea that there are many parts that make up a person. These are the khat, or physical body; the ba, or core eternal part of the soul; the ka, or spirit/double; the khaibit, or shadow; the ren, or true name; the sekhem, or essence; and the yb, or heart. I often use these terms in explaining some of my beliefs about reincarnation, selfhood, therianthropy, and multiplicity, among other concepts; they are convenient, useful terms. However, some of my interpretations of the various parts of the self differ from the widely accepted interpretations.

If you are interested in the basic traditional interpretation of the Egyptian concept of the self, there’s a decent write up of it here.

Following is my interpretation of the parts of the self. This may change as I learn more or as my paradigm evolves.

  • The khat is the physical body. This is what can be measured, felt, and seen. It includes the neurological and biological processes, and is the vehicle by which the soul usually experiences and affects the environment. Temperament and a number of other psychological traits have their source in the physical body, which also contains many perceptual “filters” that affect the reception and translation of external (and sometimes internal) information. It will eventually die and decay.
  • The ba is the soul: the core, eternal part of the self. It is akin to a spiritual version of temperament – it’s the base from which the self is built. The ba is the part that reincarnates. It retains impressions and colorings from past lives, but usually no more than brief flashes unless the life was very recent or had a significant impact on the ba. The ba is something like the Reclaiming idea of the Higher Self, that subconscious (or perhaps more accurately, supraconscious) part that is aware of and connected to the entirety of being, and especially the nonphysical realm; it’s also similar to the idea of the “inner self”, the version of a person with (supposedly) full memory of all past incarnations and interactions.
  • The ka is the spirit; it is you-this-life. Where the ba is the core, the ka is the flesh; the personality of ka overtop the temperament of ba. It is affected by the ba, and affects it in turn; life shapes the ka, as does the environment and the foundation of the ba. The ka is closely connected with physical existance; it is one’s consciousness, in a manner; it’s the part of a person that is generally aware. While the ba reincarnates after death, the ka does not. I’m not sure what happens with the ka after death. It either unites with the khaibit to become the akh, gets a spirit-body (called the sahu) and continues to the afterlife; or perhaps it remains on Earth as a sort of ghost; or perhaps it dissolves into reusable energy after death (though certainly not always).
  • The khaibit is the shadow, and is much like the Jungian shadow. It’s made up of all the parts that a person hides from herself and refuses to admit, or the parts that she buries for whatever reason. It is the dark mirror reflection of the soul. Much of it is made up of so-called “negative” traits (despair, anger, vengeance, etc) or “positive” traits that the person doesn’t allow herself (vulnerability, openness, even love), all of which, when viewed and used properly, can become aids and assets. It’s not a bad part, or even all that negative, but many people are afraid of it. If not dealt with, accepted, and integrated into the ka, the khaibit can linger after death as a ghost. Generally it stays with the body; sometimes it stays with a thing, place, or person the individual had a strong attachment to in life. It does not reincarnate but either fuses with the ka or remains as a ghost until released or until it fades in some manner (shattering, dissolving, etc).
  • The ren is the true name. It can sometimes be approximated in sound, but I don’t think it’s something spoken. It’s that which sums up the essence of a person; it contains all of who a person is. Some think the ren is one’s individual DNA. Others think it’s one’s energy signature. I think these are part of the ren (and can account for the Law of Contagion, since in Kemetic belief, knowing someone’s ren gave one power over that person). I don’t know precisely what the ren is, though; my mind can’t quite grasp the idea of something that encompasses the entirety of a person.
  • The sekhem is the power or essence; one’s “energy”, so to speak. I think this reincarnates along with the ba. The sekhem contributes greatly to one’s energy signature or “feel”. It is the personal core life-energy that one normally draws on; it can be supplemented or replenished by external energy through such exercises as grounding. It’s the pool or wellspring found at one’s center. It’s connected to (if not the same thing as) one’s will.
  • The yb is the heart or mind. I’d guess it’s a mix of the neural pathways that are the brain and the circulatory system of heart and blood. The Egyptians thought a person did their thinking and feeling with their heart, rather than their brain, so I think it could be safely said that the yb is the mind. It’s more connected with the sahu and ka, and does not reincarnate; it’s also the part that’s weighed against the Feather of Ma’at during the Weighing of the Heart in the Hall of Two Truths after death.

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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