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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Non-Binary Mysteries 1: Beginnings

February 7, 2015 § 3 Comments

(This is my submission for Prompt #1 of the Non-Binary Mysteries. See the masterpost here.)

It always begins with stories.

Once upon a time – was the word and the character and the question. A blank page, a blinking cursor. A dream.

I read fiction, and wondered. I looked online as my roots were torn from me with multiple cross-country moves, and found a community of fellow fans. I made my own characters, penned my own stories, and wrote collaborative fiction in the form of roleplaying.

In researching werewolves for a novel, I found therianthropy: the idea that some deep intrinsic part of a person could be a non-human animal, somehow. A shock went through my system. What if all of the metaphors in my poetry and journaling were more than allegory? Could I be a bird and a human both? Could symbols be reality?

This was the dawning of my spirituality, though I refused to see it as such, as I was striving to be all things acceptable to my parents: straight, cisgender, monogamous, Christian. I was mired in the depressive swamp of my adolescence, denying myself so desperately that the voice of my soul could only cry out in symbols, metaphors, and stories. My repressed fury turned in on myself, leaking out in self-harm and self-loathing, snarling out through anger-ridden characters. My sexuality hid itself in cautious fiction. My gender only peeked through obliquely in the genderlessness of hawk-identity (though it expressed in childhood play, too, the neutral and masculine roles I took on, the characters I identified with).

Some of my friends came out as transgender (binary and non-binary both), and the question tickled at my subconscious. I wondered, and then I denied. I buried the inkling. Yet the question kept arising, and as I ripped away from Christianity with a tearing of flesh and soul, my objections shifted from “it would be unacceptable for me” and into “I’m not genderqueer enough for it to count.”

Stories – and experiences. A beloved friend invited me to a Samhain ritual, and felt a thrumming in my core when the druids called upon Manannán mac Lir. I attended the same grove’s Yule (that life-changing event that sheared me at last from the Christian faith that hadn’t fit me for years), and I staggered at the resonance I felt when they called Heimdall.

Gatekeepers, threshold-walkers, the crossroads and the way between. Transitions, liminal spaces. Neither/nor, both/and – this has long been my space, the role I fall into again and again. The cultural context of Manannán mac Lir didn’t fit, though, and Heimdall’s Norse context was closer, but still not right.

A cat walked across my path one night around a fire, as I questioned, meditated, and called into the night for a sign. I searched for cat-gods and found Kemet, and a kind of home: non-dualism, fluid deities, a world of Seen and Unseen. I explored the Names of Netjer, and the thrumming of resonance became a thunderous sound that filled me to overflowing and shattered me into wholeness as I recognized Wepwawet, Opener of Ways.

It is a colloquial Kemetic Orthodox saying that you can learn about a deity through their children, that the children of a Name reflect the character of their Parent(s). It’s my personal experience and belief that working with an entity brings forth the elements within you that are akin to that entity. Like my Parent deity Wepwawet, I live so often in the liminal, in the in-between. My Shemsu name in Kemetic Orthodoxy is Djeriwepwawet, meaning “Wepwawet is strong”, or Djeri, “strength”. It takes strength, resiliency, and endurance to occupy the middle-place, to hold the container for transformation, to keep the threshold.

My spirituality is a complex, nuanced thing. The liminal is part of it, being other and in-between, transformation and shapeshifting. Kemetic practice and faith is another part of it, and that too is non-binary and non-dualistic, fluidity within a structure. Animism and non-human identity is another piece, as is my lack of gender, as is metaphor, archetype, and all the myriad threads of story.

Every dawn is a return to the beginning that is Zep Tepi, the Kemetic first time. Every new year, too. Every birth from the phoenix’s pyre, every death, every new exploration. This piece of writing, too, is a beginning.

To the journey.

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”.

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.

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