Keepers and Keys

“A Gate on the Music” by muggiahrr on DeviantArt.

The Pagan Blog Project: K is for Keepers and Keys

Gate Keeper.  Lore Keeper.  Secret Keeper.  Titles like these spark something deep in my mind.  The act of keeping is so much more than the word suggests.  At the surface it sounds like an act of greed, but really it is more an act of protection.

I think we are all keepers of something, probably many things on different levels.  On a surface level, I am the Keeper of my House.  This means that I manage the goings-on in my house and take care of the finances involved.  This means that I take care of the inhabitants of my house.  These things become not a chore but a ritual.  These are the times I most understand Frigg as a Keeper of Keys.  On a deeper level, this same title means so much more.  As the Keeper of Keys and Household that means I have access to all in it.  The maintenance of it becomes a reflection on my spiritual and emotional state.

Beyond titles, we all keep even more within us, and I feel like a large portion of our lives is to find the right key to figure out what it is we keep.  Some people seem to know right away and are proud in their role, while others of us are still fumbling with the key-ring.  I am definitely the second type of person.  This sense of knowing there is something more but not being able to put my hand on it is what’s been driving me for the past three years.  I’ve gotten closer – a few keys have fit a little better than others, but nothing’s turning the lock yet.

Why is something so integral to our beings kept secret from us?  Is it to protect us?  Is it meant to be a challenge?  Is it some distant memory that we are usually unable to comprehend?

I have a “soul memory” for lack of a better description that involves crossing a barrier that I will never be able to cross back over.  This memory tugs on emotions ranging from nostalgic all the way to the pain of exile.  I’ve tried many times to think of something in my life that may have caused this sharp emotional reaction to anything that triggers the memory, but there’s nothing I can think of.  It seems to be the only bit of that secret coming to light, but as it stands I don’t know what to do with it.

Maybe somewhere in this old house there’s a drawer with a lot of unmatched keys thrown in it.  Guess it’s time to keep looking.

 

Braided Rope Spell for Increasing Business, Good Luck, or Whatever Else

I love crafty spells and enchantments. This is a great idea.

This Crooked Crown

Braided Rope Charm for Bringing Business, Luck, Prosperity, etc.

A simple household charm that just about anyone can do. This is more of a technique than a flat-out spell and is easily altered to your needs.

Heads up for enchanted shit in the pictures and sigils that may be in the background. I’ve included a sort of step-by-step how to below.

My entry way staircase with the new spell rope.

First gather your materials. Here I’ve created one to help with business so my choices were a fine mesh gauze gold ribbon and a red silk ribbon, seven bells (five gold, two silver, one blue), and a key. The gold and red ribbons stand for wealth, and the bells were enchanted for various things (example: “may the hearer of the bell always have wealth”). They key is because my business is a home business. It’s braided in to keep the business and home…

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Kemeticism

“Classic Mythology-Anubis” by MelUran on Deviant Art

The Pagan Blog Project: K is for Kemeticism

Today I want to talk about a path I tried very briefly.  While I found that it wasn’t for me, I did learn some lessons from it that have had lasting effects, and because they’ve so influenced where I am now I want to write them down.  Apologies in advance for how rambly this is inevitably going to be.

When I was still determined to find a solid pagan group and when heathenry wasn’t really doing it for me as a community, a few things drew me to look into Kemeticism.  For starters, some of the most helpful and non-dramatic people can be found in the Kemetic community.  They are extremely helpful to new-comers and provide a safe place where you can ask questions without fear.  They also provide a lot of resources to those willing to do more research.

Of course, community doesn’t mean much if you lack the common interest that holds everyone in it together.  There were other factors that drew me to try Kemeticism as a practice.  First, when I was a lot younger I’d been very interested in Egyptian symbolism and stories.  I’ve noticed this is a common experience among many Kemetics, most of whom say they were so happy when they found out you could really actually worship those deities and practice that religion.

Another factor was my love of cats.  This sounds weird at first, but really – there are a lot of deities and spirits associated with cats, but you can’t get much more cat-like than Bast.  Having a few cats in my care, it seemed logical to try and make that connection.

Aside from Bast, other deities I read about and tried to feel out were Sekhmet and Djehuty (though he has always been Thoth to me).  By “tried to feel out,” I mean that I made a shrine space where I gave water and incense offerings daily for about a month, and spent some time (a few minutes to fifteen minutes) daily meditating in front of it, or just talking/praying.

One month isn’t really that much time, really, and I acknowledge that fully.  However, it was enough time for me to realize that my academic interest in these deities was not translating over to a spiritual one.  I quickly realized that I was going through the motions, and while I would occasionally get some sense of presence, that presence usually seemed more like a polite head-tilt of mild curiosity, but always ended in a mutual “this isn’t really working”.

It surprised me, honestly, especially with Bast.  I’ve had multiple people with various forms of sight tell me that there is some kind of cat-thing around me almost all the time.  I’m very cat-natured, and cats usually really like me.  We understand each other.  But Bast and I just didn’t mesh.

When I decided to formally thank them and move on (which, I hadn’t made any promises, so this really wasn’t a big deal though I know a lot of people may think it is), I chose to break from most study for a few months.  It was near the end of the year and I was very busy with family and friends anyway.  I’d gotten the impression multiple times that I needed to nurture myself before I started my pagan searching again.  In fact, if it wasn’t for keeping up with PBP each week, I probably wouldn’t even be thinking about paganism regularly.  I’m glad this project has kept me thinking while not bogging me down.  More on all that in another post, I’m sure.

My jaunt with Kemeticism was far from a waste of time, despite not making any lasting connections.  I continue to be very interested in studying it academically.  I also learned about some concepts that have influenced my thoughts and my work: Ma’at and isfet.

Ma’at if often considered as a goddess, but as I understand it’s really more of a concept that has been deified (and please forgive me if I’m not explaining this correctly – I am NOT an expert).  You can find a pretty good explanation of it here.  While I don’t understand it fully (and it is probably impossible for a human to do so), what I like about the concept is the fluidity of balance and what the “right thing” is.  What may be the right thing to do right now may not be the right thing to do in a slightly different situation.  It’s an idea that also seems to mock physical boundaries and instead enjoys freedom from all boundaries, to the point that it is even difficult to confine it with a definition.  My favorite image of Ma’at is the weighing of the heart against the feather of Ma’at.  To pass the test your heart must not be heavier than the feather.  Does this mean you have to have practiced balance and “the right thing” your whole life?  Does it mean you must somehow physically make your heart lighter through spells?  Does it mean that the feather itself is so complex that the simplicity of a human heart will be lighter anyway?  I love this concept because of how dynamic it is.

The other concept which has helped me a lot could be considered Ma’at’s opposite: Isfet.  Isfet is commonly defined as “chaos,” but like Ma’at it defies simple definitions.  Needless to say, it’s the bad stuff.  Every time I think about it, I think of Ashitaka’s demon arm in Princess Mononoke, like a corruption that seeks to bring down the functional whole.  While I was going through all of this spiritual change and turmoil, I was also having a recurrence of depression.  “Depression” has always seemed like an insignificant word to me.  It sounds so mild for something that is literally feeding on your mind and heart.  Isfet to me will always be true depression, and in fact once I became familiar with the concept I was able to use the word to get my depression under control.  I’ve always been one of those people that thought naming something would give it more power.  In this case it was the exact opposite – I had power over it.  Even better, I could visualize it, which meant I could get rid of it.

Now I’m not at all saying this would work for everyone or suggesting you try it if you have similar problems.  Most Kemetics would probably read that and think I’m pretty far off-base.  I’m just writing what it did for me because it ended up being so significant to my life.

Overall, I’m very glad that I stopped off at the Kemetic station for a month and am grateful to the people I met there, many of whom I still follow and respect the opinions of.  While the practices aren’t my own, many of the lessons I learned there about community will carry over no matter where my path leads.

 

Juniper

 

The Pagan Blog Project: J is for Juniper

While herbalism and general herbal lore has always been interesting to me, I’ve never quite had the dedication to fully study it.  Part of this stems from the fact that I’m very bad at identification.  Juniper trees, however, are one of the few I am pretty confident in naming.  While there’s a lot of varieties apparently, I can at least recognize them.

My most recent memory of a juniper tree was from March when my partner and I were on vacation to a state park.  She likes to fish which I couldn’t care less about, so while she was doing that I found a nice little shaded cubby-hole to curl up in and write.  The tree I was leaning against was a juniper.

I live in a city, so getting this close to a tree in a quiet place is a rare occurrence for me.  And I wish it wasn’t!  I’m pretty much deaf and blind to spirits of any kind, and even I felt a sense of curiosity as I worked, like I could really sense the personality of the tree.  After I kept still there for twenty minutes or so, a couple of birds came to it and, while they didn’t get too close, were not startled by my presence either.

Other juniper trees I’ve met have felt similarly.  I don’t know if this is normal or if I just happen to like them so I get that from them whether it’s there or not.  In any case, I find their presence to be an odd combination of calming and inspiring.

However, I’d never really spent any time researching the properties of juniper.  I just did a few web searches to see a few impressions.  I can see fairly quickly how we might be compatible.  I’m not especially skilled with most magic, but one thing I’ve got down pretty well is purification and protection, two of the main properties of juniper according to multiple sources.  They’re also known to aid in clairvoyance.  Seeing this makes me think my initial impression isn’t all that off.  Inspiration works with the psychic aspects, and the protection aspect I felt as a calming presence.

Looks like it’s time for me to take a few walks till I find a juniper tree locally in one of the public parks.  I need a new friend.

 

Justice

The Pagan Blog Project:  J is for Justice

Yes, I am totally using a screenshot from a video game for this.  Shush.  It just so happens he’s the central theme of this post.

The above is the angel Tyrael from the video game Diablo III.  It’s a fun game with a fairly interesting take on angels, demons, and humans.  Tyrael happens to be the Archangel of Justice and, though many of the angels would much rather eradicate humans, Tyrael has a long-standing history of standing up for them.  It’s not especially logical and in many ways goes against what he supposedly is – after all, humans rarely treat each other justly – but he maintains his stance even when it means being cast out.

What’s all this got to do with paganism?

The concept of balance comes up all the time in paganism.  Most often you will find it in the binaries favored by many Wicca-centric authors:  male and female, positive and negative, good and evil, light and dark.  But binaries have never really worked for me.  My perception of reality is too fluid for such rigid either/or scenarios.

Justice is how I outwardly work with the concept of balance.  People are often surprised when I finally react to something that outrages me.  This is because I spend a large amount of time considering both sides in almost every situation, so by the time I’ve come to a conclusion I am fully behind it.  This is important when dealing with concepts as well as people.

Justice also shows how pure binaries don’t always work.  In a war both sides believe they are the good and that the other is the evil.  The only choice is to fight until one or both are annihilated or absorbed or to eventually come to some sort of compromise.  When compromise is done well, wars can be completely avoided.  Sometimes this requires treating both sides as equals.  Other times it actually requires favoring the weaker side so that their voice is actually heard.

While I’m not exactly a pop culture pagan, Tyrael serves as a sort of reminder to me of the importance of justice and acts as a reminder to listen to the quiet or smothered voices.

 

Instar

The Pagan Blog Project: I is for Instar

Before getting more comfortable with where I was in the pagan sphere, I was really into the whole Maiden-Mother-Crone concept.  I don’t know why – even at the time I knew it didn’t really work for me.  I was never going to be a mother.  But in general I liked how it represented stages of life.  It just didn’t happen to be my life.

Now I think of life stages as instars.  An instar is a stage in the very complex metamorphosis of an insect.  Basically, each time the insect molts, it is another instar, until it reaches sexual maturity.

I like the concept of instars better because it’s not a matter of changing into an already highly-defined role.  It’s more a matter of figuring out what kind of bug you are.

I’m a cicada. ❤