Rekhi ketu tjen, rekh kua renu then
I know you, I know your names,
Emek ui ua em tjen
Behold, I am one of you.
To know a name (ren) gives the magician or priest power over the thing named. Many spells of ancient Egypt make use of this principle in order to harness the power of one or more deities. Gods had many names, and some of them were secret except to initiated priests. A spell might direct the priest to write the name of a deity on an amulet and then recite it, usually a specific number of times. Conversely, the name of someone you wanted out of your life could be inscribed on, for example, a wax image, then melted or burned in a fire. The primary reason we see defacement of royal cartouches (the image containing the names of a pharaoh) is because later rulers wanted to dissipate the power of their predecessor.
To name something you have come to understand in your own life likewise gives you new power over yourself. As I come to recognize certain factors at work in my relationships with others, or my relationship with various aspects of my life, I am able to name the factor, suddenly giving me fresh insight. Insight about myself or others empowers me to move more easily in the world, live more effectively, and avoid wasting my time wondering about things I may or may not be able to fix. In modern psychology, we call this being self-aware. But I like the Egyptian ritual language. I know you, you are no longer a secret from me. I know your names and I will use them as needed. Look at me, I cannot be ignored, because I now hold knowledge - I am one of you.
Rekhi ketu tjen, rekh kua renu then
Invocation is one of the penultimate acts that a Priest or Priestess can perform, for themselves or in a group ritual.
This ritual is one of the things that separate us from other religions. In some ways, it is the most important act that we do for our covens. Through our priests and priestesses, coveners can speak directly to our deities.
One of the things that my partner and I discuss a great deal is how it seems old school Wicca (not solitary, Cunningham Eclectic Wicca) is dying out; we argue about whether or not old school Wiccan traditions deserve to survive after all of the strange drama that many within the path have produced in the last thirty years. He argues that if the old traditions die out, we will lose a great deal of knowledge. I generally argue that while I agree with that sentiment, abuse shouldn’t be rewarded.
Whenever he starts talking about Wicca with strangers, people roll their eyes at him and start muttering about fundamentalism and the need to change with the times. British traditional Wicca is a hard path, not meant for everybody, and what people who don’t pursue a traditional initiation don’t always understand is that the training that comes along with it is to facilitate some very specific mysteries that you just don’t find in Eclectic Paganism. This doesn’t mean that traditional Wicca is better or worse than Eclectic Paganism, but it has specific training for a reason, and those of us who go through it have a very specific point of view about what we are doing and how we do it. It is hard work. Once you have done the hard work, being asked to get over yourself and be flexible with ways of thinking that are against everything you’ve gone through is pretty antithetical to all of the experiences that a traditional initiation brings. It’s especially difficult when you have worked hard for years to gain the knowledge you have and you are confronted from someone who has (maybe) read a few books who tells you that you are the one that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Do you remember when you first stepped onto the Pagan path? Perhaps more years ago than you care to recall, perhaps only recently. But no doubt books and websites were raided for information, ideas, ways to practice, paths to investigate. We truly are blessed with a wealth of information these days, after all.
My quest began before the Internet. My recollection is of picking up 'A Witch's Bible' - that lovely, slightly scary-looking black tome, scavenged easily enough from the shelves of Borders bookstore - and seeing the pictures inside. The photographs from the 1970s of Janet Farrar, beautiful and resplendent in ritual, performing the symbolic Great Rite proudly and publicly. And, of course, very very naked.
Then came that word: 'Priestess'. Not just in Wicca, but everywhere I looked, the goal of all Pagans appeared to be the Priesthood. You were still just learning until you had finally achieved the right to that title. This was just around the time when folks were starting to self-initiate, so the controversy was relatively new.
It's been a while, but I'm back again, lovely readers! I'm currently hard at work on my second book (amongst other projects, as you'll see below), but I will certainly continue to post here as and when I can. Comments and topic requests always welcome.
At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.
As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.
(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)
Look, we all know that in most Western countries, Christianity is the major religion. This means that for many people in Western countries, 'religion' is synonymous with 'Christianity'. I suspect that in the modern Pagan movement, a lot of anger towards Christianity comes from this blatant disregard of two thirds of the world's religious people. In general, I can deal with the dominant Christian worldview. I may not like it, but I respect it. In my day-to-day dealings with those of the Christian faith, I can usually find the things we have in common within our religions and we make it work. This, however, does not mean that Christianity is the same as Hellenismos, and that a Christian chaplain--by origin a word applied to a representative of the Christian faith, now applied to men and women of other religions or philosophical traditions--could accurately guide me if I should ever end up in a hospital, the military or a prison.
While I'm usually very positive about Canada, I am not so positive today. CBC reports that the federal government is cancelling the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons across the country. This doesn't mean just the 'fringe' faiths like Buddhism and Sikh--the Wiccan chaplain that got hired, got fired right away back in September--but also Judaism, Islam and the First Nation spiritualities. Why? Because Public Safety Minister Vic Toews isn't convinced part-time chaplains from other religions are an appropriate use of taxpayer money.
I would love to go caveman batshit over this, but Hellenismos has this thing about ethics and eloquent speech, so I'm going to try and actually formulate my opinion instead of reducing my power of speech to a Lolcat.
I think I mentioned before that priesthood in ancient Hellas was a lot different from priesthood as we understand it now. In the modern (Pagan) interpretation, priests serve a mostly spiritual role; they serve the religious community as a vessel for or to a God or Goddess. The primary tasks of a modern day priest(ess) seem to be to serve the community, to spread the gospel of the God(ess) in question and to offer access to the God(dess) in question.
During most festivals, an animal was sacrificed. It was the job of the priest(ess) to pick out the animal, lead it to the altar and bless the animal. Especially the latter was a job only a priest(ess) could perform, because they were especially well versed in liturgy, and because a failure to preform the exact rites would result in a failure of the sacrifice.
A cross-post this week, if I may - between here at my first blog 'home', and the wonderfully eclectic 'Witches & Pagans' site (because if you can't 'moonlight' as a Pagan, then who can?).
I am very aware that I haven't written anything at either location for a couple of weeks. I could give excuses - ultimately, the days have flown past and life has been more important. I'm sure we all know how that goes. Instead, take a wander with me, if you will.
Regular readers know that one of my favourite places for inspiration is as I walk the dog across the hilltop where I live. This evening I wandered the streets, looking out at the fierce clouds parting after an intense rain and thunder-storm just a few hours ago, the remnants of a rainbow, and the slightly 'stunned' feeling of a normal, modern, country village after a violent and unavoidable incident of Nature. The grass is rich and green, the snails appear to have made a small bypass across the path outside one particular row of houses, and the occasional early bat is swooping overhead.
First, I want to thank all the folks who have posted kind words about my starting this blog. It is deeply encouraging to be so warmly received. Thank you!
Before turn to my topic for this post, I wish to reflect on the interesting conversation about the use of the term ‘pagan’ in this, its uncapitalized form. I’ve given my opinion already, in that I feel it has no referent, and that it represents a distortion of the past, but for that please see the original post and its comments. What is interesting to me is that folks would defend its use. It was and is an insult, as common in use as the ’n-word’ was at a time. By naming ourselves ‘Pagan’ we proudly turn that opprobrium into an honorable name for a new and defiant religion, ours. . . . . .
So, then, what is ‘religion’? I’ll start by citing a not-bad version of the dictionary definition for religion: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion)
You will no doubt notice the primacy of ‘belief’ in this definition. Ritual also gets a mention, as does morality, but only as a optional quality.
One of the key foundations of modern (and ancient) Paganism is also one of the most contentious. We find it very hard to talk about, it seems, and yet it's fairly key to many people's personal practice. When I've talked about it in the past, it almost seems like I'm breaking a taboo, with the words themselves being 'dirty' or embarrassing. And yet, learning from my passionate and heartfelt Heathen friends, that embarrassment is itself disrespectful, dishonourable and, ultimately, rather foolish.
Who are your Gods and Goddesses? What does Deity mean to you, and how does it influence and affect your Paganism? From the Platonic 'ultimate Male/Female' images (tallying with 'All Gods/Goddesses are One') to the pantheistic, international eclectic transference of pretty much any deity with any other no matter where you yourself live, talking about Deity is a tricky business. Especially because ultimately, nobody can really tell you you're wrong. Or right. Except, perhaps, those Gods themselves.
The Judgement of Paris (Classical)
I've returned today from performing a Handfasting with my partner - not unusual at this time of year. But this was our first on a beach.
Yes, this is Britain. Yes, we've just had semi-monsoon conditions for the last few months. Summer was rumoured to have been cancelled. So much could have gone wrong.
It was beautiful. Golden sands, blue sky, bright sun, lush green grasses and flowers on the path leading from the couple's home to the beach itself... everyone commented that you couldn't have wished for a better day.