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Specific paths such as Heathenism, blended traditions, polytheist reconstructionism, etc.
Last week I began exploring Minoan ecstatic postures, starting with the most famous and familiar one: the Minoan salute. Many modern Pagan traditions use specific poses and gestures in ritual in much the same way that some varieties of Christianity use the gesture of making the cross. These are meant to symbolize parts of the spiritual belief system and to remind us of those during the rite. Ecstatic postures look very much like ritual gestures - in fact, they can be used as ritual gestures - but ultimately they have a different purpose.
A ritual gesture is a pose or motion you make briefly during a religious ceremony. If you hold it for a few seconds or maybe a minute, it might give you a particular feeling or sense of something sacred. An ecstatic posture is a pose you hold for an extended period of time while undergoing ecstatic (shamanic) trance. If that sounds really deep and freaky, it's not. Most people can enter a light trance state simply by focusing on their breathing for a minute or two. A little drumming in the background helps to deepen the state. You don't have to take drugs or go through extended initiations in order to use these postures to expand your spiritual experience. If you've ever done a guided meditation, you've been in trance....
In the time of secrets, before dawn, the mists veil the mountains. In the time of silence, at midnight, wisps of clouds half-hide the moon. At the shore, the edge of mystery, the thinning surf shrouds the sand with lace.
These veils—there and not there, insubstantial—grace and soften hard lines. They are compassion, they are ease, they are consolation.
I want a veil of mist and mystery, of lacey lightness, to waft over me and softly settle on me, shelter me, cover me. I want to draw it over me, blessing myself, crowning myself. I want to put myself under the wing of protection, and from this hiding place to look out from safety and look in with focus. In fact, I want to go within and within, to penetrate my darkness and find a deeper, richer one inside it. And then I want to look out, grounded in that powerful core.
The image of the tree is ubiquitous in both Celtic mythology and Celtic folklore contexts. Otherworld trees surround the Well of Wisdom, dropping their nuts into the water, where the salmon of wisdom crack open the kernel of knowledge inside. Many types of trees are mentioned in the source materials - oak, yew, hazel, apple, holly, hawthorn, ash, just to name a few. Often times there are descriptions of remarkable fruit, leaves, nuts or flowers, sometimes all bursting forth at once (something which does not typically occur in nature).
Less mention is made of the roots of these magical or sacred trees, and it is to the roots that I wish to draw attention in this entry. Without roots, the plants could not 'take root,' or draw from the earth what they need in order to burst forth from their seed-shell and begin growing. The roots permit the plant to exist 'between the worlds,' rooted in the dark, moist soil of the earth, and also growing towards the sun and the rain - a balanced existence between the Lower World and Upper World....
One aspect of ancient religious practice that’s not terribly familiar to modern Pagans is ecstatic postures. No, I'm not talking about what you do at the local nightclub when your favorite music is playing! But ecstatic postures are kinda-sorta related to that kind of experience. These are poses or positions of the body and arms that are designed to produce specific experiences during shamanic trance work. At least a dozen different Minoan ecstatic postures appear in the form of little bronze and terracotta figurines from ancient Crete. Many of these were votive offerings at peak sanctuaries and cave shrines, but some have been found in the temple complexes as well.
A while back I reviewed Belinda Goodman’s excellent book Ecstatic Body Postures which includes a couple of poses that are found in ancient Crete. Reading that book was the inspiration for the shamanic work I’ve done since then that centers around the Minoan postures. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share with you my experiences using these poses. I encourage you to try them out on your own and let me know what you experience....
To walk on the road of God is to be filled with light,
Great are the advantages gained by those who
Discipline themselves to follow it.
It’s a monument raised by them on this Earth,
Those who follow the Paths of God,
Those who cling to the Ways of God,
Spend all their lives in joy,
Gathering riches without equal.
The West is the dwelling place for he who has not transgressed the Rule.
Happy is who reaches there!
Nobody can reach there unless
Their hearts have conformed exactly to the Rule.
Down there there is no distinction between rich and poor,
Unless it is in the favour of he who is found to be righteous
When weighted in the scales of justice before the master of Eternity.
-- The inscriptions from the tomb of PetOsiris, high priest of Thoth (4th/3rd century B.C); quoted from: Cristian Jacq, “The living wisdom of ancient Egypt”
Living as a kemetic is walking your path of life together with Netjeru.
Come to the Netjeru with open heart, embrace Them with joy, let Them help you to get better when you are in sadness. Bring Them flowers, water, bread, say Their names, dance for Them, dedicate to Them your actions, listen to music you associate with Them and assemble your devotional playlists. Look at the images of the Netjeru - online or in art albums you may have, marveling at Their beauty. Sit before the shrine and just think about Them. Share with Them your thoughts, your worries and doubts. Don’t be afraid of asking questions.
Look at the wonders of nature and see the manifestations of Netjeru in the sky, in the sun and moon, in every flower and every bird.
Your goal in the kemetic religion is to maintain Maat and keep relationship with the Netjeru.
Religion should bring happiness and fulfillment, and while trials and tests happen, the Netjeru are not here to make your life miserable. In turn, they are loving and caring, and They are willing to help you on your path of spiritual growth.
Devotion begins in the heart;
And “going in Ma’at” is the primary “way”. It’s the way of life; it’s not “practicing religion”, but Living the religion.
The first step in walking in Ma’at, walking with the Netjeru, however simple it may sound, is: “Place God in your heart”.