Posts tagged ‘Kemetic’

Celtic vs. Mediterranean Polytheisms

In pan-polytheistic online discourse I frequently see assumptions about polytheism from different cultural or philosophical types of polytheists. For better understanding of where I’m coming from as an Irish polytheist, a previous post compared Celtic & Germanic polytheism. This is an attempt to compare Irish polytheism and a little about continental Celtic polytheism with polytheistic religions bordering the Mediterranean, specifically I’m thinking of Greece, Rome and to a lesser degree, Egypt.  These are generalizations referring to several spectra of cultures that existed (and still exist just in different forms) across a long time period. Feedback, corrections and critique are welcome and I’ll make note of changes.

Differences

Theology– Our theolog(ies) are very much up to us as contemporary revivalists to discover and develop. Beings in our lore and literature are not easily categorized as gods, ancestors, heroes and spirits of place. There is much overlap between them. It’s debatable how much particular gods were euhemerized by monks or whether the Irish Dindsenchas- that explains the legendary origins of place name or the tales of Mythological Cycle are more authoritative.  Even the question of whether a particular being is friendly or not towards humans can vary by place or even specific person! For example, Balor is a monster thought to symbolize the dangers of the late summer sun being too hot and threatening the harvest. He was defeated by the god Lugh in battle, the young, many skilled god who brings the harvest. But in the folklore of the Tory Islands the two were reversed and it was Balor that was honored!  The Good People are for the most part avoided and propitiated but certain individuals do make treaty and develop a relationship with a spirit or group of spirits. Sometimes these people are called fairy-doctors and act as an intermediary between the spirit and a local community.

Departmental Deities– I often hear people in Irish/Gaelic/Celtic pagan or Druid groups explain to newcomers that “unlike the Greek or Roman pantheons we don’t pigeon-hole gods into departments like god of love/sun/thunder.” Fair enough, but that’s also not an accurate description of either Greek or Roman religion. It’s an oversimplification that might fit a specific cultus at a given time or for your classical mythology class, but not for all times, places and practices. This is also the case for Irish gods. There also isn’t a fixed, organized pantheon with a set hierarchy, no “chief god” and the family trees of the gods and other beings contradict each other in different sources. You know, like in Greek mythology!

Purity– there is a concept of ritual purity, but it doesn’t seem to be a emphasized as it is in Greek and Roman polytheism. Here is an essay discussing concepts of purity/impurity in Gaulish polytheism.

Hubris (or hybris  in the original Greek)- isn’t really a concept that exists in Celtic religions. There are certainly boundaries of respectful and disrespectful behavior in general and in ritual specifically, particularly related to hospitality and reciprocity. Threatening the gods or spirits, especially with weapons or use of iron in general (esp. towards the Good People) are all certainly ill-advised. Boasting, especially among warriors was as common as it was in ancient Scandinavia. The consequences for going too far with boasting were social and sometimes legal in nature, resulting in a loss of honor and possibly being publicly satirized.

Images– statues and images in continental Celtic territories seem to be mostly a later Roman influence and earlier images seem to be syncretized or influenced by Thracians and Scythians. I occasionally come across the assertion than the Celts had a taboo on divine images, but that is likely a projection from Abrahamic laws against idolatry. That said modern Celtic polytheists do typically use various images for the gods in worship.

Lack of primary sources from pre-Christian times- as with most Germanic & Slavic traditions, we don’t really have anything recorded directly by polytheistic Celtic peoples themselves, We have secondary sources from the Romans who were fighting or trading with them, and later ruling over them but of course these have some built-in biases.  Texts written by monks in Ireland recorded native literary traditions and combined them with classical and Biblical references. Christian era folklore & customs end up being really important in Gaelic & Brythonic traditions because they give us more of an idea of everyday spiritual practice of regular people, particularly towards local spirits and the dead. Reconstructing continental Celtic religion involves study of archaeology and comparative linguistics, religion and mythology.

Similarities with Kemetic religion (from my limited knowledge of it!)

-Strong belief in afterlife, alternate realm, though in Celtic cosmology typically there is an Otherworld existing parallel to our own that is partly afterlife realms, but many other realms belong to gods and the Good People.

-the concept of Ma’at -meaning roughly justice & order in a cosmic sense reminds me a lot of An Firinne- which means truth in Irish, cosmic order with a moral dimension

-The ritual role of kingship, relationship to people and the land. This does not necessarily mean a need for a contemporary king/queen, but the concept of kingship/queenship and sovereignty is key to cosmology. Were Celtic kings/queens deified after death, as with pharaohs or some Roman emperors? Not as a rule that I’m aware of, naturally they’d be important ancestors, founders of particular dynasties, kingdoms, chiefdoms, clans were historically viewed as family patrons, and this practice has been continued with the revival of polytheism with key ancestors.

There are a couple more common pan-polytheistic topics that I am unsure of. What do we know about expectations of piety in pre-Christian Celtic societies? In Ireland, which is the area I’m most familiar, our sources of information about ethics are Brehon law, a system which continued with some modifications long after Christianization, and advice for kings on good behavior. I will have to check them to see if anything is said about piety. But my general feeling is that a sense of piety would be pretty different than a Greek or Roman one. Celtic traditions overall strike me primarily as animistic in character and secondarily polytheistic, they are more primal and localized and tribal. Those elements are definitely in place in both Greece and Rome especially in earlier periods and even later on in certain aspects- the cult of Dionysus seems like something Celts would totally be down with. Whereas Greece and Rome seem more primarily polytheistic.

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October 13, 2018 at 8:40 am 7 comments

Patron Deities- Are We Talking About the Same Thing?

It’s common in Pagan communities to hear people talk about their patron or matron deities. Within Neo-Paganism this could have a couple of origins- patron saints- who are regarded as in being guardians of a particular profession, family, area of life (ex: a type of illness) place, or specific person. Another origin may be the Holy Guardian Angel, who is called upon in Thelema and some types of ceremonial magic(k) more generally. The concept of a personal guardian spirit that watches over someone all their lives is found in many cultures, but I feel that is a different, though related topic to that of patron deities.

An important thing to remember, however is that the term “patron” is used many different ways and may even have more specific meanings for particular traditions. Therefore, it’s best when in a pan-Pagan community space- be it online or in person, to think of “patron” in the broadest possible sense, and narrow down from there as a person shares more about their practice and theology. Having a patron (or patrons) is not a requirement to be a True Pagan ™ though it may be encouraged, recommended or required in particular traditions.

Common Uses of Patron

A- Deity that a person feels closest to, and is their all-purpose “go to god” (this what I have with Brighid)

B- Deity that a person has formally dedicated themselves to serve, typically by swearing an oath- either temporary as for a year and a day like dedicating to a coven, or for life.

C- Dedication or devotion to a deity that involves being a priest/ess or monastic-like lifestyle. In this case, the person may still use the term patron, but typically more commonly call themselves a priest or devotee of X. The relationship is often seen like that of a parent and child, or a spouse or lover.

Assumptions and Misconceptions

There is often debate about whether a person can choose a patron or must wait for “signs” that a deity has chosen them. I think either side can be taken to an extreme with people assuming that is someone chooses a deity, then they must have randomly chosen one out of a hat for shallow reasons or at the other end, people worry about not having had enough of a dramatic “Burning Bush” type experience.

Some polytheists (especially some Heathens and Hellenics) argue against the idea of patrons, claiming that they are not historical and are influence of monotheism, particularly American evangelical Christianity a la “my personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. I do think there are some folks who have rather immature relationships with their patrons, especially when they seem to expect them to swoop down and rescue them from any screw-up they make- I call this phenomenon “My Little Loki/Hermes/Bast”, et al or My Little Totem for that matter.  But there are historic examples of close personal relationships with deities in many cultural contexts- for both priestly and lay practitioners. Having a patron also does not mean the person stops being a polytheist, they generally will worship a variety of spirits and gods, with particular focus on the patron(s). That said, henotheism- the worship of only one deity (or form of deity) while acknowledging the existence of others- or even occasionally honoring them for festivals is an acceptable norm in certain traditions such as Kemetic (Egyptian) religion and Hinduism.

Culturally Specific Terms

Heathenry & Asatru: Fulltrui–  in Icelandic fulltrui means trusted friend or fully trusted one

Essay by Morgan Daimler on Fulltrui

Hinduism: Ishta devi or ishta devata– in Sanskrit this means cherished or beloved deity- an individual chooses a form of God to focus their devotion. Looking for websites about this, but I’m not sure which ones are the best sources on Hinduism…

Kemetic Orthodoxy- in KO (note that this is a specific organization, not all Kemetics belong to it) there is a rite of Parent Divination which determines which of the Netjer- the Gods that the person will serve.

Note: I consider the topic of patron deities to be more of a 201 level, especially I haven’t gotten much into theology yet, but this is a very common topic beginners ask about on fora, and they often get many mixed messages! So I thought I’d sort things out a bit here. Not all forms of Pagan practice and belief necessarily involve deities, and some info here could also apply to relationships with other types of spirits such as totem or power animals/plants/fungi, ancestors etc.

June 24, 2015 at 11:24 pm 5 comments

Is UUism just my Spiritual Safety Husband?

Th term safety husband (or wife or spouse) refers to a friend that you would consider as a suitable if less than ideal partner to marry, should you not meet the spouse of your dreams, especially by age 40 or 50.  (I could comment about the rather messed-up tyranny of couple-dom that this concept promotes but that’s another post!)

Anyway, I have been wondering if UUism is really just my spiritual community equivalent of a safety spouse. After going thru lots of bad break-ups, I thought well, this “person” is nice, we have enough in common, share the same general values, zie owns a house and lives nearby, it’s a stable place to raise a family. I enjoy our visits together, but still wonder if I need a little more passion and good ritual in my life. Am I really being a good enough partner if my heart isn’t it this enough?

In the Pagan realm, I wonder if to find a stable community I’ll need to compromise and join a coven- there are many well-established ones here. Reclaiming shares a lot of my values, and they have a thriving community. But I don’t think my heart would be in that either. Non-Wiccans/Witches seem so scattered throughout the urban sprawl. Meanwhile I have a lot of trouble motivating myself to practice as a solitary.

Frankly in both settings, I have the similar situation of having people whom I’d consider close acquaintances but not really friends. I have known some of the regulars of the Wiccan Church of Minnesota (WiCoM) since I took a Wicca/Paganism 101 class when I was 16. (My dad signed off on it) They all know me by name, will say “Mariah, how are you doing? Haven’t seen in you in ages!” and even give me a (consensual) hug. There were a couple of people I ran into at Paganicon that wanted to get together for coffee chats. One of them was a person from the Cauldron Forum- several of the same folks that were there last year were present- Veggiewolf, HeartShadow (I know at least some of their actual names, just using the screen names for privacy and in case other folks reading this know them) It turned out one of the Kemetic peeps (sorry, she has a long Egyptian name I can’t remember!) lives not far from me so yay. So maybe I will make some new/old Actual Friends. I also think I should get together with folks on the BOP board and get to know them better.

Just generally continuing to Get a Life is good!

March 19, 2015 at 4:50 am Leave a comment

A Couple Blog-Round-tables

For a while, I’ve known about the Kemetic Round Table, a group of bloggers that share/respond writing prompts about Kemetic Reconstructionism/Revivalism- that is Egyptian. Though not Kemetic myself, I appreciated the idea of open discussion that welcomes people of differing views within the same religion, or spiritual spectrum- there are folks who participate who are not recon, but honor Egyptian deities.

Their current topic is- What about modern priesthood? What does being a priest mean in the modern era?

Deadline March 18th, 2015 Be sure that your post is tagged #Kemetic Round Table.
We look forward to your responses!

So I was pleased to see that there is now also a Celtic Round Table (which makes me think of King Arthur!) Like KRT, it welcomes both beginners and experienced practitioners from throughout the Celtic polytheist umbrella. They are also on Tumblr here.

The March topic will be: What, if anything, is your view of the afterlife? How much of this view comes from mythology? Entries should be submitted or tagged by March 28. #celticroundtable and #celtic round table

Another one is for Pagans of any flavor with non-binary gender identities such as: agender, genderqueer, demigender, neutrois etc. Non-Binary Mysteries #NBMysteries

“This month’s theme is Solar and Lunar Symbolism.


Optional questions to answer:

Who are the sun/moon deities that make most sense to you? Are they even from your tradition?

What bugs you most about the way solar/lunar symbology is constructed or described?

Do you have sun/moon UPG that integrates your identity?

If you don’t work with or honor sun/moon deities/energies at all, why not?

What does your solar/lunar magic look like? How much of it did you have to build by yourself from the ground up?


Responses will be collected on March 31st.”

March 4, 2015 at 2:18 am Leave a comment


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