Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Gods In Unlikely Places

There is a statue of Isis on the grounds of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa.

She is veiled, and of a vaguely Greco-Romanish style judging by the draping of her robes. At her feet is an inscription in French (see it here) which, if I recall correctly, comes from Apuleius:

Je suis ce qui a ete, ce qui est et ce qui sera, et nul mortel na encore leve le voile que me couvre.

Which translates, roughly, to "I am She who was, who is and who will be, and no mortal has ever lifted the veil that covers Me."

The statue was a gift from the Belgians (thus explaining why the inscription is in French) to President Hoover, for his humanitarian work on their behalf during WWI. She is holding something in her right hand which I can't identify. I wonder if any pagans or Kemetics in Iowa ever visit her, and bring her offerings.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Latest Egyptian Tomb Discovery

57 tombs, mostly 18th Dynasty, have been discovered at Lahoun near Cairo. The oldest of the tombs date back to the archaic period of the 1st and 2nd Dynasties. The discoveries are of special interest to those studying the Egyptian religion:

...one of the oldest tombs is almost intact, with all of its funerary equipment and a wooden sarcophagus containing a mummy wrapped in linen.

In 31 tombs dating to around 2030-1840BC, archaeologists discovered scenes of different ancient Egyptian deities, such as the falcon-headed Horus, Hathor, Khnum and Amun, decorating some of the tombs.

Intact burials are exceptionally rare at this late date, most of them having been plundered in antiquity (or later on by the "gentlemen adventurers" of archaeology's infancy). I'm looking forward to learning more about these finds. I wonder if Zahi Hawass will make a Discovery Channel special about this? ;)

Friday, 21 May 2010

Morning Christian Double Header

The sign in front of the Baptist church was succinct, this morning.

Our stalking enemy:

it said;

the deviL

(And yes, that random cap at the end was present; the sign's messages are often rife with random capitals, a stylistic choice that invariably makes me want to gnaw through the restraining straps.)

I wonder what that feels like, to have an Adversary so clear-cut and obvious, an Other onto which blame can always be shifted, an Answer for why things can go so terribly, terribly wrong. I'm not made that way, and so I'll never know; I'm left with the complexity of a life built of choice upon choice, decision after decision, cause and effect. (They are too, however unwilling they might be to accept it.)

Driving on in to work, we passed a van advertising for an electrician. I won't give the name of the company, but I will say that the "t" in the "Electric" half of that name was a big yellow cross. On the side of the van, underneath the company name, was written this motto:

Obeying the code to connect to the power.

I sense a double meaning behind that phrase. On the surface, it sounds like a straightforward reassurance: Yes, our work is up to code, and therefore trustworthy. But I'm hearing a bit of a dogwhistle, too, in words like code and power. The "power" part is easy enough, but to what "code" might they be referring? Maybe the Ten Commandments could be counted as a sort of code of conduct. I doubt they were referring to the Code of Hammurabi, because while it's barbarous tone should certainly be appealing to a certain sector of the Christian world, it was Babylonian in origin, and Christianity has long-standing Issues with the Babylonians. It was all very interesting just the same.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ethical Statements

I highly recommend reading the final draft of the community statement on religious sexual abuse,
as well as reading over the discussion of it going on at the Wild Hunt. For the record, I am very much in agreement with the principles outlined in the statement, wholeheartedly support such efforts, and will become a signatory thereof.

I also recommend reading Sia's declaration of Earthwise Ethics. She covers a variety of important issues and bundles them neatly into one place. Between this and the sexual abuse statement linked above, I can't find a single principle that I disagree with, or that I do not at least strive to uphold even if I sometimes fall short of my desired goals.

Spiritual people, particularly those in leadership or priestly positions, must behave ethically, must set for themselves a high standard of conduct, and absolutely must be willing to uphold and defend those standards and ethics, even when so doing causes personal strife. I say this from bitter personal experience, and I affirm that those experiences have not cured me of standing up for the things I believe in. If anything, they've reinforced in my mind the necessity and importance of taking stands and fighting for abstracts like justice and truth and honor and such. Fighting for Ma'at. Those things are worth fighting for, and what do you stand to lose--the esteem of the unethical? Not such a big loss, that!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Important Things

Religion often seems to skew people's priorities, convincing them that inconsequential things are in fact the most important. The reasons for it being useful to convince people of this are varied, but they generally come back to benefiting someone in a position of power, however tenuous or limited that power. Why some people are willing to be convinced (or to convince themselves) that Certain Things must be done in Certain Ways, no matter how potentially damaging or degrading or even just laughable they are, remains an abiding mystery to me. I don't get it; my brain cannot be contorted into the necessary position* in order for me to comprehend. The Gods do not decree that humans must do this or that or the other thing; humans do. Humans create religious systems to meet their own needs, not the needs of any deity. The fact that human needs are very rarely altruistic where religion is concerned is merely the icing on a very unpleasant cake.

After our most recent run-in with some former co-religionists, these lessons have been reaffirmed in my mind. It made me angry when it happened, because it was a source of pain for people that I care deeply about, as well as being a source of great irritation to me--irritation because I resented having to turn even an iota of my attention to things that were ultimately so inconsequential. None of that shit matters, people. Socio-religious psychodrama serves to satisfy some sick craving in otherwise idle minds; and it is my reasoned and professional opinion that people need to get some damned hobbies rather than waste their time playing at amateur-hour cult leader. It's just--it's sad. I was reading someone else's blog the other day, and she spoke of being berated by a Christian god-shouter and how his desperation struck her as being so incredibly sad that she actually hugged the guy, and I think I understand that. I don't want to hug the former co-religionists--honestly, I'd really rather punch them in the face--but I do feel a certain pity for them. It is sad to see people wasting their time and their intelligence and their abilities on nothing. And at the end of it all, that's really what they're left with: nothing. Because none of the posturings and the pretensions and the pronouncements mean a damned thing in the end. The fate of nations does not rest thereon. Fire will not rain down from the sky because someone thinks someone else is doing something wrong. And no god worth the label would turn even a moment's notice to the ridiculous declarations humans make against their fellows in Their names.

So what does matter? Your friends. Your family. The people you love, and that love you. The condition of the planet on which we live, and what you do that impacts that. What moves you spiritually, which so rarely has anything to do with any particular religious system. I won't invoke the so-called "Wiccan Rede," because it's been done to death, but I will state that there is nothing at all wrong with being a good person, and minimizing the harm you do to others while living your life seems to me to be a reasonable thing. If your religion is requiring you to be an asshole, maybe you should rethink your religion.

* i.e. very very far up my ass.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Clue-hammer of the Gods

As you may have deduced, yesterday was rather unpleasant, albeit apparently necessary--since the smartest people are often the ones that make the stupidest mistakes. Frustrated and fed-up with the situation at hand, I decided last night to distract myself by picking a random episode of Bones on Hulu. I chose a first-season episode that I'd never seen before, sat down to watch it, and was able to spend the next hour being outraged on Dr. Brennan's (and the murder victim's) behalf. The parallels didn't strike me completely until this morning. The victim had been lured in by a couple of s/m cultists who promised her things she wanted and needed (drugs, escape from her parents) but in actuality kept her bound and servile until at last it killed her. Dr. Brennan, on the other hand, had her work and her trust betrayed by a colleague who was also a friend and a lover; he went on to publicly excoriate her on the witness stand and declare that it wasn't anything personal. (I wish she'd punched his face in, which would have been deeply vicariously satisfying, but at least she told him to go to hell.) Brennan was vindicated in the end, and the murderers brought to justice; but even so, she'd still been betrayed, and the victim was still dead.

I'm not going to go into details about what happened yesterday; we got complacent, an old feud rose from the dead, and the rest of the day was spent fending off metaphorical zombies. The pain and frustration it caused were very real, and yet the entire situation is laughable; if you stripped away the names of the organization and the particular identifying details, then laid out the behaviors and actions, these people would be indistinguishable from any other dangerous and damaging cult out there (with the possible exception of a monetary angle; they do have an aversion to that, of a sort). The hardest thing for me to deal with is the fact that I ever for even a moment believed it to be anything else.

It struck me on the way to work today that there were parallels between what had just gone down, and the events in the Bones episode I'd chosen at random. It struck me so hard that it choked me up; I was literally almost in tears, when I realized that out of eleven shows displayed on the screen, each with a one-line descriptor, I'd chosen the one that would have the most relevance to my current situation, and that would resonate most deeply with me and reinforce the conclusions I'd reached. Jeez, it's almost enough to make me...I dunno, believe in stuff or something.

As Mulder once famously asked Scully, If coincidences are merely coincidental, then why do they feel so contrived? Why indeed.

This morning, the next section of my FOI coursework was waiting in the mailbox, just in time for me to begin it at the auspicious time of the New Moon. My inner Sekhmet raged yesterday, and within my mind the streets ran red with blood; but today, she is sated on pomegranates and truth. Temperance, remember? Another word for that is Ma'at. Funny how I didn't make that connection until just this moment.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Declaration of Independence

Wow. What dumbasses we are, seriously.

Remember what I said awhile back, about how we could just be considered Independent Gardnerians and we could own that tradition we trained in and blah-de-da-de-dah? Yeah. Or, you know, not.

Never again. The G-word is hereby expunged from my vocabulary, because if I ever have to endure another day of fuckery such as I have had today, someone is going to die. (Most likely, me, from a brain aneurysm.) Book-smart and people-dumb; that's me, remember? We've gone over this before.

Drop the G-word, but keep the Independent. Details beyond that are superfluous at this moment. And if I forget again some time in the future, someone please remind me?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Thursday, 6 May 2010

National Day of Prayer

As you could probably guess, I'm not a fan of the National Day of Prayer, a blatantly sectarian "holiday" which is also quite blatantly unconstitutional, as in fact a federal judge recently ruled. The day originated in the Red Scare era, when it became de rigeur (not to mention politically expedient) to put forth displays of nationalistic piety lest one be branded a Godless Communist; it's the same era that gave us "In God We Trust" in the Pledge of Allegiance, for example. Click that initial link up there and tell me the current manifestation of the NDoP is in any way inclusive or interfaith. I'm frankly irked that President Obama pandered to the perpetuation of this divisive little artifact, but I'm not at all surprised; even now, it's politically expedient to make nice with the Christian right, which still holds an inordinate amount of power in this nation, no matter how much some of their mouthpieces might like to whine about persecution. If I pray for anything today, it'll be that I live long enough to see a day when relics like this "national day" are no longer considered useful for a progressive, progressing society.