About time…

Sun dial from Ai Khanoum Musée Guimet

Time and time perception

“Time” in philosophy names the perceivable change or series of events observed by the human mind. Time appears to have a “direction” or a flow. This already raises the question if there is an absolute time which exists beyond consciousness or if time as well as time perception is rather a part of it. What we can probably say for sure is that the way time appears is highly influenced by the state of mind which again is influenced by many factors. A lot of disciplines deal with those factors be it neurology, biology, psychology and even cultural science. Aspects like perception, thinking processes, memory, emotions, zeitgeist they all are closely connected to time perception

Djed Pillar between 1500 and 1000 BC (New Kingdom) Walter Art Museum

To mention a few phenomenons of time perception just to illustrate how much the perception of time can be vary: “Telescoping effect” is the term for recent events seeming further back in time than they actually are or they seem more recent whilst being further back. Periods of time containing a higher number of changes seem longer than intervals with less changes. And if motivation for a task is higher time seems to pass quicker. Further influences on time perception are e.g. emotions, drugs, age, body temperature, mental disorders and many more.

Considering that time perception is varying a lot it may be easier to comprehend that a different culture can of develop totally different time concepts. Nowadays we are living with a linear view on time assuming time consists of past, present and future. We assume a direction coming from the past, crossing present and moving onwards to future. This, however, is not the case for Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians knew two coexisting time aspects namely “neheh” and “djed”. These two phases do not evolve from one another but they both name specific aspects of time as a whole.

Two time concepts in Ancient Egypt

A brief definition would be the following: neheh, as the cyclical and repetitive aspect of time, names an incompleted process while djed, as the aspect of durance refers to the state of completeness. Neheh therefore can be regarded as “imperfective” and djed “perfective”.

Neheh, in its cyclical quality has a clear solar relation which already shows in the way it is written – two twisted ropes and the sun determinative inbetween. The sun determinative has also been used to name other expressions of time such as “hour”, “season”, “year”, “tomorrow” or “yesterday”. These aspects of time are therefore also aspects of the cyclical dimension of neheh. The cyclical time was part of the daily experience of the Ancient Egyptian. It manifests in many natural cycles like the sun rising and setting, the yearly Nile flood or the repeating movements of the stars. Also death and birth, growth and decay, the moon phases basically all the rythms of nature were omnipresent to the Egyptian mind. A good example for the importance of the sun cycle is the so called “hour ritual” which follows the journey of the sun in a cultic way.

Djed however was written with a different determinative referring to land and earth as a symbol for consistency and stability. Djed is the concept of time when things are completed and development has come to an end. Djed is also symbolized by the djed pillar which already occurred in pre-historic times and was closely connected to Sokhar and Ptah. The ritual of raising a djed pillar by the king was a traditional act to provide durability and consistency to the kingdom. Later the djed was adopted in the Osirian cult to symbolize his spine and thus the durability in afterlife.

neheh

neheh

Another important aspect of Neheh is the fact that its various cycles are not considered as “circles”. In fact time in Ancient Egypt was considered to be rejuvenating – obviously following the example of nature – which means it is starting over and over again. This has lead to a very typical mind set of the Ancient Egyptians, the fact that repeating cycles were given more importance for the maintenance of life (and thus creation) than single events. This may be a major difference to our today’s world view were repetition are mostly considered as stagnation or even regression and innovation or the constant pursuit for new things is the ultimate goal of society.

Completeness and incompleteness

So cyclical time and durability coexisted as two sides of the same coin in Ancient Egyptian. Although they may seem opposing concepts they are in fact interdependent. Durability is about completeness, completeness generated by repetitive cycles and not by constant progress as it is understood in modern times. In a progress oriented time repetition is considered a threat or even regress. In Egypt however repetition (eg. in nature) marks what really matters to maintain life. Single incidents have lesser importance.

And the concept of repetition and durability has also been transferred onto morality and ethics in order to maintain community as a livelihood. Repetition of social gestures such as numberless festivities where a major tribute to maintain the social consistency. And of course the ancient Egyptian cult tradition is a perfect example for repetitive actions to maintain the connection of man to the sphere of the gods. This could not be a bigger contrast to modern times where intersocial repetition is mainly considered as unrewarding, uninspiring and even limiting. Relationships, friendships or other social bonds are mostly valued by the amount of “growth” and development rather than consistency which in the end is also expressed in repetition.

Sunset Nile/ Luxor Wikimedia Commons, by Martin Steiger

Further information and sources:

Die zwei Gesichter der Zeit: Neheh und Djet (Jan Assmann)
Spektrum der Wissenschaft, Juli 2010

Jan Assmann – Tod und Jenseits im alten Ägypten

Veröffentlicht unter English, History • Geschichte | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , , | Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

A(nti)theism

salvation nutsIf you know me closer you may have noticed that I am sensitive to “atheist” paroles which basically are not atheist in its original (scientific) sense but mostly anti-theist religion bashing. For a long time the target was Christianity. Christianity was the paragon of prudery, authoritarian family structures, social pressure in the shape of old-fashioned morals and bigot piety. This changed rapidly at a certain point of time. On September 11th 2001 to be precise. Now the majority of a(nti)theists have added Islam to their hate list and it is almost sophisticated to mock hijabs, get butthurt about halal food and assume a bomb belt on every person with a dark beard and eyebrows. And it all boils down to “religion is baaad” ignoring the fact that religion is much more than what you see in the news.

I have been reading theological and historical literature nearly all my life and a large number of my friends are scholar historians, ethnologists, anthropologists etc. and we discuss a lot of things so that I may say – in all modesty – I do have a little clue about history, cultural research, theology, religions etc. And on this basis I have a good reason to try my best to respect every religion even if it seems awkward.

And here is why:

Most world religions have developed some hundreds if not thousands years ago. Religion – if you look at it from a historical point of view – mostly show a social, a political and a spiritual dimension. The fact that today politics and social things are often in the hands of secular institutions have reduced religion largely to a spiritual dimension and religious practice is often individual and less about group building. There have been reasons for this split up – no doubt – and some of today’s news show why this split up has been taken into account be it the discussion about Jewish circumcision, the latest decision that bosses no longer cover contraception while they still finance Viagra or of course terror attacks in the name of religion. I do have my doubts, however, how “religious” those things really are and if secular interests might not be the main force behind it. In some cultures the influence on politics and society is still pretty strong in others it is weaker, sometimes it’s very obvious sometimes very subtle.

Religions vary a lot in forms of practice both with regard to historical development and social variety. Religious communities are extremely heterogeneous. There is not even THE Christianity nor is there THE Islam. If you look at the evolution of religion you’d be surprised how many different branches this tree has. Also individual approach leads to different types of religious life. Some people may be more like “easter+x-mas” Christians, some have a dedicated individual practice, some may be part of a religious community and of course some take their own tradition to extremes which are inacceptable to common sense or even human rights. But to use the latter to develop your very own persecution complex  and feel entitled to bash an entire religion as a theoretical unity doesn’t make the world a better place. In fact it makes things worse.

Religion is part of a thing called “cultural identity”. This ID does not only consist of what has been written down, it consists of traditions, habits, special sacred places, performing rituals, mentality etc. These things are a timeless container of religious and therefore cultural identity. In fact they are a cultural memory maintained by those people who follow a tradition. These contents have a function and the function in its very original sense is about maintaining community by setting up individual ethical standards but also by creating an ideology to ID with. The social value of religion is largely neglected today because it is simply hardly needed today. You can be a “good person” if you respect human rights and some basic social rules without believing in a higher being. But for some people this spiritual dimension is closely connected to the social and humanizing quality of their religious practice and needs to be handled with some consideration and awareness imo. The thing people mostly pay attention to is when religion goes off the rails and then they freak out about it and feed their prejudice. If it doesn’t go off the rails or even creates something good no one cares and refuses to see that religion might also have a beneficial effect on society and individuals. And that being said a(nti)theism can be just as narrow-minded, bigot, ignorant and damaging as any kind of religious ideology. This is not about being religious this is about being human. If you use whatsoever ideology just to mock and despise others you’re doing it WRONG and you really need to fix your personal issues.

Rituals and traditions can seem weird, wrong and awkward if you are not part of the social group who is part of a certain cultural ID established on a religious foundation. Things like covering your hair as a woman, eating halal or kosher, praying, extreme forms of meditation, wearing a white dress for a wedding, etc. But this doesn’t mean that people who perform that are stupid just because YOU can’t comprehend it. I am sure I would find a lot of daily rituals you perform yourself which are totally awkward and irrational but are part of your daily habits and provide you a feeling of safety and stability. Nothing else do religious rituals and habits. They are part of a cultural ID like your very own habits are part of your individual ID and to violate these things is also violating cultural ID. Therefore I am trying hard to respect cultural identity like I respect individual integrity. I do fail sometimes myself and I am still critical and I point out my criticism occasionally both to individual as to groups or even about ideologies and I do not exclude my own tradition, opinions or views. But I aim to get well informed about things and try to criticize with some factual background instead of mere “but me feels dis is so wroooong!”-buttpain.

I am a religious person, too. I am a Kemetic, I am hard polytheist and I have dedicated myself to a badass storm god who owns my heart. This is close to what is called monolatry. So in a way I am probably extreme about religion, too. I don’t harm people for religious reasons nor do I bother people outside my community with contents of my practice. But the closer you intend to be part of my life the more you will take notice of it. If you can’t handle that and respect me as a religious person I am sorry but we can’t be friends.

Veröffentlicht unter English, Thoughts • Gedanken | Ein Kommentar

Devotional art – A kemetic “mala”

So I decided to make a devotional necklace for Sutekh. I have chosen 7 of Set’s reported epiphets and painted wooden pearls to symbolize them.

DSC_0254

I admit this was not entirely my idea. My girlfriend made a similar necklace for Loki which inspired me. I liked the idea of wearing a devotional chain as a ritual act. It fits perferctly into the concept of heka. And besides I always liked rosaries and malas. When I was still working with Dzogchen mantras and I found a chain very useful to sing the mantras.

DSC_0256

  • The golden one is for “He-of-Gold-Town (Nubti)”. It also stands for the sun god who is protected by Set because he fights the serpent A/pep who threatens the sun as the ultimate giver of life.
  • And the pink one is for “Disturber” with the hieroglyph for “disturbing/destroying”. The pink also refers to the fact that Set tried to seduce Horus and thus his homosexual orientation which is unique among the Egyptian gods. And the hieroglyph itself refers to his rough and destructive aspects.
  • The black one with the hieroglyph for “strength” is for “Great-of-Strength”. The black refers to “khem”(=black) as in Kemet. The hieroglyph is basically the buttocks of a lion :)

DSC_0257

  • The dark red color has the hieroglyphe for wine (jars) on it and represents “The One Who Causes You to be Drunk”
  • The dark blue with white spots and the big white star is for “Lord of the Northern Sky” The big star is also the hieroglyph for “star”

DSC_0255

  • The red one has the red Deshret crown on one side symbolizing “Lower Egypt” since Set was the Lord of Lower Egypt and  on the other side I wrote the hieroglyph for the “foreign land/desert” (land of the hills) since Set is also associated with the everything foreign. The red color refers to “The Red Lord / Lord of the Desert” DSC_0250

 

 

 

  • The cloudy-greyish one with the yellow hieroglyph for “rainstorm” is for “He-Before-Whom-the-Sky-Trembles” since Set is the god of storms and thunder.

When I am not wearing the necklace I place it on Set’s shrine. And he seems to like it a lot… ;)

 

 

Veröffentlicht unter English, Kemeticism • Kemetismus, Practice • Praxis | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , , | 3 Kommentare

Asperger’s and Kemeticism (edited)

Seth thinkingThis is basically a try to write down and structurize my thoughts on a matter I have been trying to figure out for quite some time. So if I appear kind of confused I would like to apologize in advance.  I have been asking myself over and over again if being an aspie AND kemetic is somehow connected. Firstly I know quite a few aspies who are also Kemetic and secondly there are many things about the Kemetic practice that seem to fit the way my brain functions.

Rituals

One thing that definitely suits my mental structure are rituals. I am not overly good at praying my thoughts are basically a complete mess and if you want to get a clue of what it is like to have my brain try to have 200 tabs on your PC open jumping from one to another constantly. I am kind of dependant on repetitive actions and daily rituals to feel some structure in my daily life. When I get up in the morning one of the first things I do is my offering ritual.

  • I wash myself to make sure I am clean to touch the shrines
  • I take the offering bowls and cups from the day before put the contents into another bowl for later use (because I do not waste any offerings)
  • I fill the offering bowls anew both for the multi-deity shrine and the Sutekh shrine and a little bowl of water for the multi-deity shrine.
  • I place the offerings into Sutekh’s shrine and then I move on to the big shrine and place my offerings onto the offering plate and the little water bowl in front of my little Anuket figurine.

Sometimes I make mistakes. I change the order or I realize that I have placed the water on the offering plate instead of in front of the Anuket figurine. Or sometimes I catch myself not serving Sutekh first. When this happens I usually know that I have to take it slowly this day and that I am less concentrated for whatsoever reason. If everything goes smoothly I can leave the house with a pretty safe feeling. Whenever I forget any of those ritual steps which can occasionally happen I need to repeat them the same day or sometimes I even ask someone who has access to my house to do it for me. Because it needs to be done! This is how I feel about it. You may call it devotion or even compulsion it really doesn’t make any difference to me. I need it, it makes me feel save and it gives my inner mess some structure and I feel the duty to do this for the gods.

1175121_10201376580510487_1470623634_nHistorical research

I think the main part of my kemetic practise is being a terrible nerd. Reading books, articles, scholarly blogs and racking my brain on Ancient Egyptian history is probably 80% of what I am doing every day even if it is just a background noise somewhere in the back of my brain.  I am so hooked on reading and learning about history (among other things) that I feel extremely unsatisfied and grumpy if I lack the time to do so or if I am charged to work on something else. I can perfectly well work a whole day on medical research and “relax” with Ancient Egyptian history inbetween even if it’s just little bits and pieces. To educate myself on the Ancient Egyptian burial cult or the kingship of the Middle Kingdom is probably like reading a novel for others (I hardly ever read novels because it makes very little sense to me to read a modern invented story).

And I have a terrible book hoarding syndrome. I purchase all the books I want to read and I tend to read either none or 5 at once, some I do not even finish at once and come back to them later. My problem is I have so many interconnective thoughts and mental linking after just a few pages of a book that I need time to digest this huge input before I can move on to read. My brain stores so much and recalls it immediately that I can hardly concentrate on the contents of a book because my brain starts to work on several memory layers all at once.

Emotions

I am not very good at communicating emotions. My emotions work differently than those of other people and whenever I try to explain them I am likely to fail. I see fellow human beings very selective. Standing in front of a crowd of people I am likely to find perhaps not more than one person I can connect to personally and this connection can almost grow into some sort of fixation. The rest is just “crowd” and the crowd may occasionally speak to me and I will answer what my rational brain tells me to be appropriate. But with this aforementioned one person whom I can actually see as a person I will probably develop a closer bond and possibly even an emotional one. The problem is that my emotions are so overwhelming and strong that they are mostly considered inappropriate. For a long time I have referred to them as “being in love” because that seems to be the closest to what other people would call it if they felt similarly but meanwhile the misunderstandings tied to this “love thing” are so incredibly wrong and hurtful for me that I would rather categorize them as ” a special aspie kind of bond” which, obviously, no-one is likely to understand. So I am basically cursed to keep my emotions to myself as best as I can – or withdraw with them and hope to somehow get rid of them which basically means to stop liking a person. And this is saddening and painful and made me extremely lonely over the time.

what feelWhenever I try to verbalize my emotions as they are they will be misunderstood and what is worse urge people to categorize ME in a way I do not relate to at all. Most people have no idea what it means to be ASD. I am 39 and I have the emotions of a child and they are not going to mature over night. I am a self-employed, standalone woman and I am expected to be strong, reflected and independent. Emotions from someone like me are highly irritating to people. I don’t know if you can imagine what it means to lead a life where emotions are constantly invalidated, misunderstood or judged wrong? Where they have absolutely no room to be – let alone be SHARED? Sometimes I am afraid of my emotions. Because I know I am the only one to see them and there is no way of sharing them the way they are. I have to down-regulate them a lot until I am able to show them.

When I communicate with the gods I don’t need words because I know they see and feel my emotions way beyond the best explanation I could think of. I hardly ever talk verbally to them. I receive their messages in just the same way – as emotions, maybe thoughts occasionally. My emotions are pure and not colored by any interpretation and any form of expressing them already distorts them. So to communicate with the gods allows me to share my inner life undistorted and pure as it is.

I view the myths emotionally charged to a very high extend as well. You can read them word by word and concentrate on the mere storyline but if you read them with some empathy you realize how strongly they are filled with emotional power. Our modern society has rationalized emotions. They are not “productive” in fact they are destabilizing and threatening and to show them is basically regarded as a lack of maturity or self-control. But I am neither lacking maturity nor self control I am simply extremely emotional but unable to express them authentically.

Devotionals

The kemetic practice allows me to express my emotions in a non-verbal way. Sometimes all I need to do is light up the candle at Sutekhs shrine, do the opening ceremony for my big shrine and feel… heard. Without saying ONE word. This is something that seldomly functions with people. You have to ASK for a hug or you have to EXPLAIN why you cry or why you look worried and mostly it is impossible for me to explain all those 200 tabs open in my brain so I just say “I’m ok” and try to smile to avoid further questions.

I am a crafts person. I love working with my hands and I love making nice things for my shrine or presents to the gods. It is my way of praying. My prayers do hardly consist of words but they may consist of colors, cents, fabrics, materials. That is my vocabulary and I feel understood.

It sometimes worries me that I feel closer and more understood by gods than by fellow humans. I am dependant on a very small group of people who seem to understand more than others do and yet there is always this very inner part of me which is trying to get used to its earthly loneliness constantly and seems so clearly visible to the gods. I can’t help to sometimes wonder what the hell I am doing here on this planet?

Order vs. disorder

Since my dear friend and fellow kemetic Sihathor brought up an amazing thought I would like to add another aspect to this topic. The Ancient Egyptian assumption of the beginning of the world, the creation, is – unlike in other religions – not evolving from a pre-existent nothing into a something it is rather a disorderly something (like a primordial chaos) setting up itself into an orderly something. This order is a dynamic one which means it needs to be kept up actively by the intervention of gods and human. Therefore creation is not a finished process of the past that has lead to the creation of the world it is in fact still ongoing and taking place every day in multiple cycles.

This concept of disorder and order or in a more dramatic notion “Isfet and Ma’at” (referring to non-existence/existence) is indeed another aspect that suits an Asperger’s brain pretty well. My brain is struggling to set priorities; I am basically flooded constantly with random thoughts which I need to put in logical and functional order constantly. Scientific facts mix with emotional issues, feelings of anxiety, anger or insecurity, creative ideas and innovations and simple impressions I receive from my social environment that occasionally demand appropriate reaction from my side. Additionally I seem to have little borders between my subconsciousness and my daily awareness. I don’t seem to have filters like other people do which could lead me to automatic behavior I am more or less constantly reflecting EVERY APPEARANCE in my mind and trying to cope with it. I am also struggling to make a distinction between “my” very own inner processes and those of others and define the meeting points of both spheres. So setting up an order into this “primordial ocean” of perception is my daily task.

Veröffentlicht unter English, Thoughts • Gedanken | Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

The Symbolic Use of Color in Ancient Egyptian Art

Sati:

Very informative post by Sarduriur aka “Shadows of the Sun”, certainly one of the few scholarly blogs with an enormous quality of information yet written laity-friendly. I highly recommend Sarduriurs’s entries in general to educate yourself in Egyptian and ANE history. :)

Ursprünglich veröffentlicht auf Shadows of the Sun:

KV 57 Tomb of Horemheb

Detail of a vibrant and well-preserved mural from the tomb of Horemheb (KV57). Egyptian paints were created from mineral sources, lending them an unmatched permanency and brilliance. Temples and tombs whose painted reliefs are faded didn’t become that way due to any “weakness” or natural deteriorative quality in the paint. Rather, they are faded largely as a result of human tampering and overexposure to the elements. (Wilkinson, SMEA , 105) Image source.

The Ancient Egyptians’ use of color is a controversial topic, one which is quite often deeply misunderstood. It is a famous point of contention for those overly concerned with “race,” specifically Afrocentrists, some of whom often make claims to the effect of Egyptian deities being “literally Black” because some were depicted with black or reddish-brown skin in some instances, and that Ancient Egyptian society, rather than being a multi-ethnic Afro-Asiatic mosaic* society as…

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Veröffentlicht unter English, History • Geschichte, Kemeticism • Kemetismus | Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

Making Sense of the Osirian Myth Cycle

Sati:

Awesome post by Devo about the Osirian myths (also giving a great perspective on Set’s role in it. You should totally check out “The Twisted Rope”!) :)

Ursprünglich veröffentlicht auf The Twisted Rope:

This post is a continuing work in progress. As I find new information regarding the Osirian myth cycle, I will add it in below. If you see anything incorrect within this post, please let me know so that I can correct it!

It’s incredibly difficult to get to know Osiris without getting to know his mythology. More so than a lot of other deities, I have found that Osiris is entirely tied up in his mythology, especially because he is commonly regarded as being a dead deity. Almost every aspect of him and his rites circles back around to the stories that fueled his cult.

What makes discussing the Osirian myth cycle so complicated is that the myth cycle was a hodge podge of myths crammed together to begin with. And from there, these stories had thousands of years to grow and change and morph into something completely different. And…

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Veröffentlicht unter English, History • Geschichte, Kemeticism • Kemetismus | Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

Leadership

goat control

Hierarchies are not evil
As long as I have been pagan I have also been working as an executive assistant. Although many of us life in a democracy most social structures we work in are anything but democratic. Companies are hierarchical, families are hierarchical and even cliques sometimes have hidden hierarchies you need to know to act appropriately. The bigger the social structures are the more complex is the organization chart – be it officially or unofficially.

Imagine you are on a boat and a storm is coming up. A ship’s crew needs to function quickly and efficient in a very short time. This requires that everyone knows his position what to do and when to do it, and how to fulfill his tasks. If any of the crew members fail to do what they need to do the efficiency of the group will be disturbed and in case of emergencies this can even turn into a life threat. If a ship’s crew was to decide democratically what to do they would be way to slow and ineffective so the roles and orders need to be set up clearly and strictly. Hierarchy is not necessarily “bad” or driven by oppression it is just one of many ways to lead a team to achieve a certain goal. And it needs the support both of the people on the top levels of the hierarchy and the lower levels to function.

Pagan hierarchy aversion
Many pagans have a lot of criticism about religious leadership of any kind. Of course first and foremost the common “enemies” like Christianity, Islam or just basically “organized religions”. But also small leaders – even if pagan – of religious communities, temples, etc. tend to be targets of a lot of criticism and occasionally rude accusations. On the other hand, however, some people among the pagan communities have been elevated to a status of being a celebrity, a role model, a so-called “big name pagan” (BNP) a term I have never heard in Germany before. The reasons for this are vast and various and not always comprehensible but it is mostly not because of their extraordinary leading skills but because of being loud, striking, polarizing and other ways of drawing attention. And many of them have a high multimedial output and sell books, have well-followed blogs and do of course aim to distribute their works. This pagan celebrity hype might satisfy some narcissistic needs on both sides and some craving for sensation, but it is anything but constructive to a community.

Leading – just a job
I had a chance to take a glimpse at the contents of an Executive MBA course to learn a lot about how to become a leader. Although I would not consider myself to be a leader person I understood it is actually work and unlike many believe it is a profession you need to learn, practice and study. Of course a certain state of mind and a talent to coordinate various aspects is essential, as well as a large amount of patience, empathy and common sense.

In the 40ies it was vastly believed that leadership and power was exclusively a question of charisma. Today this view is mostly outdated and proven wrong or at least insufficient. In his book “Charismatische Herrschaft” Max Weber describes the functionality between a “holder of charisma” and the “believers of charisma”. People like Napoleon, Bismarck or Hitler were believed to be charismatic leaders and to have come to power mostly because of this virtue. In a charismatic leadership the leader will maintain his leadership only as long as the charisma believers are willing to obey and to believe, thus a charismatic leader is highly dependent on his followers.

Leading and manipulation
This way of leadership can also be described by a type of power which Linda Evans names “power over”. Power over is largely tied to acting out the power on the followers often related to a high amount of influencing – be it indirect by manipulation or direct by oppression which can even exceed the limits and become violence. In contrast to this she postulates the concept of “natural power”. Leaders who show natural power are not dependant on followers because their authority is not defined by the number and personalities of the people they lead and receive obedience and loyalty from but is automatically acknowledged when natural leading competence is being demonstrated. Leading skills are not necessarily only about professional skill but about empathy for the followers both as a community and as an individual and the ability to conduct the community with regard to both of these dimensions. And leading is to pave the ways to achieve collective aims with the wholeness of the community’s skills. Leading also requires the conscious agreeing and permission of the followers because otherwise it is manipulation.

Leadership and management
Leadership is an essential part of management. Every project or business – be it large or small – needs management to be realized.

  • Vision/Targets
    “Where do we want to get?/What do we want to achieve?”
  • Strategy
    “How/On which way will I get to the targets?”
  • Structures
    “How do I need to coordinate and structure the community and its skills to be able to walk the way (=defined by strategy)?”
  • Processes
    “How do I have to organize a group regarding internal and external interactions to efficiently fulfill the community’s tasks?”
  • Tool
    “Only if I know how I have to fulfill the tasks I can define the necessary tools.”

Possible projects in a pagan context may be:

  • An interfaith community
  • A specific religious community
  • Writing a blog post
  • A pagan online magazine
  • A temple
  • A pagan gathering
  • A pagan blog project
  • A ritual

And to realize these projects leadership is required. No matter if the project is small or huge, if many people are involved or just one person. The steps are basically always the same.

Leading itself has two important functions: The first one is being the locomotive for a project, which includes motivation of the community, preset strategies and directions and thinking solution- and target-orientated. The second one is taking care of the group cohesion to maintain the community and its power. This can include acting as a role model, create motivation, solve conflicts, offer ethical advice and orientation and actively create a group mentality or project philosophy and communicate it.

where go

Leadership styles
W.H. Staehle categorized leaderships in several types according to the interactions between leaders and followers. This is certainly not the only way to classify leading styles but it is one possibility to categorize and thus recognize certain styles and their qualities. They can of course occur in mixed forms, too.

  • Autocratic leadership
    This kind of leadership does not take care nor listen to the subordinates
  • Authoritarian leadership
    A leadership which completely rests upon obedience
  • Bureaucratic leadership
    This leadership mainly features a high amount of objectification through rules, definitions and strictly defined competences
  • Charismatic leadership
    It is similar to Authoritarian leadership but with a more paternal notion which is highly dependend on the personality of a leader
  • Democratic leadership
    This leading style puts the subordinates into focus. It can also be viewed like a constant upside-down-management
  • Group-orientated leadership
    This leading style includes the group to be led as a whole and is mostly about conducting a team
  • Cooperative leadership
    Cooperative means to view subordinates as coworkers
  • Participative leadership
    This leading method is oriented at a role model person, which will let the coworkers participate in general decisions according to their performance. The advantage of this leadership is that the subordinates will develop a higher motivation and show more independency and self-initiative. A disadvantage is the relatively slow process of making decisions due to a high number of discussions.
  • Situational leadership
    In this kind of leadership the leader adjusts to the difficulty level of the tasks and challenges to be taken by the group or team and also to the maturity of individual community members.
  • Personality-orientated leadership
    This is a further development of the aforementioned situational leadership and includes the personalities of every individual subordinate
  • Laissez-faire leadership
    As the name indicates the leader leaves a high amount of personal freedom to the subordinates
  • Direction-orientated leadership
    This leading style can either focus on the orientation of the subordinates or the orientation of the working targets
  • Sense-orientated leadership
    Sense-orientated refers to a strong bond of the leader to values, ethics and sense
  • Transformational leadership
    This leading type aims to transform and change the behavior and the consciousness oft he group as a whole and the individuals
(W.H. Staehle: Management. 8. Aufl., München 1999, S. 334 ff.)

Every leadership style has its validity as long as it IS actually LEADING. The mere gaining of attention is NOT leading – at most nothing but mis-leading. Leading means to have an aim you are heading for and those who follow you need to be informed where or what that is.

Leading styles may vary depending on the project and the personality of the leader as well as those of the followers which is perfectly ok as soon es the efficiency of reaching the targets and realizing the visions is visible and measurable. According to individual talents and skills leaders might be good and efficient in certain leading styles and inefficient in others so it is part of the leader’s responsibility to choose the right method. And further more not every follower might suit a certain leader due to his individual expectations and demands. Not every follower might fit into a certain community with its own mentality, structure and functional hierarchy. This is very often overlooked when criticism is offered from the outside. Unless you do not have an actual insight into all the aforementioned aspects of leadership, structures, targets, visions, strategies etc. criticism can only be vague.

Community
The fact that people have somehow ended up in a similar situation does not make a community. The pagan society is a very heterogenous group of people. They have basically ended up in the same confusing situation, knowing well what they do NOT want but lacking visions, goals and targets as a community and therefore a community spirit. To form an actual community there need to be people who are capable and willing to take over responsibility, spot, form and provide visions which are worthwhile being supported, suggest realistic and practical strategies to achieve those and create healthy, effective and stable structures to guide individuals into making their very own contribution to the community. Which methods you choose, how you organize things is secondary as long as it takes you where you want to get.

similarities

Many thanks to Fred who supported me to write this post with his longstanding experience as a mangaing director, project manager, business consultant and last but not least my personal guide and counselor. 
Veröffentlicht unter English, Practice • Praxis, Thoughts • Gedanken | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , , | 2 Kommentare

Kemetic kingship and Ma’at (KRT)

The understanding of Ma’at and kingship in Ancient Egypt

Statue of a young Ramesses II in the Egyptian Museum of Turin
Wikipedia

521984_477120542348434_1126679412_n“Man can not live without a state. The reason is: He needs a parent institution, who realizes and guarantees Ma’at. The individual can only act in a limited and dependent framework [...] But to extend Ma’at into a bigger sphere where communicative, trust- and understanding-based action becomes possible at all, it requires a higher-leveled institution. This institution is the kingship.” (translated from Jan Assmann, Gerechtigkeit und Unsterblichkeit im Alten Ägypten)

 

The Ancient Egyptian culture assumes the creation not as a sudden appearance of the world out of nothing but as a disorderly state forming an order by the act of a creator god. Since the creator gods are immanent in the creation they may be regarded even BE this order. For the goddess Ma’at this appears to be very obvious. Order – from an Ancient Egyptian point of view – is something that needs to be recreated constantly to prevent chaos, to “fight Isfet” and thus the failing of the ongoing process of creation. This assumption of how creation is performed provides the image after which the role of the king is created. The king IS the personification of the order in a social and also cosmic sphere. He is the bringer of Ma’at and he is the melting point between divinity and the sphere of man because Ma’at is also the offering, the sacrifice which is presented to the gods. It might also be considered as the act of keeping up the order of creation in the human sphere by cult and ritual in order to continue what has once been begun by the gods, the first cycle of creation also named zep-tepi.

In a social sphere Ma’at appears to be what is called “connective justice” and the king is the maintainer of this condition. This means the individual is acting unselfish, social and possibly even altruistic in a sense of “advanced payment” while trusting that this acting will not be abused or exploited since the institution of the king is going to care of a fair sharing. In Ancient Egypt this was of course mostly about agricultural goods and work performance. Herein lies a probably a major difference to the more altruistic act of “loving thy neighbor” in Christianity. If there is no real (physical) higher institution to protect the justice in a community any beforehand act of giving is threatened to be exploited and abused. Only the hope that social acting will finally be rewarded by a god after death far away from the sphere of man remains as a motivation to act socially.

The manifestation of Ma’at today

So far the ideal of Ancient Egyptian kingship, state and cosmic order. It is comprehensible that this ideal has seldomly been fulfilled in ancient times and most likely even less today. This ideal has grown out of the social and natural enviroment in Egypt so the society was probably still closer to this ideal than the Kemetic community can be today. The problem is we do not have an actual physical “land” we put our feet on, we do not have field crops from this land we are supposed to share with each other and we do not have a flood we need to make use of collectively to be able to make our fields fertile.

Additionally each of us lives simultaneously in many societies trying to contribute to them as an individual as best as we can. We act as employees, as family members, as friends, as club members, religious communities etc. serving different social structures and social leading figures. We are overworked and burned out both in our working times and our spare time. In Ancient Egypt social duties were all focused into ONE order — the ancient Egyptian state. And Ma’at had a political, a social, and a cosmic dimension. The only thing it hardly showed was an individual sphere because the individual was supposed to step back behind the community. Community was the provider of livelihood and everyone was aware of that and had an interest to maintain the community for his or her very own good. We may call this actually and anti-narcissistic principle. And sadly, this is the major difficulty we are facing today if we want to live according to Ma’at. Today the individual is in the center of our social awareness. If we naturally put ourselves in the first place – which is basically narcissism – we follow the dictate of modern society. Narcisissm is being rewarded while altruism is being exploited. If we pursue ideals of social behavior and generosity we are threatened to be the ones who will be abused by the rest of a society which has long-since been determined by the means of survival of the most relentless.

Divine kingship in modern Kemeticism?

The only chance we might have today to form societies according to our Kemetic faith is to establish small “island communities” and try to manifest Ma’at. In this situation a small leadership or even kingship does undoubtedly have its right to exist. I personally tend to view it as a form of experimental archeology and follow it with some interest if I hear about it. A lot of BNP have – probably more out of coincidence – ended up in social top positions but hardly any of them shows actual leader skills. Skills of narcissistic showmanship however are widespread.

The problem is that especially in paganism a notion of “order- and hierarchy animosity” is predominant. In Kemeticism this animosity is a lot weaker because the Kemetic faith still contains hierarchical elements and Kemetics usually struggle less with these than other pagan traditions. The disorientation new pagans may sometimes face in the broad pagan sphere is a way smaller problem in organized Kemetic communities. Organized communities may limit the individual spiritual development but this limitation is being rewarded by receiving the “social warmth” and safety of a pretty stable social structure protected by a leading figure. It is a “deal” everyone needs to make up his or her mind about individually and a decision that deserves respect because after all this IS part of the Kemetic faith and not – as often assumed – a mere lack of autonomy. Modern kingship or leadership is probably more about being a parent rather than “a ruler”.

Veröffentlicht unter "Kemetic Round Table", English, History • Geschichte, Kemeticism • Kemetismus | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , , | 3 Kommentare

Meditations

I was never a meditation person. I am way too jittery for that. I admired those who told me they can meditate for hours without losing patience. I figured it must be some kind of talent until I met a Yogi who told me meditation is PRACTICE. If you are a jittery, emotional, easily upset person it basically means that you have a lot of passion inside. He told me this was a good thing because it will make the practice more powerful and the development faster. I had never thought of this before. I always considered it as a flaw and not a potential. He said the same about anger. Anger is not a bad thing in fact it can be a very transformative force if you always combine it with compassion. This motivated me a lot to start to “tame my mind” and learn to control my powers.

Photo: Wing-Chi Poon, Wkimedia Commons

The seat

The first and most important thing is the seat. There is no need to knot yourself into the lotus posture. Sitting with crossed legs is perfectly sufficient. Make sure your bottom is a little elevated because that will relieve your back a lot and make it possible to stay seated for a while without tensions in your lower back. You can either use a firm cushion or a thick book wrapped into a towel. Find out which is the right height you need.

The next point is your spine. It should be straight like a “roll of coins” so the vertebras can all rest onto one another. Pull your chin a little backwards to make sure the neck spine is straightened, too. Little rotation movements can help to find the right point of balance for your head.

The hands should rest in your lap. Palms up, right hand into left hand and the thumbs gently touch each other. It may sound weird but this is really important. During meditating you will notice that you sometimes loose the contact of your thumbs or that you press them together too hard. It is actually a great helper to keep the concentration.

When you start to meditate it may be helpful to close your eyes for a few seconds in the beginning but then you open them again so they are only half open, your head is slightly bend down and you focus on a spot around 20 inches before your nose.

Bronze statue of man in half-lotus
Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Einar Einarsson Kvaran

The meditations

I learned two important meditation techniques.

1. Meditation by counting breaths

You concentrate on the feeling the air creates at the wings of your nose and you count the phases between the breaths.

breathe out – 1 – breathe in – breathe out – 2 – breathe in – breathe out – 3 – breath in…
and so on

You do NOT count

breathe in – 1 – breathe out – breathe in – 2 – breathe out – breathe in – 3 – breathe out…

You count until you reach 21. If you lose count you start again with 1. If you reach 21 you start with 1 again. It sounds very easy but it isn’t. It will probably take you a few times until you manage to get to 21.

2. Meditation with an object

You place an object about 20inches and before your eyes (little lower than that). It can be anything you like to look at. Like a stone, a flower, a picture. You start to meditate and your eyes should rest on the object. You “tie your mind to the object like you tie a horse to a post”. Whatever happens, when you get overwhelmed by emotions or thoughts you do not lose contact with your object. If emotions and thoughts come you do not avoid them. You look at them “with a friendly smile”, acknowledge them but you also do not try to cling to them and let them go again. Any trance-like states are not wanted. Make sure you stay fully conscious and concentrated during the meditations

How often and how long

When you start with these techniques it is recommended to do it 5 minutes at the max. but more times a day. Set an alarm clock to make sure you don’t meditate longer than 5 minutes and try to meditate as often as you can.

Veröffentlicht unter English, Practice • Praxis | Verschlagwortet mit , , | Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

Living in the desert…

I can’t really tell if this is just a short story or a UPG post.
I just felt I had to write it and so I did.
I will leave it up to you if you take it as a fictional story or as an inspirational text.

Living in the desert one of the first things Set would teach me: You cannot settle. You have to move on. The desert may become a home to you but what makes it a home is not the fact that you know each and every place but that you learn how to handle things to come. You learn different types of sand and how to walk on them, you learn which places serve as a shelter for a night and which allow you to rest for a few days or even weeks. But as soon as you start to feel comfortable somewhere and wish to stay it will come. This feeling of subtle decline. What you found in that place you chose for your rest is running short and you realize you have to go.

I have more than once made the mistake to stay too long. Because I loved places. Because I longed so much to finally COME HOME that I stubbornly insisted on staying where I was although Set urged me to move on. When you stay to long at a place where you shouldn’t you do not experience pleasant things. You run out of water, your food possibilities get lesser and lesser and while you were hunting the place you have of course become a rival to other animals -  in fact in the desert you are not more than one of many animals trying to survive. They might start craving for the food supplies you have gathered and if you wait for too long they will attack you. They are hungry, too.

And sometimes I didn’t want to stay in places but Set demanded me to stay. To endure. Because the place wasn’t finished. It’s is not so much about something special to happen I am not talking about miraculous experiences. This is just simple and rough life and you need to learn to appreciate what you have and you cannot afford to reject anything. You never know when you will find the next place to rest and what you will find there. You do not leave unfinished places. “Finished” means, to leave in the right moment. Not sooner and not later.

The thing is you have no property in the desert except for what you can carry along. Everything that’s in it belongs to everybody and you take what the desert gives you. And you choose how you handle that. Whether you act fair and share when you meet fellow wanderers or if you raid them or if you are self-destructive or altruistic enough to give everything you have to someone in need. You need to make good choices. All the time. Because every choice may have serious consequences.

You do meet people occasionally. Desert nomads usually recognize one another. They have this special “desert spirit” and you just know it, you greet, you respect the way they’ve come silently and usually you don’t bother to stay together for too long because you get used to your solitude. Not to the loneliness though. You cannot get used to loneliness. The longer you walk alone the more you realize that company does not cure your loneliness. The loneliness becomes a part of you. Even if desert people walk together for a while, knowing about the loneliness they now it is not going to get “better”.

People who are settled at the river come and enter the desert from time to time. For several reasons. Some seek answers, some seek soltitude and some simply get lost. Some can be really annoying and try to drag you to the river while you try to explain to them that you cannot go there because it will cause trouble. Desert people are not welcome at the river. End of story. I have been in trouble several times because people thought they had to bring me to the river, make me settle there and teach me to be a river person. But the desert has me for a reason. I can’t simply become a settler and be happy no matter how much I long for the water. It is hard enough to realize this. The river is always stress but sometimes you can’t avoid going there, filling up your water bottles and sometimes you have your people who let you come and go without binding you and you know where you can find some rest and take some food with you.

Sometimes you meet river people you feel you just don’t want to let go. They have this beautiful “river sphere” around them and for some reason they are able to share it with you. It is as if they can fulfill all your cravings for water and your longing to finally COME HOME. It may sound nice but actually those are the worst encounterings because it is incredibly painful to let go of them. And you HAVE to let go of them. Always. They do not belong in the desert and you cannot follow them to the river.

You meet them often while they are somehow trying to move on. If there is one thing desert people are good at it is MOVING ON because that is what they are doing all the time. River people who seek answers in the desert are often stuck in a difficult situation and they search for some peace and quiet and may be in need of an outside view. And they sometimes need someone to tell them about the different kinds of sand and how to walk on it. They might wander with you for a few days but while you do that you know they are going to leave. Soon. And you have to let them go back to where they belong.

No matter how much you want them to stay.

Veröffentlicht unter English, Poetry • Poetisches, Thoughts • Gedanken | Verschlagwortet mit , , | Hinterlasse einen Kommentar