April 30, 2009

Three more Shemsu and a word on RPD

This past weekend we hosted an RPD Intensive at Tawy House. For those of my readers who aren't familiar with the acronym, RPD stands for Rite of Parent Divination, and is one of the major rites of passage of the Kemetic Orthodox Faith as well as its first one, unless you count the rootnaming of children born into the religion. Since we are modern practitioners of an ancient religion, we do not have the same indigenous, contemporary context of its original devotees, who lived in one single country with our gods as the majority gods and the worship of our gods as a public institution. As a result, we do not inherit the gods of our towns or professions or spouses or cities, and "finding our place" in the religion is somewhat more difficult.

There are two ways to approach this. One could pick and choose one's own favorite gods, and in fact, many devotees of our gods do this quite successfully. For myself I have come to the conclusion over many years of practice that choosing the gods you worship is a wonderful freedom that comes with a high price. This price seems to be that the relationship then becomes dominated by the human individual and not the god(s) in question. When it's all about what I want and what I like and what I am willing to do or say or be, the other person in the relationship with me is going to be limited to only being part of the relationship in the ways that I permit.

I wasn't prepared to tell my gods how to interact with me, mostly because my experience of Them has suggested that if anybody in this arrangement is doing the choosing and directing...it's not me.

So, way back when I was first teaching, and we were all worshipping whatever gods spoke to us personally and the ones we chose, I realized this was going to be an issue going forward if we were really going to break the modern philosophy and try to think like the people whose gods we were trying to honor. While they were certainly individuals, they also had a serious sense of place in the larger whole of the society. They didn't think they had a "right" to anything. They knew that the order and place of the universe -- which they respected so very much they even called it a goddess -- would make sure that they were provided for, if only they found their place and acted in it with all sincerity to the best of their ability.

Finding that place, or Ma'at, as they would've known it in Kemet, was a central part of existence for them. Once found it would help with all aspects of life. Finding it, however, required an enormous commitment of time, and love, and above all trust in the gods and Ma'at Herself.

I wondered how we could echo this commitment, this trust. And I went to shrine and prayed for many days, asking Ma'at how we could have the personal relationship with the gods that the ancients did, how we could trust Them to bring us to a place where we had this relationship with the gods like they wrote in the ancient texts, calling them Mother and Father and talking about how the gods would be benevolent to Their children when certain things were done.

One day, a very quiet but firm voice said "if you want Parents, then you have to let them give birth to you. You don't give birth to yourself in physical life, do you? Why would it be any different in your spiritual life?" The revelation was followed by a great deal of divination and research. Over time it would become the basis of the philosophy for the RPD, in which we learn which of the gods created us, personally and directly, and after which we begin to learn the dance of trust that is the basis of all good relationships.

It works for us, and has worked for us, for more than a decade. Hundreds of people have found meaning in it; most recently, this past weekend, three more went through the process and came out the other side satisfied. I don't pretend to believe that it would be the best idea for everyone, and we've never suggested anyone outside our religious community would need, or even necessarily want, to go through such a rite of passage. But it's important to us, perhaps more important than anything else we do save live our lives and pray, and so this RPD weekend was a big deal.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, I suspect. But for today I've gotten too long-winded and I'll stop, with a congratulations (nekhtet!) to Huyitw, Sekhmetbitu, and Tahotepirty. Love to you all and may your new adventure in trust be very exciting.