Patreon Topic 5: Working With Wildly Different Paths

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From my first Ansuz supporter comes this topic:

“So how might you work with a student or a client from a wildly different path? How do you, or do you at all, incorporate your own experience with Celtic deities, with Anubis, and with ceremonial magic into your current work and path? To what degree is that breadth helpful, to what degree is it harmful?”

The problem in speaking in generalities is that there’s likely to be some time down the road where something will come my way to challenge it. That being said, if someone is coming to me with a Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan specific issue at hand I will generally stick to Heathen and NT specific responses. Likewise, if someone comes to me with Celtic or Kemetic-specific questions I will direct them to resources there. My worship of and experiences with Celtic and Kemetic Gods are part of my everyday life. I have worshiped Gods from these culture groups longer than I have the Heathen and NT Gods. My ceremonial magic background generally shows up in some forms of how I do galdr, and sometimes how I approach things relating to magic.

My experiences with Celtic Gods are primarily devotional, and except for Anubis and a little bit with Bast, so are my experiences with the Kemetic Gods. Most of my work history with Anubis is specific to the work He has given me to do as His priest. Since so much of that is one-on-one with the Dead, usually the general Dead than Ancestors, it does not come up a lot with others. Likewise, my work with ceremonial magic was quite specific to working especially hand-in-hand with Michael at first and then with planetary intelligences for the most part. Most of the things I have learned and experienced from my time before Heathenry are background now, or show up in certain ways, eg a galdr method I work with is similar to how I was taught to intone during LBRP and similar ceremonial magic rites.

The way I might work with a student or client from a wildly different path is:

1. Is the person solidly committed to learning about or committed to this wildly different path? If someone is just trying to find solid ground I could be useful to them. The person may be fully new to a given path and just need a guiding hand, even if it is to someone that isn’t me but is a good person for them within a given religious or magical community.

2. Have they followed up with a spiritual specialist within the tradition or path that they want to study? Are there any people within that tradition or path that could do this job better than me? Some folks are being put on wholly new paths and need direction from a useful source, so as a diviner sometimes I get folks who do not really have a religious, magical, or even spiritual community to interact with because building that is actually their project.

3. Do I have the information, guidance, etc that they need? “Is this actually my stuff to teach, to pass or guide them on?” is a good question to ask. I’m not a Celtic-oriented person, and while I am a priest of Anubis, most of my knowledge in Kemetic religion is oriented around Him and Bast. I have not done ceremonial magic on a regular basis in years. I know enough to know I am not an expert in Celtic reconstructionist/revivalist religions, and that so far as a Kemetic priest is concerned, I have only have expert level experience in very specific areas. My knowledge and experience has limits and I need to respect them for the good of the person and myself.

The breadth of my experience is useful in that I at least have a decent enough grasp of resources within the community to guide folks to solid sources of information. I know what I am and am not qualified to teach or give instruction on. So, in this way it is quite helpful because I know where my boundaries lie.

If a student or client in a wildly different religion or path from mine needed to work with me, specifically me, for whatever reason, it would likely be with me as a kind of helpmeet providing input as requested or needed. As a diviner I have little issue working with folks regardless of their path because the client knows going in that what I am doing is facilitating communication between them, the Runes, and Whoever the client wants information from, for, or about.

I would not really say that this is harmful from my angle, but from a student looking for a teacher to give more broad lessons it might not be as helpful as they would like. Since I generally do not teach about Celtic or Kemetic religion, or Kemetic or ceremonial magic, I do not worry too much about it. Given the divination systems I work with most are the Runes and tarot, along with the occasional other divination method, eg smoke/fire scrying, my methods are usually flexible or useful enough to other Gods that They will work with the system I am most comfortable with and give accurate and useful answers through them. The harm would be is if I misrepresented my knowledge, understanding, sources, and so on. The harm would be if I knew I wasn’t an expert or even well versed in a given subject and tried teaching on it anyhow.

The Warrior Dead and Military Dead

I have used the two terms Warrior Dead and Military Dead on and off, both here on this blog, and elsewhere. I felt that I needed to give some explanation, as the way I use these terms are not automatically interchangeable. Not everyone, Ancestor workers, spirit workers, or otherwise will agree with me, and that is fine. There are many I count as Warrior Dead that are not Military Dead at all. Not all the Military Dead are Warrior Dead. This does not mean that all our Military Dead who I do not count as Warrior Dead are somehow less.

For me, what makes the Warrior Dead and Military Dead different is this: a Warrior Dead has stood up in defense of their people and/or their ways, whether that sacrifice or stand is made on behalf of their tribe, religion, nationality, ethnicity, etc. They may have done so in spite of overwhelming odds, to safeguard a piece of their people or heritage. They may have given their life in service of their people, or their ways. Among the Warrior Dead I honor are the 4,500 Saxons who gave up their lives rather than convert to Christianity, and those who kept the sacred ways alive. Countless people not part of an army have risen to defend their people from oppression, genocide, invasion, hate, and privation.

Not all Military Dead are called to make such sacrifices. One of my grandfathers, when he passes, will have been in the military, and so I will honor him as part of the Military Dead. Yet, he will not have seen combat. He signed up, and so, would have been willing to place himself in harm’s way. I do not believe the only Military Dead worth honoring are those who have seen combat. As with my grandfather, one of my grandmothers has served in the Army in a noncombat role, she, as a secretary. Anyone willing to put their life in harm’s way for another deserves honor. Anyone willing to give up some of, if not all, of the best years of their life so another person does not have to, deserves honor. Whether one is a mail carrier, a secretary, a drill sergeant, a combat officer, or a medic, support staff or direct combatants, all deserve honor. All who are part of the Military Dead deserve our honor and our thanks.

I honor the Warrior and Military Dead together on a single shrine. Because of space constraints this is on a filing cabinet. On this shrine is Wepwawet, who I associate with the Warrior Dead. He is on the rightmost front part of the shrine. Standing before Him is a small ceramic cup (I think it was used for crème brule) which holds the whiskey I have in offering for all on the shrine. Beside it is a small mound of mugwort, and sometimes tobacco. In the center of the shrine is a ceramic container which contains the dirt from several veterans’ graves, which They granted to me with Their permission after I left offerings for Them and cleaned the dirt from Their plaques. It is something I try to do about once a month. To Their left is a pin I received at The Warrior Remembrance Ritual at ConVocation 2012, given to me by the ritual leader. I wear it sometimes when I serve the Military Dead; otherwise it stays on Their shrine. To the left of this is a US Armed Forces pin and a mirror from WWII. I was told the mirror had seen combat when I picked these up from an antique shop. Behind this is a muslin-wrapped figure whom I have given a lot of work to: Ramses II. Given he was a renowned warrior and his tomb had been disturbed, I have taken time doing spells and giving offerings for him. He has a small glass star at his head. The very front of the shrine has scraps of paper with the names of people I am giving offerings to, and prayers for.

Some of these Dead have responded in kind, and asked for me not only to pray for Them, but those They left behind. After all, this is a two-way street. We do not just look after the Dead. As the Lithuanian proverb goes, “The Dead are the protection of the living.” In honoring our Warrior and Military Dead, we offer Them a way into our lives, to walk with us again, and to share in our lives as much as our offerings. Our Gebo to Their sacrifices is to remember Them, to honor Them, and to keep Their memories.