Archives For Kemetic Orthodox Faith

We’ve long known that Pagan and polytheist revival and reconstruction movements are a global phenomenon, and that has included, quietly, tentatively, the Middle East. While most countries in the Middle East are culturally, religiously, and demographically dominated by Islam, that hasn’t stopped a few adventurous souls from embracing various forms of modern Pagan religions. This isn’t safe, and in some cases it has led to deadly tragedy, but this thread persists, alongside the sorts of syncretic esotericism that have always existed on the margins of the dominant monotheisms. A recent article in Arab Times, notes that in Kuwait people are buying statues of pre-Islamic gods, much to the outrage of some local officials.

Statue of the goddess Anahita in Maragha, Iran.

Statue of the goddess Anahita in Maragha, Iran.

“MP Abdulrahman Al-Jeeran has recommended banning the sale of statues of the gods followed by idol-worshippers during the pre-Islamic times of paganism, indicating that he had discovered the sale of statues as works of art and gift items by some shops, reports Al-Rai daily. He revealed that statues representing gods believed by non-Muslim pagan worshippers during the primitive era are commonly seen at various shopping malls across the country. He added that the retailer sells these items under the pretext of selling accessories and fashion materials without considering the real meaning behind those artifacts.”

There’s been a school of thought which posits that polytheism is humanity’s default religious setting, which is why religions like Christianity and Islam must constantly be in a process of conversion, re-conversion, and solidifying power to maintain the massive numbers they currently enjoy across the globe. If they don’t, or if they are limited by secular governments, the “old” beliefs start to re-emerge. As scholar Jordan Paper put it in his book, The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology, quote:

The goddess Isis.

The goddess Isis.

“Given the history of homo sapiens, it may be that polytheism is inherent in human nature, not so much in the sense that is part of our DNA structure but that it arises from the human experience in conjunction with our nature. For unless we accept the arguments of the ur-monotheists that is contrary to  the above, monotheism is extremely recent, given the sweep of human history; arose in a tiny part of the planet; and is constantly breaking down.”

Of course, that “tiny part of the planet” happens to be the Middle East, and there are immense vested interests within all the monotheisms to ensure that the birthplace of their theology remains solidly in the hands of those who believe in the God of Abraham (though they also struggle amongst themselves for dominance). But, if religious freedoms were really guaranteed, could polytheism, Paganism, truly emerge in the Middle East? Right now, Egypt, which has been rocked by revolution, coup, internal fighting, and unrest this year, is currently trying to write a new constitution for their country that will be accepted by both Islamic hardliners, the military, non-Muslim religious groups (like the Copts), and a large secular-minded minority. A key point of contention is what form religious freedom will take in this new constitution, and by extension, this new government.

“One significant change, says committee head Amr Moussa, is that Article 3 which guarantees Christians and Jews the right to exercise their religious rites will probably be extended to include all non-Muslims. Article 3 currently states that ‘For Egyptian Christians and Jews the principles of their religious law will be the main source in regulating their personal status, matters pertaining to their religion, and the selection of their spiritual leadership.’ The amended version is expected to state that ‘for all Egyptian non-Muslims the principles of their religious laws will be the main source in regulating their personal status…etc’. The proposed change is opposed by Mohamed Ibrahim Mansour, the newly-appointed representative of the ultraconservative Nour Party. In a closed meeting on Monday Mansour issued the melodramatic warning that the term ‘non-Muslims’ would open gates to ‘religious sects like worshippers of the devil’.

Expanding religious freedoms beyond the “People of the Book” is increasingly seen as necessary by religious minorities and secular Egyptians, first, because faiths like Baha’i “cannot legally marry and continue to have trouble with matters such as inheritance because the law does not properly recognize their presence.” In addition, there is a growing number Egyptians who aren’t simply secular, but have embraced atheism, despite the grave social disadvantages inherent in that choice.

“‘Atheists are all around Egypt,’ said Othman Othman, pointing to a group of young people sitting at the table next to us. The number of atheists in Egypt is not less than three million, Othman claimed, but they do not label themselves ‘atheists’ as society would disown them. Those who have come out publicly as atheists have been not only isolated by their friends and families, but also society in general. However, others who turn down their familial religion have faced many worse trials than mere isolation. Asmaa Omar, 24, who has just graduated the Faculty of Engineering, said that once she revealed her beliefs to her family, they began to physically and mentally torture her. Her father slapped her in the face and broke her jaw. She was not able to eat properly for seven months.”

Once you open the door to Baha’i and atheists, it is only a matter of time before we see a Kemetic/Egyptian polytheist revival (or even Egyptian Wiccans). After all, Egypt is already a global hotspot for seekers, New Agers, and yes, Pagans, wanting to see the many ancient treasures and wonders of the country. Once the chaos abates, Egypt will want the massive tourism revenue to return, and with it will come the exchange of ideas that results from a flood of visitors. In fact, we know that there are already Pagans in Egypt, but a more open society might spark unexpected growth.

A view of the pyramids at Giza from the plateau to the south of the complex. From left to right: the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

A view of the pyramids at Giza from the plateau to the south of the complex. From left to right: the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

The question remains: can Paganism emerge in the Middle East? Will it be allowed to? If secular governments (or at least pseudo-secular hybrids) start to emerge, it could happen, and if/when it does, what happens next?

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

While we have discussed Haitian religion, specifically Vodou, quite a bit in the wake of the massive earthquake that has decimated Port-au-Prince, there are many other important aspects we haven’t talked about. This was partially due to the immediate need to get aid and donations rolling, but now that we are two weeks into the crisis, some are looking at the vast cultural damage that has been done to Haiti.

La Sirene Vodou Banner by Mireille Delice

“With dozens of galleries, museums and other venues badly damaged in the quake, Haiti’s arts community is sick at heart. Had the nation’s rich cultural patrimony, a testament to joy and beauty in a land that has seen tragedy and despair, been lost? Since the quake, gallery owners have been trying to pull together a list of artists killed, injured or missing. They’d accounted for about half of those they represented. Untold is the toll in artworks, with their wild colors and real-life portrayals; their lions, tigers and bears, though those animals don’t exist in Haiti; their echoes of voodoo traditions and the nation’s African roots.”

The Los Angeles times talks with several curators, gallery owners, and Haitian artists about the state of Haiti’s artistic and cultural legacy after the quake, including flag-maker Mireille Delice (a protégé of  renowned Haitian artist Yves Telemak), who is persevering under the weight of considerable loss.

“Mireille Delice is a well-known creator of the “flags,” or banners, a form of Haitian art that is a piece of cloth, usually satin, decorated with beads or sequins. In the quake she lost her sister, her house and her box of sequins. “We have to keep on,” she said, seated at the gallery with other artists.”

Art can seem trivial, especially in the face of such a devastating human toll, but it also underpins and unites nations, religions, and cultures. As Haitian artist Gabriel Coutard says in the article, “art serves us. We must keep it.” To do otherwise really would mean the death of Haiti, certainly as a shared idea and culture, if not as a nation. As Haiti starts to mend, it will turn to its artists to make sense of things, and express the country’s pain, loss, and eventual recovery to the world.

Since the quake many Pagans have given generously to aid Haiti, and several Pagan organizations have set up special funds for earthquake relief, we are also now starting to get word of Pagans who are on the ground helping the Haitian people directly. Pagan priestess Alane Brown, a member of the Crow Women Circle and Goddess Choir, has sent out an open letter to the Pagan community regarding Covenant of the Goddess member Peter Dybing.

Peter Dybing in Haiti

“Looking for a way to help the Haiti earthquake victims? Want to support an emergency medical clinic in Port au Prince that’s run by a Pagan priest? Please consider donating money to Haiti Community Support. This NGO is not itself affiliated with any political or religious group. However, the man running the clinic, Peter Dybing, is a member of the Covenant of the Goddess and a longtime practitioner of the Craft. He was very active in the Albuquerque Pagan community before relocating to the Virgin Islands a few years ago. There he met Mathilde and Bruce, who run Haiti Community Support. Haiti Community Support is a NGO that has been helping Haiti since 2006 through programs in health, education and infrastructure building. Following the earthquake, Haiti Community Support shifted its emphasis to disaster relief. Peter (an EMT) and Mathilde traveled to Port au Prince on January 14th and set up an emergency clinic in a park. They recruited over 30 local Haitians and together they began caring for people who, despite severe injuries, just could not get into the overwhelmed hospitals.”

If you want to donate to this effort in Haiti, head over to the Haiti Community Support web site. According to Brown’s letter, the emergency clinic now has doctors and nurses working with it, and is planning to start traveling to different affected areas. So if you have been looking for a way to donate that involves the Pagan community, and directly aids the Haitian people, Haiti Community Support seems to be exactly what you are looking for. May the gods bless and protect Peter Dybing in his work.

Dybing isn’t the only Pagan on the ground in Haiti, Circle Sanctuary member Otis Richardson (Fenian), a Pagan soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army, deployed for relief aid on January 16th. Circle has a page up with his contact information if you’d like to send him well-wishes or include him in your prayers and workings (Dybing’s information is included on that page as well).

Finally, while not on the ground, Rev. Tamara L. Siuda, Nisut of the Kemetic Orthodox Faith, and an initiated Haitian Mambo, has been sharing information about the safety of Vodou practitioners and their peristyles in Haiti via her Facebook Page and blog. Blessings to them in their efforts as well.