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I am overjoyed at the responses I received on my previous entry from my friends and readers, and the discussions it prompted. If you have not done so yet, I encourage you to peruse Ekunyi’s, Helmsman of Inepu’s, Senneferet/Claudia’s, and Kiya’s perspectives on the issue.

Shefyt also alluded to a post of hers from March 2010, reflecting on Set as Lord of the Oasis. Though brief, it is a refreshing view of a lesser-known and seldom-observed facet of Set’s Divine character, and worth reading. It is a fine and thoughtful example of popular piety in Modern applications of pre-Christian Polytheistic traditions.

I would also like to extend my gratitude once again to my friend Lykeia, a Hellenic Polytheist and devotee of the vastly multifaceted God Apollon, who introduced me to the Greek term doxa. Unlike the popular term gnosis, which approximately translates from Greek as “knowledge,” doxa refers to “belief.” I now have an appropriate term in my linguistic arsenal to use in lieu of a rather redundant and loaded term I vehemently dislike: UPG (unverified personal gnosis). There has been an ongoing debate in the overarching Pagan and Polytheist community over the term “UPG” and whether or not it is relevant or useful or appropriate. Doxa resolves the quandary for me, personally.

Thanks having been extended, I shall now discuss three points a number of readers seem to have been confused about during their reading of the initial post. I expounded upon my position in the comments section of the parent post, but for the sake of ease, I will condense them here.

1.) She hates UPG, is too pedantic, and is trying to convince me that my personal experiences and practices are invalid.

No, I don’t hate anyone’s personal experiences with the Gods that are relevant to their personal practice and personal understanding of things. When it comes at the expense of historicity, when someone asserts their doxa in a revisionist, anachronistic fashion, then I take sincere issue. As my friend Helms so concisely and elegantly put it, “most people [get] the impression that I ‘don’t like UPG,’ but [what I really dislike] is the fact that UPG trumps and buries everything else in a tsunami of whim. I assiduously avoid some chats because the only subjects people seem to be interested in talking about are what new statues they’re buying and what type of soda to offer.

And I don’t perceive myself to be pedantic, or in plain English, “overly concerned with formal rules and trivial points of learning.” My emphasis on History is not simply due to my academic background — and, indeed, I am not even remotely the most learned of my peers and mentors. “How things were done” historically serves as an informing framework for my belief and practice. In my personal view, if we just make something up as we go along entirely, what is the point of practicing an Ancient religion? How can we worship the Gods if we remove Them entirely from Their religious, cultural, and historical contexts?

None of us can truly recreate historical Egyptian religion, however, or any pre-Christian religion (my first questions in regard to that dilemma being “which region, time period, and God are we placing the most emphasis on, exactly?”).  As centralized as historical Egyptian government and culture were during various periods, there are too many regional variations to take into account to consolidate into any semblance of “historical authenticity” or “purity” within any Modern practice. There are likewise too many gaps in the historical record for that to be possible. We do, in fact, need to fill in some gaps on our own. How we fill in those gaps will always be a point of contention, just as independent Egyptian city-states maintained their own independent, regional theologies apart from one-another. Different interpretations happen. And those differences in interpretation are largely okay. I’m not a huge fan of rigid, universalized dogma. It’s antithetical to the fluid nature of Polytheology.

I am a firm supporter of maintaining living traditions, living theologies. I do try to adhere as closely to historical practice as Modernity and my personal understanding of the Gods and the nature of the Divine allow. However, I find an over-reliance on dusty old tomes at the exclusion of spiritual pursuit and enlightenment just as tiresome and counterproductive as historically unfounded, rectally-produced inanities paraded about as universal truth.  Attempting to make a religion out of History books penned by the innumerable Evangelists of the Ivory Tower is just as bad as pulling “facts” out of one’s rear (i.e., perpetuating misinformation and all-too-common misunderstandings by plagiarizing a Wiki page, and/or relying upon the open internet as the primary source of one’s knowledge on any given subject). A state of balance and discernment must be achieved and maintained.

2.) By “altar porn,” she means that establishing altars and making offerings is inherently wrong and materialist. Is she some kind of iconoclast? She must be criticizing my icons, ergo my beliefs and practices!

Not at all.

Many Gods are represented in my home shrine. Many. As a hekau, as a “Ram cultist,” and as a “Set kid,” there are a number of deities Whose worship is central to my particular way of life, personal experiences and relationships, practice, and worldview. Informed by History, but never practiced quite the same way in Antiquity. Furthermore, I produce an abundance of religious art. As an artist, that is one way I feel compelled to articulate my devotion — Ekunyi, Setken, and Lykeia being Polytheist artists of various flavors of my acquaintance who can understand and vouch for that drive.

Making a “home” for any number of Gods in one’s home is no crime, and neither is producing art that showcases the Gods. It would be profoundly hypocritical of me to say it is “criminal” or “abhorrent” in any way. Such demonstrations have religious and spiritual meaning and value.

Altar porn is confusing the purchase of objects and “ritual toys” with religion. “Ra? Oh, I know fuck all about Ra, but I’m bidding on six of His statues on eBay!” Altar porn is focusing stringently on the cutesy surface stuff at the exclusion of theological pursuit and spiritual growth. Altar porn is bric-a-brac that has no real meaning. The hoarding of icons is like any other form of hoarding — amassing immense quantities of an item that one does not need more of, in practical or aesthetic terms, in order to patch over (in vain) some internal void or another.

Aside from cornering the market on resin statuary, there’s no theological pursuit after that for some Polytheists. There’s no substantive thought put into devotion. Doesn’t mean hoarders are “bad” people, or that everyone with a shrine to a God or Gods is a hoarder, or that people shouldn’t have “nice things.” When the material of “nice things” takes precedence over genuine love, devotion, and serious theological and historical study (often inseparable, in my view and experience), then we have serious problems that require immediate attention.

That, dear readers, is what I mean by “altar porn.”

3.) When she says “ma’at and devotion are the only offerings of ultimate value to the Gods,” she’s saying that nothing I do is good enough. She’s saying I’m not good enough! What gives?

No, dear sir or madam. Quite the contrary. By referencing historians Meeks and Englund in regard to the nature and ultimate simplicity of offerings and how they were valued in historical Egyptian religion, what I was attempting to convey is the principle that one needn’t kill oneself financially or materially in order to please the Gods or lead a fulfilling religious life. I was attempting to convey that, whatever your means, if you are honest and genuine, you and what you offer are good enough. It doesn’t need to be complicated or opulent. The Gods value intent, honesty, action, and do not take material offerings as a substitute for right action or “goodness” — as the Creators of existence, everything in existence technically already belongs to Them, and what They truly need is devotion and all forms of right action that support the order of Their Creation. If do you feel the need to offer material, to nourish the “temporary bodies” of the Gods (statues in-shrine) with food, incense, jewelry, what-have-you, do so, by all means! Do what is most fulfilling to you and your understanding with, and of, the Gods. But do not confuse the burdening of one’s shrine with luxuriant offerings or hoarding of “ritual toys” with religious uprightness or spiritual enlightenment.

Whether or not you agree with my outlook, respected readers, I hope these explanations have clarified any misunderstandings anyone may have had in regard to the parent post.