Pagan Paths

Alchemical and spiritual journey together with Thoth-Djehuty – exploring Kemeticism, Hermeticism, spiritual alchemy, and following the path of devotion.

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Freedom of religion, religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue

Freedom of religion

Freedom of religion, and freedom of choosing religion [or choosing none], is one of the most valued freedoms for any human being.

The Russian Empire of the past was a country where the Orthodox Church was an official, State religion. It was not allowed to change religion and, more than that, people were punished severely for attempts to do so. Leaving the Holy Orthodoxy could lead to punishment, penalties, exile from the country, confiscation of all possessions, and even imprisonment.

I remember learning about the Soviet Union - my home country – by reading our Constitution and there was one very important thing:
- a citizen is free to belong to ANY religion, or belong to none.

This is a treasured freedom of living in a secular state.

This is a guarantee that some monotheist fanatics will not stone you because of “denouncing G-d” or however they word it, if you decide to part ways with your previous monotheistic religion.
This is a guarantee that people of all religions are equal before State.

(Actually, modern Russia is taking a very big step back, introducing laws that protect mainstream religious groups in favor before atheists or other, minor religions.)
But the Soviet Union - in my times - so I mean, time of Brezhnev and later - lost its anti-religion attitude. Times of Stalin/Khruschov were quite different. Religion was ridiculed. Orthodoxy was barely tolerated; Khruschov was indeed very anti-religious atheist.
But my childhood I spent in a tolerant secular state which allowed me to go free with choosing religion.

I followed Orthodox Christianity first, because it was obviously the natural choice - all the cultural and ancestral ties. I loved the music, architecture, sacred art (icons). Russian saints, many of them became exemplars of how one should live a good life. Choosing Catholic Church after long discernment (and disappointment with many of the policies of the Orthodox church, such as charging money for prayers) and consideration was also my free choice. If I lived in XIXth century Russia, I would not have been allowed to switch religions - even simply between different denominations of Christianity as I had done!

The embracing of Polytheism is another long story and journey. And no, this did not include “denouncing” of the former religion. I found for myself that some of the Church dogmas don’t work for me. I cannot force myself to believe things I don’t believe anymore. My personal faith changed shape. The hermetic philosophy helped me a lot to make my understanding not so narrow as it happens with monotheistic view of world.

Accepting the existence of Many Gods doesn’t necessarily mean rejection of the existence and divinity of Jesus. And doesn’t mean rejection of his message of Loving Your Neighbors and Doing Good Things.

It’s an irony indeed that today I received small message of religious intolerance against me. But this is sad truth. In XXIth century, there are people who dislike other people just for thinking differently and belonging to different religion. It’s a sad thing in our world; people lead wars and cover their lust for blood by religious propaganda.

The last priests of Philae were killed mercilessly by Christian mobs because they stayed loyal to Netjeru.

I wonder if I would be strong enough if someone wanted to stone me *literally* just for confessing another religion and not being a monotheist.

It's alarming to think that some people believe gaining followers for your religion through force and hatred is “doing a good thing”. :(

I don’t know if I would be strong enough to receive the crown of martyrdom. Even if 19 years ago, I was almost killed because of religion. It was a miracle perhaps, that I’m alive and well.

And I really hope there would be less religious intolerance in the world.


Religious tolerance: good things

I met this lady who does freelance cleaning when I saw her placing her ads on the wall, while I stood in the line to pick my jacket from a sewing workshop. I asked her about her prices, she said that company prices are such and such, but also she cal come for a freelance home-cleaning because she lives nearby.

As I usually don’t like home cleaning and prefer to rely on cleaning services, I decided to call her.
She was working on my flat quickly and nicely, while we made small talk.

She told me that she left her home city to earn extra money for her sick husband. She has a 12-year-old daughter who is currently with father and grandparents and a son from her first (deceased) husband, whom she's very proud of.

She said that her son was very devoted to Christ through the Orthodox Church since childhood. Without his mother pushing about anything, he preferred to observe all fasts since he was six. He preferred to go to church on Sundays over usual secular entertainment. He was praying a lot and enjoyed all church activities.
At 17, he became a monk. Now he is serving as a priest in orthodox church in her home city.
I’ve been listening to a simple story of mother who is proud by her son. Clearly her son was deeply devoted and had a calling to serve God in Orthodox Church. It was his path and I was glad for them.

Then she looked at me and asked if I have children; I said “No”.
“Why? It’s a good time for you to have them.” She replied.
I answered, “Sorry, I made a vow of celibacy.”
She looked at me, wondering. “What? You? You made a vow because of religion?”
I said “Yes. I’m dedicated to God”
“Are you Orthodox?”
“No, I am not”
She asked, “What is your religion then?”

I did not want to answer first. I thought it would be better if I could avoid answering that at all, because I did not want a debate about religion, especially to be lambasted about how the Orthodox church is superior to other religions. But I also saw that the woman was open-minded and had no intent to hurt me.

I stood still, having all my shrines behind me. The statues of Netjeru looked to me as if they were carefully watching.

“About my religion. Are you sure you want to hear my answer?”
 She nodded. ”Yes, I do. I’m accepting to all religions”
“Ok, - I took a deep breath, - Here is my religion, - I pointed at the shrines. - I worship the Egyptian Gods”

She looked at me with genuine interest and curiosity.

“And what does your religion teach? Is there a supreme Creator who made everything?”
“There is. The one who created everything is important, but also there are other Gods. Divine beings with their own personalities and their own free will. You may compare them to Archangels, but they are not the Archangels. Just so that you may see that there are other powerful divine beings; and in our religion we also worship them.” I simplified.
“Of course I know the Archangels. There are 9 levels of the celestial hierarchy, you know.” She replied.
“Yes, of course I know. The Gods may be viewed similarly as they are benevolent and powerful. But they are not spirits who only serve the Creators. They have their domains to rule over themselves”.

She thought about that and then asked, “But does your religion promise a good afterlife to the righteous?”
“Of course, yes. You can ascend to paradise, sort of, and commune with the Gods. Just Do the Right Thing. You pass the just judgment. The rules are universal as you have to do more good deeds that bad deeds. Don’t steal. Don’t kill. Don’t lie. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give a boat to the boatless.”
“These are universal rules for being a good person on Earth”
“Definitely. Loving your neighbor”
“And respecting God.”
“Well, Gods. In our case. Many of them.”
“And doing good things.”
“Yes, we call it maintaining Ma’at, the World Order, Universal Balance. Our Gods fight the Enemy, the evil in the form of cursed snake-of-chaos, every day. By doing the good things, we help to maintain the Balance and so, the Right always wins the battle against what is wrong.”
“This is what every human is called to! being a good person and do the things of love. You get to meet with your ancestors after death?”
“I hope about that, certainly so”
“And you pray?”
“Regularly. But as our religion doesn’t have working temples in our country, I pray and do religious rituals at home…”
“Indeed it’s more important that you pray than where you pray. You have God in your heart”.
“Yes, indeed. Place the God in your heart. This is the foundation of the path of devotion. Following the Way-of-God”.

I was citing the inscriptions of my akhu-in-Hermopolis, but these words of Ancient Egyptian wisdom were truly universal.

Follow the path of God,
Place him in your heart!
How blessed are those who walk on his ways,
And go on his waters,
And reach the Beautiful West after the day of veneration”

“And you made a vow of celibate and dedicated to God?”
“Yes. I did”
“So you are like a nun?”
“You can see it as such, indeed, it’s similar. I’m a priestess”

She kept nodding. “Our religions are not so different if they teach people how to lead the good life.
“Live and walk in Ma'at.”
“And honor the Creator who made everything.”
“Yes, and other Gods too. We honor many. Our religions are not the same, but they convey the message of Truth about living a righteous life, and being just”.
“This is a good thing we share. I respect your choice and path and your devotion. A person must follow their calling.”
“Yes. I was Orthodox Christian before but I realized that it wasn't the path for me. I followed the calling I felt in my heart.”
“Follow the calling. It’s important to be where your heart calls you, to feel at spiritual home.”

We talked a little more, and then I left her because I had a meeting with old friends.

And this conversation was pleasing to us both. For me, without doubt.
This is what I call respectful good interfaith dialogue. We talked as a Christian and Polytheist, and there was no ground for hate. We understood and respected one other and our religious choices. We agreed on the most important things about living a good life and loving your neighbors and honoring the Divine.

* I wanted to post about this heart-warming encounter, and this is even more relevant these days. Yes, it’s possible to have good, respectful, polite dialogue with a person of another religion. And monotheists and polytheists can find a common ground.
And in our view, all people, who Do the Right Things, regardless of religious affiliation, contribute to Ma’at. This is what the world lives on - and why we have the sun rising every day.



* Images:
Masolino da Panicale (about 1383/1440): Stories of St. Catherine of Alexandria ;
Guercino (Francesco Barbieri) (1653); The Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria

Alfred Seifert (1901); Hypatia

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Born in USSR and living in St. Petersburg, Russia; my spiritual journey started when I was a young teen. After more than 20 years of being practicing Russian Orthodox and later, Roman Catholic, I followed my heart always calling me to honor the Gods of Ancient Egypt. My devotion belongs to Thoth-Hermes-Djehuty, Thrice Greatest, Lord of Khemenu (Hermopolis), and I try to serve him as a priestess (hmt-Ntr). My path is independent, solitary and not hardcore reconstructionist, and I don’t belong to organized Kemetic temples.I studied biology in University, but after graduation, for many years have been working in telecommunications and computer networking. Now I work in international trade; but this is what I do “for a living”, as I’m poet and writer before all. I write poetry and prose since early childhood (of course, my writings are mostly in Russian) and I have some published books, science-fiction novels and poetry. I follow hermetic philosophy and viewpoints, and my interests, besides Ancient Egypt, include medieval history and art, Spiritual Alchemy, traveling around the world, translating books from English and studying more foreign languages (including Egyptian hieroglyphics). I am also president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the International Alchemy Guild.  


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