Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kallista Silverheart

Hello and Happy Saturday!

I wish to thank Rev. M. Allyson Szabo for her wonderful interview of last week. Thanks so much for sharing your faith journey with us Allyson!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Kallista Silverheart. Kallista is a Witch and I know you will enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Kallista Silverheart's Introduction:

I'm a Magician, an eclectic solitary witch if you'd so prefer to call me, I'm not one for labels. My path to enlightenment is unique and my practice and beliefs are primarily based on the ancient Egyptian beliefs, ideals and way of life. My spell work and rituals are heavily based on Heka, the ancient Egyptian magical practice.My primary Netjer is Anubis whom I serve and work with on a daily basis but at times I serve Isis, Bast, Thoth and Seth, depending on when they call me to do so. I respect all life and free will and believe in the balance of Dark and Light.

What religion do you practice?

I wouldn’t call it a religion. I’d call it a system of beliefs, which is mainly based on the ideas and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. Although many would categorize me as an Eclectic pagan (towards which I raise no objections), I worship the Netjer (ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses) and I practice mainly Heka (ancient Egyptian magic). I must stress that Heka is not separate from my life or beliefs, and just like the ancients believed, I believe Heka is in everything and everywhere and it falls under the rule of Ma’at (the principle of Divine Balance, Law and Justice). Nothing is outside Ma’at, not even the deities themselves. To practice Heka is to uphold Ma’at.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was raised Christian Orthodox. I used to observe every religious celebration marked by the orthodox calendar, used to hold any required fasting period, went to church regularly (and not just on Sundays) and did my best to follow the religious precepts required by Christian orthodoxy.

There was nothing I had to do to convert. It was more a progressive change in my beliefs. To be honest I was always interested in the ancient Egyptian life and pantheon and everything that it entailed. As I read both Christian literature and continued my studies about the ancient Egyptians I gradually realized I cannot see myself Christian any longer, as it didn’t make sense to me and my spirituality. I didn’t find answers being a Christian, I was left with unanswered question after unanswered question. And later I realized my beliefs were pagan long before I even knew what to call them.

3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
There are different groups and people who strive to live by the ancient Egyptian beliefs and spirituality. You have the modern Kemetics (Kemetic Orthodoxy) which is very well grouped and ranked and there is even a branch of Wicca, called Tameran Wicca which includes various aspects of the ancient Egyptians beliefs into Wiccan paradigms. I’ve also heard of groups focused on the worship of one particular deity such as the Followers of Seth or the Devotees of Isis. And then there are others, such as myself, who don’t adhere to any group, but rather hold their beliefs and perform what you would call ‘religious observances’ in a very solitary and personal fashion.

4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox ,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I could have looked into adhering to a group but to be honest it’s not my thing. I’ve always been a sort of ‘lone wolf’ and I rather enjoy my personal relationship with the Divine. I don’t expect anyone else to tell me what I should do or how I should pray. The Gods know our hearts better than we know them ourselves and I think a solitary type of ritual observance is the best for me. If I’d been invited to a group ritual I would gladly participate to have the experience, a lot can be learned from others.

5)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
There is a type of Heaven/Hell but quite different from what you have in monotheistic religions. Let me expand: there’s the Amenti, the Heaven where the Gods are, Their domain is high above us, they dwell with the stars (but not physically of course, you won’t meet Hathor if you go out exploring the Universe in a spaceship). The Am-Duat, the Underworld ruled by Osiris, with Isis and her sister Nephthys at his side, is a type of ‘hell’ – there are evil spirits and countless perils to be encountered but it’s not a place of eternal damnation, like the Christian hell. It’s a place the dead have to travel through, guided by Anubis, in order to reach the Judgement Chamber, presided by Osiris, with Thoth who would inscribe the result of the judgement on a papyrus sheet and Anubis who would weigh the hearts. There, in the presence of the Netjer, the deceased would have their heart weighed against the feather of Ma’at after they would utter the Negative Confessions/Declaration of Innocence. The heart was to the ancient Egyptians the dwelling place of thought and emotion, a part of the soul itself. And the ostrich feather was the symbol of the goddess that personifies truth, balance and universal law. Uttering the Negative Confessions implied the deceased was truthful and he/she did not commit unspeakable evil against fellow man, against the gods or Ma’at. Then the heart would be weighed and if it was heavier than the feather of Ma’at it meant that the deceased had committed acts of evil and would not be allowed to continue existence in the Afterlife. They would be given over to the terrible demon Ammit, the Devouress, who would consume their soul entirely and they would die a second death, obliterated from existence. This for ancient Egyptians was worse than any kind of suffering. They loved life more than anything and the threat of annihilation was quite the incentive to live a good and honest life. However, if the heart was pure it would weigh in balance with the feather and they would be allowed to pass over to the Field of Reeds where they would continue to live.

A very interesting thing is that life in the Field of Reeds would go on as a usual mundane life. The deceased would even be required to work in the fields and that’s why whoever could afford it, would have buried with them Shabtis, small stone or faience statues, with their likeness, inscribed with a spell that allowed the statue to take life and do the tasks it was ordered to. Thus, they could call upon the Shabti by uttering the spell and the work would be done by the Shabti instead.

Ra would also travel through the Am-Duat with his Solar Boat, from sunset to sunrise that’s where the Sun God travelled. He too would encounter evil, particularly Apep, the great serpent who threatened to consume Ra, and thusly prevent him from returning in the morning and bring life to the land. Ra was defended by both Horus and Seth and it was Seth who stabbed Apep with a spear, bringing him into submission and allowing Ra’s boat to pass.

As an interesting note, many scholars agree that Negative Confessions of the Egyptian Book of the Dead were the basis for the Ten Commandments of the Bible. And while there are well over 40 confessions in the Book of the Dead, there are only ten ‘sins’ in the Bible.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
Personally I believe you would have to commit some pretty unspeakable acts of evil to be damned into non-existence. All we can do is strive to be good people, help ourselves reach enlightenment and help others as well in the process, not hinder their personal development or harm them. I believe if you respect life, the afterlife will respect you, if you know what I mean.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
The personal relationship that develops between you and the Divine. It’s something so beautiful and comforting, words don’t do it justice. I couldn’t even begin to describe it. You feel loved and guided.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Living in a different climate than Egypt, it makes sense for me and my spirituality to honour the Solstices and Equinoxes. But I also celebrate the so-called ‘Epogamenal Days’, the days when certain gods were born and a few ancient Egyptian festivals. The challenge is in the nature of the calendar the ancient Egyptians used, it’s sometimes difficult to bring it to modern day, but it’s not impossible. One of the most important festivals to me are the ones that honour Anubis, as he’s my primary Netjer whom I serve and work with on a daily basis and who guides me always.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
I don’t see why I wouldn’t. I have friends of every possible religious denomination. From monotheists to polytheists and everything in between. I learn from each and every one of them.

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
When I was in Egypt I was invited to celebrate the Eid Al Fitr, the celebration of the Feast at the end of Ramadan with a friend’s family. I was honoured and happy to be part of something meaningful and beautiful. I would never turn down an invitation, I learn from every spiritual experience others are willing to share with me.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I’ve studied the Arabic language and Islam in University. I can tell you for a fact most of the information passed around in the West is mostly bogus. By no means are women forced to wear one (which is not to say some aren’t, and I stress the word ‘some’), most adopt a burka, niqab or hijab out of their own choice. I actually had a friend in Egypt who only wore a hijab when she was in Cairo. In her home town she had her hair always exposed and no one even raised an eyebrow. She told me she just doesn’t welcome any unwanted attention and she chooses to wear the hijab in Cairo or any other city but her native one. And another who wore a niqab despite her family’s objection.

And about the Shariah Law I can say it’s very misunderstood by westerners in particular. And even if I wouldn’t agree with some precepts, who am I to judge another’s laws?

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
In ancient Egypt there were priestesses in temples and even in one’s home where the shrine was placed women could worship and perform rituals, either alone or alongside men, depending on the ritual observance. So I wouldn’t see why women couldn’t be priestesses or perform ritual nowadays.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
Not applicable in my case. I worship in my own sacred space and I would always welcome another, regardless of gender/race/ethnicity/sexual orientation into it, if they wish to pay their respects to the Divine. The Gods see our hearts, not our skin colour, etc.

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
I hold what I believe on a daily basis and it affects my very core of being. I have respect for life and other people’s free will. When making a decision I appeal to common sense and the practicality. It’s great when that emulates on ideals, but that’s not always the case, let’s be honest. And what goes for me may not go for another and viceversa. Therefore I cannot and would not judge another’s actions from my point of view and thinking of what I would do. We’re all the result of our previous experiences, what two people have had the exact experiences and have the exact mindset to deal with things? Not even identical twins have that! So even if I’m straight I have no problem with others being gay, etc. Besides, what happens in one’s bedroom is solely the business of that person. There’s too much drama going on these days on the subject really. And I think it’s highly egotistical to tell a gay couple they cannot marry or tell a woman she can’t have an abortion because YOU don’t think it’s right, no matter what your religious views are. You’re not that person, you have NO right whatsoever to tell them what to do, just because you wouldn’t do it.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
Would have no problem with it whatsoever. If they feel it’s right for them it would be highly egotistical for me to tell them ‘You can’t marry that person because they’re of a different religion or belief’. There’s more to marriage and living with someone than religious practices.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
I smile remembering how many times I’ve been told I will burn in hell ‘for working with Satan’. I wouldn’t dare presume that someone not following a specific religion would face eternal suffering. I believe the afterlife has more to do with how you choose to live rather than what religion you follow.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
Well I have come across people calling themselves ‘Priestess of X god/goddess’ who seem to know very little about the deity they supposedly serve. Or groups claiming that they worship the only way one should worship a particular Egyptian deity and if you’re not part of that group your worship is somehow wrong, misguided or it has no value. While I’m over the whole ‘getting upset over it’ phase, I still have my ‘rolling eye moments’ or even giggling moments; I think it’s damaging for Neophytes who are just barely on the way to getting acquainted with the ancient Egyptian type of spirituality and even to the magical practice that is Heka. It can get confusing and even frustrating for a seeker. However I firmly believe that in time and with practice, one will get accustomed with every aspect of this type of spirituality and will start to discern for themselves what information is valuable and what they should or could do. That’s why I always firmly suggest to people who contact me with questions: know your scholarly sources first and foremost. There are rich and valuable resources out there: books, websites and blogs, written and maintained by Egyptologists and scholars, well learned in the life, spirituality and magic of the ancient Egyptians. Then start looking for modern practitioners and learn from what they’ve learned as well.

I even compiled an ‘Essential Reading List’ of scholarly resources on my blog, useful to anyone who seeks to understand the ancient Egyptian spirituality and way of life.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
Hate crime no, but I have the occasional self righteous person who comes to my blog or my Facebook page and tells me I will burn in hell if I don’t embrace the Christ, or that what I call gods are actually fallen beings (whatever that’s supposed to mean, I think they were hinting at the ‘fallen angels’ of Christianity). I do know people who have been persecuted at work or encountered much hardship for their religious beliefs. And I think it’s disgusting to target someone out of sheer hatred just because they adhere to a different belief than yours.

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Not at all, I’m empowered by it.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Definitely yes.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
I believe it possible and that it happens, yes. Depending on many factors, such as if there are lessons a certain individual has to learn.

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