The Song of Hethert-Nut My stars are bright, Dancing into darkness, Streaming into night. Here my stars are shining, Deepened in sorrow, Their colors twining. And to the melody, They come to rest, Alongside others, Against my chest. -by me The shock of events really does not settle into my heart or mind for […]
He is crimson fury and russet strength unyielding. Red drips from His body as it has His titles. Pure, garnet heat rushes from the fiercest heart, giving sign of the battles fought for the sake of testing a kingdom and maintaining existence.
She is viridian life and jade pleasure sinuous. Green winds through the curves of Her movement as it has the scent of Her malachite perfume jar, deceptively soft. The fiercest heart gives sign of the depth of Her passion, expressed through music played to remember the point of existence.
The malachite rises from the garnet, gives Him reason to lift blade time and again, brings a smile to curving, sharp-toothed mouth. The thought of what He preserves as He defends within the sky.
The garnet rides within the malachite, gives Her fangs the memory of blood, brings the hunt to curving, sharp-tipped claws. The thought of those who dare attack those left upon the kingdom’s mortal soil.
My gods are so vitally, vibrantly alive, each bearing a trace of the other’s color within.
A friend of mine recently quoted T.S. Eliot, noting that “April is the cruellest month.” It has not been an easy few weeks, that is certain, but as I stand at the end of my coursework for the semester, still grieving certain losses yet treasuring memories, I find myself ready to move past April with renewed energy and hope for the months beyond.
I have gotten caught up in the urge to clean and remove the unnecessary things. To seek out only what is needed, and find comfort in that simplicity. Old clothes, old books, and old knick-knacks are finding new homes, as I acknowledge the sense that something (or someOne?) is driving me to create more space in my home, to prepare and clean for something new. I’ve also been exercising again and playing guitar, finding the joy in the physical world, getting away from electronics for at least an extra hour every day.
There have been changes in my shrine set-up, as well. Cleaning, of course, but also a shift so that my five primary gods are the only Names present in the naos. Sekhmet had joined us for several months, as I asked for Her guidance in my inital foray into the field as a health professional. She told me two nights ago that it was time for Her statue to move elsewhere. She would always be with me, guiding my hands, but I was competent enough to serve without the constant reminder that She was with me. Nervous, but recognizing the tone in Her voice as “This is how it must be,” I gently took Her from the shrine, wrapped Her, and placed Her with my other icons who wait for specific festival days.
Even as Sekhmet has stepped back once again, Set and Bast have been all the more present, directly involving Themselves throughout my days in ways that have positively intervened with some of the difficulties of late. Then, after senut ritual two days ago, They asked me out of the blue if I knew why I was Their child. I expressed my thoughts aloud, but They informed me that They would send dreams to help me better understand. I was thinking too much with my mind and not my heart.
Bast said She would come first, and that night I dreamed of vibrant vignettes that featured various memories of connections between me and loved ones, starting in early childhood and continuing to the present day. Old activities I treasured, new rituals that had become deeply fulfilling to me. All of the images were joyous, all full of laughter and affection, until the final image where I had gone to comfort a friend who had recently lost a pet we both held dear, and we were preparing to bury the body. There was a rapping on the door, and we opened it to find an older woman whose face was obscured, who said that we had the wrong pet, our animal (and she spoke the cat’s name) actually was still alive. I looked at both creatures, dead and living, and realized that somehow they were one and the same. The beloved companion was no longer with us, and yet she was. Then I woke.
Set said His dream would come next, and last night I dreamed of frightening things. In one fluid storyline I was forced to face nearly all of my greatest fears and anxieties. I was lost in an unknown space, the only hotel I could find was full of bugs which bit me, but I wrapped myself up in sheets I cleaned in the sink and dealt with them. I suffered a significant allergic reaction from the bites, my body covered in welts, and yet was able to trade for benadryl from another person in the hotel. Then an old man who showed up to the hotel tried to assault me after a series of particularly humiliating events. I fought him off and was able to make it out to the parking lot, where I stole a car and drove to the nearest police station. I survived, and my husband came to get me shortly thereafter.
My Mother’s dream was so positive, so full of love and promise, and yet ended with the recognition that immense love comes hand in hand with eventual loss. She also seemed to remind me of the responsibility of my empathy: to comfort others and sit with them in their grief, to try to hold on to the hope that those who pass might still live in part if we remember them. My Father’s dream was a challenge, a gauntlet of my personal fears, and yet the ending showed that I was now strong enough to face all of them.
I’m still processing the meanings within each dream, how different they were, and the areas in which there was overlap. I am grateful for these messages from my Parents as I refocus, sorting for myself what the next step will be, and preparing my body, my home, and my heart for that opportunity.
(A quick warning that the following post is fairly media intensive.)
March is always a wonderful month to honor my Parents. I celebrated an early festival in IV Peret, The Day of Eating Onions for Bast, with my friend Temseni up north, carrying my senut statue to her home for celebration. We gave offerings, performed an execration, and asked for Bast’s blessings. We made music before the great lady of Bubastis, and had a wonderful evening.
- Shrine set for Bast, including offerings of malachite, sistra, figs, chocolate-mint tea, and more.
- A close up of Bast, Eye of Ra.
- A feline visitor to the shrine.
- Execration before Bast the Devouring Lady.
- Asking Bast, Lady of Joy, for blessings.
Later in the month, I celebrated the Procession of Set. He and I chose to honor this particular holiday in a more lighthearted way, as we knew several of our community could really use a reason to laugh in the midst of various hardships. Thus, a plush form of The Lord of the Northern Sky traveled with me throughout the day, visiting shrines, parks, and receiving various offerings all the while.
- Set is pleased with his morning offering of coffee.
- It may not be the Nile, but the Ohio River is still pretty nice.
- Visiting Aset’s shrine north of the city.
- Lord of the Oasis acknowledges sources of water at a creek outside a local reservoir.
- Dinner offerings!
- Joining me in evening senut.
Finally the month came to a close with a far more personal holiday, a day honoring Set as Lord of the Oasis. Here I include what I wrote on my Facebook page during that day:
I’m not the best artist, but I wanted to try to capture the image stuck in my head the last two days, during Father’s festival honoring Him in His name of Set, Lord of the Oasis.
This is Set as the god of beauty in the harshest places. Set as the security of a home one can return to, a home with necessary protection and comfort, after one has explored the difficult places or thoughts. Set as the reassurance that dawn and Zep Tepi will come again, bringing new life, new chances.
This is the Set I rely on as a counselor: Set who is stable and sturdy and present so that my clients are safe enough to go wandering through the deserts of their lives and know they will be okay, that there is someone listening and waiting with water at the ready after they’ve walked and spoken and are parched from the effort. This is the Set who is both mirage and reality, that liminal space of what could be and what is, mystical in the surreal way that there is life and hope amongst the vast nothing of the desert of our fears and anxiety. The Lord of the Oasis is so profound to me, so incredible and beautiful, and all the more so in that every year we have honored it together He asks only that I give Him something small and then care for myself, create my own oasis to examine my reflection, process my grievances, and move forward.
I would later join in Him in shrine, where the way He seemed to move forward through the incense inspired me to write the following:
If you are in need of strength, walk forward in the power of your own words and intent. Your way is cleared of obstacles, no fear can bind you, the strength of Set is your strength, the voice of Set is your voice.
So yes, a very intense, fun, wonderful month spent honoring my Parents as best I could while juggling all that other life stuff we grapple with from day to day. I hope these images and shared experiences bring you joy as we enter a time of purification, preparing for the final season of the year.
Dua Set, Great of Strength
The sky shakes with your return at the dawn
Victorious at the prow of the mandjet.
I am victorious this day in… (x4 things I want to go well)
My enemies tremble before me
I destroy isfet without and within
The day is renewed, my strength is renewed
I am worthy of a joyful life lived in ma’at.
Dua Bast, Lady of Light
The stars shine with your flame through the night
Glowing with life in the darkness
My life was brightened this day by (x4 things my husband and I were grateful for that day)
Our fears are burned away with gratitude.
We destroy isfet without and within.
The day rests, our hearts rest
‘Til we rise with the dawn and Zep Tepi.
I share these two brief prayers, because they serve as the cap stones for my day, every day. I’ve previously mentioned the first in a post that lists the full ritual, and also obliquely on every occasion I’ve touched on having my morning “coffee conversation” with Father. Regardless of whether I wake up at 6am and prepare to go to work or sleep in until 8 or 9am on the weekends, I get up, I make a cup of coffee, and I recite this prayer while standing at my kitchen window, holding the hot mug between my palms in a gesture of offering. Set may share thoughts with me after the prayer, or He may simply nod and indicate that it is time for me to revert the steaming drink after I speak the appropriate words.
I wrote the second prayer this year, after Bast requested something to mirror my daily morning ritual with Set. It took me a little bit of time to establish it as a habit, in no small part because the time I go to sleep varies greatly from night to night. But eventually I decided that the evening prayer could also help with another goal, namely to be better about turning off my computer and phone before I actually climbed into bed. So it was established: whenever I was about to sleep, I would recite the prayer and offer water or tea, and after that point I would only rest or read books until I drifted off. This gave me a flexible, but theoretically fixed, time to always complete the rite, and I’ve been much more reliable with it since.
And then, to my surprise, my husband wanted to join in. We now take turns sharing four points of gratitude from earlier in the day, appreciating and remarking upon our mutual joy. We read the final lines together and then we share the water or tea upon reversion. In so doing, we both wind down our days at the same time, and on most nights will subsequently go to sleep together shortly thereafter.
This has become a treasured end to my days, a shining point of gratitude in and of itself to be able to complete a tiny ritual with my “Kemetic ally” partner, to be mindful and present as a pair, and frequently to be reminded of the many others in our lives who bring us such happiness. When we acknowledge the aspects of our day that lifted our spirits, we connect with countless others, invoking the moments in which our lives touched with some other passing person, and remembering that that connection has profound power.
The chance to talk with a family member chases away anxiety that I will be alone in a difficult time. A moment when a barista gave me a little extra coffee just because he could gives me faith in the kindness of others. The opportunity to attend a free concert fills me with profound awe at the talent of the individuals before me, bringing their unique backgrounds and years of practice together to create something new and amazing that will never sound exactly that way ever again.
And Bast is vibrantly aflame and brilliant with the heat of existence in every instant of these moments. As Ra’s vast Eye she is connected not only with so many other goddesses but so many ways of being; she burns with light that touches everything that can be sensed and lived and loved. She would have us light up the world with the things that make us grateful and in so doing inspire others to remember why it is worthwhile to keep pushing on through the difficult times to seek these beautiful moments. These incredible moments of connection with other individuals who might set our own spirits ablaze with wonder at how they choose to live, create, share, and be.
I sit here in a coffee shop after a late night of studies, writing this and knowing I’m still not capturing the whole of it. I asked her about it once, sitting in shrine and worrying about my inability to stay in touch with everyone I wished to connect with, and she responded. Not in words, but with an image of brilliant gold fire linking between me and so many others I’ve met: my family, my friends, my clients, my colleagues, my online acquaintances, my offline encounters, and on and on it spread, through their connections, and the connections of their connections, and farther still. It brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful “problem” to have, to be connected to and care about so many brilliant and fascinating individual people that I lost track of them amidst Her glow of lives entwined. How amazing it is to see how we impact one another with actions great and small. How incredible that this reminder stemmed from a nightly act with one of my most treasured connections, the connection I share with my husband.
How grateful I am to worship a goddess who reminds me of such things, and keeps me doing my damnedest to live a life that burns through even a little of the darkness in the world.
Sometimes you receive advice that really hits home, without previously having so much as an inkling as to how badly you needed those precise words.
I have not written as much as I used to, shifting from weekly to monthly writing. Most of those monthly posts have either been very technical in nature, focused on a specific ritual, or have revolved around my health. The health issues have left many things up in the air, but I have largely learned to manage the remaining symptoms. Thus, after several months of only entering shrine sporadically — afraid of yet another nose bleed or perhaps in too much pain that day to speak or kneel — I changed my diet, my sleeping habits, my workload, and I have been able to return to daily practice.
But it still felt off, like I was greeting my gods through some kind of fog. They were there just as They always had been, but muffled, or father away than I had expected when I returned. I was having a very difficult time focusing while I was sitting in shrine, found myself making more errors out of clumsiness in action or speech than I ever had before, and grew frustrated. So when recently given the opportunity, I asked Hemet (AUS) about the prospect of returning to shrine after a time of impurity. While I thought I was looking for some sort of ritual, or specific words of purification, her response instead lead me to consider if I was feeling guilty about being away.
Yes, I was. My body may have been able to come back to shrine, but my mind and heart were still wrapped up in what had taken me away from serving my gods. They were not angry with me, I was angry with myself. In fact, I have been livid, still fighting against the situation that had left me feeling powerless, even though that situation is largely past. My impurity had shifted from physical ailments to a constant eating of my own heart, a self-imposed weight of “should have done better” and “didn’t try hard enough.” It hindered me.
I took time that evening to process how those life events made me feel like I had lost my personal agency. Then I considered my response to those events, choosing to make necessary changes so that I could be well and get back to my gods, my work. All of this has been a means of reclaiming that sense of control, and even during the process, my gods never left me. In fact, on the days when I was most ready to give up on my body, Father would show up and remind me of what He told me when we first met, when He first insisted upon my developing a greater sense of self-respect.
Your body is my temple, He would say.
Now I know that has become a loaded phrase for some, but He never pushed those words in any sort of “you should treat it better” guilting nonsense, but instead used it as a reminder that I was His, that my physical form was the vehicle through which I worshiped Him. My body was what came to shrine and presented offerings, what danced and sang for Him and Mother on the good days, what sat on the floor and still managed the basics on the bad days, and what prayed in bed to Them both and visited them in the duat on the days when that was the only option while I physically recovered. It was a humbling reminder, and more than once what helped me to keep going as I worked to sort out what my new normal was going to look like, and how I could still reach my goals despite necessary changes.
Now I am back, and it is time to recognize that I did my damnedest while I was away so that I could return, and time to use that recognition to let all the guilt go. Wash it away and start fresh. Even just coming to terms with this much made a world of difference during last night’s senut. My gods seemed so bright again, so clear. I think as I continue to live in this mindset, take each day as it comes and acknowledge my day’s efforts as the best I can do in the now, things will just get better and better.
Looking forward to sharing more again here with all of you.
(Thank you, Hemet. <3)
While not formally trained as a priest in my religion, my gods do often ask me to share my personal heka with others, or invite others to participate in some way. It’s part of my service to them, to also provide spiritual service to others. This also takes the form of the divination services I offer for Set and Bast, and my work for my community.
Long story short: Father wants me to smack things on His smacking day next Wednesday (1/13 — The Day Set Kills the Rebels.) I’m afraid I don’t have the energy, time or money for the intricate heka I managed last year during Red Week, but I sure as heck can still find time to pray and burn things!
If you would like me to add a thing/emotion/idea to execrate (my path is not one of adding names to the list, so no specific people please) feel free to shoot me an email at Sarytsenuwi@gmail.com. You can also just ask me to write an X down and I will include it as “those things which (person) desires to be destroyed.” Bast will then be honored and asked to purify all those who have just included their hurts or grievances in the execration.
Please send me any messages before next Tuesday at midnight, as I will be up at 6 am (honoring Set’s hour of the morning in my timezone) for the ritual. If you’d like to just do something similar yourself, that is awesome as well.
Go go gadget smiting of rebels.
The Eye has returned from Her wandering journey, time away from Her home giving Her the peace and freedom She needed. Many Kemetics celebrated Her return with the Solstice, honoring the growing light, and cheering for the longer days that bring so many of us joy and needed renewal. I love this holiday, and will make offerings to Hethert (in Her syncretization of Hethert-Nut in particular) with the Establishment of the Celestial Cow in the coming days. Yet the Solstice night for me is a day for my Father, a day to acknowledge His longest fight of the year against the Uncreated One, and to give what offerings I can to lend Him encouragement and aid.
This year I was out of town visiting my biological family, and so a full, formal ritual like the one I celebrated the year prior with my Kemetic family was not a possibility. But I ordered a fancy steak when we went out to eat, and silently offered it to Set before digging in myself. I wore one of my t-shirts with his image on it. Once home, I took some time by myself to briefly visit a shrine space I’ve established in the duat to light candle and incense, pour cool water and beer. Then, while preparing for bed, Set made one more request of me. He wanted the very first song I’d ever written for Him, and He wanted it sung aloud.
I was nervous. I’ve had sinusitis for three and a half months now, and with it a bevy of unpleasant pain in my throat, ears, and mouth. I caved and made an appointment with a specialist in January, but as of right now my voice is still a fickle thing. Sometimes here, sometimes raspy, and sometimes gone. It’s been a challenge, separating my identity from the singing I’ve always been proud of, and finding other things to focus on besides my music in the meantime. But He kept asking, so I tried, not at full voice, but enough to carry the melody well. I made it through, despite a bit of pain, and realized that what hurt I experienced was no worse than what I feel at present when I have a conversation with someone. My fear about damaging my voice permanently was what had actually been holding me back, not the physical discomfort. Yet the experience of singing again after so many weeks of avoiding it was so fulfilling that I realized I needed to find balance in this aspect of my recovery as well.
The experience reminded me that while balancing my identity with other aspects of who I am and what I bring to the world is important, vocal recovery is worth fighting for. I sang and I remembered my power there, even if it was just one quiet, tired voice at midnight rather than the operatic soprano I once was, able to sing over choirs and pounding drums. I sang and I reconnected to emotions I’d been repressing for several days, as part of this particular visit home involves sorting out the severity of a serious health concern for one of my family members, and helping other family members get past their denial of the situation so that they can better care for her with whatever lies ahead. I have shoved my own feelings aside to get what needs to be done, done. Those feelings came back, and I turned on the shower briefly and cried where it would not be heard, but then felt a weight lifted for doing so. I can acknowledge the hurts I accrue while fighting my battles, while still being strong enough to continue to wield my spear at my Father’s side. I have seen the scars that mar His skin as the night wears on and the snake strikes and strikes again. He will win as He always does, but that victory does not come without cost, and that cost provides lessons, new tactics to stay one step ahead on the next night’s battle.
I am so grateful that my Father showed me these things, that He knew how much fighting my way through that one song would help me understand what needed to change. I will keep going, but I will do so with the recognition that I cannot do so clouded by fear. That the things I love matter, and will be my strengths as I work to care for others.
Dua Set. <3
Last night during my daily ritual, my Parents asked me to do something formal in their Name for Veteran’s Day. So today I wrote and completed the brief bit of heka below. I just finished the rite a few minutes ago, and having spoken the prayer, received permission from my Parents to publicly share the text in case it proves helpful for anyone else on this day. I began the rite at 11:00 pm in my time zone, a nod to Armistice Day, even if my current schedule would not allow me to complete it in the afternoon, as tradition would normally dictate. My thanks to all those who have served honorably, and my hope that upon your return home that you find whatever support you need.
Honor to Set, warrior standing before the king.
Strong of Arm, slayer of the uncreated.
Great of Voice, whose words challenge the poisons of the world.
We give you homage,
We thank you for protecting the dawn from the snake,
That we might find light in the midst of darkness.
Honor to Bast, defender standing before the kingdom.
She Who protects the Two Lands and the Akhu.
Goddess of Family and Home, whose love comforts those who remain.
We give you homage,
We thank you for the experiential power of living,
That we might know joy in the midst of grief.
To the ones who serve at present, protecting their families and their nations: (Name active duty here)
Set’s strength is your strength,
His leg is your leg, you walk with courage on your path.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His sharp eye is your eye, you see what is before you.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His drive is your drive, you have vitality for your goals.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His spear is in your hand, you are defended from harm.
To those who have served in the past, and have created — or are working to create — new lives: (Name retired here)
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her fire is your fire, you have space to express what you carry.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her Valor is your Valor, you have gratitude if you wish it.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her love is your love, you connect with those who support you.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her Truth is your Truth, you make of your life what you need.
To the shining ones who have gone before us,
but who served while among the living:
We thank you, our blessed dead, for all that you have done.
We honor you with the lives that you fought to protect
And seek to remember your service through our actions.
A thousand of every good thing to you, oh beautiful ones.
May Set, Lord of the Northern Sky, inspire you with his nightly victory.
May Bast, Lady of Heaven, watch over you as you shine on high.
You are welcomed in our homes this night and all nights.
A light will be kept for you, incense and offerings left by your shrine.
We speak your names and you live: (Name veteran Akhu here)
He before whom the sky shakes,
Hear these words and honor them.
Grant those who defend us your courage.
Hear these words and honor them.
Grant those who defend us your flame.
May you satisfy yourselves with the repast to the right and to the left.
Dua Set! Dua Bast! May it become!
The image above is a painting by Cú Meala of Cait Sidhe Designs entitled “A Dialogue of Light.” Please visit the store for other sacred art and jewelry by this wonderful husband and wife team.
The past few days saw a visit from my sister in the House of Netjer, A’aqytsekhmet. Our time together was full of laughter, worship with fellow Pittsburgh Kemetic Orthodox Shemsu Temseniaset, divination, and no small amount of spiritual discussion. Through our lengthy conversations (which often went to hours of the evening that I have not seen in several months due to my previous work schedule) I was able to flesh out some of the deep feelings I harbor for my primary gods, starting to find words for the depth of emotion and gratitude I have come to feel for them over the past four years of my life. I hope to put some of these thoughts to the virtual page, in order to avoid losing them again to the impending whirlwind of projects often known as End of Semester Doom.
When I try to describe my Parents to another, I see an ongoing journey of personal discovery. I am not one to follow the camp of “everything happens for a reason” but instead ascribe to the idea that “you can learn from everything that happens” and find myself in genuine amazement at how necessary many of those lessons have been. In my Parents, I have learned to see two halves of my personal whole. First, the driven, justice-seeking advocate who will be strong so that others have the safe space required to be weak and to heal. Second, the passionate artist whose music and joy of the sensuality of experience replenishes and tends the body that she pushes to its limits to care for others. Without the second, I would destroy myself through burn out or health issues derived from stress and overuse. Without the first, I would lack personal fulfillment and a sense of purpose to always keep going for as long as I feasibly can. I need the lessons of both my defender, warrior Father and my mindful, fiercely free Mother.
And those lessons extend beyond what they represent. They communicate and exist in such different ways. Set is largely solitary and solid in that individuality. He is concrete in a way that few other gods appear to me, readily heard, almost always embodied in a clear way that my mind’s eye can focus on and address. He is massive in His strength and power, but the connections He has to the rest of Netjer-as-whole are not so diffuse. I can always sense Him, always hear Him, can always ask what He wants of me and get an answer. I do not get lost in the diverse connections of other deities such as I do with my Mother, who in Her sheer existence has helped me to understand the complex power of being one of Ra’s Eyes. Bast is so huge it can be hard to figure out where She begins and ends. She can appear to me as the great cat or the woman with the dark lion’s face, but she can also extend back into Tefnut, outward into Sekhmet and Mut and Hethert and beyond. She rarely speaks directly, and so deeply cherishes the ideal of freedom that Her requests are rare. I often feel lost in Her depths, uncertain what She would have me do on Her behalf, and given that often the final answer ends in “Do as you wish and as it brings you joy” I struggle to understand if I am on the right track for honoring Her. Yet in these extremes of communication and desired forms of worship, I have come to better be able to reach out to other Netjeru. To have mental conversations with some, to not be discouraged by the relative quiet of others, and to accept the awe of meeting some of the oldest deities rather than being overwhelmed by it. I feel that together, They prepared me to greet the many other Names of Netjer, in their many forms and through their many methods.
If I tell fewer stories of Bast, it is because so much of what we do together is deeply personal. She has helped me to prioritize my life to focus on things that I want to be doing, rather than things I believe I should be doing, and in making those choices, to greatly reduce my stress. She has helped me to love my body for what it can do, being mindful of its power and ability rather than focusing on my frustrations when it aches or falls ill. She has helped me to live in the present moment, to enjoy what I can and experience in the instant I am doing it, so as not to worry about the “what ifs” of tomorrow or the next day. Yet so many of these lessons came through surprise experiences, a gentle nudge from Her to pay attention to an occurrence in the world, or even one of my actual feline companions bringing a tiny realization to mind. She and I don’t have the readily shared stories I’ve developed with Set through our daily coffee ritual, our informal worship through metal and science fiction, our formal moments in shrine where His voice rings in my mind and I sing back to Him in gratitude and fierce, fierce love. I have learned to accept that not all balance appears as such to others, and that this is okay as well, so long as you have found it for yourself.
Yet despite their differences, my Parents also function brilliantly together. They are both defenders, protectors, fierce and capable in their own right. One of the images they have shown me time and time again is of the two of them upon Ra’s boat, Set at the prow, Bast guarding the King’s back. They remind me of the importance of the concept of protection, how many forms that process can take. They would have me protect others through counseling, teach others to protect themselves and their well being through self-care. They would have me protect community, working to provide spaces where the bonds between fellow worshipers can grow and strength. There is so much more to this idea of the defender that They wish me to explore, in part considering the relevance of my Shemsu name in relation to that concept, but I will save such thoughts for another time. What is important is just the acknowledgement that Set and Bast are incredible as partners, but also as contrasting forces of equally stunning power. I adore Them, I am grateful to be their daughter, and fortunate to have Them and the work I’ve yet to do in Their name as one of many reasons to always keep going.
I still have more work to do, but I am more whole, more stable, than I have ever been before, and I say this coming out of over a year of significant health concerns. With Their guidance, I have learned that I am strong enough to eventually get through most challenges. With Their love, I am reminded that opening up and reaching out for assistance is a form of strength in itself. With Their wisdom, I am able to see that in struggling, I have developed a greater sense of perspective on my own good fortune and greater sense of empathy for those who have suffered. In truth, I am now better able to serve my gods and my community than I was a year ago, having embraced what Set and Bast taught me during the obstacles that chance threw my way. I am grateful for that guidance, and for the depth of the love I sense from Them each day that I honor Their names.
Dua Set, Son of Nut, you are my spirit!
Dua Bast, Lady of Joy, you are my heart!
I honor you both, now and always! I lift your beautiful faces high!
Autumn sings to me via her unique, improvised melody of change. She is different from the other seasons, so distinctly herself, and integral to my senses and psyche in a way no other time of year can match. Her wind brings cooler air, the crisp scent of living things casting away the old in a spiral dance of saffrons and russets and earthen hues all claimed back to the earth himself. She is the time of harvesting grains and gourds, but also harvesting ideas and sun-kissed inspiration, readying it for the time of gathering by the hearth to place pen to paper, paint to canvas, voice to tales, and beyond.
She is all the stories that bring communities together in the winter months, families sharing hot drink beside the flame that keeps away both chill and dark. She is the advancing night sky, the twinkling lights of the ancestors above us spending lengthier hours guarding from on high. She is a time of connection as we return to our homes, re-enacting rituals of generations or crafting new traditions as we are called to do, treasuring those internal spaces all the more for the comfort of emotional and physical warmth after coming in from the cold.
In the traditional land of my spirituality this time of year would also represent a time of cooling, a closing of windows, a preparation of shrines for the colder points of the year. Yet the harvest was still long off; the third month of Akhet includes festivals to welcome the still-rising Nile, greeting the flood before it recedes and growth begins. It was a time to ask the blessings of Hethert, who presides over the month, and to continue efforts towards ones goals.
I appreciate this contrast, and find my blessings in the closeness I feel to others in my small corner of the world as the sun wanders away and we gather together in the darkness to await the Eye’s return. I find beauty in the light we create through shared meals, shared stories, shared moments of internal creativity brought to the forefront. We have more reason look within and subsequently encouragement from those who gather beside us to bring it without, to share and draw closer to one another. My personal goals often involve doing things for others, serving the communities I care for, and so this time of year gives me tremendous opportunity to do so. The sun sets earlier and rises later, so all the more reason for ritual candles to be lit, all the more reason for communal songs to be sung. I am given purpose in this season, both as I celebrate it here in Pennsylvania, and as I might have celebrated it in Egypt.
That purpose can only be fulfilled if I also look to my own needs, and Autumn holds me in that regard. She reminds me of transitions, of the only constancy in life being that nothing is constant. She allows me to let go of what was old, let it wither and feed the changes that will come again in time. There are always new beginnings, She says, but those beginnings require a casting away of what might hold you back.
A leaf falls, and I give it my difficulties with trust.
A leaf falls, and I name it remembered trauma.
A leaf falls, and the wind carries away my belief that I am worthless.
A leaf falls, and I watch my fears about my health drift away.
They are not magically gone, of course. It will take time for them to return to the earth, rot away, and become that which feeds new growing things in the soil. In the meantime, the limbs of the beloved oak outside my window are laid bare, as are my emotions: raw, naked, unadorned with the beautiful lie that everything is always “okay.”
But new leaves will grow, after many new returns of the sun, rising and passing overhead as I struggle towards acceptance and adjustment. Each dawn brings me a little closer to the final fresh start that I crave, each dusk gives me a night of creative effort and community. Autumn grants me connection to my spirit through artistic endeavor by candle light. Autumn grants me connection to those who so kindly remind me that they care as they share their stories in turn. I adore Her, the spirit of Her that lives in these Appalachian mountains. She works in tandem with my Father to help me break, then change, then grow again. They are a powerful team, the small aspect of the god Set which dwells in Western Pennsylvania, and the Autumnal netjeri of a season and a city and its people.
I light a candle for them, I sing for them, I write of their message for all who find this time difficult or painful for any number of reasons. My hope is that in sharing some aspect of why this season proves to be a blessing for me, that perhaps the darkness will feel even the slightest bit less overwhelming for others. I will gladly raise my mug to your own inspiration and connection with those you love. Be well, and may your life be changed for the better.
I believe I have mentioned in a previous post that 23 has been an auspicious number for me for a very long time. There is admittedly no mystical association or scientific reasoning to it, merely the nostalgia for a very young version of myself who was proud to memorize that she was born on the 23rd of August, and decided that number must be *very* significant simply by virtue of the fact that my parents always made me feel like I was the most special person alive on that day. (Imagine a curly-headed eight year old clutching her new Draco-from-Dragonheart toy while stuffing Pizza Hut into her face and being physically unable to stop smiling. This covers it fairly well!)
Over the years that sense of “23″ as significant developed into a greater sense of renewal, first being linked to the start of each new school year (which more than once fell on my actual birthday). It also became a source of feeling a little unique when I first started digging into astrology around age 13, and discovered that “my 23″ granted me a weird (and often hilariously accurate) placement of being born on the cusp of Leo and Virgo. More seriously, my personal 23rd year was one of tremendous growth and change, casting away self-deprecating practices and harmful connections, and establishing the very beginnings of the loving partnership I share with my husband.
As an adult, once I joined the House of Netjer and learned about the history of my new religion, I occasionally wondered what would happen come the official Year 23 of my faith. What would I make of being 27 years old? Would these little moments of signficance attached to the number my childhood self decreed as important continue? Was it time to let the old amusement go?
26 was… hard. I worked two different jobs over the course of the year, trying to contribute financially to my household while simultaneously going to graduate school full time. I lost the grandparent who was always closest to me, and in losing her, fear that I have most likely lost the final reason for any of my cousins on my father’s side of the family to maintain much interest in interacting with me moving foward. Also, for most of the year I was also planning a fairly large and extravagant wedding (in the Italian-American way of things that capital-M Matters to my mother’s side of the family.) It was beautiful, I will forever be grateful, and I have memories from that amazing day that I will cherish forever, but I feel that it is fair to acknowledge that attempting to juggle all of these things took a significant toll on my health.
I wrote about the health issue in far too many places. More important to me now is to acknowledge how much I allowed it to control me and define me. I lost myself in it, lost sight of the other things I still do and contribute. I began to forget my worth, my value to my communities and those who love me, and could only think of myself in the context of being chronically ill. Experiences at Wep Ronpet helped me to finally let go of some of the emotions wrapped up in this unfair assumption that I only had value if I could do things for others, as did my spiritual Family’s acceptance of my grief. And I do feel that I was grieving, grieving for my grandmother, and grieving for my past, healthier self. I may not get her back, and I think that I may be getting much closer to accepting that. Now to accept that the me that exists in this time is no less worthy of my appreciation and care.
That care is coming mainly in the form of changing jobs. My last day at the high-stress marketing position was this past Friday: it was making me ill, perhaps in part because of how antithetical it was to how I view myself as caretaker, defender and advocate, the aspects my Parents represent in my life and which are core ethical values I hold myself to on a daily basis. Instead, I am trying to focus on school. Focus on getting into a good internship, focus on using the hobbies that feed my spirit to try to make some money on the side. (Given the wages I was earning as a temp, if I can actually start selling some of my sculptures on a regular basis and calculate in what I’m no longer spending on gas and parking, I’ll not actually be that far off from my previous earnings. Plus, it brings me joy. This is worthwhile.)
Care is also coming in the form of having more time for service, which feeds my spirit and reminds me of why I matter. I don’t *need* to serve to have value, but it really does improve my spirits and self-image to do so. There can be balance here as well. It is easier in this particular moment to speak of balance, when I have somehow been granted a reprieve from the flares associated with the health issues for several weeks after months of continuous symptoms, but I hope to use this time of energy to lay the foundation for how to buoy myself when the next flare does occur. It will not overwhelm me again. I have heard the words of my Beloved, and I am not afraid.
In the Aset oracle of the year, we were reminded that, “After disorder, there is order. After sadness, there is joy. After violence, there is peace. After work, there is rest. After the year of beginning, there is the year of continuing what you have begun. My Son offers strength and power to those who accept the task.”
My sister and w’ab priest A’aqytsekhmet reminded me of these words a few days ago, and how true they already feel to me, a mere month into the new year.
But what is the task set before me? My new position of service to the community and new oaths associated with becoming Shemsu-ankh? Perhaps. Both feel as though I’ve taken a name (or been entrusted with a title) that allows me to continue prior work but in a more formalized capacity.
Yet I’m almost certain there’s something more that I’m missing. Something else that this time of rest is supposed to help with, prepare me for… I don’t know. It’s this gap, like once I tore the “illness as identity” away and refused to continue feeding it with the power of my acknowledgement, there was a hole left behind that leaves me wondering about my purpose, for the first time since I made the career shift from professor to counselor (though have since realized I could actually be both if I choose, and tossing aside the binary of one path or the other was brilliant — but that’s a story for another day!) There’s just… something I’m missing, or perhaps something I’ve lost sight of during the period of difficulties. I hope that I’ll figure it out over the course of this next year.
Given that it’s a “23″ — I’ll try to be ready for anything!
So I actually did finish this prompt back in early August (roughly a day late). I just never got around to transferring the remaining posts over here for consistency. Life… well, life just happened and time to write for anything outside of work or school has been scarce! But I hope these are enjoyable, even a month and change after the fact.
Twenty three has been my lucky number since I was old enough to have memorized my birthday. August 23rd, the source of my incredibly stupid joke about being a “Lego” – Leo/Virgo’s ridiculous cusp child who has all the fiery inspiration to create and build but insists that every little block will go just so. But it felt special to be connected to that particular 23, a tiny blessing.
23 was also a damn good year following the massive shitstorm of change and health nonsense and depression that was 21 and 22.
23 was when I fully, completely, accepted that You were real. All of you. And what a marvelous blessing that has been.
With all that in mind: a brief song for You.
A blessing on your spear
Oh my Father, Oh my strength
A blessing on your arm
As you fight through night’s length
A blessing on your shout
Oh my Father, Oh my voice
May my words reach your ears and Become
A blessing on your knives
Oh my Mother, Oh my fire
A blessing on your eyes
That your watch shall never tire
A blessing on your song,
Oh my mother, Oh my love
May my words reach your ears and Become
A blessing on your blade
Oh my general, Oh my guide
A blessing on your wings
that reflect the golden skies
A blessing on your power
Oh my general, Oh great Sun
May my words reach your ears and Become
A blessing on your stars
Oh beloved, Oh my heart
A blessing on your smile
That shall tear my hurts apart
a blessing on your dance
Oh beloved, Oh my joy
May my words reach your ears and become.
A blessing on your breath
Oh grandmother, Oh midwife
A blessing on your hands
Carrying new souls to life
A blessing on your ka
Oh grandmother, Oh my soul
May my words reach your ears and become.
The pulse of pain settles into a steady rhythm behind my eye, but your hand is cool and damp upon my brow within a minute of my finally being able to rest. I bury my face further into the frog-shaped pillow I dedicated to you, having finally realized there is no ignoring this one, nausea and dizziness accompanying what is no longer “just a headache.” You keep offering that gentle caress on my head, a soft squeeze on my shoulder the final thing I am aware of before I slip away from consciousness, so grateful to briefly escape the malfunctioning aspects of a body that I otherwise strive to be grateful for.
Sometimes I even dream of you, and you sing lullabies in a language I do not know. I am an infant in arms again, released from all adult responsibility and care to rest completely as eight different voices rise from your lips and the oldest of melodies tells me in ways beyond the incomprehensible words that it’s fine, quiet now, it’s all going to be just fine.
I wake and have more than once been brought to tears at the realization that the pain is gone, gradually orienting myself to how far the sun has often set by the time you bring me back. Thank you for your comfort, Heqat. I cannot fathom why you care so very much for me when I hurt, how you are so willing to hold me until the worst of all things subsides.
I wish to study You:
In part through the texts,
Learning to read and speak
Those ancient words that might
Flow from my lips and be heard
An offering of my time
And my learning
So that You might hear me sing
In the once-sung tongue
Of your earlier days.
I wish to know You:
Absorb every line of your image
Consider the meaning within
And without the shifting myriad
Of beautiful forms that have
Defined and re-defined
What it is to know and seek Your gaze.
I wish to understand You:
Contemplate each motion
You make in the Universe
Capturing but a fraction of all
You are and do
But in that instant
Of scholarship leading
To knowledge guiding
The effort and journey shall have been worth every brilliant second
Of experiencing You
Guardians and teachers
Guides and parents
I shall know you as all of these
And for that moment
Far, far more
I believe that They have all helped me to grow, each with their own lessons and strengths. Yet Hethert-Nut’s teachings were perhaps the least expected, and so the most intriguing to me to address in this space.
Hethert-Nut helped me grow in kindness, albeit a kindness largely directed towards myself. She embraced my imperfections in Her vast, starry arms and showed me the beauty there. Each scar, each wrinkle, each curve or line that shifted with time became a star on my body, just as She was so fully bedecked in light.
She helped me grow beyond discomfort or shame, demanding that I join Her in the abandon of dancing alone to the music of my mind, asking me to wear blue skirts and silver jewelry that flowed and shone like the ocean of Her sapphire sky.
Hethert-Nut asked me to be bigger than my assumptions of gender, to embrace the feminine in however I chose to define it. With Aset-Hatmehyt beside Her, Hethert-Nut challenged me to accept beauty as a word that could be granted me without the assumption that the giver of such a word was lying, or thought me lesser for picking such a description.
So much growth occurred Her hand, even as She always accepted where I was in the process. She astounds me.
His anger is cool and unforgiving
Against the flare and wane
of Her swift rage
Yet both seethe at the destruction
Of Ma’at in their domain
The visions of injustice
Amongst a people who They protect
Yet who never seem to protect themselves.
Still, there is another to defend.
He turns to Her,
desert wind stirring at His breath
The dry heat before the storm
Touching each word
“Hail to you, Bast.”
She nods in turn,
dark soil shifting
beneath feet turned
“Hail to you, Set.”
Her words liquid smooth as
The oncoming rain
Against a green hued stone.
They move to the barque
Bast taking Her place behind
The sun-crowned king.
Set leaps to the prow in silence,
Spear in hand and shield at the ready.
The mesketet is balanced
As it sails beyond
the world of the living.
The mandjet shall return
Defended by two
Who maintain the balance
Of this world and the next.
Thank you, for pulling me out of the darkness.
Thank you for hauling me away from everything in my life, far enough away that I could see it from the outside, far enough so I could watch it fester and rot and be nauseated at how very lost in the infection of self-hatred I had become.
Thank you for letting me lean on you as I sobbed in solitude, for I was not strong enough then (am barely so now) to do so in front of anyone else.
Thank you for giving me your anger that it could fuel so many changes, fuel the lighthouse of where I knew I wanted to be, fuel the fire under my ass to actually walk one wretched step at a time towards that shimmering guide.
Thank you for celebrating when I made progress. Thank you for pissing me off when I fell down and back so that I’d get up again and keep moving, even if out of sheer cussedness.
Thank you for not giving me up for lost.
Today, I like the person I am.
The person I was? She would never have believed it possible.
Heru-wer stared me in the eyes today.
I asked Him,
“Will this be the year I know you,
As it was my Mother’s this year,
And Heqat’s the year before?”
I swear He smiled,
for all that His sharp face is tipped with a beak
And I am already certain that I know the answer
Without any given words.
Heru-wer, I have not been able to write of you as I have the others.
We are working partners, You and I,
Though I honor and worship you as I do all Netjeru,
I do not have the emotional weight there.
But now your laughter,
Rich and golden thick,
Is ringing in my ears and it is
So very encouraging to *hear* You on your birthday,
And to hold in my mind the unspoken promise
Of a beautiful journey to come.
There is only an ending to what has been,
But even that ending becomes the foundation
Of all that is yet to come.
We shall continue:
You for eternity
Me for but this short time I have to walk this world.
But we shall continue together
Using ending after ending
To create and craft a future
Enlivened by the moments shared
Between five gods
and a woman who loves Them.
Dear gods of my family,
I intend to write You each a letter on the day I will be celebrating the Kemetic new year. I will not be sharing those letters publicly, but writing them by hand and keeping them at your shrine for the next 360 days.
In the meantime, thank you for guiding me to do this. It has been a pleasure and an honor, as well as a solid reassurance that I can find ways of honoring you even in the most hectic of times.
My love to all of you, I will write again soon.
Your daughter and beloved,
It is becoming more difficult to remember what it was like to be twelve, with the itchy polo shirt and the despised kilt that set me apart from the other youth at the after school program who wore what they wished. As the only person there from a private school, my personality did not matter, I was one of “them,” and so I was alone. At twelve it just seems unfair; I didn’t understand the money and the privilege and the justification for why I was assumed to be a certain way, so I sat by myself in a place that was safe, and I let my mind drift so that the “panther woman” can find me.
Given time, and patience, she finally does, and I give Her a name because She says She’s not ready to tell me the true one. I reach a point where I can walk around the outer yard and still talk with Her, even envision Her, sleek and feline and protective. By the time I am fourteen I am convinced that She is the Goddess, and I try to see Her in the forms that the books describe, but she will not be reforged in the likeness of others. She remains Herself, dark skinned and grinning, feline-faced or feline-masked, wielding knives to lead me on dangerous adventures through what I still think is mostly just in my mind.
At fifteen I wonder if she is a spirit of sorts, a teacher to guide me, as guide She does, but now through feelings and sensations that I am frightened by because my world has taught me that they are wrong. It is okay to love both women and men, She assures me, it is okay to listen to whatever music speaks to your soul. My love grows for those around me, my love grows for metal and the raging guitar that soothes me, my love grows for Her.
Yet at 18 I nearly lose Her, and those memories are perhaps the most difficult. Why did college make me doubt what I’d already lived, make me turn from the unseen mother, the unnamed guardian, who had helped me survive the growing pains of adolescence? I have thoughts there, but they are not so critical anymore. I returned to Her, and She had been waiting. Waiting for me to be ready, and waiting to give me Her name.
I am Bast.
I am your daughter.
When I kneel before the shrine there is a vow in the gesture. I pull one fist fiercely to my chest, the other facing you, palm forward. I speak your names with pride, and in my mind I am lifting you with my voice. I rise and step back four paces, imagining lifting your carved faces upon heavy staves to each shoulder, preparing to carry your standards – and the standards you have set for me – into the world.
My life, my values: they are also my loyalty. My willingness to serve is my willingness to hold you aloft with each step I take in the world.
You have earned this standard bearer’s trust: no small thing in her eyes. You have burned away the scabs to reveal and heal the raw places. You have known when to push to the point of breaking but not beyond. You have shown me a better version of myself and I have chosen her over the old, chosen to keep improving upon her with each new day that is lived in your service.
Dua Set! Dua Bast! My loyalty to You both has become a brighter way of being.
I am weak today. My lungs are tight, exhaustion weighs heavy on my frame, my skin flares in time with the internal imbalances.
I am still writing. Writing as I ride the bus and struggle to stay awake. Writing after sitting in shrine this morning despite my weariness because I needed to hear you, be near you. Writing because there’s some small bit of strength coming from keeping this up despite the physical travails, honoring you with words on a screen when I’m too tired for much else.
Walk with me in my weakness, my gods. Grant me health, grant me energy, grant me patience.
The word “Strength”, considered in relation to my gods, will probably always remind me of this song. I wrote it shortly after Set and Bast claimed me as Their daughter through the Rite of Parent Divination. Though I remain someone who firmly believes that a parent-child relationship with the divine can be developed through many different paths, my personal path saw the gods asking me to become a part of Kemetic Orthodoxy, and so when I call Set Father, or refer to myself as Their daughter, it is within the context of the House of Netjer, my spiritual home.
It was an emotional time for me, receiving this confirmation that Set – who had already given me so much of His strength – was my Father. Set who brought so much change for the better, who challenged me and damn near broke me, but in the end left me standing taller, and more fiercely than before. Set whose presence was felt during surgical biopsies for cancer scare #2, Set who helped me push through weariness and emotional fatigue to be with, and care for, my mother in the hospital. Set who helped me appreciate my own worth, and gave me the courage to stand the hell up to anyone who tried to tear me down.
The song reflects a lot of that; but I’m thinking I almost need a second one for my newer teacher in strength.
Heqat has provided balance to Set’s “push through no matter what.” It’s not Bast’s emphasis on self-love and self-care, it’s more externally directed (to support those around me) while simultaneously promoting internal health. Heqat works with me on the strength of accepting what I cannot change, of sitting with hurts and letting them be without taking them into myself. If Set’s strength keeps fighting, Heqat’s strength lives with and moves through. Both are necessary to function, both take tremendous courage. I continue to work towards incorporating both into my day-to-day life
Dua Set. Dua Heqat. I am stronger in many ways for your mutual guidance.
So Witch Mountain’s “Ballad of Lanky Rae” keeps getting stuck in my head, and I realized that part of the reason I’ve latched onto it so quickly (let alone the fact that it’s one of those wonderful female fronted metal bands that I can actually sing along with) relates to my past… and my present with Set.
A long time ago
On a dark-as-night day
A little girl came entered this world
In a right wicked way
When she took her first breath
The doctor heard her say
“All you out there better beware
My name is Lanky Rae”
“Stay away,” said Lanky Rae
She didn’t like baby dolls
Barrettes or ballet
She thought a gun was much more fun
When she went out out to play
Ballet was one of the most miserable experiences of my life growing up. My parents made me stick with it from my earliest years through sixth grade, and I just… knew, even then, that I was never going to fit into this world of leotards and gran jetes. I was too long, too gawky, too thickly-moving and lacking grace. And gods, dolls. Nope. My dragon toys regularly “ate” my barbie dolls. I hated the frills and the dresses and honestly, most of what I interpreted as being a “girl” growing up. Laser tag? Swords? Castles and knights and archers and magic? That was where I wanted to be.
But Rae was all alone
And to her dismay
She never had met her dad
So she hit the highway
She heard he was a demon
Deep down in the clay
So down she dove to the center she drove
And there stood the daddy of Lanky Rae
He held two 45s
And his hair was ash grey
Spittin’ whiskey and fire and as soon as he saw her
Those two you could not separate
Now they roam the underworld
Raisin’ hell everyday
Doin’ what they do best and forget all the rest
So when the ground rumbles
Don’t you be afraid
It’s just a couple of outcasts happy at last
Yeah it’s Lanky Rae
It really wasn’t until college that I genuinely found people with similar interests to mine. My younger scholastic years were largely defined by being part of the “outcast” group, and a motley assortment of wonderful (but incredibly different) people we were! Yet post-college, Big Red came rolling into my life and then suddenly there was a god who wanted me to live, both figuratively and literally. That was an amazing realization. A deity existed who genuinely found me all the more fascinating for my love of metal music, science fiction, and martial arts. A god claimed me as His daughter who found my temper to be a benefit, my bisexuality a source of power, my questions about gender worthwhile, my need to sing and shout and scream and laugh and forever be vocally LOUD… proof that I was meant to be His.
So what does this song say to me? Outcast god, meet once-outcast child. Let’s go raise some hell and have fun doing it.
And that’s why I adore it.
If most of my devotions throughout this month long effort wind up directed to Set, it is not for lack of love of, and devotion to, the other gods in my line-up. But my Father is always present in a manner that the others aren’t, available both in moments of formal ritual and the ridiculous nonsense of everyday life. He’s always been that way, a companion as much as a god, or perhaps asking me to be His companion (the concept of Set acting like the Doctor has been written about by a friend of mine here:https://gbmarian.wordpress.com/2015/01/1
If I reach out, He’s there. I don’t know why He’s opted to be so readily available to me, but I do my damnedest to prove myself worth the time. Sometimes that’s in the standard way: he gets a daily offering of coffee each morning and a small dedication ritual, regardless of whether or not I’m pure enough for other formal rites. I’ve not missed that in what feels like a very, very long time, and suspect that the next time I do my whole day will feel off.
Sometimes it’s anything but standard: I’ve lifted weights in His name, invited Him to be present at a metal shows (and flinging massive dudes off my tiny 5’5’’ frame on the edge of the mosh is made vastly more entertaining when you’ve got Set laughing His ass off in your ear), cooked for Him (spice-tastic), watched science fiction together (A mutual favorite is Klingon heavy Star Trek episodes. He’s right there with me debating how His khopesh would fare against a batleth, or if He’d prefer to use His spear.) He tells me again and again that He loves these moments of companionship, these moments of experiencing what humanity can offer.
But the companionship also extends to the internal thoughts I want to share with Him. Things about gender identity and sexuality that have become complicated with the awareness of my privilege in how the rest of the world reads my physical body. Companionship there is Him listening, Him seeing and knowing and loving the whole of me, Him telling me to be proud of who I am and know myself to be regardless of however the world may view me.
So, yes. I am gladly, and proudly, Set’s worshipper, daughter, and coffee-offering companion. Dua Set!
I don’t really view my relationships with the Netjeru as “friendships” per se. Even Set (who as I noted previously is happy to accept my more casual interactions and offerings) is still not an entity I could ever see myself referring to as my “friend.”
Where do I find friendship in my interactions with the gods? I find it in the human beings that They have helped me come to know as I’ve walked Their path. I have developed deep friendships, friendships which progressed at a rate that sometimes unnerved me, often with people I only see in person every few months, if at all. I have forged friendships with Kemetics across the whole damn globe, friendships that wear down every instinctive wall I throw up between myself and anyone new because trust is something I have always found exceedingly difficult, and which life has, on occasion, made even more difficult with its twists and turns.
Yet trust just gradually seems to happen with the people my gods have directed me to worship beside. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we’re all talking about these core, heart-hitting aspects of our lives; that we’re all trusting each other with information which we know would make other people raise an eyebrow and doubt our grasp of reality. I don’t know if it’s some unknown factor that unites us, something that mutually led us to this particular form of the divine, or if our joint efforts to live by ma’at just make it a little easier to talk to each other about things.
It’s not always easy. We don’t all magically get along. We’re still individuals with different backgrounds and values and means, and we can fight like internet-proverbial honey badgers when these values don’t line up. But for the Kemetics who have become my friends, the folks I’ve been privileged enough to worship with, laugh with, sing with, write with, and pray with … It’s been amazing. They are treasured friends and in many cases family. I thank Netjer every day for their presence in my life.
I close my eyes and focus on the sound of my heartbeat, allowing myself to drift from this world to the next, finding myself garbed in white save for the ritual jewelry They have asked me to wear in their honor. I move swiftly to the oven, practice my focus over here by baking the bread by hand, going through each step as if it were my physical hands and not this transient form in the other side which kneads and rolls and shoves and finally places it in the oven.
While it bakes I move to the temple itself, always astounded at how large it has become. I wash my hands and bare feet and face with the pitcher of water placed at the outer door, then move within, torches lighting along each side their flames hidden in lotus columns. I place incense before each statue that I have carved at Their request with my will, moving past those gods who I have come to love and respect through varied and limited interaction, to the gods that walk with me each day as Parents and guides. Set and Bast guard the entire building, in full animal theophany, massive statues to the left and the right of the great offering table, with a beautiful painted stela behind, depicting Them both in Ra’s boat. They receive prayers and incense, I ask them to wake and listen for what They wish of me this day.
I move to the left of their great altar, down a long passage that leads back outside, winding down the hill on which the great temple is perched, over a rocky path and then to a river’s edge. It is almost always night here, as Hethert-Nut prefers. She greets me from her star-strewn blanket over head, while Aset-Hatmehyt and Heqat emerge from the river itself or rise from where They had waited beside its bank, embodied and warm and full of more life than I can stand. They take me into the river and purify me, submerging me and lifting me again, touching my forehead, my hands, my lips. It is so gentle that I feel no discomfort, so seemingly as it should be that I feel no fear below the great waters.
I rise when they are finished and fill a second pitcher from a place farther upstream from that where I bathed. I return to the front of the temple and find the bread ready, and a local wind netjeri assists in cooling it. I then move through the temple, making offerings of bread and water to all gods, beer and wine where requested, again listening to what else may be needed, but They also insist that I speak in turn.
And in the moments of offering and speaking there is love present, love built into every inch of this self-constructed temple in the duat. Love when I take the time to bake the bread by hand, love in the hands of the goddesses that purify me both for this purpose and for my own well being. Love when I have been gone too long and Set and Bast awake to the incense nigh shouting, perhaps even appearing in flesh to wrap me up in an embrace and ask where the hell I’ve been!
It is an all encompassing thing, the love that I feel when I am able to serve. To walk the halls built over years, to greet the gods in as direct way as I know how, and to receive such a powerful affection in return for my time and efforts. It has always been worth it, may it always continue to be so.
She challenged me in order to best assist me, knowing I needed the goading, telling me to let my Father in, to let Him rage.
I thought back to times before: His cool fire enforcing my spine as I sat erect and unbending on the phone with my abuser. My voice hardened as it entwined with His, the words coming from my mouth unshakeable: “It is over.” And it was, after years of waffling and trying to make it work and giving of myself that which I did not wish to give: it was done in one night.
I let Him in again when I began to see how one member of my family verbally assaulted the other, and it was His shield and spear in my hands as I stood in the hall, unafraid to block someone a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier before he could run away from his deeds and said, “No more.”
It has been His storming in my eyes when I read of the injustices in the world, His thunder pounding in my spirit when I see silence in response to murder and famine and plague. His winds throwing me forward to find more ways that I do more, be more, help more: anything.
And it His anger that came through me that night as I screamed of my own sorrows and frustrations and pains. His rage that carried mine from where I have kept it so tightly hidden, entrenched in politics and social etiquette and the training from childhood to be so very polite. He released it and we ran with it together, grief burning away before our great voice, shame attacked as though it were the hideous sneak itself, stabbed and crushed and destroyed in the power of our mutual fury.
I was exhausted when He left me, but I still stood, still functioned. For if the anger is His, the strength to bear that anger is my own, and as His daughter, I will not turn away from necessary rage.
I really… wanted to write about happiness yesterday, but I failed. It became a bitter taste in my mouth each time that I tried, sitting down to the computer, trying to let my mind gently wander in the way some creative types do when seeking inspiration, and constantly finding my focus shifting back to the skin issues or the pain in my abdomen. I do not want to let my as-of-yet still undiagnosed auto-immune disorder control me. I do not want to allow the hives and blisters that appear following medication, illness, and my natural cycle to keep me from doing things. I do not want to let the fatigue of my body that accompanies those hives become a fatigue of the mind and emotions as well as something physical.
I’m doing better, most days. Finding a balance between how much to share with people, how much to ask for help, how much to be vulnerable and honest in my “I’m sorry, I’m really not up to that today” versus avoiding letting it define me, avoiding offloading too much personal information, avoiding overwhelming people who don’t want to know, don’t have the spoons to know.
But yesterday it was too much for me to maintain a sense of happiness throughout the day, to accomplish everything I’d wanted to, and so the prompt sat there, nigh taunting me for my eventual decision to just… call the day a loss, until my husband dragged my ass to the park for a walk.
The park was needed, the light exercise needed. My heart rate rose which made the hives a bit worse, but the movement was a blessing and the sun on my face a reminder of why I view that golden heat and light as something divine. Hethert-Nut (leaning strongly Hethert) told me to reach out for my husband’s hand (he’d been respectfully giving me some space) and I did, apologizing for my shitty mood and behavior earlier in the day. My husband was understanding, and in his responses I heard Heru-wer’s strength, a promise of protection and fierce love that my partner does not always realize himself capable of, but I know to be there and am grateful for.
I am a Set child, independent and stubborn to a tee. I don’t want to give in to anything, least of all my own malfunctioning body. But happiness yesterday came from a few moments of vulnerability-in-love, trust-in-love. I am grateful for that recognition. Grateful for Hethert and Heru-wer and the example They so gladly set. Grateful for my husband who is a blessing to me in ways that even the gods recognize.
It is no wonder that the pressures of the world feel greater when I turn from You,
You who are lapis skinned starlight
And forever full of vitality.
If only I could see as You do
Eons passing by in an instant
Cascading through wars waged between and within humanity,
Shifting through decades of famine and plague,
Twisting lives lived outside of the wholeness of ma’at until their patterns were removed from the vast weavings of your universe.
Perhaps it would be easier then,
Having access to that distant time that I pray will one day be truth,
To look away from the grief I feel over the suffering of my planet,
To look away from the sorrows created by being so very unable to help,
Instead of looking away from You.
Take my face in your hands my lady.
Lift it to yours and then lift me,
As you once lifted Ra between your great horns.
Carry me up within your vast night
Show me more than I can see from the passing of my little life
Make me believe that there is more to be done,
For the people who grieve and for You.
I’ve been inspired by this post, because the truth of it is: this city of mine, this amazing, mountainous, river-surrounded city of mine, is absolutely transformative, and I can’t help but feel like They brought me here for a reason.
My life turned upside down in the tail end of my time in D.C. My roommate left a month earlier than planned, so I was alone for the last five or six weeks of packing and saying farewell to my year of life in the city, and I permanently ended the only formalized relationship I’d ever been in at that point in my life, which had persisted through four, largely unhealthy, years of long distance. I selected a graduate school in Pittsburgh, a place I knew nothing about save from my one accepted student visit to Carnegie Mellon five years earlier (and my subsequent decision not to attend because it felt too overwhelming.)
I moved into an apartment that I’d originally selected because I thought I’d be continuing a partnership in it, walked through the too-large space, arranging and rearranging things uselessly and trying to figure out what mattered anymore. Yet my window was high enough in the apartment building, even in August, to look out over the trees and houses that wound down the hillside, eventually coming to rest at the bank of the Allegheny. The river soothed, and I came to watch it each morning as the sun rose, only just starting to study Kemeticism in earnest, but already aware of the concept of Zep Tepi and needing that visual reminder.
My gods filled the spaces that I had torn out or torn apart with so much movement, new challenges, and shifted futures. Set lent me strength on more than one occasion, a vast, surprisingly stable presence that simply flooded me when I was uncertain, and left me aware of what parts of myself mirrored that strength when He departed once again. Bast gave me Her fire and ability to love, flooding me with passion I thought I’d given up on forever when some months after my arrival the opportunity to try to trust someone new with my affections arose. Heqat would come later, after I’d been living here for years, living with my new partner. Her transformation was far more gradual, as She led me into the rivers to wash away old hurts I’d left untended and uncleaned, washing old wounds so they could finally heal, and re-worked stories with me to find pride in the remaining scars.
I have changed so much since that now alien-to-me twenty-two year old arrived in Pittsburgh four years ago. I have been transformed by the rivers, transformed by my gods.
There is an unspoken understanding after four years
that this is a connection
Which will change
Burn away to ash
Rise like dawn
Rain down again
Continue for a lifetime of walking beside
The one Who would have me
Move forward in the understanding
Of my own self-worth.
What was it that you saw in me, battered and ruined as I was?
There was little left in the husk of a being who had forgotten how to dream and who was so very startled
to have visions of spirit return at all and then you –
you, so bold and living and full of every passion –
who came warring through my despair and would not look away.
Why, I ask, even now,
still struggling to trust that I could be worth your time
did I earn your patience and impatience,
your laughter and your strength?
How could I possibly have merited that
all encompassing fury and the rage,
rage on my behalf,
rage of such magnitude inspired by my sorrow
rage that was the only thing that ever could have proven how desperately
I needed to break from chains of self-loathing,
Break from the power of one who controlled and abused,
Break from a life that was lived only for lack of caring,
Break from the preference of perhaps not living at all.
Was I worth the effort, Father?
I hope, I pray, that the answer is yes.
For there was so little hope of any kind before you came,
So little of me left to dare consider such a concept.
Now I dream again and it is not startling.
I dream of a future of serving You,
A present of protecting others in Your name.
I hope that I might share some small portion of the fire
you returned to me with those who wander in darkness.
Burning brightly enough to help them seek
whatever light this world might yet provide.
This will be brief, my gods,
As I am tired and worried and stressed
And sleep is the best remedy for all.
But I have faith that you will protect zir from zir sorrow.
I have faith that you will help her keep going after her loss.
I have faith that he will one day play again without pain.
I have faith that you will help me find the right balance of asking for help and keeping things private.
I have faith because I love them all too much to do otherwise.
I have faith because Your presence has carried me this far to aid myself and provide aid in turn.
I believe because the alternative is terrifying.
Difficult though it has long been to trust, I must trust in this.
It is good to close my eyes and remember that the core of me
Those several ageless pieces which drive daily aging flesh
Remains healthy and unhindered, and that when You look
You as one small piece that represents the enormity I could not wholly withstand
You see only life, loyalty and my intent.
You see me and then stand embodied:
human and sha-faced, or hound-bodied and sleek,
knowing before I do which aspect will best match my inner form this day.
Shall we walk as Father and child, me in white,
your red beads at my neck, dark spear in my hand?
Shall we run as hounds through the desert
Swifter than the horses that draw chariots before other gods
amused by later human invention?
Or perhaps we shall hunt as both and then neither,
the soul of the red god unbound by any rules of form,
While the voice of His daughter rings with laughter
alive and mad with the rush of the storm she gladly rides.