redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

God radios: How to live with one, how to live without one. What happens if the reception is bad, or the gods quit responding?

So I’m typing this as I finish reverting the morning coffee I offer to Set on a daily basis. The process goes as follows: brew the coffee, formally offer the coffee, chat with Set about this, that, or the other thing, and then revert the coffee once it’s cooled down (and once I’ve added milk — Big Red may like His coffee black, but I’ve tried, can’t do it.)

The part of this relevant to this month’s Kemetic Roundtable topic is of course that I’m effectively telling you that nearly every morning, for several years now, I hear the voice of a thunder god in my skull and we have a full fledged conversation to kick off the day.

Let’s start with the nuts and bolts of the thing: what is this like?

For me, it’s entirely mental. I hear nothing externally, it’s more like someone has tapped directly into the processing portion of my brain and delivered the information without the necessity of making its way through the ear canal. As for what that mental voice sounds like? That varies too. If my connection is good, so to speak, He has His own unique sound. To my mind, He’s a solid baritone, with the capacity to dip into Paul Robeson-esque epic bass if He wants to, which sounds more like a rumble than anything else.

If I’m less focused, I don’t pick up the timbral details, or it may even just be words that I interpret in my own standard mental “thinking” voice. These are the moments when discernment becomes very important — is it actually Him, or did I just hop aboard the USS Make Shit Up? It can be a frustrating process of doubting what you’ve heard, asking for clarification or verification, or using some alternative means (i.e. divination) to verify.

Granted, Set will usually Gibbs slap me for doubting, but that’s just how we work. Your mileage will almost certainly vary, and only you can know what the best way is to double check what you think you may be hearing.

It’s important to note also, that this is most assuredly not the only way to get that god radio functional! In my experience, it’s not solely speech that comes through. This can vary from person to person, but also from god to god. For example, for all that I can pretty much reach out to Set whenever, wherever, and begin a conversation, my mother Bast? Far more diffuse, and far less likely to respond in words than a strong emotion, or image. Hethert-Nut gives me the impression of physical sensations. Heru-wer has a knack for leading me to things in the Seen realm and not using many mental communications at all. Heqat reaches out to me via meditation, which can use any combination of the methods described above.

On your end of things, it may be useful to develop your own form of lexicon for how *you* interpret god communications. I’ve done the following exercise several times when I reach out to a new god before I sculpt Them, trying to establish a connection and way to determine Their feelings on my work as I go.

In shrine (or whatever form of sacred space works best for you, be it in the Seen or Unseen worlds) make an offering to the god you are trying to contact. I usually keep this simple, light the candle, light the incense, offer bread and water — I can make it fancier once I have a better sense of their preferences.

Ask for the god to communicate with you (and the word communicate is important, as that leaves the *how* of it open to interpretation) within the next 24 hours. Explain why you wish to make that connection.

Try to clear your mind of your own thoughts. I find focusing on the candle to be a helpful method for this.

Then, just observe. If something comes to you at that time, be it a voice, a color, an image, a sound, take note of it. Also note where your mind is tending to wander when it shifts away from focusing on the candle. Are you thinking about how the flame moves? Are you noticing certain reflections on an image in your shrine? Did you suddenly remember something that happened previously? Any of this could possibly be the way your brain interprets the god radio. Thank the god and close the ritual as works for you.

Also observe what happens for the rest of the day? Do you see any particular animals? Do you have any other thoughts that strike you as important? Do you notice a particular color popping up all over the place? What do you dream when you fall asleep that night?

It is not all going to be the god radio at work of course, but chances are something might stand out to you as particularly significant. God communication is not all about mental conversations, not everyone has them, not everyone needs to have them. I believe it is a life long process for everyone to determine what form their interaction with the gods is going to take. They may be silent in speech, but speak to you through art, or writing, or music. I firmly believe that anyone can communicate with the gods: it’s just a matter of finding the “language” that speaks to you.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

It has been good for me to focus on animism for a time, and to forge a solid connection with Heqat, who seems to easily traverse both my Kemetic practice and my workings with the natural world. She has given me a certain serenity, encouraged me to stop and recover from my previous project, helped me to overcome the anxiety which had nearly overcome me in my final months of my graduate program. She is still here with me, and I suspect She will be for quite some time. I’ve made certain promises to Her as regards my future career in counseling, and She will see that I hold to those promises.

But She is not, in my experiences with Her, a god to push me forward, to send me into the next period of transition. No, the times of change, the times of necessary strength to make things happen? That is my Father Set’s domain, and He has made this very clear.

Fellowship with other Kemetics, the celebration of the festival for the Beautiful Reunion that celebrates Hethert and Heru-wer’s wedding, drew me joyfully back into purely Kemetic practice and efforts. During the conversation that followed ritual proper, I threw out the idea that my Father had few group rituals done in His name… would anyone be interested if I were to attempt to plan something. A strong, positive response was given, and I made a note to inquire of Set what day He might prefer.

During senut the following night, He made it very plain that He would hold me to this, and also made it clear what Day He preferred me to plan for. This is all, of course, in nascent stages, but I will write more about the process as things progress.

(And they will progress. I get the sense there’s no backing out of this, now that I’ve offered.)

My usual informal coffee with Set the following morning was met with a surprisingly in depth conversation about another aspect of Future Things, this time my career.

“Heqat is not the only one supporting you in this, daughter.”

I raised an eyebrow, as Set, for all that I view Him as a Parent deity, is rare to make a big show of the father/child, master/padawan distinction.

“No? Who else should I be working with?”

“Do you think that being a counselor will be easy?”

“Of course not.”

“Do you think that someone weak of will and courage could withstand the daily onslaught of isfet within people’s lives?”

“No, but I’m seeing your point.”

“You are the daughter of the god of change, of the necessary stripping away of that which is toxic, the removal of the great snake as it has taken hold in others’ minds and actions. Remember that, and do not forget what I am, and also what you are in bearing my standard in your name.”

He left then, and I was left to add milk to the coffee I always offer him black, sipping quietly as I considered why I had never considered this before.

I felt compelled to make good on another issue sooner rather than later: my devotional ring for Him and Bast had broken while I was at the Beautiful Reunion gathering. With a bit of extra time yesterday, I went to the local Tibetan Buddhist store where I generally buy my incense. I asked to see the rings they had available, and was immediately drawn to a garnet piece and initially assumed the mental push was just because garnet has always been, for me, His stone and color.

Asking the shop keeper about the symbolism (as I prefer not to wear things I don’t know the meaning of!) I was told that it was a dorje, the “thunderbolt of wisdom.” Stronger god-pinging ensued, and I realized I wasn’t going to be leaving the store without it. I went through my subsequent singing lesson feeling particularly “Great of Voice” with the ring perfectly snug on the middle finger of my left hand.

image

Upon arriving home, I did more reading — and will continue to do more in the day’s ahead. The dorje was masculine associated, and the “thunderbolt of wisdom” could be perceived literally as a weapon of certain aggressive gods (Indra) or more symbolically, as the determination to apply “skillful means” in the effort of reaching enlightenment. Skillful means is a concept that is going to take me a heck of a lot longer than two days to understand, but seems to somehow relate to methods or techniques that fit a situation to reach enlightenment, even if those may be difficult, painful, or rely on bending the truth. (Horribly over-simplified, but again, give me five years with the concept and I’ll get back to you with something that isn’t terrible.)

Regardless of the shoddy summation above, the symbol, for all my initial, “Set wants a Buddhist ring. Right-o, color me confused,” actually… rather fits.

And then I remembered another matter that I had not thought of in months. Last August, a few weeks after Wep Ronpet, I had a dream where I was given a message, both aloud and then written down. As I thought I recognized a few words from said message as some form of Egyptian, I ran it by Rev. Tamara Siuda, and was shocked to learn that it… actually could be interpreted as Middle Egyptian.

She wrote me back that, “It could be an epithet: s3i m3′ wn-hr(w) Sth (sai ma’a wen-heru Set(ekh), which would mean “True wisdom (and) skillfulness/clear vision (of) Set.”

If you took the sai as a command (bare infinitive verb), it would be something like “be true in wisdom and clear (of vision), Set” “

True wisdom and skillfulness/clear vision of Set. Be true in wisdom and clear of vision, Set.

What is the true wisdom of my Father? Add that to the grand list of Things I’ll Be Pondering for Decades. That said, His recent reminder stood clear in my mind. The wisdom required to be a successful counselor relates much more closely to some of His knowledge than I initially realized: the wisdom of how to stand strong when faced with so much pain and hurt, the wisdom of how to use skillful means to direct your client in a mutual effort towards necessary change, even if it may be painful. The ring on my finger suddenly became my own little miniature “thunderbolt of enlightenment” relating to *why* Set stepped forward as my Father.

He always knew I was strong enough to do this. I’ve only discovered that strength for myself in the past year. I’ve wondered, off and on, why me? How could I possibly earn the god of strength’s interest? Why has he continued to work with me, push me, train me, improve me?

Finally, at least in one regard, I get it.

Dua Set.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

Two weeks ago I spent several days in my childhood home in Maryland, visiting family and taking care of some planning for my upcoming wedding. Each night, after a busy day of visits and organization, I was greeted by the voices of hundreds of native treefrogs. The slow rising, alto creeeeeeeek of the upland chorus frog formed a polyphonic chant with the soprano chirrups of spring peepers. I did not see them on this trip, but recalled with joy being in my early years and finding the little creatures crawling on the sides of my parents house, loving that they were so small and yet had such a tremendous voice.

The return of the chorus frogs was always, for me, the first sign of the return of the warmer months. School would soon draw to a close, and a summer full of adventures would soon begin. So too would my personal new year be arriving, my August birthday arriving only a few months after the frog song began, and even when little the choir of ribbits got me thinking about what it would be like to be another year older, wondering about the year behind me, and the year to come. I would lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the rhythms of amphibian music, dreaming and pondering about new beginnings until eventually sleep took me.

This emphasis on Frog as a representative of new beginnings on the east coast of the United States once reflected fresh starts on another shore: that of the Nile delta. In Ancient Egypt, immediately following the annual flooding of the great river, thousands of frogs would seemingly “emerge” from the soil, as the sodden earth provided a greater expanse of habitat, and the various frog species began to mate and reproduce. Though my research has not yet lead me to which of the following endemic amphibian species to the Nile valley region (egyptian toad and mascarine ridged frog) most likely existed at that time, one or both contributed to the ancients’ understanding of the goddess Heqat: lady of rebirth, midwife to the gods, giver of life to the human bodies that potter Khnum created upon his wheel. When the frogs returned after the flood waters subsided, so too would crops begin to grow, new projects could begin as the silt was once again rich with nutrients and the sky rich with frogsong.

It cheers me that these various species on both sides of the globe remain listed as unthreatened, though the Egyptian frogs have declined substantially in the past 10 years due to overharvesting for university study. Hopefully something can be done to protect them, as the frogs serve not only as a symbol of renewal, a current cultural keystone within the Americas and a historic cultural keystone of the Nile delta, but also as a source of food for other predatory species seeking sustenance as they enter their own breeding seasons, a source of protection from imbalance as they keep insect populations in check.

The frogs are necessary to balance, necessary for new life. Their song must continue to be sung.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

When it comes to my work with animal-based guides, I have mostly found myself drawn to predators. Great-horned owl, red wolf, western green mamba, polar bear, orca… the list goes on. Until recently, my gods have reflected this association: they’re both warriors with predatory theophanies. They are the hunter, not the hunted.

To some extent I think this fascination is cultural: for all that human population seem to feel threatened by predators, there simultaneously tends to be a glorification of predatory species in art and literature that overlooks prey animals. On the other hand, I think there is also a matter of personal compensation. I am not as strong as I would like to be, I have had to teach myself to be independent, to fight, to hunt down the things I need rather than constantly providing for the needs of others as is my first instinct. I look to predators to teach me these things.

So when my Keystones e-course asked me to study a predator: this was easy. Not two days before that lesson arrived I’d been reading about the local coyote population in the newspaper. I could easily admire the adaptable, cunning canines that have worked their way into Pittsburgh city limits, living well off of young deer, rabbits, squirrel, and yes, the occasional small cat or dog left outside during the dark hours. I enjoyed reading more about their flexibility, their ability to hunt as a temporary pack or function alone in equal measure. I found it interesting that the article actually took into account that they were helping with the over population of deer in the area, while also acknowledging that they were proving a threat to the domesticated animals of the city.

Less easy was picking a prey species. After several days of disgruntled failure to choose, I wound up stepping into the patch of woods behind my apartment and sending a silent request for some clue of who would like me to work with them. Over the next three days, I saw three groundhogs in three separate locations, and subsequently became very aware of certain biases.

image

Memories reared up of my father complaining about groundhogs tearing up the backyard, my mother twisting her ankle when a tunnel collapsed beneath her. Simultaneously, I recognized that I had never shifted anything remotely like a groundhog in meditation: and the prospect of transforming into something so small and, well, rotund… didn’t sit well. I’d be lunch!

More days passed with little progress made at convincing myself to give it a try. Finally, at Meeting, as I settled myself into quiet meditation and began to visualize the temple in the woods, I was met with an immediate request from Heqat, “You have two visitors.”

Coyote and Groundhog stood at the end of the long temple hall, waiting just beyond the edge of the marble flooring. I followed them hesitantly as they led me deeper and deeper into the winding maze of trees and brush. We finally settled by a small hole in the ground, and I sat, crosslegged, waiting for what was to come next.

In the blink of an eye I *was* groundhog, and could not seem to shift myself to anything else. I panicked, feeling very small, and very aware that a predator was now staring down at me hungrily. I ran instinctively toward the hole, right on the tail of the groundhog who’d led me there. We clambered down, but a sharp pain from one of my hindfeet held me in place and I began to be dragged back out. The groundhog in front of me whirled around, rushing past me, and sunk his very long teeth directly into the coyote’s snout. The predator let go of me, and we both rushed deeper into the den, down into the cool darkness and safety.

The tunnel went on for far longer than I expected, past a small side chamber with some grass-like material, and eventually back up again some indeterminate amount of time later. My guide reared up ahead of me, sniffing cautiously, before wandering out. I was all nerves, body full to brimming with scents and awareness. It was kind of amazing, how much I recognized from the tiniest of vibrations in the earth around me, how much I could smell. We rushed across forest, finding another den to explore. This one was structured the same way, but held a small group of wild rabbits, who’d taken advantage of another groundhog’s efforts. I marveled slightly at how the den could be passed on from one species to the next.

Continuing on to the third den, we were nearly taken by a hawk but made it below ground in time courtesy of the warning cry of another of our kind. It struck me then how skilled my guide was, how challenging he made it for his predators to find him. I was reminded also of how fiercely he fought for me, how much damage those long marmot teeth could do when necessary.

I apologized, and I thanked him.

He stopped his running and turned, amusement in his small eyes.

So I’m not “just a rodent”?

“No, though I may be just a fool.”

Hmm. Perhaps! But this can change, given time, thought, and effort.

“What should I do?”

Dance me. Learn my motions. Read of me. Bring your new knowledge to my dance. Then, once you have done this, rest. Learn of the significance of hibernation, and hibernate yourself. You need time to consider, time just to be, before you will be ready to run to your next destination without being consumed. Rest, and you will make it. Do not rest, and what you fear will eat you. You cannot forever be the hunter.

This will be a difficult lesson for me, having solely defined myself for so long as someone who must constantly be on the hunt for new work to be living a worthwhile life, constantly chasing the next challenge to prove myself worthy. But, having made the realization that this is not healthy, I think I can take the first step towards hibernating for awhile, habituating myself within a new environment, and finally, when ready, emerging and beginning the hunt once again.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

Due to my free time in March and April being eaten alive by a rabid grad school monster, I’m going to address two topics in one, though it will all go under the guise of “Living Kemeticism.” I will discuss the following: What does living your faith mean to you? How can others bring their religion into their day to day life or live their religion? How public are you about your beliefs and practices? How has it (or not) impacted your work life, your familial and friendly ties? What advice would you give to uncertain Kemetics about how to approach either telling or not telling others about their beliefs?

I think I was living as a Kemetic, in many ways, before I even found Kemeticism. I say this in the sense that I was already trying to live my life in a balanced manner, respecting myself and respecting others, caring for the world around me while caring for myself, seeking knowledge while simultaneously trusting instincts and emotions. I also held the belief in a divine force that could manifest as many individual and distinct gods or spiritual forms, which allowed me to worship and work with the entities that most strongly called to me, while respecting, from a distance, most of the gods and religious practices of others.

Kemeticism sort of wove its way into what was already there, fleshing out the details with a more complex definition of balance in the many questions of living a life in ma’at and giving me Netjer, an entity from within the greater divine force, from which many Netjeru extended into complex individual gods. While I began to establish a set ritual practice, and perhaps did more genuine praying than before, overall my day-to-day existence changed very little.

What did change was having a far more solid concept of the benefits of living my faith and a growing sense of responsibility to, and support from, a diverse range of Kemetic communities. In turn, “Kemetic” added a new layer of self-understanding within my identity, a form of security based upon the framework through which I could now learn more about myself, my relationships, and my world. The ideals I aspired to live somehow acquired greater weight in their manifestation in the revitalization of an ancient tradition. When I lost sight of these goals, there were others to whom I could turn to find my way back, books I could read to revitalize my interest. These were ways to cope with fallow times, rather than simply watching and despairing as my connection to spirituality withered away.

I have been far better off for having this foundation of Kemeticism beneath my longheld beliefs and ideologies. Yet living my faith extends beyond the complexities of the ideas that shape who I am and what I do, often creeping into the simple comforts of day-to-day actions. I always wear the ring that represents my devotion to, and connection with, Set and Bast. I also have a rotation of pendants and earrings depicting various Netjeru, an ankh, a scarab. These become physical reminders, their weight on my chest a reminder of who I am and what I believe. My Set-animal pendant in particular has grown shiny from the amount I’ve rubbed it between my fingers when nervous and seek a small reminder of my own strength.

Given how living my faith has so strongly proven itself to be a positive influence on my life, it is perhaps of little surprise that I guard it fiercely. I share my faith only with those I know I can trust, though have reached a point where I am no longer willing to lie if directly confronted and perceive no actual physical threat.

I am fortunate in that I live in a place where Christianity is not so deeply entrenched in the culture as to result in my potentially being attacked for who I am and what I believe. In my previous academic job, I was under some pressure to keep my spiritual beliefs, any spiritual beliefs, to myself, so as to be taken seriously, but I hope that my next career will be more open in this regard. My family largely does not know, but were I ever to move back in with them, this conversation would need to be broached. I do feel that, again, barring physical repercussions, I would owe it to myself and to them to be entirely open about my spiritual beliefs and practices.

In the meantime, I have made gradual, but significant, steps towards helping my parents understand that I do not identify as Christian, and have a different spiritual worldview. I hope, in time, to reach a point of complete openness with them, but for now, try to keep a balanced perspective on what I need them to know to be personally fulfilled and honest, and what small gaps in their knowledge might be better for their emotional well being overall.

Living as Kemetic requires this sort of balanced approach towards how “Out” you are with your faith. Consider your needs, your safety, and weigh these against how you can best respect the needs of others. Only you can make these decisions, and they are well worth contemplating over time, particularly if your life as a Kemetic has brought you as much joy and positive growth as it has me.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

I will not live the live my parents led, and I am fine with this. As musician, artist, and scholar, hopefully someday counselor, my home will not compare with the home of two lawyers that I grew up in: again, I am fine with this. My home is huge in comparison with the homes of many. Three rooms full of instruments and art and books. My home is open to those friends and family who need shelter. My home is full to brimming with the affection between two human-bodied and two feline-bodied people. There is space in my home for the ancestors to visit, if they choose, a small space always left for a father, two grandfathers, and any other relations to drop by in whatever form they might take. There is space in my home for gods and spirits, a Kemetic shrine and animist altar well tended in separate rooms for separate moments of worship.
 
My home exists in the liminality of the mountains and the city. Sturdy brick with nearly 70 years to its name surrounds me, with human neighbors above and below. Yet the deer walk the small patch of woods behind my home, as do chipmunk and squirrel. The robins greet me in the warmer months, the crows laugh when the weather begins to cool. Wild turkeys occasionally posit themselves directly in front of my car, reminding me that nothing is so important that it can’t wait a few more minutes for them to strut on by.

In my mind my “territory” extends about a mile east, to the avenue that holds both my favorite cafe and my nearest big park. I wrote my masters thesis, in its entirety, in the local, family-run coffee shop. I know the people there better than I do the ones in my own building. After working and writing for hours on end, I can walk up the same street to my park, get lost in the trails that during summer are shielded from any roads. I can view the Allegheny river from here, greet a broader range of avian life: mallard ducks, Canadian geese, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, grackle… the list goes on. Only recently, courtesy of the animist course I’ve been taking, have I looked on a smaller scale. Ants, wee spiders hiding in the bark, inch worms, lady bugs… a world I’ve not given nearly enough notice to. The plants as well: a newly acquired Kindle has allowed me to download a guide to the wildflowers and trees. My goal is to know the park that has given me such joy since I claimed Pittsburgh as my new home three years ago. I owe it that much, if not more.

Yet my home extends beyond this physical space. My heart strings are taut. The core, bass strings are drawn out of love and duty to my parents and Maryland; these are also pulled fiercely to Texas where my sister, best friend, and heart-kin lives with zir mate. Higher pitched strands guide my soul to Colorado, North Carolina, Illinois, and West Virginia. These are the homes of friends, family; so many loved ones I cannot ever see nearly enough for my own liking. Pittsburgh remains within driving distance of many of these places, and I am grateful for that. For the places more distant, it grants me compensation: in being near other spaces important to those I love, it gives me the option to see them when they travel. It also provides me both the water I grew up with, albeit three mighty rivers instead of the one great Bay, and gods bless it for the mountains.
 
It is unsurprising to me that the places I travel in my meditative journeying efforts reflect the reality of the physical that feeds my soul. My internal temple, while Kemetic in design, was built within a natural clearing in a vast forest. It is near a great river where I work with Heqat and Hatmehyt, and the forest itself is rolling and wild, a part of some unknown mountainous region in my mind. I run the woods with deer and hound, I soar above the trees and see great valleys and other, unknown tributaries with Great Horned Owl. As my physical self, I seek similar places out in my actual travels. I clean litter from the aforementioned park when I visit, trying to protect what small corner of my ecosystem is within my neighborhood, my little human territory.

I would shrivel up without access to the woods, the water, the birds and the green. It is as much a part of my spiritual life as ritual and prayer.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

BarquePainting
“Bast and Set Defend the Solar Barque” by A’aqytsekhmet

My Parents are deities of fierceness and beauty. They embody, in fire and strength, who I aspire to be with each new goal and challenge.

They are the defenders of the right to start again, destroyers of the obstacles that would keep a new day, a new chance, from beginning.

They are the passion for another and the passion for self, balanced and in check.

They are the split second decisions of lightning and the long burning blaze of needing to see something to its completion.

They mutually defy the overly simplistic boundaries of gender and species to rewrite what it means to rise up and live as Self rather than assumption.

They will not be defined by mere words, but action.

My Mother is neither woman nor cat. My Father is neither man nor sha. They are both, and neither, and the vast complexities that lie somewhere in between these conflicting extremes.

Today, two years and a day since They claimed me through sacred rite, I reaffirm that I am Their daughter.

I will carry Their standards high.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

IMG_0216

I am nineteen and just returned home for my first summer after starting college, an internal mess of new realizations about love, knowledge, and independence that I experienced over the past eight months. I have a few weeks before the summer job at the theatre starts up, and my mind is free to wander through these new ideas, many of which prove intensely uncomfortable. On the first day available to me without a thunderstorm, I wait until both parents have left for their respective jobs, and begin the half hour walk out of our suburban neighborhood to the local park. My feet take me deep into Quiet Waters Park, originally to my little pagoda on the South River which was so well known to me, but then, before I arrive, off the trail. I am uncertain if this is “permitted” by park regulations, but something of that newfound craving for independence granted me in the past year compels me to push aside old fears and before long I’ve lost myself amidst the trees and the cries of insects and the occasional rustle of an eastern grey squirrel or chipmunk who saw me before I them, and ran off.

After walking for an indeterminate amount of time, I find myself tiring, and settle on a fallen log, perching on the rough oaken bark and just watching the world move around me. As the sun continues its march across the sky and begins its descent, boldly plumed male cardinals keep their distance while boldly spirited robins come far closer to eye the stranger in their midst. I mimick the cries of birds singing out above me as evening creeps ever nearer, laughing quietly to myself in sheer joy as we engage in a peculiar sort of call and response. I’ve no idea if they are reacting to this giddy human soprano’s efforts to join in the avian choir, or just continuing in their own standard repetition of melody, but it is absolutely joyous.

Behind me and the log, a sudden crack. I turn, ever so slowly, to see two massive white tailed does looking at me, maybe ten feet away. I blink, they blink, and then they turn and bolt. I don’t know what compels me to follow them, in the grand scheme of things it is not particularly intelligent, given how much larger they were than I, and how much damage a deer can do when frightened. But fortunately they just speed ahead, tawny pelts turned golden in the remaining light of dusk, leading me on for a few seconds that feel like forever before disappearing from my view into a field of thick marsh reeds as high as my shoulders.

Read the rest of this entry »

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

Fisherman’s boy with a bucket of water
goes walking each day on the shore
Looking in tide-pools and crannies
for fish that were stranded
Sure-handed he’d gather them all
Throwing them back to the ocean
Back to the living once more

Soon he was throwing the nets like his father
And hauling them back to the shore
Taking the time to be careful and sort the unneeded
from those he would store in the hold
Throwing them back to the ocean
Back to the living once more

He went down in a storm near the rocks of Point Cleary
They searched ’til the night drove them home
But in the morning they found him, alive and unbattered
Where shattered wood littered the stones
He’d been thrown back from the ocean
Back to the living once more

Fisherman’s boy with a son and a daughter
goes walking each day on the shore
Looking in tide-pools and crannies
for fish that were stranded
Sure-handed they gathered them all
Throwing them back to the ocean
Back to the living once more

***

I find that songs serve as their own form of mythology, balancing the necessity of conveying a story with poetic meter and rhyme before bringing it all together with a vocal line and accompaniment that reflects the information and emotion the song’s crafter seeks to share. Heather Dale is one such songstress, conveying beautiful interpretations of various legends with a fluid, soothing voice and a way with words I could only hope to emulate in my own work.

Read the rest of this entry »

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

It was a Kemetic goddess who brought me back to animist belief, guiding me to the meditative journeying practice that once formed the bulk of my spiritual life in late high school and early college. She helped me step away from a career path that was not healthy for me, and brought me back to joy in the form of artistic and musical creation.

I call Her grandmother out of love and respect, honor Her as the musician of Hermopolis with eight faces, know Her both as woman and as frog, and continue to move forward in my efforts to honor Her requests that I maintain my ties to that which connects me to my world. At Her insistence, I’ve begun attending a local Quaker meeting as a frequent guest. I find the weekly hour of silent contemplation ideal for maintaining a regular schedule of personal meditation. I’ve also derived a fair amount of satisfaction from participating in the environmental activism and taking the first steps towards a more ecologically-friendly lifestyle, both of which engage with one of the main Quaker testimonies.

It has been immensely gratifying to see how these varying forms of re-connection with the world around me, once completed merely to satisfy Heqat’s requests, have now a developed into an emotionally necessary and regular aspect of my day-to-day life.

Yet, I have still felt the lack of something I couldn’t quite define. A sense that I needed something more tangible, almost something I could run between my fingers. I think this stems in part from this past winter. It’s been a very difficult cold season here in Pittsburgh this year, harsh and unyielding well into what the calendar has claimed to be spring. Living largely at my computer as I wrap up my final semester of graduate study, I’ve felt utterly and constantly human. This is not a healthy thing for me.

It’s a strange thing to explain, given that I am, of course, biologically and physically human. But I can be more, or less, or better yet, I simply exist as an other that need not be quantified in some meaningless hierarchy of species.

What does it mean to be other than human? Sometimes its as constant as sprawling on the floor on a pile of blankets with my cats, murmuring for lack of a purr, enjoying the heat of the sun streaming through the window without actually contemplating such in anything more than the sensation of pleasure. Other times it’s as rare as walking through the park behind my parents’ old home, coming upon a pair of white tailed does, and instinctively running after them as they turn and break, seconds expanding to hours as I just move without knowing, or doubting why just to treasure the sight and power of their forms so poorly mirrored in my own. Other times still it’s wading out into a shallow portion of a bay, feeling the minnows bite at my toes, the seaweed curl around my ankles, swaying with the current as the gentle waves of a distant ocean pulse from far beyond me to carry through my body in salt and sand and life.

I am human, and I am other than human, and I have missed living this.

Kemetic gods, for all that they can bear animal forms, be they symbolic or, as many of the myths describe, acquired through magical means, are not other in that same way, in my experience. They interact with mortal life in all its varying shapes from a different plane.  Even Heqat, who brought me back to animism and saw before I did how vital a place it had long held in my heart, will almost always use words and greet me as the human Shemsu I have vowed to be. The only Netjeru to do otherwise is Set, who will gladly greet me as sha-animal, run with me in the woods of my meditative space, hunting alongside me in His form nearest the deerhound body I often adopt in meditation. We don’t have to speak, instead we just run, move, exist and guard the entities that live in that sacred space.

I wanted to dedicate more time to that sensation, to the tangible things in the world around me that I could both worship and protect. I found myself starting to seek out means of doing so.

In a brilliant coincidence, it was not long after I’d made this decision that Tenu directed me to the Keystones of the Sacred Land e-course being offered by Alison Leigh Lilly. I was immediately intrigued, having at least heard of Ali’s work previously, but opted to dig deeper into her blog before deciding. Ali’s anthropocentrism posts in particular rang true, touching that core place I’d had such trouble defining, but which most certainly reached back to my own childhood, well before I’d had a fancy term like animism to ascribe to my interactions with animals and plants. Then I found her post entitled “When the Frogs Begin to Sing. Having met a grand total of one other person, ever, who defined frogsong as such, who saw these amazing creatures as musicians in their own right, I knew then I needed to take the course.

Part of the class involves journaling our thoughts about each lesson. I’ll be sharing those thoughts here. Please do chime in if you wish, I find discussion to be a vital part of learning, and if anything I share inspires you, even in a small way, you’ll brighten my day immensely for letting me know.

Much love to you all.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

After a long hiatus, I have returned to writing for The Kemetic Round Table. The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

This post will address the following prompt: Differences in Practices: How do you deal with them? How do we overlook our differences in practice and UPG? What do we do if our experiences don’t line up with others?

This is a tale of three Sets.

Below, I’ve offered broadly paraphrased quotes, pulled from no particular source or sources, to represent each of these Sets. Full stories and works of art are highly personal representations, and this is not meant to be a calling out of any specific individual’s interpretation of Set. Each serves as only a brief depiction and analysis of three possible ways that one might see my spiritual Father.

Meet Stereotypical Sets 1-3:

“Set is a demon.”

“Set is an asshole.”

“Set is a vital guardian.”

I’ve heard variations on all three of these at one point or another; I’m sure many of you have too. I struggled with them in various ways at various times. Initially, the negative depictions kept me from accepting Set’s presence, even as He refused to be ignored. It took Him a solid month of earning my trust to so much as get me to talk with Him about the stuff in my life that He was bound and determined to change.  It took Him longer than that to get me to act on it without being convinced I was being manipulated.

He seemed accustomed to this sort of reticence (whether from many others initially reacting towards Him with fear, or sheer cussedness, I don’t know.) I think I needed that sort of patience and lack of offense at my extreme hesitation. I suspect many gods wouldn’t have kept coming back. Many gods would never have tolerated that level of “this isn’t real” argumentativeness and general disbelief.

But He did stick around, and in time (and with more than a few adaptations) He set my life on an altogether different course for the better. I found the House of Netjer, I went through the Rite of Parent Divination, and to no one’s surprise (except maybe my own) He, alongside Bast, was declared to be my spiritual Parent.

Enter the next phase of my relationship with the Negative Set-isms: extreme overprotectiveness and overreaction to those descriptions and depictions which I perceived to be unfair. Set had “saved” me. How could I stand by and tolerate it when people mocked Him, described Him with profanity? I owed him my allegiance.

Admittedly this gut reaction still happens on occasion, and has led to my apologizing more than once when I jumped the gun. A few of you reading this have probably received an apology from me after I was overly hasty in coming to my god’s defense.

…that last bit actually proved the point that helped me turn the next corner in our relationship. Set is a god. He doesn’t need my protection. If He’s genuinely annoyed by something someone says about Him (and more often than not, He simply seems not to give a damn one way or the other) He is far, far more equipped than I to handle it. So I did my best to stop worrying about external influences, and focused on solidifying our relationship. I discovered that Set’s role as guardian of the boat of Ra was an intensely powerful one for me. It came to stand as an emblem of all He’d done for me in my life, represented the power found in fighting isfet [in my case, often embodied in depression and anxiety] to cherish each new day. I also found tremendous self-confidence in my singing voice by reading about the heka in Set’s powerful shout. For Him I sang, and His own great voice rang in my head like the storms He’s known for. I stopped worrying about the criticisms of others, and developed a much stronger connection with Set as my vital guardian and guardian of Kemet. Set as the power in vocality.

Set as my Father.

Now by this point I’d been working with Him for almost two years, two years in which I’d  started sending out little feelers into the different corners of the Kemetic and pagan online communit(ies). It was impossible to both reach out and remain entirely removed from others’ takes on Set. Granted, I also had no desire to permanently detach myself from others views, research, and experience! I just needed the space to become more confident in the nuts (no pun intended) and bolts of how He and I worked together, before I could hear other takes on Set, for good or for ill, without being emotionally thrown.

So I began to read, and read, and read more. I met people who worked with Him in syncretizations with other gods and syncretizations with demons. I discovered those who followed Him as part of the Left Hand Path. I found Set working with chaos magicians and artists, saw Him banished in some rituals and hailed in others. I heard people understandably complain about how He had manipulated them, hurt someone they loved. I heard some praise His strength in their moments of greatest weakness, while others criticized Him for pushing them entirely too far past what they felt strong enough to manage. Others still engaged in romantic relations with Him, via godspousery or ritual kink. It seemed as though nearly anything I could imagine, He was capable of fulfilling in someone’s life somewhere.

And my Father, so wonderful and strong to me before, was not diminished for this. He just… became complete. Fleshed out. He was made far more complex than He had been before: not three Sets, but thousands. Set as a rhizome of constantly changing intersections and interruptions, clashes and combinations of historical documentation and modern-day experience, individual forms of Him no longer bound by a single interpretation. He truly became god to me in that instant of understanding, capable of holding far more forms and identities than any mortal being could possibly embody.

Granted, this understanding did not mean that I had to agree with everything I read, but neither did I find myself becoming so frequently defensive over that with which I did not agree. I could learn, consider the source of the information, incorporate what I understood and felt benefited my relationship with Set, respectfully ask questions and express my opinion regarding that with which I didn’t agree.

 Three Sets Applied to Differences in Practice

I think, for some of us, my tale of three Sets reflects an experience that many of us grapple with. It can be excruciatingly difficult enough parsing through the various identities and personalities ascribed to a given Netjeru, let alone how we are supposed to interact with and worship Them. Is this partial application of cultural relativism to one’s spirituality even remotely viable? Surely, I’ve wondered, one has to draw the line somewhere.

Well, yes. You do. You’ll lose your mind otherwise, not knowing where you stand and what you believe.

But my suggestion is as follows: Provided the ideas you’re seeing are not harming anyone (in which case, hell yes, tear that racist/sexist/classist/ableist nonsense apart) give them some thought. Consider your own beliefs, vows that you may have taken to yourself, your gods, or a particular spiritual community. Draw the lines for yourself, establish what you believe, and what you’ve sworn to uphold based on your associations. Be confident in where you stand, and know that being tolerant of the ideas and practices of others does not translate to “I must believe this thing/worship this way.” Be aware of where your ideas come from, and ask respectful questions to learn where others are getting their interpretations.

It is possible to co-exist in difference. It is possible to worship the same god viewed in three, or three thousand, different ways.

But know yourself, your practices, and your gods first. Be confident in what matters to you, and you’ll find it far easier to understand what matters to others. 

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

Around this time, a year ago today, I was coming home after a small surgical procedure that would determine whether or not the “questionable mass” in my chest merited greater concern. My head was full of a lot of other issues on top of the health concerns — Would I finish my masters degree? Was I even in the right career? How could I deal with the toxic situation in my workplace? Where was my relationship going with this amazing person who’d stayed in the hospital with me all day despite his own recent emotional hardships related to family and cancer?

With as much emotional sand shifting beneath my feet, for both ill and good, it was with no small degree of gratitude that I had a very special occasion to look forward to that evening.

Ice pack strapped to my chest, pain medicine leaving me a bit more light-headed than I would have been anyway out of sheer excitement, I sat in shine as I prepare it when I’m not ritually pure. I turned on my laptop, glad to spend a fair amount of time talking with Tenu as we waited for the time when we would learn our Shemsu names and take vows to both put our Parent gods foremost in our spiritual lives and serve the Kemetic Orthodox community.  Together we entered the virtual room that had become familiar to us as our online place of worship, together we were greeted by many, together we took our vows.

And now I am Sarytsenuwi. I’ve previously written about what that name means to me, how it related to my relationship with my Parents before I became a Shemsu. I don’t want to focus on that so much today, today I want to focus on what has happened since, and how it relates to being “The Standard [Bearer] of [My] Two” or “Two Standards for Me.”

Two Standards For Me

One of the biggest goals I’ve set for myself is breaking down my “double standard” tendencies. I’ve examined how I set standards for myself  and how I live those standards:

1.) I am setting new standards for how I speak and write about myself. 

This falls in line with the well known, “Hail Bast, coming forth from the shrine, I do not eat my heart.” What I say and write about myself affects how I think and feel about myself. This pertains to both obvious things — not denigrating myself , and being careful of the difference between self-insult and humility — and less obvious things, trying to write about solutions to problems, concerns, health matters, rather than simply listing them out. It’s a shift of mental standards as much as a shift of action, but I’ve found they greatly overlap.

2.) I am setting new standards for how I respect the sovereignty of others.

I am not responsible for the actions and words of other people. I cannot make anyone change, nor should I. My responsibility is to myself, and I can only set an example for others by being careful of what I say and endeavoring to be respectful unless I ethically cannot remain silent. My workplace is difficult to navigate in these terms; anything I say against another individual is almost certainly going to come back to bite me, no matter how much they may have angered or hurt me. I tried to change this environment by creating new organizations, promoting healthier social interactions. This having failed, and in my own realization that my professional calling lies elsewhere, my standards for respecting the sovereignty of others necessitates my departure for another path.

3.) I am setting new standards for self-care.

Aaaand this would bring us to that lovely concept that Netjer has tried to smack me upside the head with since I started this crazy journey several years back: “balance.” Balance in the Bawy, balance in my akhu reading from my RPD reading, balance in my efforts with Heqat, balance appearing in so many places that it’s become one of those words I read three times over because it’s no longer processing in my skull the same way. In the past year I’ve forced myself to try this brilliant new concept where rather than always focusing on work and school obligations, I give myself space to be creative, allow myself to take days off when I’m sick, and forgive myself for seeking help when I need it. Lo and behold, my mental health has turned a corner and I’m far more capable to help others.

The Standard [Bearer] of [My] Two

The year has also seen me seeking out a better sense of my own “calling,” though that overdramatizes it a bit. If a standard bearer was deemed specifically suited to that position, I wanted to use this year to determine what my own position might be, and how I might achieve that.

1.) I want to bear a standard for the community.

I really wanted (still do!) to get more involved with the Kemetic Orthodox community this year. I took a vow to honor and aid my spiritual family, many members of which I have come to deeply care for and who have added great joy to my life. I’m not where I’d like to be with this, admittedly. Far too often my schedule overlaps with the Dua times or I’m too worn thin to be up for fellowship. I’m working on it though, coming when I can, trying to stay on top of potential local gatherings via the forums. I’ve also felt at least somewhat helpful with my efforts at organizing the monthly fedw chats, and intend to keep that going as long as possible. I’m also trying to stay in touch with other Kemetic folks via Facebook and tumblr. We may not have what one would call a cohesive community, but I am constantly learning from all the different folks I meet online, in their various paths and takes on life. I hope to maintain those ties.

2.) I want to bear a standard of aid for those who need it.

This was a Big Thing for me, and it didn’t come easily. It took me many months to come to terms with the fact that I really wasn’t happy in academia alone. I needed more one-on-one interaction, needed to be able to carry my ideas about how music can be used in a therapeutic context into the world rather than simply writing about it. This is finally underway, as I’ve made plans to depart, and have started research for what comes next.

3.) I want to bear a standard of joy.

Okay, yes, this is the cheeseball fluffy bunny part of the entry (no offense intended, Wenut!) but I mean it. I want to be a positive influence for people. I’ve upped my efforts to reach out to the friends and family I’ve not heard from in ages, offering my company and my compassion if they want it. We have the technology, we can make it better, stronger– eh, you know what I mean! I want to write music and make art for people. I want to laugh and just connect. This is a work in progress too, but, you know, it’s a goal to reach for. I’ve finally got the spoons for it due to some of the other work I’ve done, time to make good on it.

So aye, my name and the goals I’ve taken on courtesy of that name. There’s far, far more to do. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more lessons from “Sarytsenuwi” in future years. But, it’s a solid start and I am prepared to keep carrying these standards forward into whatever comes next.

redheart: (music)

I am a singer of the flame

Bright verse I wield your heart to tame
Curled pelt of crimson, eyes of gold
I tend the blaze of days of old
My voice shall light the fire within
And at my side you’ll run wild again

Know you the freedom of the night?
Celestial bodies burning bright
I light the orbs that shine on high
My voice ignites the evening sky
My ballads grant the stars their names
Brought to life by the singer of the flame

I seek out one who's unafraid
To sing the storm by which change is made
Fear not the silence of the past
But burn it down, raise your voice at last
Our cries will rise like smoke to air
Harmonies forging the bond we'll share

And be you satyr, man or faun
It matters not to this bard of dawn
If you shall sing your soul with me
Then know my heart burns hot for thee
I'll show you love that never dies
Our tale aglow midst the moonlit skies

Bridge:
Yet flames must pass to ashes grey
So I may change in future days
You know a creature burning bright
Feyhound whose song brings mortals light
Yet I may tire of human eyes
And fade away 'til I've strength to rise

But doubt not that I shall return
For my soul's pyre forever burns
My music rages in my form
It shall burst forth when I am reborn!
And I will find you, my kindling kin

My song to sing and your love to win

I am a singer of the flame

Bright verse I wield your heart to tame
Curled pelt of crimson, eyes of gold
I tend the blaze of days of old
My voice shall light the fire within
And at my side you’ll run wild again

redheart: (music)
Come all ye youthful seekers hence
All maids who after love give chase
You'll find it not within the smile
Of partners merely fair of face

Run on instead until ye find
The one who proves their heart is fierce
Whose touch is kind yet bears the gaze
of one whose depths your soul shall pierce
The rest of the lyrics within... )
redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

Lord, we want to see You … Lord, we want to see You. … O Lord, come in peace. Let us see You …

Little one! How lovely it is to see You. - excerpts from the Lamentations of Aset and Nebt-het

I witnessed the Mysteries alone this year, asthma necessitating my bowing out of previous plans to join in with an in-person gathering hosted by Heruakhetymose in Maryland. While I still hope to do a full vigil in years to come, my small-scale acknowledgement of Wesir’s passing still proved quite moving for me.

My partner had purchased a statue of Wesir for me from a local store after seeing my disappointment at my health’s ill-timed turn for the worse, and the Lord of Ma’at sat on my shrine for days, seemingly waiting for me to find the time to honor Him in my own way. I put it off for about a week, as stress over my music directorial debut and a brief dip in mood courtesy of the changing seasons made me wary of immersing myself in the solemnity of the occasion. Still He waited, a patient presence in the room, reminding me without anger that He was there, and He was ready when I found the energy to meet Him.

Finally, I prepared the shrine for Him with pine scented candle, sandalwood incense, a bit of earth. I kept his statue upright while I sang for Bast and Hethert-Nut, spoke the prayers to Set and Heru-wer that have become habit. It felt as though an honored guest had joined my regular host of deities, and there was no animosity.

Having gone through my regular senut prayers and praise, I lay Wesir on his back behind the pine candle. The shadows from the flame completely obscured His icon from my view when I returned to my knees. It was strange, having Him there, having just touched Him, and yet simultaneously being very aware of the lack of being able to see Him while the other images remained.

I read through the entirety of the translation of the Lamentations provided in Hemet’s The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook, and found my voice catching with each repeat of “Lord we want to see You.” When I finally reached the end, I took awhile, sitting in the silence to consider why this was hitting me. I closed my eyes, entered the river to find the calm that Heqat’s meditations have provided in recent days, and She joined me wordlessly while I attempted to sort things out for myself.

I am nearing a point in my life when my paternal grandfather has been gone from me nearly as long as I knew him in life. I love him and I do miss him, but I never knew him in the manner I might have as an adult. He passed while I was still too young to know the questions I would have asked, and while I am grateful that he (and, for that matter, my mother’s father who died of cancer while she was still carrying me) have both been willing to accept my efforts to honor them as akhu, it will never be the same. I cannot see him the way I did once, I will never know him with the same depth that I would have liked.

But this, for all that it aches on occasion, does not truly mirror Aset and Nebt-het’s grief in the Lamentations. Their consort and brother was close to them in a way that my grandfather, who I only saw a few times a year, never was. I have not yet experienced a loss of the magnitude of Wesir’s death, I have not yet grappled with the void of a death of someone I know inside and out.

I have, however, become acutely aware of the inevitability of experiencing such a thing, and perhaps sooner than I would like. My mother’s health has suffered greatly over recent years. She nearly lost a battle to kidney failure while I was overseas doing fieldwork, and I have spent several nights at her side in the hospital while she did her damnedest to fight off one form of infection or another. Her physical body has simply not kept up with the feisty, second-wave feminist lawyer that has so inspired me to become the proud, independent woman I am today. Her struggles in her battles with various ailments is antithetical to the sheer force of nature she can become out of love for her family, her career, and any child (two-legged or four-legged) who has ever needed her aid.

I am not ready to lose her. I suspect I never will be.

Granted, I sincerely hope that I will not lose her for some time yet. But the truth of the matter is, someday, I will. Someday, I will not be able to see the woman who I adore with my whole heart. The mother and friend I love so, so very much. She will be gone from me, and I will cry out, “Let me see you!”

And in time, some seventy days, I will. But it will be different. She will not be gone forever, but the way she appears to me will never be the same.

It makes me treasure each moment we have all the more.

Dua Wesir, for making me face these emotions. Dua Wesir, for allowing me to appreciate life and the time we have together with the ones we love most.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

Heqat’s new statue arrived tonight, after a particularly difficult week that saw me facing serious abuses at work, family emergencies, and something of a “quarter life crisis” (though even I’ll admit that sounds a bit humorous.)

We’ve worked together for about four months now, all told. You can see my previous post for a more detailed description of how She entered my life, but suffice it to say, She’s made quite a difference in that mere third of a year.

I dedicated tonight’s senut to Her, and after offering my traditional brief prayers and praise for the four gods of my line-up, I joined Heqat in meditation as I now do on a daily basis.

It was simpler this time. I realized that in meditating, I could actually hear the faint whirr of what few evening insects still live in the woods behind my apartment as winter overtakes fall. I felt the heat of the candle’s glow on my face, envisioned it as sunlight. Heqat sat beside me, in my cupped hands, all around me. So small, so great, many dimensions and sizes and powers in one.

She-in-human-body reached out and touched my chest. I was aware of my heartbeat. Aware of my calm.

Like Serqet, one of Heqat’s epithets is “She who makes the tight throat breathe.” I am breathing easier than I have in years. I am calmer, more accepting, less riddled by anxiety. I can listen to my heartbeat, feel the passion and joy there, indulge those needs without guilt in far better balance with my drive to work and push and succeed.

I offered her bread and water. I read Her the poem I wrote in Her honor and submitted to the Bennu. I spoke briefly on what She meant to me, but She cut me short, so I dedicated the pair of earrings and brooch I had purchased for Her. She liked the earrings quite a bit, found the tiny, sparkling frog a bit too ostentatious, but appreciated the gesture.

She made me promise that after I left shrine, I would send the email that began my departure from my current field, and my journey towards work as a music therapist.

We sat for awhile longer, just enjoying the sounds of the night and not saying anything. I asked Her if I could take pictures of the shrine and She agreed, then bid me goodnight with Her soft smile that is less seen and more felt and was gone.

I rose, took the pictures below, then sent the message which will change the course of my life.

Dua Heqat.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

On many of Her festivals, Bast asks very little of me in terms of formal worship, instead making artistic requests or suggesting that I use the time I would have spent in shrine to spoil my “cat kids.”

Tonight She wanted me to play with the furballs and then to attempt a sketch of the image of Her and Set in Ra’s barque that I’ve seen in several dreams now. I’m not much of a two-dimensional artist, but I’ve enjoyed playing with digital paint programs of late, so I gave it a shot. It seemed appropriate for the day, after all.

I’d be curious to hear what you think of it, simple and stylized though it is. ^_^;

 

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

Something about me and stasis: Netjer doesn’t let me dwell there terribly long.

I’ve been quiet. This is in no small part because the past several months have seen me taking some necessary steps to resolve various issues with my health, my personal life, and my career. I’ve had to make some hard decisions, and while there is much more to be done in seeing those choices through to their conclusions, I am doing far, far better for having started the process.

It feels like another cycle to me, similar to the one Set expedited almost three years ago now, coming into my life in a whirl of change and refusing to let me back down from my problems. This new beginning has been gentler, more of a slow rebirth than a swift destruction of who I once was that I might replace her with the me I wanted to be.

Much as I could not have expected Set to be the god to lead my initial charge, I have been equally surprised and grateful at the force with which Heqat has entered my life. She was hardly on my “god radar” before this year’s Wep Ronpet, but at the end of Retreat Maret placed a small handcrafted statue of her Mother in my palm and suddenly I found myself talking about all sorts of creative works I could accomplish in the next year. I babbled on about new projects while Maret and my sibling Tenu, standing nearby, just grinned at each other at the immediate shift in my demeanor.

I placed the tiny frog on my shrine during my first senut back home and have done so ever since. Her voice, sometimes coming in words, but often images or sensations, was almost immediately a presence as readily accessible as the primary gods I worship. She asked me to paint the statue, and I did so, marveling at how it turned out before She gently chastened me for my surprise at creating beauty.

She had me acquire a small protective pouch for the wee frog, and then told me to take Her with me on several of the medical appointments that I had been putting off for months but had finally scheduled, at the urging of several gods (Sekhmet sort of leading the charge.) Only a few days later I received a gorgeous statue of Heqat in the mail from a UK friend. This one’s for the shrine, She said, so do not feel bad about bringing my smaller form with you.

It was a comfort to have Her small, physical incarnation at the subsequent appointments. Holding the little pouch in my hands, I found the courage to stop one medication I’ve been on for over a decade and begin another with possible side effects that terrified me. (Being so unnerved by changing medications may seem a strange thing, but when you have cared for your body and mind in a certain way for so long it can take a big leap of faith to make those shifts. But who better for the “leap” than a frog goddess, ne?)

She wants me to keep creating things, encouraging me to get back into fiction, to try my hand at digital art, and to let it be a joy rather than belittling myself for things not being “good enough.” She also has taken on my issues with anxiety, as every time I enter shrine, She asks me to meditate. It startled me the first time She requested it. My other gods want me to make offerings, read a prayer, or sing a song for Them in shrine. Not Her. She had me take her statue off the shrine, kneel with the statue resting in my palms, and focus on the weight and sensation of it while I settled my breathing.

I had not meditated since my trip to a spiritual retreat in Ohio about two years ago, where one of the panels focused on different Buddhist meditation techniques. It was extremely difficult, trying to remember how to settle my breathing, how to stop thinking in words and just focus on the nothingness, accept the quiet of simply being and not worrying. But it forced me to calm myself, forced me to let go of whatever was bothering me that day, and after about two weeks of doing it, I realized that no matter how badly my anxiety had been triggered that day, the meditation helped. Substantially.

The meditations became more detailed as I progressed, the skill of visualization gradually returning to me. At first I was sitting beside a river, then in later meditations I settled on the river bed itself, resting in a bed of underwater grasses, somehow breathing through my neck as fish swam around and even through me as I let my body drift away and become the water. In further meditations still, around the time I could sit there for a solid ten minutes without needing to “think” or worry, the river slipped away and was replaced by stars. Water and the universe became one and the same, the low thrum of frogsong the only sound I ‘heard’ as I wordlessly admired the cosmos which I was part of and apart from at once. Heqat would appear before me when it was time to go, human bodied and smiling, offering gentle hands to pull me to my feet and out of the calm of the meditation, bringing me back to myself.

She amazes me. She requested that I commission a statue of her in human form to complement her theophany statue, directing me to a particular artist with no small amount of insistence. I had to grin when the artist was thrilled at my request; unbeknownst to me he is apparently a Heqat devotee, and always wishes that there was more interest in Her because He’d love to sculpt Her more frequently. After finalizing the request, She insisted upon my completing senut, telling me that I should look at the Kemetic calendar for the day’s holiday.

“Taking to the River” festival. I just laughed again and went through the standard process with a stupid grin on my face, lighting candle and incense, pouring water, offering bread. After prayers were offered to my Parents and Beloveds, I settled into my now familiar meditation stance, and waited.

To my surprise I was not in the river of stars to which I felt I had “advanced,” but back at the side of the river. Heqat stood before me, offering Her hands out to me.

Do you trust me?

“I… think so?”

Trust me.

I walked into the river, acutely aware of my body, the lack of the tiny gills She’d granted me. I took her hands and together we submerged beneath the waters. It was so much harder to keep walking, to see the water come up over my eyes, my head, than to just “appear” there as I have in the past. I struggled to sink, frustrated with how realistic this felt, how difficult it was to stay below the surface.

You have been a child of Netjer too long now to continue to doubt. Must I keep proving myself to you? Trust me.

I recalled the previous times when I’d let go of the need for worries, recalled the thrum of frog song and clung to that sound so as to release the need to maintain the human body which kept floating to the surface. With some effort, I became the river as I had before, and She nodded Her approval with a wink.

We sat together: She in a human form before me, yet also surrounding me with the vastness of her age and presence, and simultaneously still existing within the tiny weight of her statue. The stars began to reappear, as though in one night I was reminded of my progress over the course of months.

“Lady,” I asked of Her, “How have you come to be so dear to me, in such a short time?”

Think, and you will remember that I have been here far longer.

With a start, I recalled one of the most powerful and insightful moments of my time as an animist, which took place some six or seven years ago. I felt a bit foolish, for I wrote of this on this website some time ago, and indeed this return to meditation is quite close to the “journeys” I used to take as part of that practice. I’ll re-post that moment from an old journal here:

“We landed in a marsh, where Bullfrog was croaking quite loudly. He looked at me, expanded his massive throat and croaked what seemed an invitation. I sat beside him and though I was distinctly myself, my throat bubbled up like a frog and I let out a croak — which suddenly sounded like music. We were singing.

And so were the crickets. I shrunk in size and rubbed my back legs together to try to mimic their song as well, but in an instant I had been swallowed by Bullfrog. I felt no pain, but watched as I was dissolved and spread throughout Bullfrog’s system. Part of me nourished Bullfrog, part of me went to her eggs as she laid them. I grew in many eggs, some of which were eaten by fish, which in turn were eaten by hawks. Other tadpole-mes grew to adulthood in the blink of an eye, and became other Bullfrogs who croaked as well. Frogsong pulsed through me in millions of places, me interconnected throughout the chain of life and death and life again.”

Frog has been an incredibly important teacher for me in the past: how could I have missed this?

You were not yet ready. 

“Why?”

You needed force and  fire to bring you back to belief. Now that you believe, you can accept the more subtle lessons. But I have been here, and here I will remain.

I sincerely hope so. In so few months I have somehow found another Lady to which I find myself utterly devoted. Dua Heqat, Creator of All Things. I am glad to be re-created, reborn in a healthier life.

 

 

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

I have not been looking forward to the start of the semester.

I’m a part time teaching fellow, putting in about 20 hours a week (more if there’s grading to be done), and a full time graduate student. I’m in year three of my PhD program, and coming back to school after a summer of emotional and spiritual recovery post surviving the MA has been a bit of a kick to the pants. After a full week of 6 to 10 hour training days I’m officially back in the thick of it, teaching, reading, writing, and all the while doing my best to sort out whether or not I’m actually on the right career path.

I’m also facing some health challenges. Tomorrow I’ll have an ultrasound which may finally shed some light on several health issues I’ve been dealing with for the past four years, health issues that have necessitated surgeries and put me and my family on edge while we waited to hear if the issues at hand were something more insidious than we’d initially believed. I’m really hoping that this new test will get at the root of the issue, so we can move forward, rather than perpetuating the previous cycle of monitor, biopsy, consider removal. Granted, an ongoing emotional health battle compounds the lot of everything I’ve written above, so that’s another reason to get the tricky health stuff off the table if possible.

Since school began again I’ve gone from doing senut every evening to senut once or twice a week on Thursday and/or Sunday evenings, my only daily accomplishment the extremely brief mindfulness heka I shared in the previous post. I found myself angry for this perceived failure to maintain the habits I’d established over the summer, caught myself attacking my own inability to keep doing what I felt I “should.”

But “should” is stupid, terrible word, particularly when it comes to your relationship with the gods. Fact of the matter was, They weren’t guilting me, They weren’t tearing me down for what I could manage now that my schedule and life had become more complicated. Those insults were entirely my doing, my belittling of my accomplishments. When I finally directly asked Set if what I was doing was acceptable, He said He was pleased I’d managed to make a weekly commitment and stick to it, given that last year I’d go the better part of a month without sitting in shrine. He also reminded me to always live my belief with pride and passion, even when I can’t celebrate it as frequently with formal ritual.

I’m still sorting out for myself exactly what this concept of living the spiritual means to me. I hope to use the next several posts to form a series related to this topic.

For now, I’ll just share a few images that may serve as prompts for this effort.

I’d like to consider daily habits, like my morning ritual for the battle at the prow of Ra’s barque.

I’d also like to consider the significance of celebrating events with family, both Kemetic and not, such as my recent trip to Allegheny Cemetary with my partner.

Another post may deal with the ways in which Kemetics reach out to each other across the miles, such as the generosity and kindness shown to me by my spiritual family on my birthday.

And finally I’d like to consider the ways that things that seem largely unrelated to our spirituality may nevertheless prove inspirational to our spiritual goals.

I hope these posts will prove useful to others as I embark on my own journey of how I can maintain a balanced spiritual life, even when my mundane life necessitates shifts in the methods used to do so.

redheart: (Default)

Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

I mostly wrote this for myself as I deal with mental health concerns, but I share it here in case any others would find it useful.

Ritual for the Daily Battle at the Prow of Ra’s Boat

Preparation:

Establish a space, either within your current shrine or in a new (purified) location. Make sure that this place is readily accessible, even near your front door if necessary, so that you will not be able to ignore it before leaving your home.

In this space, place the following:

A red candle.

A box of matches or a lighter.

An image of a spear: the spear may be three dimensional or two dimensional, but make sure that it is wide enough to write on the image.

A writing implement, in a color that you associate with strength.

Offerings for Set.

Optional: an image of Set* (or another god known for protecting the solar barque.)

*I will be naming Set throughout the rest of the ritual description. If you prefer, exchange another god’s name and epithets where appropriate.

On the evening before the first time you intend to complete this daily ritual:

Complete an act of ritual purification in whatever way best suits your personal practice.

Light the red candle, and say the following:

“Hail Set, Chosen of Ra, 
Fierce at the prow of the mesketet.
My light guides your blade in the darkness.
Your spear burns as fire in the flesh of the Uncreated.” 

Lift your image of the spear so that it is illuminated by the flame.

“Mighty One of Twofold Strength, I lend my spear to your battle.
My arm is your strong arm.
My foreleg is your strong foreleg.”

Lower the spear before the flame, and take up your pen or marker.

Write on the spear four components of your identity, personality, or even past accomplishments that make you feel empowered and remind you of how you affect the world around you (powerful voice, intellect, compassion, ferocity, tenacity etc.). Do not write anything negative on your spear, these things should be your strengths, and you should genuinely take pride in them.

After you write each personal strength, state the following before the flame. For example, if you were writing “intellect” as a strength on your spear you would say the following.

“My blade is my intellect; my intellect destroys isfet without and within.”

Repeat with the next three words:

“My blade is my [strength]; my [strength] destroys isfet without and within.” 

Once you have written all four strengths on the spear, hold it in your hand and contemplate what you have written there. Notice how these aspects of who you are have made a difference in the world and think about how they will continue to do so. Give the spear the pride you feel in these positive characteristics, imbue it with intent to rise every morning and use these traits to accomplish your goals for that day.

When you are ready, set the spear down before the flame, and close with the following words.

“Son of Nut, as you wield your spear against the Uncreated each morning,
so shall this blade serve me in my daily battles.
With it, I destroy the thoughts that would destroy me.
With it, I pierce the lies that would have me lie to myself.
I am worthy of a joyful life lived in ma’at
and I am strong enough to attain this life.”

Thank Set and Netjer, giving appropriate offerings in whatever manner suits your practice. Remove the foot before blowing out the candle and reverting offerings.

Daily Ritual

As soon as possible after rising, complete light purification (washing of mouth and hands).

Light the red candle and say the following.

“Hail Set, Great of Strength.
The sky shakes at your return with the dawn,
Victorious at the prow of the mandjet.”

Lift up your spear, and read from it each of the four strengths, using the following text:

“I am victorious this day in [intellect].
I am victorious this day in [strength 2].
I am victorious this day in [strength 3].
I am victorious this day in [strength 4.]

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.” 

Feel free to dedicate your spear to a particular cause that day, or even take it with you, if you need an extra boost of self-confidence or purpose. Then, as before, remove the foot, blow out the candle, and then continue on your way.

For members of the Kemetic Orthodox faith: if you are already doing senut at dawn, I have deliberately made this daily component quite short so that you can easily add it to your personal prayers without taking up too much extra time, should you wish to do so.

Also, at any time, if you wish to change the strengths associated with your spear, you may repeat the evening ritual and make a new one. However, try to use the same strengths for at least one month. There is power in repetition.

Dua Set! Dua Netjer! Nekhtet!