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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. ^_^;

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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!

 

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

After a two week jaunt that saw me visiting friends and family in four separate cities, I’ve finally returned home to my apartment and guys? I am worn out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be back in my familiar space, with my familiar cat and partner, my familiar local haunts, and yet it’s simultaneously challenging. I am certainly ready for a bit of rest: that I slept for eleven hours on my first day back was proof enough of this. Yet the past two weeks were full to bursting with lessons and exhilarating moments of confirmation. They raised ten questions for every answer solved, leaving my mind full of ideas and concepts I want to tear into while they’re still fresh. Such is often the way of a good adventure, I think.

Yet all adventures eventually come to an end, our valiant heroes must set down their swords, put away the spell scrolls, and take off the mystic armor to go back to the day to day lives of tending castles, farming fields, and maybe even teaching the next generation to go out and seek a new quest.

I’m struggling to settle back into the normal time, the usual life of daily necessities. I don’t feel ready to go back to the job that eats away at my energy and emotions, nor do I feel ready to give up the summer which granted me time to sit in shrine on a daily basis, to make art in music and clay, and to lose myself in the woods for a few hours at a time. I’m missing the people, some newly met, some known for years, with whom I could shut off the filters of “normalcy” and just be myself. Particularly after sundown, the time of day that has been giving me the greatest emotional difficulty for the better part of a year, I feel the gaping loss of these amazing people from my present reality, and am filled with frustration that I am once again limited to text on a screen when it comes to our interaction.

This is not a good or healthy way to be starting the New Year, my new beginning.

I have returned, but I need to forge it into a joyous homecoming, rather than passively let my life continue on its previous course. I need to sort out what I will achieve in the new year. I am not a creature of habit, I am someone who needs projects to be working on, needs to be affecting the world in some way, needs to have goals to fight for, people to help. My return must be one that, overdramatic though I know it sounds, heralds new beginnings and new triumphs.

So what will I do in this new year?

1.) I will establish relationships with at least four new gods: Heru-sa-Aset, the god of this year in Kemetic Orthodoxy; Heqat, as a goddess of  resurrection should, as I suspect, part of my identity die this year and need to be reborn as something new; Wesir, with whom I have talked of death and who understands those concerns more than any other deity I’ve yet met; and either Khnum or Khonsu, both of whom I have interacted with briefly, but as of yet I remain uncertain as to which would be willing to work with me in the long term.

2.) I will get to know my akhu. There have been signs all over the place (signs enough that even “Bah humbug it’s just coincidence” me can’t ignore them) that my ancestors want to build a better relationship with me, and I have avoided them time and time again largely because of my own discomfort with the idea. It’s time to move past this hurdle and reach out, probably looking beyond my most recent relatives, whose firm Christian beliefs form the biggest concern of mine: that I am disrespecting them in my efforts to honor them in this fashion.

3.) I will find a way to balance my creative needs with my present academic requirements. Sculpting and making music are things that I must have in my life to be happy. I know this now and I will not let them go without a fight. Part of this balance will also include assessing my career path and conclusively making a decision about whether or not academia is right for me, or if another occupation merits exploration.

4.) I will continue to volunteer. I’ve been helping a discounted feline spay and neuter clinic for the past few months in Bast’s name, and I intend to start singing at nursing homes as well. I dearly miss singing for people, and this is a good way to offer something to others while also taking care of myself. There’s also another music project in the works, if all goes well.

5.) I will figure out what I can offer to the community and take pride in it. Sometimes I find it quite difficult, between the depressive episodes and the ongoing battle with self-doubt, to figure out how I could conceivably matter, both within the Kemetic community, with all its variant forms and subgroups, and in the world at large. I’m just not sure what I bring to the table: musicologist-me knows damn well that she has a lot more reading to do before her body of knowledge in egyptology allows her to contribute anything on the scholarly level and artist-me knows that she certainly isn’t ready to play in the big leagues of statuary or song. But best to just keep trying, writing, making things, rather than go on and on about my sensation of uselessness. If nothing else, those words are holding me back, making that “lack of purpose” feeling into my own reality. So no more of that.

To quote Avenue Q: “Purpose, it’s that little flame / that lights a fire under your ass.”

*lights flame*

Let’s do this, new year.

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

Following the Kemetic Orthodox calendar, I have just made it to the end of another official Kemetic year. Over the course of five days, starting today, I will be celebrating the birthdays of the five children of Nut, and using this time prepare for the new year or Wep Ronpet. For the few followers of my blog who aren’t familiar with these “Days Upon the Year” or “epagomenal days,” they specifically refer to five days which do not actually take place within one year or the next. To quote my much-respected acquaintance Shefytbast, “In myth, Nut was forbidden from giving birth to her children on any day of the year; feeling sympathy for her, Djehuty gambled with the moon and won five extra days upon which Nut’s children could be born: Wesir, Heru-wer, Set, Aset, and Nebt-het. These days, being outside the year, and further being a time of birth (always fraught with peril), are considered to be both extraordinary and dangerous.”

Other Kemetic friends and acquaintances are on slightly different time tables, depending upon their own calculations, but regardless of the precise dates assigned for each god’s day of birth, many of us are in in the midst of a time where we ready ourselves for a spiritual “reboot” if you will, reflecting on the year past and considering what we might do in the days to come. Occasionally, people find themselves dealing with profound changes, or strange and unexpected trials during these five days. I’ve certainly had my own bumps and surprises in the week leading up to this time outside of the year, but I’ve dealt with them as best I could, and moved forward.

I will spend the epagomenal days in a very different manner than I did last year. Wep Ronpet 2012 saw me in Wisconsin, with substantial amounts of time to myself even while I participated in an intensive study program. I was able to spend time in shrine with each god on their day, write an individual post in their honor, and seek out places or activities around town that reminded me of them.  This year, I am staying with friends in Chicago until tomorrow evening, when I will head to Joliet to celebrate Wep Ronpet with members of the House of Netjer. This is an important step for me. I felt as though I could not, in good conscience, continue forward on this particular Kemetic path without meeting Hemet and more of the House in person. I was very grateful to meet a few of these folks in Pennsylvania a few weeks back, and very much enjoyed the experience. It was sort of like I’d known each of them for far longer than I actually had, given how smoothly conversation went and how quickly the time flew by. It was also kind of amazing for me to be able to openly discuss my spirituality in a group. In my day-to-day life, I generally only get to have full-fledged conversations about it with Itenumuti online, or occasionally with my partner when he wants to learn more.

I do strongly feel as though the gods wanted this of me, so while I am somewhat nervous about meeting so many new people, I am mostly pleased that I have been able to pull this together. I hope to learn a great deal in the coming days, both in terms of Kemetic practice in general and also about this specific community that I have taken vows to uphold, and the woman whom I trusted to divine my primary deities. I am optimistic that my positive impressions online will be verified in person, but it’s still a weirdly unnerving thing, giving the virtual the potential to become a far more intricate, messy reality by stepping away from the screen and into actual, face-to-face interaction.

I will try to do something for Wesir today, small though it may have to be. I suspect I will endeavor to spend some time with my akhu this evening, after my friends have gone to bed. Perhaps write some small bit of poetry in his name.

But yes, as the year is renewed, so am I trying my best to renew my writing efforts. I’d gladly welcome a bit of conversation to help inspire further posts, but also simply to hear from you, as it’s an exciting time for many of us, and there is much to talk about as we consider what is behind us, and what that means for each of us at the new year.

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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.

This week’s prompt asked: “Can I work with other pantheons? Can I perform rituals that aren’t Kemetic based?

This is going to be brief, as the bulk of my thoughts on these questions are summarized beautifully here at Making Bright, and I find myself unable to add much, conceptually, to what Nellethiel has already eloquently discussed. What I can share is a bit of personal experience, offering one perspective on why those ideas are so important to me.

One of the two primary Kemetic deities I work with transcends multiple spiritual areas of my life. I’ve written about my complex relationship with Bast in greater detail in an earlier post, but suffice it to say, I’ve known Her from childhood and She has transitioned with me through the many spiritual changes I’ve gone through over the years. She was my “invisible friend” as a very young child, my Goddess in an adolescent Wiccan phase, one of my primary spiritual guides in the animist period of my collegiate years, and now is my divined Mother in Kemetic practice.

I still interact with Her in both of Her most recent incarnations. I pray to her in shrine, and on other, separate occasions, I walk with her in meditations. She can be fierce in her expectations for me on both paths. She requires regular devotions and offerings, that I worship her as Netjeru, one of many faces of the divine. She also expects that I will seek her out as one of my guides in journey, her feline form one of many various plants and animals I speak with to learn more about myself, my community, and my world.

While my animist practice is not necessarily what one would consider a separate “pantheon,” it does come with a very different set of ritual expectations. I have a separate altar space for my primary animistic guide at any given time, and this space often includes animal by-products. For example, right now I have a Great Horned Owl’s feather, vertabrae, and talon on this shrine, items that were gifted to me many years back from partial remains a friend found and cleaned. These items, sacred in my animist practice, are extremely impure from a Kemetic standpoint, and thus I actually prefer to keep them in a separate room from my gods’ shrine.

My animistic practice also takes place outside of a set shrine space. Journeying techniques involve astral work: I sit in a dark room, slow my breathing, sometimes play a slow, even, percussive rhythm to assist in the process of moving beyond my body. My Kemetic work is always done before the shrine, eyes open, the candle’s flicker and the glow of incense helping me to transcend the profane and move to sacred experience. The two processes are unique to me, and involve a deliberate choice to interact with one or the other, gods or spirits.

This does not mean that the two do not, on occasion, intertwine. More than once I have been in the midst of a meditation when suddenly a god, or gods, jumped in to mess with me, show me something, or challenge me further. Given that they are gods, I would not presume to box them in to one form of interaction over another,  but in my opinion, it is important that I leave that option to Them. If They want to reach out to me astrally, or if They request that I meet Them in that space rather than shrine, I will. But in the meantime, as someone who does identify as Kemetic, I primarily choose to work with them in a manner based on Kemetic practice: in shrine, with candle, incense and offerings, celebrating Their sacred days, studying Their myths, and doing my best to live in ma’at in all other aspects of my life.  

As Nellethiel wrote, “anything is possible in the realm of polytheism. Just be mindful of what it means to be a part of Kemeticism as the religious movement and practice it is today (as the modern reconstructed/revived ancient religion of Egypt).”

Anything is possible. It is possible that Bast is my goddess and my guide. It is possible that Set might challenge me with a storm right when I’m trying to learn something from the oak tree I’ve climbed. It is possible that the golden hawk I visualized myself flying beside was Heru-wer, teaching me something outside of senut. But it is important to be mindful of the means by which these interactions took place, to know what is faithfully reconstructing ancient practice and what is better described as my own homebrew animist work with a bit of Kemetic flair. It is vitally important to acknowledge the source of things, that we might discuss our multiple paths with others, respecting each method as distinct while not discounting its validity.

 

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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.

This week’s prompt asked: “Shrine basics: Setting up your first shrine: How do I do it, what do I need, and what rules are there (if any).

I’ve seen a number of great posts this week which cover the basics of maintaining a shrine, that sacred space that serves not only as a place for performing ritual acts, but also divine temple of sorts where you welcome the gods into your home and into your life. I highly recommend Sobeqsenu’s post here for a concise outline of putting together the basics for your shrine and Satsekhem’s post here which provides a helpful clarification of the distinction between altars and shrines, and why both can be equally valid and important aspects of one’s spiritual life.

Several KRT-authors have also touched on the usefulness of compact or travel shrines. Near the end of her post, Sarduriur offers useful advice for Kemetics or other polytheists living in a space where cohabitants. Devo also suggests wearable shrine options in the form of sacred jewelry, and offers ways to use that jewelry in the same context as an icon.

Given that I am presently visiting my sibling Itenumuti and hir partner in Texas, I thought it might be appropriate to expand a little bit on my personal use of a travel shrine, and provide one take on how one can endeavor to transfer the experience of spiritual work at home to spiritual work on the road.

How do you make a travel shrine?

The sky is the limit when it comes down to how you want to create your travel shrine. Some practitioners choose a box of some kind, often made of wood, ivory, metal, or  even synthetic materials if your gods do not view this as a purity concern. Others wear devotional jewelry on their body, or attached to an important item. Either way, you are welcome to decorate your travel shrine as ornately or discretely as necessary. Go with what strikes a comfortable balance between your relationship with your gods, and the necessity of your current living situation.

If you use a box and intend to place ritual items within it, I recommend finding one with a clasp of some kind, so you can close it securely and lower the risk of spilling items consecrated to spiritual use into a messy location. Of course you can always purify them again, but at least for me, the prospect of accidently dropping an icon into something unmentionable makes me cringe.

What goes into a travel shrine?

There are a few things to keep in mind for what to place within your travel shrine:

1.) What do you need to complete the rituals you will be enacting while you are on the road?

If you are of a path like Kemetic Orthodoxy and hope to continue with the state ritual (senut) — or a ritual with similarly established necessary items —  as you complete it at home, you will want to find a way to fit all of these items for this ritual into your travel shrine. If you have an adapted ritual for travel, perhaps you can bring fewer things. If you are someone who regularly interacts with his or her gods, via meditation, divination, or any other forms, you can always ask Them what They expect of you while you’re off on grand adventures, and “pack” accordingly.

2.) How long will you be gone? 

Packing for two weeks is much different than packing for two months. Try to think ahead for how much of any given ritual item you use at a time. Can you just pack a few small sticks of incense in your travel shrine, or would it be wise to bring an extra box in your suitcase? Unlike the roll of toothpaste you accidentally left on your bathroom sink, you’re probably not going to be able to drive to the nearest drugstore and easily pick up some natron and kyphi. Do your best to think ahead for what you need, and how much of it you need.

3.) Where will you be staying?

Staying in the home of an open-minded friend for the duration of your trip is far different than staying a week in a hotel. Keep in mind what the rules will be for burning candles and incense in your travel location. Tealight LED candles are a cheap and easily-acquired alternative to burning an actual wick, and scented oils can serve as an offering to the gods without the producing the same powerful scent of many incense options, should your host be sensitive to such.

4.) How are you getting there? 

If you’re driving or taking the train, chances are good that you won’t have to worry too much about what you put into your travel shrine. The TSA, however, may find issue with certain items in your shrine. A few important things to note: if you need to pack matches with you, and you are taking them in your carry-on luggage, you must use strike-on-box matches, and you can only bring one box. Strike anywhere matches are not permitted, and neither are torch or micro-lighters. Though perhaps more self-explanatory, if you use a ritual blade of any sort, don’t pack that in your carry-on either.

How do you use your travel shrine once you’ve arrived?

There is no hard and fast rule for ritual use of your travel shrine. Again, take into consideration where you are going, who you are staying with, and how long you are going to be there. Personally, if I am going to be staying in one space for the duration of my trip, a space where I can safely practice without any issue from my cohabitants, I will try to establish a specific spot for my travel shrine early on. Much like my shrine at home, I clean the area before setting up icons, and I purify my body before I enter the sacred space. I welcome my gods to stay in this shrine for the entirety of the time in the new location. I give offerings, usually just cool water while I’m actually in shrine (note my tiny offering cup in the pictures below) but silently offer some of my food before meals. I will then pray, sing, meditate, create art — any and all of the usual activities I would do with, or for, my gods while I was at home.

If I am staying in a hotel, or in a space where my cohabitants would be bothered my spirituality, I take greater precautions. I unpack my shrine, complete my chosen ritual the same way as described above, but after ritual, I pack all icons and ritual implements away in the travel shrine, and tuck it safely back into a bag where I know it will come to no harm. In the case of hotels, I have heard more than one story of cleaning staff accidentally damaging a shrine while they were doing their daily administrations. In the case of a less understanding host, I do this as a sign of respect to whoever has allowed me to stay within their home.

(The caveat here, of course, is if you are going to be living with this person for an extended period of time. In this case, I would suggest a full, free, and frank conversation of your faith before moving in with them, if such a conversation is at all humanly possible. As always, you know your own life better than any other, do what you think is best.)

What does a full travel shrine look like?

You can look at some of the blogs I mentioned above for ideas, but I’ve also included a few photos to show my current travel shrine.

The outside of my travel shrine. I love this box for its compact size, the shining gold caps on the exterior, and of course: the handy clasp.

This gives you a sense of how I pack the shrine, and some of the things I include within it. Please note the strike-on-box matches, as well as one of two lovely icons by Tenu depicting the names of my Parent deities.

Moving one layer down, you can see the incense, a candle, an ankh candle holder, and a small offering cup for fresh water (which is partially blocking a tiny, lotus-shaped incense holder) and two more icons which I made myself from polymer clay. They recently received some touch-ups after their original paint job began coming off.

Finally, here is the full travel shrine when it is set up. I currently place the three-dimensional icons of Set and Bast across from their painted names. This is a visual reminder for me; I was recently tasked in finding the similarities between my parent deities, in an effort to better balance which of Them I more frequently turn to. I enjoy sporadically changing elements of my travel shrine, whether it is the color of the candle I pack, or the type of incense I burn, depending on which Netjeru I am working with, and what I hope to achieve spiritually while I am traveling.

May your own adventures be fulfilling, and your gods near.

 

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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.

This week’s prompt asked: “Heka: What is it? How can I work with it?”

What is heka?

There is no one definition that could possibly encompass the entirety of heka‘s meaning, and I have elected not to try. Even the descriptions of Egyptian scholars are often vague or contradictory on this count, providing the hapless reader with less-than-helpful explanations such as, “a power known as heka or hike … was something like, and yet different from, what we understand by ‘spell.’” (Farmer 1957, 258). Far more useful is Hermann TeVelde’s explanation, that heka can imply a magical power, as well as a magical spell or rite, but also that it exists as a “pneumatic exhalation,” an “occult force that infuses the world of things” (Te Velde 1970, 170). This implies that heka exists not only in, and as, the breath, but also in the force that breath produces to “infuse” or be heard in the world: I argue that the voice is one particularly powerful way that this force might be interpreted.

The creative power of the voice is central to much of Kemetic theology, an energetic force that functions because of the connection between what is vocalized, and what is. Ancient egyptians perceived no divide between what a person spoke and what actively occurred in the real world, and indeed creation myths revolve around this concept.  Hornung writes, “In the Cairo hymn to Amun it is said of the sun god Re that he ‘commanded, and the gods came into being’ …  This primeval force not only rendered creation possible but also, in the hands—or rather the mouths—of the most various deities, serves to maintain its existence.  The underworld teems with beings who live from the ‘breath of their own mouths’ or through the repetition of the sun god’s creative word; here again the ‘magic’ of the creative utterance is realized instantly” (Hornung 1996, 209). The gods spoke, and through their breath they created or continued to create the means of their own existence.

Yet heka was not limited to use by the gods. Hornung writes that, “The creator god gave ‘magic’ to human beings as a ‘weapon’ specifically for self-defense – as it is formulated in the Instruction for Merikare around 2060 BC.” (Hornung 1996, 209-210). This invisible power or energy was believed to be a personal, inward form of knowledge, distinct from the knowledge of facts and figures. Unlike that more “academic” knowledge, heka was believed to have a physical aspect, which could be swallowed or eaten, and thus resided in the abdomen. “When [heka] was transmitted, it was transmitted, as the nature of the information passed on required, from the entrails of the one who possessed it to those of the one receiving it.  Consequently, the malignant forces ranged against the gods preferred to attack their hearts and viscera in order to gain complete mastery over the powers their victims possessed.  To penetrate … the belly of a god was an easy way to establish oneself in the most intimate part of his being and acquire a position of domination there” (Meeks 1996, 96).

This focus on heka, a power contained within breath, being located in the stomach and abdomen intrigues me both as scholar and vocalist. Speaking from experience, when a trained singer breathes, she does so not from the lungs and chest, but from the diaphragm, expanding the muscle that resides just above her stomach to take in the greatest possible amount of air. The vocalist who masters control over her diaphragm is the vocalist who masters control over her breath, permitting her to meet the challenge of the most difficult of art songs or arias. Indeed, if you are singing well for an extended period of time, your stomach muscles should ache and your throat should feel nothing. A similar technique is used to project chants or monologues on stage, carrying the voice to vast audiences without the use of electronic amplification.

There is no way of knowing whether the hymns and liturgy of Ancient Egypt were chanted or sung in the manner of singing that most Westerners would consider ‘music’ today, though Farmer argues that recitation and chant could very likely have been viewed as equally valid methods of ceremonial utterance, relying on philological evidence that “the Arabic equivalent to the Egyptian sedi (‘to recite’) is shada (‘to sing’)” (259). If this is something of a stretch, perhaps more significant is that production of sound, herw (literally, ‘voice’) is associated with those gods often deemed to be most skilled in forces of ‘magic.’ Farmer notes, “We read of the Egyptian god Thoth who made Osiris ‘true of voice.’ The amulet which Isis hung about her neck was interpreted as ‘a true voice.’” (258). The association with the voice establishes these deities as particularly potent in ‘magical power,’ and possibly links them to having greater command over the heka residing within their stomach.

Ivory clappers – from The British Museum

Yet the “voice” did not only imply the sound which emanated from a human (or deity’s) throat. Farmer describes how some of the earliest Egyptian instruments, wooden or bone clappers, may have been used used to conjure Min, in his aspect as a god of agricultural fertility. Later instruments featured images of gods on the body of the object itself, such as Bast, or more commonly, Hethert, being featured on sistra. Farmer argues that, “These features [images of gods on instruments] were of far deeper significance than mere emblems or symbols.  They were a constant reminder that the voice of deity was ever present in their tones; it was not only ears in tonal appreciation that listened, but rather minds in transcendental anagogue that understood. Music therefore had a twofold influence on man in ancient Egypt; one brought about by a purely physical sensation, and another created or sustained by a power known as heka or hike”(Farmer 1957, 258, emphasis mine). Again we see a connection between the physical, experiential aspects of music-making and the physical aspect of heka. The sound or “voice” of the music helped to connect the musical participant to the invisible force of creation inherent to the gods. As one produced sound, one produced a voice, a voice that unto itself was the power of generation and the power of change.

Sistra with face of Hethert, Late Period (c. 600 BC) – from The British Museum

Christopher Wise has argued that the physicality of heka and the musical voice may have been experienced in part through the aphrodisiac qualities of musical instruments in ancient Egypt. “In numerous images of the Egyptian goddess Hathor,” he writes, “she is shown bestowing a pearl necklace called a menat upon her lover. The menat is not only an ornament worn around the neck, but a musical instrument that inaugurates the resurrection of the dead. Isis similarly brings Osiris from the dead through her sexual healing powers. The sistrum, or sesheshet, which is like a rattle or gourd, serves a similar function: to transmit vital energy to her lover that is necessary to his spiritual rebirth” (Wise 2006, 32). Both of these examples connect the power of music to the transferring of sexual and curative powers. The voice of the instruments enables one of the most profound transformations possible, the transformation of the dead to the living.

What did this unique connection to heka mean for human musicians? Terry G. Wilfong, Assistant Curator at the Kelsey Museum, writes that, “Professional musicians existed on a number of social levels in ancient Egypt. Perhaps the highest status belonged to temple musicians; the office of “musician” (shemayet) to a particular god or goddess was a position of high status frequently held by women.” Some court musicians were considered to be ‘near relations’ of the kings, and in the New Kingdom the religious contributions of some ‘chief of the singers’ were deemed to be so significant as to have their names preserved (Farmer 1957, 260). That these court musicians held substantial, even magical, power over the emotions of others was documented by several Greek visitors. While I acknowledge the words of Herodotus and Strabo offer a “creative take” on history, that both note grand processions led by flute and reed-players, where the growing crowd of pilgrims gladly lose themselves in ecstatic abandon, suggests the perceived power of the instrumental voice, even if the events described never actually occurred (Farmer 1957, 262).

How can I work with it?

Make music!

I’m biased over here, living as I am in operatic soprano-land, but I’ll always suggest singing as a great way of connecting to the energy held in your stomach (see Joan Lansberry’s excellent chart, here). Breathing deeply, feeling the weight of the power you have in your own form, and then releasing it into the world as sound can be a deeply satisfying experience. If you’re not comfortable singing at home when others are around, you can always give it a shot in your car. Blast a favorite song, or find a new one that is particularly meaningful to you and your gods, and sing the hell out of it where no one can hear but you and Netjer.

Creativity is also an important element here. Writing new music with lyrics that are relevant to your goals can be a great way to invoke change in your life. Remember: heka is pretty straight forward. If you sing it, you are helping something become. Write a simple chant about confidence and sing that baby before you go into your next job interview, and you’re going to rock that conversation better than any bozo with a power tie.

Not a singer? That’s okay. As described above, the “voice” of an instrument is just as relevant to heka as the voice coming from your own throat. Have a drum? Speak aloud that the drum is the voice of Wepwawet and beat a quick rhythm in the name of breaking down obstacles to opportunity. It’s all good, all open to whatever interpretation best serves your needs.

The important thing is just to sound a musical voice. You can create powerful change through the power of your own, internal force, embodied in the invisible, yet physical strength of a voice. Sing loudly, place your will into your music, and know that the power of your voice is enough to create great change.  Just as Set’s voice “is appropriated by the magician in a ‘conjuration against scorpions’ … which states ‘The voice of the conjurer is loud while calling for the poison,’ [to leave the body] ‘like the voice of Seth while wrestling with the poison’ ” (Henadology), you too can use the power of the musical voice to great effect.

References

Farmer, Henry George. 1957. “The Music of Ancient Egypt.” In New Oxford History of Music: Ancient and oriental music. Edited by Egon Wellesz. New York: Oxford University Press, 255-312.

Hornung, Erik. 1996. The Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Meeks, Dmitiri and Christine Favard-Meeks. 1996. Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Te Velde, Herman. “The God Heka in Egyptian Theology.” Jaarbericht van het Voorsaiatisch-Egyptish Genootshap. Ex Oriente Lux 21.

Wilfong, Terry G. “Music in Ancient Egypt.” http://www.umich.edu/~kelseydb/Exhibits/MIRE/Introduction/AncientEgypt/AncientEgypt.html

Wise, Christopher. 2006. “Nyama and Heka: African Concepts of the Word.” Comparative Literature Studies 43: 19-38.

“Seth.” http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/seth/

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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.

There were many questions included in this prompt, but I have chosen to focus on: “When you look at the Kemetic community as a whole, what flaws, hindrances, and negative trends do you see at work? What methods and tactics should we employ to improve Kemetic presence on a local level; to encourage Kemetics to network not just online, but also in ‘the real world’ ?

 The Kemetic community has its fair share of obstacles to overcome, as other Round Table authors have discussed. We are mentally divided by our opinions on the appropriate way to worship; physically divided by our many, varied locations across the world; and emotionally divided by our seeming inability to hold rational and respectful conversations without the moments of disagreement devolving into unproductive vitriol. For such a small community, a community that could so greatly benefit from developing a network of support amongst its members, regardless of their particular brand of Kemetic belief, many of us still find ourselves bobbing along, solitary.

The internet provides some relief for this. For some, like myself, the House of Netjer offers weekly fellowship or duas — group rituals led by Rev. Tamara Siuda or a high ranking priest — in IRC chats, and for that hour, give or take, we participate with other people in the worship of Netjer, we commit ourselves as a group to a cause of self or community-improvement, and the connection is fulfilling. There are also less formal methods of Kemetic networking. Facebook hosts a relatively lively community across several different “pages” and the Kemetic Round Table, of which this post is a part, has created a space for the exchange of ideas on different Kemetic topics in a more involved manner.

Yet I often find that the internet cannot completely fulfill my desire to experience the Kemetic community in my day to day life. It serves as more of a salve that briefly soothes the lingering ache of something missing, than an actual cure for what I lack. I suspect I feel this way for the following reasons:

1.) The juxtaposition of my communal life online with the physicality of my individual practice is quite jarring.

I don’t use a computer when I am in shrine. So much of my practice involves a physical and mental shift from the profane to the sacred: the purification with water and natron, the burning of candle and incense, the reversion of offerings. It is a deliberate time to be away from the stress of my work, so much of which takes place at a laptop, staring at a screen. It can be difficult to really feel like I’m entering the right “headspace” when I participate in virtual rituals, as much as I cherish them and understand that they are really the only option at the present time.

2.) I am jealous of the physical communities of churches/synagogues/mosques etc. I see near me.

Thank Netjer I don’t belong to a faith where coveting is some terrible “sin”, because come Sunday mornings, I freely admit that I am envious! While I don’t miss my childhood experiences of receiving a guilt-trip of a sermon once a week, I freely admit that I do miss the experience of going to church. I miss seeing the people who considered me part of their religious family, singing together, sharing coffee and brunch as a spiritual community after the service was over. It was good to belong to something, good to have a place to travel to once a week, good to have a special space where people gathered and praised God and acknowledged the start of a new week. The internet just can’t quite match this.

3.) The internet provides anonymity.

Whenever I teach an older relative how to use Youtube, I always warn them: “Don’t read the comments.” Why? Because the internet is full of anonymous faces hiding behind computer screens, ready and willing to say whatever the hell they want without threat of repercussion. You don’t have to look a man in the eyes when you insult him, the filter of conscientious interaction is removed. I think this contributes to the frequent flare-ups of drama within our community, where in-person interaction might inspire greater diplomacy.

The virtual wall of anonymity can also make it more difficult to meet new people. There’s no coffee hour after a dua where you can walk over and introduce yourself to that intriguing woman who raised a poignant question after worship. In the ‘real world,’ you might see a group of long term friends chatting and be inspired, or invited, to join them. On the internet, they’re likely chatting in a private space, and there’s no way to add your voice unless given the appropriate web address or password.

 Okay Ekunyi, the internet sucks, we get it. What do we do about it?

Reach out, one person at a time.

There may not be any self-proclaimed Kemetics living near you: I live in a decent-sized city and it’s slim pickings even here, so this is a highly probable situation to find yourself in.

But there are other spaces, other groups, that will welcome you. Try Meetup.com, use Facebook, seek out groups welcoming Pagans, Heathens, Wiccans, or Druids. They exist, and if their gods are different than yours, so be it. There’s still something to be learned, something to be gained through conversation, something viscerally ka-feeding that can be found in the companionship of another polytheist over coffee. Visit a Unitarian Universalist church and I suspect you’ll find that their Covenant fits quite nicely into the concept of ma’at, plus the discussions in such a multi-faith locale can be quite inspiring.

And those discussions are key. You want to have conversations with the people you meet in these spaces. In teaching others you will simultaneously be learning more about your own beliefs, and perhaps will even find another person who also worships Kemetic deities, or was always interested in learning more. Community is built just like a road, you lay the mortar between bricks, one at a time, establish connections between people, one at a time. It doesn’t matter if these people are “little” or “big,” only that they reach out, seek each other in the physical world, and live their religion by living it with others. 

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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.

“Do you ever feel inadequate in your practice/personal devotions, and if so, why? How do you handle these feelings?”

I suspect nearly everyone feels the irritating gnaw of inadequacy now and again, and I am certainly no exception. For me, the sensation tends to rear its head when I conflate the standards I hold myself to as a professional scholar and performer with what I am achieving for my gods.  I sometimes feel as though I should already know everything about the gods to whom I have devoted myself. I want to have the same sort of internal database of reliable sources about ancient Kemet as I do for musicology. I feel frustrated when the results of my efforts to write and perform songs for my gods fail to match what I feel that I am capable of as an operatic soprano, that I more readily recall the words for the old American ballads and hymns I’ve performed in the past  than the beautiful songs shared with me by assorted creative, Kemetic friends.

When one has lived, practiced and honed a skill for a substantial portion of their life, it gains a sense of naturalness so that you forget how it was to genuinely struggle when you first began your efforts. My musicological studies span the past eight years of my life, my vocal practice fourteen. It makes sense that I am a reasonably capable music scholar and vocalist, not because I am good at those things and less good at my Kemetic efforts, but because I have spent so much time with them.

In contrast, I took the first steps on my journey of Kemetic practice and scholarship approximately two years ago, and only officially devoted myself to the path in the past eighteen months. Inadequacy feels, you can bite the big one, because the long and the short of it is: I am a newbie when it comes to Kemetic knowledge, and that is okay.

Remembering this time distinction is often key in handling the feelings of inadequacy. It can be very useful to take a step back from the gut-reaction of “dammit, I should already know where to find the answer to that question/be aware of that piece of history/have read about that particular ritual” and instead try to put myself in the mindset of the freshmen I teach. Looking through their imagined gaze I am more open to new experiences, I expect to need to ask questions of those who have studied these lessons longer than I have, and there is little reason to berate myself for still having many things to learn in these early stages of my journey as a scholar.

Another helpful tactic derived from this approach is setting concrete, clearly-defined, and level-appropriate goals for myself like I would for my students. No one learns to sing by doing a complete lecture recital on Mozart’s “Der Holle Rache”; they start with folk melodies and progress slowly from there. This doesn’t make them an inadequate or failed singer, just a new singer. You have to build from basics, then expand upon and complicate those ideas. Setting smaller, clearer goals also makes them more attainable. I’ve found it far more fulfilling to promise my gods a brief, research-based blog post that I feel ready for at my present level of knowledge and see it done well, than to offer a generic promise of devoting more time to learning about Them. The latter has no concrete way of assessing whether or not I actually achieved what I set out to do.

I would also note that, at least in my experience, Netjer seems to have a reasonably decent sense of what I’m actually capable of. The moments when I’ve felt most inadequate are often moments I brought upon myself. It can be well worth it to sort out where the feelings of failure are coming from: is it really Netjer I’ve disappointed, or just myself, and if the latter, what good is it doing me to sit around beating myself up about it rather than simply seeking change and improvement?

TL/DR: Know yourself and where you currently stand in your journey of knowledge acquisition. Everyone is at a different place on their spiritual path, and there is always more to learn, whether you’ve been Kemetic for two years or twenty. Set goals that are reasonable for you in the present moment, and don’t mistake self-critique for the judgement of your gods.

 

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