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.