It is becoming more difficult to remember what it was like to be twelve, with the itchy polo shirt and the despised kilt that set me apart from the other youth at the after school program who wore what they wished. As the only person there from a private school, my personality did not matter, I was one of “them,” and so I was alone. At twelve it just seems unfair; I didn’t understand the money and the privilege and the justification for why I was assumed to be a certain way, so I sat by myself in a place that was safe, and I let my mind drift so that the “panther woman” can find me.
Given time, and patience, she finally does, and I give Her a name because She says She’s not ready to tell me the true one. I reach a point where I can walk around the outer yard and still talk with Her, even envision Her, sleek and feline and protective. By the time I am fourteen I am convinced that She is the Goddess, and I try to see Her in the forms that the books describe, but she will not be reforged in the likeness of others. She remains Herself, dark skinned and grinning, feline-faced or feline-masked, wielding knives to lead me on dangerous adventures through what I still think is mostly just in my mind.
At fifteen I wonder if she is a spirit of sorts, a teacher to guide me, as guide She does, but now through feelings and sensations that I am frightened by because my world has taught me that they are wrong. It is okay to love both women and men, She assures me, it is okay to listen to whatever music speaks to your soul. My love grows for those around me, my love grows for metal and the raging guitar that soothes me, my love grows for Her.
Yet at 18 I nearly lose Her, and those memories are perhaps the most difficult. Why did college make me doubt what I’d already lived, make me turn from the unseen mother, the unnamed guardian, who had helped me survive the growing pains of adolescence? I have thoughts there, but they are not so critical anymore. I returned to Her, and She had been waiting. Waiting for me to be ready, and waiting to give me Her name.
I am Bast.
I am your daughter.
When I kneel before the shrine there is a vow in the gesture. I pull one fist fiercely to my chest, the other facing you, palm forward. I speak your names with pride, and in my mind I am lifting you with my voice. I rise and step back four paces, imagining lifting your carved faces upon heavy staves to each shoulder, preparing to carry your standards – and the standards you have set for me – into the world.
My life, my values: they are also my loyalty. My willingness to serve is my willingness to hold you aloft with each step I take in the world.
You have earned this standard bearer’s trust: no small thing in her eyes. You have burned away the scabs to reveal and heal the raw places. You have known when to push to the point of breaking but not beyond. You have shown me a better version of myself and I have chosen her over the old, chosen to keep improving upon her with each new day that is lived in your service.
Dua Set! Dua Bast! My loyalty to You both has become a brighter way of being.
I am weak today. My lungs are tight, exhaustion weighs heavy on my frame, my skin flares in time with the internal imbalances.
I am still writing. Writing as I ride the bus and struggle to stay awake. Writing after sitting in shrine this morning despite my weariness because I needed to hear you, be near you. Writing because there’s some small bit of strength coming from keeping this up despite the physical travails, honoring you with words on a screen when I’m too tired for much else.
Walk with me in my weakness, my gods. Grant me health, grant me energy, grant me patience.
The word “Strength”, considered in relation to my gods, will probably always remind me of this song. I wrote it shortly after Set and Bast claimed me as Their daughter through the Rite of Parent Divination. Though I remain someone who firmly believes that a parent-child relationship with the divine can be developed through many different paths, my personal path saw the gods asking me to become a part of Kemetic Orthodoxy, and so when I call Set Father, or refer to myself as Their daughter, it is within the context of the House of Netjer, my spiritual home.
It was an emotional time for me, receiving this confirmation that Set – who had already given me so much of His strength – was my Father. Set who brought so much change for the better, who challenged me and damn near broke me, but in the end left me standing taller, and more fiercely than before. Set whose presence was felt during surgical biopsies for cancer scare #2, Set who helped me push through weariness and emotional fatigue to be with, and care for, my mother in the hospital. Set who helped me appreciate my own worth, and gave me the courage to stand the hell up to anyone who tried to tear me down.
The song reflects a lot of that; but I’m thinking I almost need a second one for my newer teacher in strength.
Heqat has provided balance to Set’s “push through no matter what.” It’s not Bast’s emphasis on self-love and self-care, it’s more externally directed (to support those around me) while simultaneously promoting internal health. Heqat works with me on the strength of accepting what I cannot change, of sitting with hurts and letting them be without taking them into myself. If Set’s strength keeps fighting, Heqat’s strength lives with and moves through. Both are necessary to function, both take tremendous courage. I continue to work towards incorporating both into my day-to-day life
Dua Set. Dua Heqat. I am stronger in many ways for your mutual guidance.