The image above is a painting by Cú Meala of Cait Sidhe Designs entitled “A Dialogue of Light.” Please visit the store for other sacred art and jewelry by this wonderful husband and wife team.
The past few days saw a visit from my sister in the House of Netjer, A’aqytsekhmet. Our time together was full of laughter, worship with fellow Pittsburgh Kemetic Orthodox Shemsu Temseniaset, divination, and no small amount of spiritual discussion. Through our lengthy conversations (which often went to hours of the evening that I have not seen in several months due to my previous work schedule) I was able to flesh out some of the deep feelings I harbor for my primary gods, starting to find words for the depth of emotion and gratitude I have come to feel for them over the past four years of my life. I hope to put some of these thoughts to the virtual page, in order to avoid losing them again to the impending whirlwind of projects often known as End of Semester Doom.
When I try to describe my Parents to another, I see an ongoing journey of personal discovery. I am not one to follow the camp of “everything happens for a reason” but instead ascribe to the idea that “you can learn from everything that happens” and find myself in genuine amazement at how necessary many of those lessons have been. In my Parents, I have learned to see two halves of my personal whole. First, the driven, justice-seeking advocate who will be strong so that others have the safe space required to be weak and to heal. Second, the passionate artist whose music and joy of the sensuality of experience replenishes and tends the body that she pushes to its limits to care for others. Without the second, I would destroy myself through burn out or health issues derived from stress and overuse. Without the first, I would lack personal fulfillment and a sense of purpose to always keep going for as long as I feasibly can. I need the lessons of both my defender, warrior Father and my mindful, fiercely free Mother.
And those lessons extend beyond what they represent. They communicate and exist in such different ways. Set is largely solitary and solid in that individuality. He is concrete in a way that few other gods appear to me, readily heard, almost always embodied in a clear way that my mind’s eye can focus on and address. He is massive in His strength and power, but the connections He has to the rest of Netjer-as-whole are not so diffuse. I can always sense Him, always hear Him, can always ask what He wants of me and get an answer. I do not get lost in the diverse connections of other deities such as I do with my Mother, who in Her sheer existence has helped me to understand the complex power of being one of Ra’s Eyes. Bast is so huge it can be hard to figure out where She begins and ends. She can appear to me as the great cat or the woman with the dark lion’s face, but she can also extend back into Tefnut, outward into Sekhmet and Mut and Hethert and beyond. She rarely speaks directly, and so deeply cherishes the ideal of freedom that Her requests are rare. I often feel lost in Her depths, uncertain what She would have me do on Her behalf, and given that often the final answer ends in “Do as you wish and as it brings you joy” I struggle to understand if I am on the right track for honoring Her. Yet in these extremes of communication and desired forms of worship, I have come to better be able to reach out to other Netjeru. To have mental conversations with some, to not be discouraged by the relative quiet of others, and to accept the awe of meeting some of the oldest deities rather than being overwhelmed by it. I feel that together, They prepared me to greet the many other Names of Netjer, in their many forms and through their many methods.
If I tell fewer stories of Bast, it is because so much of what we do together is deeply personal. She has helped me to prioritize my life to focus on things that I want to be doing, rather than things I believe I should be doing, and in making those choices, to greatly reduce my stress. She has helped me to love my body for what it can do, being mindful of its power and ability rather than focusing on my frustrations when it aches or falls ill. She has helped me to live in the present moment, to enjoy what I can and experience in the instant I am doing it, so as not to worry about the “what ifs” of tomorrow or the next day. Yet so many of these lessons came through surprise experiences, a gentle nudge from Her to pay attention to an occurrence in the world, or even one of my actual feline companions bringing a tiny realization to mind. She and I don’t have the readily shared stories I’ve developed with Set through our daily coffee ritual, our informal worship through metal and science fiction, our formal moments in shrine where His voice rings in my mind and I sing back to Him in gratitude and fierce, fierce love. I have learned to accept that not all balance appears as such to others, and that this is okay as well, so long as you have found it for yourself.
Yet despite their differences, my Parents also function brilliantly together. They are both defenders, protectors, fierce and capable in their own right. One of the images they have shown me time and time again is of the two of them upon Ra’s boat, Set at the prow, Bast guarding the King’s back. They remind me of the importance of the concept of protection, how many forms that process can take. They would have me protect others through counseling, teach others to protect themselves and their well being through self-care. They would have me protect community, working to provide spaces where the bonds between fellow worshipers can grow and strength. There is so much more to this idea of the defender that They wish me to explore, in part considering the relevance of my Shemsu name in relation to that concept, but I will save such thoughts for another time. What is important is just the acknowledgement that Set and Bast are incredible as partners, but also as contrasting forces of equally stunning power. I adore Them, I am grateful to be their daughter, and fortunate to have Them and the work I’ve yet to do in Their name as one of many reasons to always keep going.
I still have more work to do, but I am more whole, more stable, than I have ever been before, and I say this coming out of over a year of significant health concerns. With Their guidance, I have learned that I am strong enough to eventually get through most challenges. With Their love, I am reminded that opening up and reaching out for assistance is a form of strength in itself. With Their wisdom, I am able to see that in struggling, I have developed a greater sense of perspective on my own good fortune and greater sense of empathy for those who have suffered. In truth, I am now better able to serve my gods and my community than I was a year ago, having embraced what Set and Bast taught me during the obstacles that chance threw my way. I am grateful for that guidance, and for the depth of the love I sense from Them each day that I honor Their names.
Dua Set, Son of Nut, you are my spirit!
Dua Bast, Lady of Joy, you are my heart!
I honor you both, now and always! I lift your beautiful faces high!