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2017-03-26 07:27 pm
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Reconnection: Paganicon 2017

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

The past three or four weeks have been fairly difficult for me. I made it to work. I did my job. I cried several times when I had the chance to close the door to my office and no one was around. I came home and barely ate or ate too much and then slept. It could not continue.

Fortunately, I was able to both see a specialist regarding some of my concerns, and also received encouragement from my partner to spend money to (at zero hour) travel to Minneapolis for Paganicon. I am still slightly wincing at how much money I spent, but the experience on the whole was very much worth it. I got to spend some one-on-one time with Ubenet after unfortunately having to delay a prior planned visit.  It was of course also lovely to see Zat, the now Rev. Meset, Khufu and Hemet. I also FINALLY got to meet Mama Mekti, which was  surreal in a way because she’s somehow *even greater* in presence than any of the fantastic stories I’d already heard. I also got to meet Nehwen, and was grateful for having another face to put with a name, the chance to meet more of my extended family.

I couldn’t really take off of work, which was a little disappointing because all the Kemetic-focused events were on Friday evening. Instead, I was ridiculous and drove to the airport at four in the morning on Saturdayto catch a six am flight which landed me in Minneapolis around 8am, just before things kicked up again around 9. Ubenet picked me up, and then we found  Zat for breakfast and I got filled in on the events from the night before. Exhausted as I was, I was still just… jazzed to be with spiritual family, to be sitting in a public space talking about our gods, about our beliefs, about our rituals. It is always such a treasure to me to have these moments where the mundane gets pushed away and I’m with individuals who live in the same reality as myself, where there’s more than what we see at the surface level, where conversation can shift to philosophy and experential magic and lessons learned through various sorts of mysteries. Even just that *meal* was revitalizing to my mood in a way that I desperately needed.

Hemet and Rion came into the hotel restaurant shortly thereafter and I got a hug from my mother and king and finally got to meet our mysterious Hellenic/”Kemetic-adjacent” (a fantastic term) scribe. He too lived up to all the good stories, and it was a genuine pleasure to get to know him, even briefly. From there… memories start to blur in terms of minute-to-minute occurrences. But I believe we went up to the Pagans of Color and Allies suite next, which was hosted by a wide variety of individuals and  full to brimming with altars to different gods and spirits. I believe, someone please correct me if I’m missing anyone, that there was a Kemetic shrine, an altar to the lwa of Vodou, an altar to Santa Muerte, a Santeria shrine in the corner, a shrine to Hekate, and a Wiccan shrine that was made by two people of African descent who are 3rd degree Gardnerians. (Many thanks to Zat for the corrections!) For one suite, it was just *full* of gods. We ran into Meset and Khufu there, and there was a very long hug where Meset just held me for a bit and didn’t let go and I *needed* that too.

To remain upright I drank a whole hell of a lot of coffee. I offered that whole hell of a lot of coffee to Set. I think this is how I somehow stayed awake and didn’t get jittery or kidney-pained or nauseous at all because *damn* I drank a lot of coffee.

There was a lot of time during that day where I just tagged along with Hemet and Meset, respectfully watching them participate and/or watch the indigenous panels. How do I explain this? When I love someone, the best way I can show this by learning about them. If you are someone I care about, I want to understand you and the things you care about. Even if it is not something I am personally invested in, or something I can ethically participate in due to my own heritage/background — I want to understand why it matters to you, and how I can support you in that thing. So I went to around four hours of panels on cultural appropriation, the Prayer for Peace Day, and Standing Rock.  I learned, and I thought, and I meditated and it was powerful and stirring. I also felt like maybe I got to know Hemet and Rev. Mesetibes a little better by the end of it, and appreciated the opportunity to do so.

As for myself in all of that, I wound up thinking quite a bit about my own history and my Akhu.  I’m still exploring my “roots” per se. The umbilical cord that Chief Avrol Looking Horse and his partner referenced that ties us back through the generations to our mothers before us.  I know a fair a bit about my ancestors at this point, but it’s still a struggle in some ways for me to connect. For example, I know that I am English, German and Scottish on my Father’s side. I am predominantly Italian on my mother’s side, with some Dutch and French from her mother. I’ve found names, learned places and times of transit from other parts of the world, but I’ve always felt separate, disconnected, an odd one out both in terms of my religion and much of my extended identity.

So I’ve taken quite a bit of my free time in the last week to challenge that. The Italian line has always felt closest to me, so I started there. My Italian Akhu, starting with my maternal grandfather, were Catholic and comfortable with saints and spirits. They are the only ones who are always ready and willing to speak with me when I venerate my ancestors. We know they came from the Pesaro area and so I began there with my research, looking, digging, reading… and soon discovered Lucus Pisaurensis (the sacred grove that served a plethora of Etruscan water goddesses and then some later Roman gods, and also involved a lot of purification rites, and healing).

Reading about that site just rang so true to me at my core. My internal shrine, which I have had set up in the astral, the duat, take your pick, for close to four years now, is a space that I can go to when my body hurts too much for physical rites. I serve many gods and goddesses there, but ever since I first found the place, there has always been a trail that leads down away from the cliff side where the main temple stands, down through a grove of trees, to a stream of purification. I never really knew why, it just felt necessary and “right” to have. Heqat greets me there, as does Hatmehyt, and sometimes Hethert-Nut in Her form of the great flood. I never… thought about why that felt so natural, to have them separated there in this more natural, wooded, green space that was seemingly anathema to Egypt. A place that I descend to from the sand, stone and formality of the main temple. But here I was, reading about one of the most sacred spaces in the land of my ancestors, and if the gods were different… the purpose, the place, it felt perfect and known.

I have no idea how you would (or if you could) trace that part of my family back beyond the names of my great-great-great grandparents to know if the Etruscan connection would have been a thing, or if we actually came from another Roman-era group, but certainly regionally it could make sense. During my first day of reading I discovered myths that linked Etruscans to invaders of Egypt, which of course made me raise a brow in the direction of Set, but most of the more recent egyptological papers I found later in the week seem to suggest that the timing doesn’t make sense, and Etruscans would have traveled in too small of groups to have genuinely ever attempted an invasion. Still — it is a new start for me. A space to explore. There’s no real need to directly connect it to Egypt, but just to better understand it for myself and those who cam ebefor eme.

And if I do return to the question of how I wound up so thoroughly connecting with, and now formally serving, Egyptian gods? I suspect many modern-day Kemetics could ask the same question, given how few of us have ever been there, let alone have relatives from the area. The answer you get in response to this is often, “The gods choose who they will,” and yet I still find myself thinking about it and wondering what of my forefathers and mothers might have resulted in my reaching out to such gods. Perhaps there was more to explore and connect with on my father’s side than I initially thought, so I reviewed my names, dug deeper into places. The line goes back to England, with individuals who traveled over on the Mayflower, relatives who fought in every war this country has experienced. We also have another line (who were either German or Scottish or both) who settled initially in Westmoreland county, about 30 minutes southeast of where I am living now. They shifted their name to something more American sounding, then moved to Illinois for about five generations. I’m the first of that line to return to Western Pennsylvania and it pleases me, to have this sudden little piece of information that adds a bit to why this place, these hills, these rivers, have felt like Home since I moved here. A place that is so deeply rooted in the rivers that provided for those living here, a place that helps me reflect on the significance of the Nile to Kemet and to my gods.

So yes, there are interesting things about my ancestors, interesting things from several unique areas that all remain within me. I exist in my own complexity. I am thedescendant of immigrants who stole land and made a nation and played a role in that destruction and creation from the first time they stepped on the shores. I am the descendant of later immigrants who fought to carve a place for themselves in the world that had been made. I have to acknowledge the pain and death that many of my ancestors inflicted upon the indigenous population of this land. I have to acknowledge that some of my ancestors probably owned slaves. But perhaps it is also okay to begin exploring the stories that are positive as well, and try to see what other small pieces (like the Westmoreland county discovery) can tell me. I have ancestors who were staunch abolitionists. I have ancestors who were inventors. I have so, so much yet to learn from them and it astounds me that I have waited so long to begin this aspect of exploration.

All these thoughts from just a day, and that wasn’t even the whole of it. There was more time shared with family, and then a vodou ritual completed in honor of Danbala. I came to Paganicon in part to witness this. I have continuing questions regarding a spirit who may or may not be one of the lwa, experiences that date back for two years to an experience with a spirit/god who I met just before starting my counseling program and who has stayed with me even after graduation, usually making herself known through icons of Mary located in various spots on the Catholic campus. I felt like I needed to see the ritual to know if this was something I could consider participating in without it being inappropriate, something that maybe my mystery spirit was connected to, and in truth, when I told Her that I could only go with financial aid, and then suddenly an extra $600 appeared in my life, I took it as a hint and made the arrangements.

The ritual was beautiful. I may devote another post to it later, but it was genuinely stunning. So much singing, so many powerful historical elements that Hemet (operating in that capacity as Mambo Chita Tann) explained respectfully and thoroughly, and then the invitation and posession where Danbala appeared. And Danbala is *huge.* I felt him, though he was cool and smooth and radiant in contrast with the sheer heat of the gods I’ve experienced and met in Kemetic saqu. I heard him laughing from different angles, as something curled around the room and then around me, serpentine scales rubbing against my legs even as he remained covered in sheets upon the floor. Individuals were given opportunity to speak with Danbala, though no physical words were expected, just sounds. My own question largely raised other questions (as is often the way of things!)

Sunday was another lovely day with more time spent with loved ones. I attended a few more panels, including Hemet’s talk on Kemetic conceptualizations of time which was some review for me and some new information, but very helpful overall. I got some one on one time with spiritual family, and generally just… lost track of the hours until I had to pack up and fly home. While my health this week has been shaky (many debilitating headaches) my emotional well being has remained much improved, my connection to my gods and my ancestors strong as I’ve researched and served my community and my Father through divination offered during His Festival as Lord of the Oasis.

For now, however, a bit of time away from words as my head begins to ache again. It is a call to rest briefly in my own oasis, as I have in years past, reflecting on connections rekindled to the gods I serve and the ancestors who, in some mysterious way, helped make me who I am today — full of curiosity and wonder about the unique way my life has gone to date, and excited to learn more in the future. My sincere gratitude to all of my family who spent time with me at Paganicon. You lifted my spirit  in such a tremendous way through your time, your conversation, your caring. I love you all dearly, and miss you.

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2016-12-11 08:44 am

Cycles

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

It was shocking to me, this morning, to realize that I have not written here since my birthday in August. The familiar sense of concern that I had failed in some way tried to creep its way into my thoughts. I caught it before it settled into the nooks and crannies that are the caveats of my present good mood, and flung it elsewhere. Today is not a day for sadness, today is a day of moving forward, of the next phase of time in my life.

You see, yesterday I just finished the final assignment required for my master’s degree. I have three more days at my internship site. I have a small job lined up for January, and am working towards other opportunities, but it is something, and it is good. Friday’s graduation ceremony will be a day worth celebrating.

Granted, outside of that bit of light in my life, the world is, from where I’m standing, a far scarier place than it was when I last wrote. Brexit, which I did not fully understand over the summer, now feels like a harbinger of political division, anger, and fear that has fallen upon my country as well.

I acknowledge that the days ahead will be difficult ones. I’ve seen it already in my office: the week following the election was a week of so much grief, terror, and uncertainty amongst nearly every client who came to our office, and yes, even amongst the staff ourselves. It is going to take strength, courage, and compassion for one another to see each other through whatever changes may come in the years ahead, and to make changes of our own in turn that best support equity, justice, and Ma’at.

Ma’at is made all the more complicated in a modern world where the media tries to convince of us of a binary regarding what is right and wrong. Perhaps, in that sense, reviewing history and the complexity of Ma’at becomes all the more important. We must review the past and fight for the future through the lens of what is balanced and just. We must spend time determining for ourselves and our community what justice really means in the circumstances of the present day, and how we can contribute to that sense of balance, in all its grey areas.

Maintaining spiritual connection in the midst of so much secular difficulty becomes challenging. I’ve struggled myself, over the past few months, and found myself constantly apologizing to gods, friends, and family alike for the factors that left me working twelve to fourteen hours days on a regular basis. My health wavered, and physical issues related to purity kept me from establishing the constant, reliable practice I wanted to offer my gods. Only in the past few days, as I drew near to the end of the scholastic portion of my journey, found a new combination of medications, and began to hear the words of Set and Bast, calling me back, telling me it was time, have I been able to turn my sights back to this aspect of my religious work.

Sitting before them in shrine last night, I reflected on how there is still a lot of uncertainty, but there is also so much love. The sun rises each day, and with it, the cycle of time begins again, new chances are made to reach out, to try again, to rebuild what has been broken.

We are all far, far stronger than we know, provided we hold to the connections that empower us. Connect with your gods, connect with your loved ones.

You are not alone, not now, not ever.

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2016-08-23 01:03 pm
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Wake Up

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

When I wake up naturally just before 6:00 am, I know that Set wants to chat. He’s done this many times now in our years together, generally on important days.

I was not thinking of today as particularly spiritually significant for my personal practice, though on the secular end of things today marks completion of my 27th loop around the Sun. Nevertheless, when He who is Great of Battle Cry speaks, you listen. (As that particular epithet implies, He’s marvelously loud in that regard!)

So we chatted, and it went something like this.

Set: You are worried, and you have just woken up. That’s no way to start the day.

Me: At times I don’t know what I’m meant to be for my community. That I’m letting them down.

Set: What have you been in the past?

I listed various jobs and skill sets, drawing from time spent as a musician, a sculptor, an educator, a marketer, a counselor, and more.

Set: Quite a few options.

Me: Jack of many trades, master of none.

Set: I hear plenty there from which to draw your purpose.

Me: I suppose.

Set: What I do not hear is what you wish the community to bring to you.

Me: …

Set: Have you learned from Hethert’s words?

(She had previously gently chided me, “You give all your gifts away and keep too few for yourself. Hold on to some of them.”)

Me: Not yet.

Set: Fix that.

Me: I will.

Good things to think about. Gratitude is a good focus on one’s birthday, I think. Taking time to look at all that has changed for the better since I became Kemetic, all that I have learned. Giving myself space to determine what I hope to learn and gain in the future. How to bring that to pass, and worry, even just a little bit less, about if I’m doing enough, or being enough, for those I love. Never to lose sight of my responsibilities, but simply to take a better look at who I am. Greater self-understanding so that I won’t feel so much doubt at what I can offer moving forward.

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2016-08-17 12:37 pm

Holding the Space

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

Another Wep Ronpet has come and gone. I find that the world around me feels fresh and full of possibility, yet also remarkably unstable. This will be a year of transitions, of finishing major goals and setting new ones. I am continuing in the same vein of what I was doing before, and yet there’s a new weight of significance to it. My dreams are full to brimming with images of immense rain and floods, and my brain can’t fully parse out if that’s because of the spiritual time of the year with the inundation, or the unending torrent of actual thunderstorms we’ve had on a nigh daily basis since my return home to Pennsylvania following my annual trip to the Midwest for fellowship and ritual.

I am fortunate to be in the mountains for so much rain, my heart openly grieves for those who have lost much in Maryland, Louisiana, and other flat-landed spaces. Water is powerful and yet can be  terribly traumatic, just as change is exciting yet frightening with its potential for destruction. My continued prayers are with those escaping disaster, and for those who may have lived something similar before and are struggling with understandable retraumatization.

Those prayers have an added sense of responsibility, I think, as I sit here typing at the computer and simultaneously watching my hands. Hands that have now done the work of a priest during formal Wep Ronpet ceremonies. Hands that have poured through pages of new research on the gods I serve, feeling the urge to learn and be qualified to teach in turn. Hands that will continue to serve Set and Bast in myriad ways as I write and clean and pray. I stare at my hands, remembering the laughter and joy as pure water was poured over them for the first time, recognizing that in that gesture I have publicly promised to do the work, in the many forms it may take. Water again becomes a source of strength, and yet responsibility. Water moves as means of change and transformation that will follow any number of paths, depending on what I give to that journey in turn.

I am excited to begin walking forward from this new start. It will be a good challenge, a means of giving back to the gods and community I love. It may even be a powerful intersection in the work I do as a counselor.

You see, I am endeavoring to hold the space within my home, within my state shrine, to hear my gods more clearly, and share in turn the knowledge they offer. In my secular life I am working to hold the space for my clients, giving them time to find their own, internal knowledge, to find the courage to challenge what thoughts or beliefs may hurt them, in the hopes that they in turn will be able to find wellness and give back to their own communities.

And I trust, that at the end of each day, when I am tired from what I have given to those I serve in varying capacities, that my gods will hold the space for me. I find it in my name. I am the standardbearer of my two, but there are also two standards [held] for me. Both roles are needed, to try to carry the words of my gods, the goals of my clients, and yet still permit others to occasionally help me in turn. Only in balancing all of this will I be successful in what I can offer to the world.

Dua Set! Dua Bast! I will serve you to the best of my ability. I am forever grateful for your presence, for your compassionate strength, and for the quiet moments in which you simply stand guard and let me breathe.

Let us see, all three of us, what the New Year brings.

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2016-06-15 05:48 pm
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A beautiful post from A’aqytsekhmet…

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

The Song of Hethert-Nut My stars are bright, Dancing into darkness, Streaming into night. Here my stars are shining, Deepened in sorrow, Their colors twining. And to the melody, They come to rest, Alongside others, Against my chest. -by me The shock of events really does not settle into my heart or mind for […]

via The Song of Hethert-Nut — Iryt-Ra

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2016-05-01 11:21 pm

Garnet and Malachite

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

He is crimson fury and russet strength unyielding. Red drips from His body as it has His titles. Pure, garnet heat rushes from the fiercest heart, giving sign of the battles fought for the sake of testing a kingdom and maintaining existence.

She is viridian life and jade pleasure sinuous. Green winds through the curves of Her movement as it has the scent of Her malachite perfume jar, deceptively soft. The fiercest heart gives sign of the depth of Her passion, expressed through music played to remember the point of existence.

The malachite rises from the garnet, gives Him reason to lift blade time and again, brings a smile to curving, sharp-toothed mouth. The thought of what He preserves as He defends within the sky.

The garnet rides within the malachite, gives Her fangs the memory of blood, brings the hunt to curving, sharp-tipped claws. The thought of those who dare attack those left upon the kingdom’s mortal soil.

My gods are so vitally, vibrantly alive, each bearing a trace of the other’s color within.

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2016-04-28 09:50 am

Focus and Dreams

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

A friend of mine recently quoted T.S. Eliot, noting that “April is the cruellest month.” It has not been an easy few weeks, that is certain, but as I stand at the end of my coursework for the semester, still grieving certain losses yet treasuring memories, I find myself ready to move past April with renewed energy and hope for the months beyond.

I have gotten caught up in the urge to clean and remove the unnecessary things. To seek out only what is needed, and find comfort in that simplicity. Old clothes, old books, and old knick-knacks are finding new homes, as I acknowledge the sense that something (or someOne?) is driving me to create more space in my home, to prepare and clean for something new.  I’ve also been exercising again and playing guitar, finding the joy in the physical world, getting away from electronics for at least an extra hour every day.

There have been changes in my shrine set-up, as well. Cleaning, of course, but also a shift so that my five primary gods are the only Names present in the naos. Sekhmet had joined us for several months, as I asked for Her guidance in my inital foray into the field as a health professional. She told me two nights ago that it was time for Her statue to move elsewhere. She would always be with me, guiding my hands, but I was competent enough to serve without the constant reminder that She was with me. Nervous, but recognizing the tone in Her voice as “This is how it must be,” I gently took Her from the shrine, wrapped Her, and placed Her with my other icons who wait for specific festival days.

Even as Sekhmet has stepped back once again, Set and Bast have been all the more present, directly involving Themselves throughout my days in ways that have positively intervened with some of the difficulties of late. Then, after senut ritual two days ago, They asked me out of the blue if I knew why I was Their child. I expressed my thoughts aloud, but They informed me that They would send dreams to help me  better understand.  I was thinking too much with my mind and not my heart.

Bast said She would come first, and that night I dreamed of vibrant vignettes that featured various memories of connections between me and loved ones, starting in early childhood and continuing to the present day. Old activities I treasured, new rituals that had become deeply fulfilling to me. All of the images were joyous, all full of laughter and affection, until the final image where I had gone to comfort a friend who had recently lost a pet we both held dear, and we were preparing to bury the body. There was a rapping on the door, and we opened it to find an older woman whose face was obscured, who said that we had the wrong pet, our animal (and she spoke the cat’s name) actually was still alive. I looked at both creatures, dead and living, and realized that somehow they were one and the same. The beloved companion was no longer with us, and yet she was. Then I woke.

Set said His dream would come next, and last night I dreamed of frightening things. In one fluid storyline I was forced to face nearly all of my greatest fears and anxieties. I was lost in an unknown space, the only hotel I could find was full of bugs which bit me, but I wrapped myself up in sheets I cleaned in the sink and dealt with them. I suffered a significant allergic reaction from the bites, my body covered in welts, and yet was able to trade for benadryl from another person in the hotel.  Then an old man who showed up to the hotel tried to assault me after a series of particularly humiliating events. I fought him off and was able to make it out to the parking lot, where I stole a car and drove to the nearest police station. I survived, and my husband came to get me shortly thereafter.

My Mother’s dream was so positive, so full of love and promise, and yet ended with the recognition that immense love comes hand in hand with eventual loss. She also seemed to remind me of the responsibility of my empathy: to comfort others and sit with them in their grief, to try to hold on to the hope that those who pass might still live in part if we remember them. My Father’s dream was a challenge, a gauntlet of my personal fears, and yet the ending showed that I was now strong enough to face all of them.

I’m still processing the meanings within each dream, how different they were, and the areas in which there was overlap. I am grateful for these messages from my Parents as I refocus, sorting for myself what the next step will be, and preparing my body, my home, and my heart for that opportunity.

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2016-04-08 02:25 pm

March Celebrations

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

(A quick warning that the following post is fairly media intensive.)

March is always a wonderful month to honor my Parents. I celebrated an early festival in IV Peret, The Day of Eating Onions for Bast, with my friend Temseni up north, carrying my senut statue to her home for celebration. We gave offerings, performed an execration, and asked for Bast’s blessings. We made music before the great lady of Bubastis, and had a wonderful evening.

Shrine set for Bast, including offerings of malachite, sistra, figs, chocolate-mint tea, and more.
A close up of Bast, Eye of Ra.
A feline visitor to the shrine.

Execration before Bast the Devouring Lady.
Asking Bast, Lady of Joy, for blessings.

 

Later in the month, I celebrated the Procession of Set. He and I chose to honor this particular holiday in a more lighthearted way, as we knew several of our community could really use a reason to laugh in the midst of various hardships. Thus, a plush form of The Lord of the Northern Sky traveled with me throughout the day, visiting shrines, parks, and receiving various offerings all the while.

Set is pleased with his morning offering of coffee.
It may not be the Nile, but the Ohio River is still pretty nice.
Visiting Aset’s shrine north of the city.

Lord of the Oasis acknowledges sources of water at a creek outside a local reservoir.
Dinner offerings!
Joining me in evening senut.


Finally the month came to a close with a far more personal holiday, a day honoring Set as Lord of the Oasis. Here I include what I wrote on my Facebook page during that day:

IMG_4107

I’m not the best artist, but I wanted to try to capture the image stuck in my head the last two days, during Father’s festival honoring Him in His name of Set, Lord of the Oasis.

This is Set as the god of beauty in the harshest places. Set as the security of a home one can return to, a home with necessary protection and comfort, after one has explored the difficult places or thoughts. Set as the reassurance that dawn and Zep Tepi will come again, bringing new life, new chances.

This is the Set I rely on as a counselor: Set who is stable and sturdy and present so that my clients are safe enough to go wandering through the deserts of their lives and know they will be okay, that there is someone listening and waiting with water at the ready after they’ve walked and spoken and are parched from the effort. This is the Set who is both mirage and reality, that liminal space of what could be and what is, mystical in the surreal way that there is life and hope amongst the vast nothing of the desert of our fears and anxiety. The Lord of the Oasis is so profound to me, so incredible and beautiful, and all the more so in that every year we have honored it together He asks only that I give Him something small and then care for myself, create my own oasis to examine my reflection, process my grievances, and move forward.

I would later join in Him in shrine, where the way He seemed to move forward through the incense inspired me to write the following:

IMG_4122

If you are in need of strength, walk forward in the power of your own words and intent. Your way is cleared of obstacles, no fear can bind you, the strength of Set is your strength, the voice of Set is your voice.

So yes, a very intense, fun, wonderful month spent honoring my Parents as best I could while juggling all that other life stuff we grapple with from day to day. I hope these images and shared experiences bring you joy as we enter a time of purification, preparing for the final season of the year.

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2016-02-23 09:36 pm
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A New Nightly Prayer

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

Dua Set, Great of Strength
The sky shakes with your return at the dawn
Victorious at the prow of the mandjet.
I am victorious this day in… (x4 things I want to go well)
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.

Dua Bast, Lady of Light
The stars shine with your flame through the night
Glowing with life in the darkness
My life was brightened this day by (x4 things my husband and I were grateful for that day)
Our fears are burned away with gratitude.
We destroy isfet without and within.
The day rests, our hearts rest
‘Til we rise with the dawn and Zep Tepi.

I share these two brief prayers, because they serve as the cap stones for my day, every day. I’ve previously mentioned the first in a post that lists the full ritual, and also obliquely on every occasion I’ve touched on having my morning “coffee conversation” with Father. Regardless of whether I wake up at 6am and prepare to go to work or sleep in until 8 or 9am on the weekends, I get up, I make a cup of coffee, and I recite this prayer while standing at my kitchen window, holding the hot mug between my palms in a gesture of offering. Set may share thoughts with me after the prayer, or He may simply nod and indicate that it is time for me to revert the steaming drink after I speak the appropriate words.

I wrote the second prayer this year, after Bast requested something to mirror my daily morning ritual with Set. It took me a little bit of time to establish it as a habit, in no small part because the time I go to sleep varies greatly from night to night. But eventually I decided that the evening prayer could also help with another goal, namely to be better about turning off my computer and phone before I actually climbed into bed. So it was established: whenever I was about to sleep, I would recite the prayer and offer water or tea, and after that point I would only rest or read books until I drifted off. This gave me a flexible, but theoretically fixed, time to always complete the rite, and I’ve been much more reliable with it since.

And then, to my surprise, my husband wanted to join in. We now take turns sharing four points of gratitude from earlier in the day, appreciating and remarking upon our mutual joy. We read the final lines together and then we share the water or tea upon reversion. In so doing, we both wind down our days at the same time, and on most nights will subsequently go to sleep together shortly thereafter.

This has become a treasured end to my days, a shining point of gratitude in and of itself to be able to complete a tiny ritual with my “Kemetic ally” partner, to be mindful and present as a pair, and frequently to be reminded of the many others in our lives who bring us such happiness. When we acknowledge the aspects of our day that lifted our spirits, we connect with countless others, invoking the moments in which our lives touched with some other passing person, and remembering that that connection has profound power.

The chance to talk with a family member chases away anxiety that I will be alone in a difficult time. A moment when a barista gave me a little extra coffee just because he could gives me faith in the kindness of others. The opportunity to attend a free concert fills me with profound awe at the talent of the individuals before me, bringing their unique backgrounds and years of practice together to create something new and amazing that will never sound exactly that way ever again.

And Bast is vibrantly aflame and brilliant with the heat of existence in every instant of these moments. As Ra’s vast Eye she is connected not only with so many other goddesses but so many ways of being; she burns with light that touches everything that can be sensed and lived and loved. She would have us light up the world with the things that make us grateful and in so doing inspire others to remember why it is worthwhile to keep pushing on through the difficult times to seek these beautiful moments. These incredible moments of connection with other individuals who might set our own spirits ablaze with wonder at how they choose to live, create, share, and be.

I sit here in a coffee shop after a late night of studies, writing this and knowing I’m still not capturing the whole of it. I asked her about it once, sitting in shrine and worrying about my inability to stay in touch with everyone I wished to connect with, and she responded. Not in words, but with an image of brilliant gold fire linking between me and so many others I’ve met: my family, my friends, my clients, my colleagues, my online acquaintances, my offline encounters, and on and on it spread, through their connections, and the connections of their connections, and farther still. It brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful “problem” to have, to be connected to and care about so many brilliant and fascinating individual people that I lost track of them amidst Her glow of lives entwined. How amazing it is to see how we impact one another with actions great and small. How incredible that this reminder stemmed from a nightly act with one of my most treasured connections, the connection I share with my husband.

How grateful I am to worship a goddess who reminds me of such things, and keeps me doing my damnedest to live a life that burns through even a little of the darkness in the world.

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2016-02-13 05:17 pm
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Purifying Away Guilt

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

Sometimes you receive advice that really hits home, without previously having so much as an inkling as to how badly you needed those precise words.

I have not written as much as I used to, shifting from weekly to monthly writing. Most of those monthly posts have either been very technical in nature, focused on a specific ritual, or have revolved around my health. The health issues have left many things up in the air, but I have largely learned to manage the remaining symptoms. Thus, after several months of only entering shrine sporadically — afraid of yet another nose bleed or perhaps in too much pain that day to speak or kneel — I changed my diet, my sleeping habits, my workload, and I  have been able to return to daily practice.

But it still felt off, like I was greeting my gods through some kind of fog. They were there just as They always had been, but muffled, or father away than I had expected when I returned. I was having a very difficult time focusing while I was sitting in shrine, found myself making more errors out of clumsiness in action or speech than I ever had before, and grew frustrated. So when recently given the opportunity, I asked Hemet (AUS) about the prospect of returning to shrine after a time of impurity. While I thought I was looking for some sort of ritual, or specific words of purification, her response instead lead me to consider if I was feeling guilty about being away.

Yes, I was. My body may have been able to come back to shrine, but my mind and heart were still wrapped up in what had taken me away from serving my gods. They were not angry with me, I was angry with myself. In fact, I have been livid, still fighting against the situation that had left me feeling powerless, even though that situation is largely past. My impurity had shifted from physical ailments to a constant eating of my own heart, a self-imposed weight of “should have done better” and “didn’t try hard enough.” It hindered me.

I took time that evening to process how those life events made me feel like I had lost my personal agency. Then I considered my response to those events, choosing to make necessary changes so that I could be well and get back to my gods, my work. All of this has been a means of reclaiming that sense of control, and even during the process, my gods never left me. In fact, on the days when I was most ready to give up on my body, Father would show up and remind me of what He told me when we first met, when He first insisted upon my developing a greater sense of self-respect.

Your body is my temple, He would say.

Now I know that has become a loaded phrase for some, but He never pushed those words in any sort of “you should treat it better” guilting nonsense, but instead used it as a reminder that I was His, that my physical form was the vehicle through which I worshiped Him. My body was what came to shrine and presented offerings, what danced and sang for Him and Mother on the good days, what sat on the floor and still managed the basics on the bad days, and what prayed in bed to Them both and visited them in the duat on the days when that was the only option while I physically recovered. It was a humbling reminder, and more than once what helped me to keep going as I worked to sort out what my new normal was going to look like, and how I could still reach my goals despite necessary changes.

Now I am back, and it is time to recognize that I did my damnedest while I was away so that I could return, and time to use that recognition to let all the guilt go. Wash it away and start fresh. Even just coming to terms with this much made a world of difference during last night’s senut. My gods seemed so bright again, so clear. I think as I continue to live in this mindset, take each day as it comes and acknowledge my day’s efforts as the best I can do in the now, things will just get better and better.

Looking forward to sharing more again here with all of you.

(Thank you, Hemet. <3)

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2016-01-06 10:28 am
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An Offer of Execration

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

While not formally trained as a priest in my religion, my gods do often ask me to share my personal heka with others, or invite others to participate in some way. It’s part of my service to them, to also provide spiritual service to others. This also takes the form of the divination services I offer for Set and Bast, and my work for my community.

Long story short: Father wants me to smack things on His smacking day next Wednesday (1/13 — The Day Set Kills the Rebels.) I’m afraid I don’t have the energy, time or money for the intricate heka I managed last year during Red Week, but I sure as heck can still find time to pray and burn things!

If you would like me to add a thing/emotion/idea to execrate (my path is not one of adding names to the list, so no specific people please) feel free to shoot me an email at Sarytsenuwi@gmail.com. You can also just ask me to write an X down and I will include it as “those things which (person) desires to be destroyed.” Bast will then be honored and asked to purify all those who have just included their hurts or grievances in the execration.

Please send me any messages before next Tuesday at midnight, as I will be up at 6 am (honoring Set’s hour of the morning in my timezone) for the ritual. If you’d like to just do something similar yourself, that is awesome as well.

Go go gadget smiting of rebels. ;)

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2015-12-22 11:01 am
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The Longest Night

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

The Eye has returned from Her wandering journey, time away from Her home giving Her the peace and freedom She needed. Many Kemetics celebrated Her return with the Solstice, honoring the growing light, and cheering for the longer days that bring so many of us joy and needed renewal. I love this holiday, and will make offerings to Hethert (in Her syncretization of Hethert-Nut in particular) with the Establishment of the Celestial Cow in the coming days. Yet the Solstice night for me is a day for my Father, a day to acknowledge His longest fight of the year against the Uncreated One, and to give what offerings I can to lend Him encouragement and aid.

This year I was out of town visiting my biological family, and so a full, formal ritual like the one I celebrated the year prior with my Kemetic family was not a possibility. But I ordered a fancy steak when we went out to eat, and silently offered it to Set before digging in myself. I wore one of my t-shirts with his image on it. Once home, I took some time by myself to briefly visit a shrine space I’ve established in the duat to light candle and incense, pour cool water and beer. Then, while preparing for bed, Set made one more request of me. He wanted the very first song I’d ever written for Him, and He wanted it sung aloud.

I was nervous. I’ve had sinusitis for three and a half months now, and with it a bevy of unpleasant pain in my throat, ears, and mouth. I caved and made an appointment with a specialist in January, but as of right now my voice is still a fickle thing. Sometimes here, sometimes raspy, and sometimes gone. It’s been a challenge, separating my identity from the singing I’ve always been proud of, and finding other things to focus on besides my music in the meantime. But He kept asking, so I tried, not at full voice, but enough to carry the melody well. I made it through, despite a bit of pain, and realized that what hurt I experienced was no worse than what I feel at present when I have a conversation with someone. My fear about damaging my voice permanently was what had actually been holding me back, not the physical discomfort. Yet the experience of singing again after so many weeks of avoiding it was so fulfilling that I realized I needed to find balance in this aspect of my recovery as well.

The experience reminded me that while balancing my identity with other aspects of who I am and what I bring to the world is important, vocal recovery is worth fighting for. I sang and I remembered my power there, even if it was just one quiet, tired voice at midnight rather than the operatic soprano I once was, able to sing over choirs and pounding drums. I sang and I reconnected to emotions I’d been repressing for several days, as part of this particular visit home involves sorting out the severity of a serious health concern for one of my family members, and helping other family members get past their denial of the situation so that they can better care for her with whatever lies ahead. I have shoved my own feelings aside to get what needs to be done, done. Those feelings came back, and I turned on the shower briefly and cried where it would not be heard, but then felt a weight lifted for doing so. I can acknowledge the hurts I accrue while fighting my battles, while still being strong enough to continue to wield my spear at my Father’s side. I have seen the scars that mar His skin as the night wears on and the snake strikes and strikes again. He will win as He always does, but that victory does not come without cost, and that cost provides lessons, new tactics to stay one step ahead on the next night’s battle.

I am so grateful that my Father showed me these things, that He knew how much fighting my way through that one song would help me understand what needed to change. I will keep going, but I will do so with the recognition that I cannot do so clouded by fear. That the things I love matter, and will be my strengths as I work to care for others.

Dua Set. <3

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2015-11-11 11:32 pm

A Prayer for Veteran’s Day

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

Last night during my daily ritual, my Parents asked me to do something formal in their Name for Veteran’s Day. So today I wrote and completed the brief bit of heka below. I just finished the rite a few minutes ago, and having spoken the prayer, received permission from my Parents to publicly share the text in case it proves helpful for anyone else on this day. I began the rite at 11:00 pm in my time zone, a nod to Armistice Day, even if my current schedule would not allow me to complete it in the afternoon, as tradition would normally dictate. My thanks to all those who have served honorably, and my hope that upon your return home that you find whatever support you need.

Honor to Set, warrior standing before the king.
Strong of Arm, slayer of the uncreated.
Great of Voice, whose words challenge the poisons of the world.
We give you homage,
We thank you for protecting the dawn from the snake,
That we might find light in the midst of darkness.

Honor to Bast, defender standing before the kingdom.
She Who protects the Two Lands and the Akhu.
Goddess of Family and Home, whose love comforts those who remain.
We give you homage,
We thank you for the experiential power of living,
That we might know joy in the midst of grief.

To the ones who serve at present, protecting their families and their nations: (Name active duty here)

Set’s strength is your strength,
His leg is your leg, you walk with courage on your path.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His sharp eye is your eye, you see what is before you.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His drive is your drive, you have vitality for your goals.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His spear is in your hand, you are defended from harm.

To those who have served in the past, and have created — or are working to create — new lives: (Name retired here)

Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her fire is your fire, you have space to express what you carry.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her Valor is your Valor, you have gratitude if you wish it.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her love is your love, you connect with those who support you.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her Truth is your Truth, you make of your life what you need.

To the shining ones who have gone before us,
but who served while among the living:
We thank you, our blessed dead, for all that you have done.
We honor you with the lives that you fought to protect
And seek to remember your service through our actions.
A thousand of every good thing to you, oh beautiful ones.
May Set, Lord of the Northern Sky, inspire you with his nightly victory.
May Bast, Lady of Heaven, watch over you as you shine on high.
You are welcomed in our homes this night and all nights.
A light will be kept for you, incense and offerings left by your shrine.
We speak your names and you live: (Name veteran Akhu here)

He before whom the sky shakes,
Hear these words and honor them.
Grant those who defend us your courage.

Devouring one,
Hear these words and honor them.
Grant those who defend us your flame.

May you satisfy yourselves with the repast to the right and to the left.

Dua Set! Dua Bast! May it become!

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2015-11-10 07:48 pm
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Shared from WordPress

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

The Lamentations of Set and Nit for the Transgender Dead – http://wp.me/pklcu-er

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2015-11-08 12:30 am

To Honor Set and Bast

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

A Dialogue of Light

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!

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2015-09-28 07:23 pm
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Autumn

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

Autumn sings to me via her unique, improvised melody of change. She is different from the other seasons, so distinctly herself, and integral to my senses and psyche in a way no other time of year can match. Her wind brings cooler air, the crisp scent of living things casting away the old in a spiral dance of saffrons and russets and earthen hues all claimed back to the earth himself. She is the time of harvesting grains and gourds, but also harvesting ideas and sun-kissed inspiration, readying it for the time of gathering by the hearth to place pen to paper, paint to canvas, voice to tales, and beyond.

She is all the stories that bring communities together in the winter months, families sharing hot drink beside the flame that keeps away both chill and dark. She is the advancing night sky, the twinkling lights of the ancestors above us spending lengthier hours guarding from on high. She is a time of connection as we return to our homes, re-enacting rituals of generations or crafting new traditions as we are called to do, treasuring those internal spaces all the more for the comfort of emotional and physical warmth after coming in from the cold.

In the traditional land of my spirituality this time of year would also represent a time of cooling, a closing of windows, a preparation of shrines for the colder points of the year. Yet the harvest was still long off; the third month of Akhet includes festivals to welcome the still-rising Nile, greeting the flood before it recedes and growth begins. It was a time to ask the blessings of Hethert, who presides over the month, and to continue efforts towards ones goals.

I appreciate this contrast, and find my blessings in the closeness I feel to others in my small corner of the world as the sun wanders away and we gather together in the darkness to await the Eye’s return. I find beauty in the light we create through shared meals, shared stories, shared moments of internal creativity brought to the forefront. We have more reason look within and subsequently encouragement from those who gather beside us to bring it without, to share and draw closer to one another. My personal goals often involve doing things for others, serving the communities I care for, and so this time of year gives me tremendous opportunity to do so. The sun sets earlier and rises later, so all the more reason for ritual candles to be lit, all the more reason for communal songs to be sung. I am given purpose in this season, both as I celebrate it here in Pennsylvania, and as I might have celebrated it in Egypt.

That purpose can only be fulfilled if I also look to my own needs, and Autumn holds me in that regard. She reminds me of transitions, of the only constancy in life being that nothing is constant. She allows me to let go of what was old, let it wither and feed the changes that will come again in time. There are always new beginnings, She says, but those beginnings require a casting away of what might hold you back.

A leaf falls, and I give it my difficulties with trust.
A leaf falls, and I name it remembered trauma.
A leaf falls, and the wind carries away my belief that I am worthless.
A leaf falls, and I watch my fears about my health drift away.

They are not magically gone, of course. It will take time for them to return to the earth, rot away, and become that which feeds new growing things in the soil. In the meantime, the limbs of the beloved oak outside my window are laid bare, as are my emotions: raw, naked, unadorned with the beautiful lie that everything is always “okay.”

But new leaves will grow, after many new returns of the sun, rising and passing overhead as I struggle towards acceptance and adjustment. Each dawn brings me a little closer to the final fresh start that I crave, each dusk gives me a night of creative effort and community. Autumn grants me connection to my spirit through artistic endeavor by candle light. Autumn grants me connection to those who so kindly remind me that they care as they share their stories in turn. I adore Her, the spirit of Her that lives in these Appalachian mountains. She works in tandem with my Father to help me break, then change, then grow again. They are a powerful team, the small aspect of the god Set which dwells in Western Pennsylvania, and the Autumnal netjeri of a season and a city and its people.

I light a candle for them, I sing for them, I write of their message for all who find this time difficult or painful for any number of reasons. My hope is that in sharing some aspect of why this season proves to be a blessing for me, that perhaps the darkness will feel even the slightest bit less overwhelming for others. I will gladly raise my mug to your own inspiration and connection with those you love. Be well, and may your life be changed for the better.

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2015-09-06 11:55 am

Kemetic Orthodox: Year 23, Sarytsenuwi: Year 27

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

I believe I have mentioned in a previous post that 23 has been an auspicious number for me for a very long time. There is admittedly no mystical association or scientific reasoning to it, merely the nostalgia for a very young version of myself who was proud to memorize that she was born on the 23rd of August, and decided that number must be *very* significant simply by virtue of the fact that my parents always made me feel like I was the most special person alive on that day. (Imagine a curly-headed eight year old clutching her new Draco-from-Dragonheart toy while stuffing Pizza Hut into her face and being physically unable to stop smiling. This covers it fairly well!)

Over the years that sense of “23″ as significant developed into a greater sense of renewal, first being linked to the start of each new school year (which more than once fell on my actual birthday). It also became a source of feeling a little unique when I first started digging into astrology around age 13, and discovered that “my 23″ granted me a weird (and often hilariously accurate) placement of being born on the cusp of Leo and Virgo.  More seriously, my personal 23rd year was one of tremendous growth and change, casting away self-deprecating practices and harmful connections, and establishing the very beginnings of the loving partnership I share with my husband.

As an adult, once I joined the House of Netjer and learned about the history of my new religion, I occasionally wondered what would happen come the official Year 23 of my faith. What would I make of being 27 years old? Would these little moments of signficance attached to the number my childhood self decreed as important continue? Was it time to let the old amusement go?

26 was… hard. I worked two different jobs over the course of the year, trying to contribute financially to my household while simultaneously going to graduate school full time. I lost the grandparent who was always closest to me, and in losing her, fear that I have most likely lost the final reason for any of my cousins on my father’s side of the family to maintain much interest in interacting with me moving foward. Also, for most of the year I was also planning a fairly large and extravagant wedding (in the Italian-American way of things that capital-M Matters to my mother’s side of the family.) It was beautiful, I will forever be grateful, and I have memories from that amazing day that I will cherish forever, but I feel that it is fair to acknowledge that attempting to juggle all of these things took a significant toll on my health.

I wrote about the health issue in far too many places. More important to me now is to acknowledge how much I allowed it to control me and define me. I lost myself in it, lost sight of the other things I still do and contribute. I began to forget my worth, my value to my communities and those who love me, and could only think of myself in the context of being chronically ill. Experiences at Wep Ronpet helped me to finally let go of some of the emotions wrapped up in this unfair assumption that I only had value if I could do things for others, as did my spiritual Family’s acceptance of my grief. And I do feel that I was grieving, grieving for my grandmother, and grieving for my past, healthier self. I may not get her back, and I think that I may be getting much closer to accepting that. Now to accept that the me that exists in this time is no less worthy of my appreciation and care.

That care is coming mainly in the form of changing jobs. My last day at the high-stress marketing position was this past Friday: it was making me ill, perhaps in part because of how antithetical it was to how I view myself as caretaker, defender and advocate, the aspects my Parents represent in my life and which are core ethical values I hold myself to on a daily basis. Instead, I am trying to focus on school. Focus on getting into a good internship, focus on using the hobbies that feed my spirit to try to make some money on the side. (Given the wages I was earning as a temp, if I can actually start selling some of my sculptures on a regular basis and calculate in what I’m no longer spending on gas and parking, I’ll not actually be that far off from my previous earnings. Plus, it brings me joy. This is worthwhile.)

Care is also coming in the form of having more time for service, which feeds my spirit and reminds me of why I matter. I don’t *need* to serve to have value, but it really does improve my spirits and self-image to do so. There can be balance here as well. It is easier in this particular moment to speak of balance, when I have somehow been granted a reprieve from the flares associated with the health issues for several weeks after months of continuous symptoms, but I hope to use this time of energy to lay the foundation for how to buoy myself when the next flare does occur. It will not overwhelm me again. I have heard the words of my Beloved, and I am not afraid.

In the Aset oracle of the year, we were reminded that, “After disorder, there is order. After sadness, there is joy. After violence, there is peace. After work, there is rest. After the year of beginning, there is the year of continuing what you have begun. My Son offers strength and power to those who accept the task.”

My sister and w’ab priest A’aqytsekhmet reminded me of these words a few days ago, and how true they already feel to me, a mere month into the new year.

But what is the task set before me? My new position of service to the community and new oaths associated with becoming Shemsu-ankh? Perhaps. Both feel as though I’ve taken a name (or been entrusted with a title) that allows me to continue prior work but in a more formalized capacity.

Yet I’m almost certain there’s something more that I’m missing. Something else that this time of rest is supposed to help with, prepare me for… I don’t know. It’s this gap, like once I tore the “illness as identity” away and refused to continue feeding it with the power of my acknowledgement, there was a hole left behind that leaves me wondering about my purpose, for the first time since I made the career shift from professor to counselor (though have since realized I could actually be both if I choose, and tossing aside the binary of one path or the other was brilliant — but that’s a story for another day!) There’s just… something I’m missing, or perhaps something I’ve lost sight of during the period of difficulties. I hope that I’ll figure it out over the course of this next year.

Given that it’s a “23″ — I’ll try to be ready for anything!

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2015-09-06 10:57 am

A Month of Written Devotion #23-31

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

So I actually did finish this prompt back in early August (roughly a day late). I just never got around to transferring the remaining posts over here for consistency. Life… well, life just happened and time to write for anything outside of work or school has been scarce! But I hope these are enjoyable, even a month and change after the fact.

Blessing

Twenty three has been my lucky number since I was old enough to have memorized my birthday. August 23rd, the source of my incredibly stupid joke about being a “Lego” – Leo/Virgo’s ridiculous cusp child who has all the fiery inspiration to create and build but insists that every little block will go just so. But it felt special to be connected to that particular 23, a tiny blessing.

23 was also a damn good year following the massive shitstorm of change and health nonsense and depression that was 21 and 22.

23 was when I fully, completely, accepted that You were real. All of you. And what a marvelous blessing that has been.

With all that in mind: a brief song for You.

A blessing on your spear 
Oh my Father, Oh my strength
A blessing on your arm
As you fight through night’s length
A blessing on your shout
Oh my Father, Oh my voice
May my words reach your ears and Become

A blessing on your knives
Oh my Mother, Oh my fire
A blessing on your eyes
That your watch shall never tire
A blessing on your song,
Oh my mother, Oh my love
May my words reach your ears and Become

A blessing on your blade
Oh my general, Oh my guide
A blessing on your wings
that reflect the golden skies
A blessing on your power
Oh my general, Oh great Sun
May my words reach your ears and Become

A blessing on your stars
Oh beloved, Oh my heart
A blessing on your smile
That shall tear my hurts apart
a blessing on your dance
Oh beloved, Oh my joy
May my words reach your ears and become.

A blessing on your breath
Oh grandmother, Oh midwife
A blessing on your hands
Carrying new souls to life
A blessing on your ka
Oh grandmother, Oh my soul
May my words reach your ears and become.

Comfort

The pulse of pain settles into a steady rhythm behind my eye, but your hand is cool and damp upon my brow within a minute of my finally being able to rest. I bury my face further into the frog-shaped pillow I dedicated to you, having finally realized there is no ignoring this one, nausea and dizziness accompanying what is no longer “just a headache.” You keep offering that gentle caress on my head, a soft squeeze on my shoulder the final thing I am aware of before I slip away from consciousness, so grateful to briefly escape the malfunctioning aspects of a body that I otherwise strive to be grateful for.

Sometimes I even dream of you, and you sing lullabies in a language I do not know. I am an infant in arms again, released from all adult responsibility and care to rest completely as eight different voices rise from your lips and the oldest of melodies tells me in ways beyond the incomprehensible words that it’s fine, quiet now, it’s all going to be just fine.

I wake and have more than once been brought to tears at the realization that the pain is gone, gradually orienting myself to how far the sun has often set by the time you bring me back. Thank you for your comfort, Heqat. I cannot fathom why you care so very much for me when I hurt, how you are so willing to hold me until the worst of all things subsides.

Knowledge

I wish to study You:
In part through the texts,
Learning to read and speak
Those ancient words that might
Flow from my lips and be heard
An offering of my time
And my learning 
So that You might hear me sing 
In the once-sung tongue 
Of your earlier days.

I wish to know You:
Absorb every line of your image
Consider the meaning within
And without the shifting myriad
Of beautiful forms that have
Defined and re-defined
What it is to know and seek Your gaze.

I wish to understand You:
Contemplate each motion
You make in the Universe
Capturing but a fraction of all
You are and do
But in that instant
Of scholarship leading 
To knowledge guiding
To understanding

The effort and journey shall have been worth every brilliant second
Of experiencing You
Beautiful family
Guardians and teachers
Guides and parents
I shall know you as all of these
And for that moment
Far, far more

Growth

I believe that They have all helped me to grow, each with their own lessons and strengths. Yet Hethert-Nut’s teachings were perhaps the least expected, and so the most intriguing to me to address in this space.

Hethert-Nut helped me grow in kindness, albeit a kindness largely directed towards myself. She embraced my imperfections in Her vast, starry arms and showed me the beauty there. Each scar, each wrinkle, each curve or line that shifted with time became a star on my body, just as She was so fully bedecked in light.

She helped me grow beyond discomfort or shame, demanding that I join Her in the abandon of dancing alone to the music of my mind, asking me to wear blue skirts and silver jewelry that flowed and shone like the ocean of Her sapphire sky.

Hethert-Nut asked me to be bigger than my assumptions of gender, to embrace the feminine in however I chose to define it. With Aset-Hatmehyt beside Her, Hethert-Nut challenged me to accept beauty as a word that could be granted me without the assumption that the giver of such a word was lying, or thought me lesser for picking such a description.

So much growth occurred Her hand, even as She always accepted where I was in the process. She astounds me.

Balance

His anger is cool and unforgiving
Against the flare and wane 
of Her swift rage
Yet both seethe at the destruction 
Of Ma’at in their domain
The visions of injustice 
Amongst a people who They protect
Yet who never seem to protect themselves.

Still, there is another to defend.

He turns to Her, 
desert wind stirring at His breath
The dry heat before the storm
Touching each word 
“Hail to you, Bast.”

She nods in turn,
dark soil shifting
beneath feet turned 
Knife-wielding paws.
“Hail to you, Set.”
Her words liquid smooth as 
The oncoming rain
Against a green hued stone.

They move to the barque
Bast taking Her place behind
The sun-crowned king.
Set leaps to the prow in silence,
Spear in hand and shield at the ready.

The mesketet is balanced 
As it sails beyond 
the world of the living.
The mandjet shall return 
Defended by two
Who maintain the balance 
Of this world and the next.

Lost

Thank you, for pulling me out of the darkness.

Thank you for hauling me away from everything in my life, far enough away that I could see it from the outside, far enough so I could watch it fester and rot and be nauseated at how very lost in the infection of self-hatred I had become.

Thank you for letting me lean on you as I sobbed in solitude, for I was not strong enough then (am barely so now) to do so in front of anyone else.

Thank you for giving me your anger that it could fuel so many changes, fuel the lighthouse of where I knew I wanted to be, fuel the fire under my ass to actually walk one wretched step at a time towards that shimmering guide.

Thank you for celebrating when I made progress. Thank you for pissing me off when I fell down and back so that I’d get up again and keep moving, even if out of sheer cussedness.

Thank you for not giving me up for lost.

Today, I like the person I am.

The person I was? She would never have believed it possible.

Encouragement

Heru-wer stared me in the eyes today.
I asked Him,
“Will this be the year I know you,
As it was my Mother’s this year,
And Heqat’s the year before?”
I swear He smiled, 
for all that His sharp face is tipped with a beak
And I am already certain that I know the answer 
Without any given words.

Heru-wer, I have not been able to write of you as I have the others.
We are working partners, You and I,
Though I honor and worship you as I do all Netjeru,
I do not have the emotional weight there. 
But now your laughter,
Rich and golden thick,
Is ringing in my ears and it is
Unfamiliar
But encouraging.
So very encouraging to *hear* You on your birthday,
And to hold in my mind the unspoken promise
Of a beautiful journey to come.

Endings

There is only an ending to what has been,
But even that ending becomes the foundation
Of all that is yet to come.
We shall continue:
You for eternity
Me for but this short time I have to walk this world.
But we shall continue together
Using ending after ending
To create and craft a future
Enlivened by the moments shared
Between five gods
and a woman who loves Them.

Dear…

Dear gods of my family,

I intend to write You each a letter on the day I will be celebrating the Kemetic new year. I will not be sharing those letters publicly, but writing them by hand and keeping them at your shrine for the next 360 days.

In the meantime, thank you for guiding me to do this. It has been a pleasure and an honor, as well as a solid reassurance that I can find ways of honoring you even in the most hectic of times.

My love to all of you, I will write again soon.

Your daughter and beloved,
Sarytsenuwi

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2015-07-24 09:11 am
Entry tags:

Month of Written Devotion #19-22: Memories, Loyalty, Weakness, and Strength

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

Memories

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.

Loyalty

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.

Weakness

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.

Strength

http://catfolk.org/track/walk-forth-in-strength

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.