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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.

Wake Up

Aug. 23rd, 2016 01:03 pm
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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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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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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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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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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.

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

Companionship

If most of my devotions throughout this month long effort wind up directed to Set, it is not for lack of love of, and devotion to, the other gods in my line-up. But my Father is always present in a manner that the others aren’t, available both in moments of formal ritual and the ridiculous nonsense of everyday life. He’s always been that way, a companion as much as a god, or perhaps asking me to be His companion (the concept of Set acting like the Doctor has been written about by a friend of mine here:https://gbmarian.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-companions-of-seth/).

If I reach out, He’s there. I don’t know why He’s opted to be so readily available to me, but I do my damnedest to prove myself worth the time. Sometimes that’s in the standard way: he gets a daily offering of coffee each morning and a small dedication ritual, regardless of whether or not I’m pure enough for other formal rites. I’ve not missed that in what feels like a very, very long time, and suspect that the next time I do my whole day will feel off.

Sometimes it’s anything but standard: I’ve lifted weights in His name, invited Him to be present at a metal shows (and flinging massive dudes off my tiny 5’5’’ frame on the edge of the mosh is made vastly more entertaining when you’ve got Set laughing His ass off in your ear), cooked for Him (spice-tastic), watched science fiction together (A mutual favorite is Klingon heavy Star Trek episodes. He’s right there with me debating how His khopesh would fare against a batleth, or if He’d prefer to use His spear.) He tells me again and again that He loves these moments of companionship, these moments of experiencing what humanity can offer.

But the companionship also extends to the internal thoughts I want to share with Him. Things about gender identity and sexuality that have become complicated with the awareness of my privilege in how the rest of the world reads my physical body. Companionship there is Him listening, Him seeing and knowing and loving the whole of me, Him telling me to be proud of who I am and know myself to be regardless of however the world may view me.

So, yes. I am gladly, and proudly, Set’s worshipper, daughter, and coffee-offering companion. Dua Set!

Friendship

I don’t really view my relationships with the Netjeru as “friendships” per se. Even Set (who as I noted previously is happy to accept my more casual interactions and offerings) is still not an entity I could ever see myself referring to as my “friend.”

Where do I find friendship in my interactions with the gods? I find it in the human beings that They have helped me come to know as I’ve walked Their path. I have developed deep friendships, friendships which progressed at a rate that sometimes unnerved me, often with people I only see in person every few months, if at all. I have forged friendships with Kemetics across the whole damn globe, friendships that wear down every instinctive wall I throw up between myself and anyone new because trust is something I have always found exceedingly difficult, and which life has, on occasion, made even more difficult with its twists and turns.

Yet trust just gradually seems to happen with the people my gods have directed me to worship beside. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we’re all talking about these core, heart-hitting aspects of our lives; that we’re all trusting each other with information which we know would make other people raise an eyebrow and doubt our grasp of reality. I don’t know if it’s some unknown factor that unites us, something that mutually led us to this particular form of the divine, or if our joint efforts to live by ma’at just make it a little easier to talk to each other about things.

It’s not always easy. We don’t all magically get along. We’re still individuals with different backgrounds and values and means, and we can fight like internet-proverbial honey badgers when these values don’t line up. But for the Kemetics who have become my friends, the folks I’ve been privileged enough to worship with, laugh with, sing with, write with, and pray with … It’s been amazing. They are treasured friends and in many cases family. I thank Netjer every day for their presence in my life.

Love

I close my eyes and focus on the sound of my heartbeat, allowing myself to drift from this world to the next, finding myself garbed in white save for the ritual jewelry They have asked me to wear in their honor. I move swiftly to the oven, practice my focus over here by baking the bread by hand, going through each step as if it were my physical hands and not this transient form in the other side which kneads and rolls and shoves and finally places it in the oven.

While it bakes I move to the temple itself, always astounded at how large it has become. I wash my hands and bare feet and face with the pitcher of water placed at the outer door, then move within, torches lighting along each side their flames hidden in lotus columns. I place incense before each statue that I have carved at Their request with my will, moving past those gods who I have come to love and respect through varied and limited interaction, to the gods that walk with me each day as Parents and guides. Set and Bast guard the entire building, in full animal theophany, massive statues to the left and the right of the great offering table, with a beautiful painted stela behind, depicting Them both in Ra’s boat. They receive prayers and incense, I ask them to wake and listen for what They wish of me this day.

I move to the left of their great altar, down a long passage that leads back outside, winding down the hill on which the great temple is perched, over a rocky path and then to a river’s edge. It is almost always night here, as Hethert-Nut prefers. She greets me from her star-strewn blanket over head, while Aset-Hatmehyt and Heqat emerge from the river itself or rise from where They had waited beside its bank, embodied and warm and full of more life than I can stand. They take me into the river and purify me, submerging me and lifting me again, touching my forehead, my hands, my lips. It is so gentle that I feel no discomfort, so seemingly as it should be that I feel no fear below the great waters.

I rise when they are finished and fill a second pitcher from a place farther upstream from that where I bathed. I return to the front of the temple and find the bread ready, and a local wind netjeri assists in cooling it. I then move through the temple, making offerings of bread and water to all gods, beer and wine where requested, again listening to what else may be needed, but They also insist that I speak in turn.

And in the moments of offering and speaking there is love present, love built into every inch of this self-constructed temple in the duat. Love when I take the time to bake the bread by hand, love in the hands of the goddesses that purify me both for this purpose and for my own well being. Love when I have been gone too long and Set and Bast awake to the incense nigh shouting, perhaps even appearing in flesh to wrap me up in an embrace and ask where the hell I’ve been!

It is an all encompassing thing, the love that I feel when I am able to serve. To walk the halls built over years, to greet the gods in as direct way as I know how, and to receive such a powerful affection in return for my time and efforts. It has always been worth it, may it always continue to be so.

Anger

She challenged me in order to best assist me, knowing I needed the goading, telling me to let my Father in, to let Him rage.

I thought back to times before: His cool fire enforcing my spine as I sat erect and unbending on the phone with my abuser. My voice hardened as it entwined with His, the words coming from my mouth unshakeable: “It is over.” And it was, after years of waffling and trying to make it work and giving of myself that which I did not wish to give:  it was done in one night.

I let Him in again when I began to see how one member of my family verbally assaulted the other, and it was His shield and spear in my hands as I stood in the hall, unafraid to block someone a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier before he could run away from his deeds and said, “No more.”

It has been His storming in my eyes when I read of the injustices in the world, His thunder pounding in my spirit when I see silence in response to murder and famine and plague. His winds throwing me forward to find more ways that I do more, be more, help more: anything.

And it His anger that came through me that night as I screamed of my own sorrows and frustrations and pains. His rage that carried mine from where I have kept it so tightly hidden, entrenched in politics and social etiquette and the training from childhood to be so very polite. He released it and we ran with it together, grief burning away before our great voice, shame attacked as though it were the hideous sneak itself, stabbed and crushed and destroyed in the power of our mutual fury.

I was exhausted when He left me, but I still stood, still functioned. For if the anger is His, the strength to bear that anger is my own, and as His daughter, I will not turn away from necessary rage.

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

Happiness

I really… wanted to write about happiness yesterday, but I failed. It became a bitter taste in my mouth each time that I tried, sitting down to the computer, trying to let my mind gently wander in the way some creative types do when seeking inspiration, and constantly finding my focus shifting back to the skin issues or the pain in my abdomen. I do not want to let my as-of-yet still undiagnosed auto-immune disorder control me. I do not want to allow the hives and blisters that appear following medication, illness, and my natural cycle to keep me from doing things. I do not want to let the fatigue of my body that accompanies those hives become a fatigue of the mind and emotions as well as something physical.

I’m doing better, most days. Finding a balance between how much to share with people, how much to ask for help, how much to be vulnerable and honest in my “I’m sorry, I’m really not up to that today” versus avoiding letting it define me, avoiding offloading too much personal information, avoiding overwhelming people who don’t want to know, don’t have the spoons to know.

But yesterday it was too much for me to maintain a sense of happiness throughout the day, to accomplish everything I’d wanted to, and so the prompt sat there, nigh taunting me for my eventual decision to just… call the day a loss, until my husband dragged my ass to the park for a walk.

The park was needed, the light exercise needed. My heart rate rose which made the hives a bit worse, but the movement was a blessing and the sun on my face a reminder of why I view that golden heat and light as something divine. Hethert-Nut (leaning strongly Hethert) told me to reach out for my husband’s hand (he’d been respectfully giving me some space) and I did, apologizing for my shitty mood and behavior earlier in the day. My husband was understanding, and in his responses I heard Heru-wer’s strength, a promise of protection and fierce love that my partner does not always realize himself capable of, but I know to be there and am grateful for.

I am a Set child, independent and stubborn to a tee. I don’t want to give in to anything, least of all my own malfunctioning body. But happiness yesterday came from a few moments of vulnerability-in-love, trust-in-love. I am grateful for that recognition. Grateful for Hethert and Heru-wer and the example They so gladly set. Grateful for my husband who is a blessing to me in ways that even the gods recognize.

Sadness

It is no wonder that the pressures of the world feel greater when I turn from You,
You who are lapis skinned starlight
And forever full of vitality.
If only I could see as You do
Eons passing by in an instant
Cascading through wars waged between and within humanity,
Shifting through decades of famine and plague,
Twisting lives lived outside of the wholeness of ma’at until their patterns were removed from the vast weavings of your universe.
Perhaps it would be easier then,
Having access to that distant time that I pray will one day be truth,
To look away from the grief I feel over the suffering of my planet,
To look away from the sorrows created by being so very unable to help,
Instead of looking away from You.

Take my face in your hands my lady.
Lift it to yours and then lift me,
As you once lifted Ra between your great horns.
Carry me up within your vast night
Show me more than I can see from the passing of my little life
Make me believe that there is more to be done,
For the people who grieve and for You.

Transformation

I’ve been inspired by this post, because the truth of it is: this city of mine, this amazing, mountainous, river-surrounded city of mine, is absolutely transformative, and I can’t help but feel like They brought me here for a reason.

My life turned upside down in the tail end of my time in D.C. My roommate left a month earlier than planned, so I was alone for the last five or six weeks of packing and saying farewell to my year of life in the city, and I permanently ended the only formalized relationship I’d ever been in at that point in my life, which had persisted through four, largely unhealthy, years of long distance. I selected a graduate school in Pittsburgh, a place I knew nothing about save from my one accepted student visit to Carnegie Mellon five years earlier (and my subsequent decision not to attend because it felt too overwhelming.)

I moved into an apartment that I’d originally selected because I thought I’d be continuing a partnership in it, walked through the too-large space, arranging and rearranging things uselessly and trying to figure out what mattered anymore. Yet my window was high enough in the apartment building, even in August, to look out over the trees and houses that wound down the hillside, eventually coming to rest at the bank of the Allegheny. The river soothed, and I came to watch it each morning as the sun rose, only just starting to study Kemeticism in earnest, but already aware of the concept of Zep Tepi and needing that visual reminder.

My gods filled the spaces that I had torn out or torn apart with so much movement, new challenges, and shifted futures. Set lent me strength on more than one occasion, a vast, surprisingly stable presence that simply flooded me when I was uncertain, and left me aware of what parts of myself mirrored that strength when He departed once again. Bast gave me Her fire and ability to love, flooding me with passion I thought I’d given up on forever when some months after my arrival the opportunity to try to trust someone new with my affections arose. Heqat would come later, after I’d been living here for years, living with my new partner. Her transformation was far more gradual, as She led me into the rivers to wash away old hurts I’d left untended and uncleaned, washing old wounds so they could finally heal, and re-worked stories with me to find pride in the remaining scars.

I have changed so much since that now alien-to-me twenty-two year old arrived in Pittsburgh four years ago. I have been transformed by the rivers, transformed by my gods.

Understanding

There is an unspoken understanding after four years
that this is a connection
Which will change
Drift
Expand
Weaken
Rebound
Rebind
Rekindle
Burn away to ash
Rise like dawn
Rain down again
Renew
Refresh
Replete
Continue.

Always continue.

Continue for a lifetime of walking beside
The one Who would have me
Move forward in the understanding
Of my own self-worth.

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

Hope

What was it that you saw in me, battered and ruined as I was?

There was little left in the husk of a being who had forgotten how to dream and who was so very startled
to have visions of spirit return at all and then you –
you, so bold and living and full of every passion –
who came warring through my despair and would not look away.

Why, I ask, even now,
still struggling to trust that I could be worth your time
did I earn your patience and impatience,
your laughter and your strength?

How could I possibly have merited that
all encompassing fury and the rage,
rage on my behalf,
rage of such magnitude inspired by my sorrow
rage that was the only thing that ever could have proven how desperately
I needed to break from chains of self-loathing,
Break from the power of one who controlled and abused,
Break from a life that was lived only for lack of caring,
Break from the preference of perhaps not living at all.

Was I worth the effort, Father?

I hope, I pray, that the answer is yes.

For there was so little hope of any kind before you came,
So little of me left to dare consider such a concept.

Now I dream again and it is not startling.
I dream of a future of serving You,
A present of protecting others in Your name.

I hope that I might share some small portion of the fire
you returned to me with those who wander in darkness.
Burning brightly enough to help them seek
whatever light this world might yet provide.

Faith

This will be brief, my gods,
As I am tired and worried and stressed
And sleep is the best remedy for all.

But I have faith that you will protect zir from zir sorrow.
I have faith that you will help her keep going after her loss.
I have faith that he will one day play again without pain.
I have faith that you will help me find the right balance of asking for help and keeping things private.

I have faith because I love them all too much to do otherwise.
I have faith because Your presence has carried me this far to aid myself and provide aid in turn.
I believe because the alternative is terrifying.
Difficult though it has long been to trust, I must trust in this.
In You.

Soul

It is good to close my eyes and remember that the core of me

Those several ageless pieces which drive daily aging flesh

Remains healthy and unhindered, and that when You look

You as one small piece that represents the enormity I could not wholly withstand

You see only life, loyalty and my intent.

You see me and then stand embodied:

human and sha-faced, or hound-bodied and sleek,

knowing before I do which aspect will best match my inner form this day.

Shall we walk as Father and child, me in white,

your red beads at my neck, dark spear in my hand?

Shall we run as hounds through the desert

Swifter than the horses that draw chariots before other gods

amused by later human invention?

Or perhaps we shall hunt as both and then neither,

the soul of the red god unbound by any rules of form,

While the voice of His daughter rings with laughter

alive and mad with the rush of the storm she gladly rides.

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

(From this point on, having introduced all of my primary gods, I may write prose, poetry, or song about any number of them, based on the daily prompt. We shall see how this goes!)

Beginning

I believed once, breathed your essence of more-than-is as readily as air,
Felt the dark-furred flesh beneath the palm of my hand and trusted in the heat of it.

It was easier before they taught me to doubt, to simply know and love you.
Easier to read the blessings of a world comprised of a thousand tiny messages and lessons in each glint of the Eye upon rain-kissed grass.

When I faltered it must have been nothing to you, years of silence in one mortal life passing as quickly as those damp, summer afternoons fading to night.

Did you know we would begin again, just before the leaves would turn so many shades of red?
Did you send Him to collect me when the time was right, all sound and crashing thunder of proof to balance your quiet, unwavering shadow?

Our Beginning felt more like an end, my beautiful, patient Mother.
A long-awaited end and answer to so many dewdrop questions left untouched.

Forgiveness

Their fingers entwine,
my goddesses of starlight and time,
fluid, connected,
and radiant in Their sudden wholeness.

They become one vast sky,
full of incomprehensible timelessness
and music resounding in the vibrations of galaxies.

Frogsong and sistra collide with my heartbeat
and they pull me into Them:
beyond my body, my home,
beyond my community, my country,
beyond my continent, my world.

I am overwhelmed in Their shining waters of the sky.
I breathe the universe-as-ocean as though returned to what I knew before life.
I am so very small,
a speck of nothing from other motes of dust
I left behind.

What mistakes were mine, what fears chained me down,
what are they in the presence of such vast possibility?

I am forgiven by my own awakening,
My eyes open to the beauty of infinity
and infinite love.

 Light & Dark

I struggled to write about these concepts separately, because so much of what I love about my gods is Their capacity to contain, and inhabit, both brilliance and shadow. Shifting my focus instead to the combination of the two felt more balanced, more right in that sense of “this is now complete” that I associate with living in ma’at, living in ways that earn me those rare moments of something akin to pride or approval from that vast entity and presence that is all of Them or One at any given moment.

More tangibly, it is both the light and the dark that helps me to connect with Them. I rise before dawn, or kneel after sunset, and striking match to wood a tiny light erupts at my fingertips. I sing the sacred candle-and-incense text I’ve memorized from nigh-daily practice, to a melody my sister in the faith wrote and shared with me, and which I loved from the first time I heard it.

As I sing, I bring match to wick,  then touch the incense to the flickering glow. In the liminal contrast of the dancing flame, the gentle glow at the tip of the scented offering, and the darkness that surrounds me and the shrine, I am carried away from a body that itches and aches, a mind that is too critical and prone to worry. It is the contrast of the shadows of the room and the suddenly golden, fire-lit faces of my five gods that helps me to transition from the profane to the sacred, to greet Them, as pure in body and mind as I can be.

And then They are there, existing with me in this liminal space, taking subsequently offered food and drink, hearing my songs, listening to my prayers, or just holding me as is needed. They are happy with me when aspects of my life shine with blessings, angry alongside me when I speak to Them of the tragedies I see in the world around me and cannot fix.

They are sometimes upset with me or each other, even my Parents: the beautiful, blinding, light of my Mother’s solar clarity as Eye clashing with the shadows and obfuscation of a Father Who breaks things down to improve upon them. Yet in existing as individuals with individual views and perspectives, They seem capable of, at least to a degree, understanding my struggles to walk a life of both light and dark (albeit on a different, mortal scale.)

I am glad to worship gods of both the light and the dark, grateful not to have to pick between the two. There is strength, and wisdom, in both realms.

In the space that exists between, They meet me and I learn.

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

How did you become involved with your devotional topic?

Bast was probably always there, though it would take me nearly two decades to determine that my imaginary cat friend from childhood was something beyond a toddler’s invisible playmate. The Eye of Ra guarded me at different points in my life as what I understood as the Goddess, a spirit guide, a “totem” (before I knew better than to use that terminology), a housecat that appeared in the corner of my eye in the worst nights of collegiate sleep deprivation, and finally as Herself.

Set came next, as a red-furred greyhound with a too-long face and ears that my mind wouldn’t interpret correctly, who showed up in dreams and mental wanderings during the day. He would not let me ignore Him, would not let me continue my life as I was living it, showed me so many things that were too blatant to be coincidence. Within a month of meeting him I ended an abusive relationship of four years, moved out of an unhealthy living environment, and started life fresh in a new city, new graduate program. It hurt like hell while I lived it, but looking back, I remain incredibly grateful.

Hethert-Nut was met in Her component parts, as I initially did not know Her syncretic form existed. Hethert began to appear once I had met Set and Bast as Themselves, and began studying Netjer in earnest, my musical background drawing me to Her, and Her taking an immediate (and so kind, always so kind) interest in turn. Nut was also there in the early days, appearing one night when the skies were clear and the blue at the heart of a candle’s flame drew me into a deeper meditation than I had managed in years. I learned of Hethert-Nut as both Beloved and as a syncretic deity through the Kemetic Orthodox Rite of Parent Divination (RPD), and the pieces fit together perfectly.

Heru-wer and I only began to know each other after the RPD, and our relationship is still a work in progress. I almost feel that in some ways I am not particularly involved with Him, even now, and am not sure if this is something I should be working to rectify, or if He prefers our relationship to remain oriented towards specific tasks, rather than day-to-day interaction. Hopefully time will tell.

Heqat is the most recent addition, having met Her about two years ago now when Her w’abet Maret placed a tiny frog statue in my hands and in my efforts to figure out where I would place the wee votive, a world of artistic ideas just started flying from my lips after months of creative drought. Over the course of the following year, Heqat’s ageless wisdom and inspiration continued to brighten my life, while simultaneously teaching me how to keep some of that energy for my own self-care. A second divination at the next Wep Ronpet gathering revealed Her to be my third Beloved, and She has brought completion to my spiritual family that I did not know was missing.

Your relationship with your devotional topic.

My relationship with my Parents, Set and Bast, has reached a stage of balanced, constant communication, which I am grateful for. For most of the time I’ve identified as Kemetic, I have been closest with Set, both in terms of the ease of our relationship, and the regularity of it. I offer coffee to Him with a small, personal ritual every morning and we chat about the day to come. I can reach out to Him at any time and He will be there, even if the ease of that connection varies based on my health and present mental well being. He will also frequently chuck the “godphone” at my head for attention, which I actually sort of enjoy. It keeps me solid in my beliefs to have a god Who is so constantly LOUD and present and willing to engage with me both in serious ritual and utter ridiculousness (ever attended a metal show with the god of storms? I recommend this thing.)

Only in the last year have I reached something similar with Bast, though it has its own flavor, and took a fair amount of learning on my part to realize that She is highly unlikely to initiate things. The creation of an evening gratitude ritual before bed, something I’m still hammering out the details of but have initiated in a fluid format for the time being, has connected us better on the daily level, outside of formal shrine rites. She and I remain substantially more formal in our interactions than Set and I, but a fierce closeness has developed, which I am grateful for.

As for my Beloveds, Hethert-Nut and Heqat also have strong relationships with me, while Heru-wer remains a god that I approach on occasion. Heqat is perhaps the closest of the three, and that largely in the sense of the familial relationship we share. I call Heqat grandmother because She is so loving and present during our interactions, so willing to share stories, or hear my stories in turn while petting my hair, or leaving a calming hand on my shoulder. She also played a tremendous role in preparing me for, and comforting me following, the loss of my biological grandmother earlier this year. Hethert-Nut is… farther off, in part just because of Her vastness-as-sky, and when She is more embodied, She largely feels like… the encouraging, fun friend who wants you to go out and do more than you’re entirely comfortable with, but know you’ll have a blast if you just give it a shot.

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

So over on tumblr, there has been a project for the month of July to write daily devotionals to gods/spirits of your choice, based on this list of prompts. I’m starting this several days late, but am still determined to give it a shot, and will be posting my responses both on my tumblr and my blog. The prompt works rather perfectly timing-wise in terms of getting back into regular creative offerings right up to the point of my celebration of Wep Ronpet. I’m also hoping it will be a solid way of getting me involved in writing about any sort of spiritual matters again after being eaten by The Weddening (which was lovely, but kind of all-consuming: Italian cultural expectations for weddings – they are a Big Thing!) as well as health stuff, the new job and grad school. It feels like the right time to reconnect with my gods and my spiritual community.

So here goes, prompt #1:

Who - Deity, spirit or chosen devotion for the month

I tried to choose between the five deities who I honor each day in my daily rituals, spending entirely too much time this morning weighing the benefits of focusing on those Who are closest to my heart versus those Who I still wish to come to better understand and connect with. I came to the realization that perhaps a choice was not necessary: I may not write about all five of Them each day, but all five matter deeply to me, and perhaps it would serve me well to write not only about Them as individuals, but the complex ways in which They interact with me and with each other.

With that in mind, a brief introduction the five gods of my spiritual family.

Set: My Father, my strength, my partner in stubborn, unyielding determination and my daily visitor over early morning coffee. He is the fire behind my eyes, my unwillingness to back down from any challenge. He is what keeps me going when my own health fails, He is what inspires me to reach out to others and lend them what of my flame I can. Set shows himself to me as the Set of the North, He wears the Red Crown, makes use of the ideas and gifts of those from outside lands. He knows the benefits that come from those who are different, and He protects Them.

Bast: My Mother, my heart, my teacher in self-care and compassion and my nightly prayer of gratitude at the end of each day for all that is good in my life. My lady of mindfulness, She walks the world with eyes wide open to truly see and experience all that living can reveal. She is the earth in my step, the groundedness that pulls me back to reality. She is the soul to my music, the rhythm of my heart translated into song and dance and beauty. Bast shows herself to me as the Lady of Bubastis, celebrated with sistrum and dance, but also the Defender of Ra, blades in hand to cut down the snake. She is fierce and knowing, wise and full to the brim with life.

Heru-Wer: My general, my instructor, my Beloved reminder of the importance of the physical body in the midst of all else. He is distant from me most days, but appears at the most critical of moments to demand greater care of my physical form when I have neglected it. He is heat that balances Set’s cold anger, when I have been attacked, the conscientious reminder to find my own role in what has gone awry. But He is also the partner and lover of my next Beloved, and it is in this role that I have started to feel safer with Him, more willing to reach out.

Hethert-Nut: My joy, my laughter, my beautiful lady who dances across the night sky and asks me to join Her by abandoning my fear. She is always present, in a vast, all-encompassing way that needs no bodily form, though She can just as easily appear to me as the mind-blowingly beautiful woman with the ears of the cow, naked save for celestial skin, ready to wrap me up in the fiercest, most comforting hug one could ever imagine. Hethert-Nut often leans more towards the first portion of her syncretic nature, joining Heru-wer as consort and lover, counseling me in my own marriage. She teaches me to redefine what the  concept of feminine means for me, and to embrace its power, regardless of how it does or does not align with how others may view that role.

Heqat: My Grandmother, my spirit, my counselor who has asked me to become a counselor for others in turn. She is ancient in a way that extends into concepts of time that my brain cannot wholly fathom, yet so very present and adoring of each tiny, mortal life that comes into Her hands as midwife. She shows herself to me as Khnum’s partner at the potter’s wheel, imbuing life not only to those yet to be born, but to those who have lost the ability to live in their current day-to-day existence. She reaches to them, seeks to help them guide themselves a little closer to that energy of living, loving, and creating ma’at in the world. She tasks me with this in turn, such as I am.

I adore Them all, and look forward to writing more about Them.

Balanced

Mar. 21st, 2015 04:53 pm
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Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

My spiritual Parents never cease to astound me, even as I watch our months together turn to years. They work so well together, and gradually continue to show me how They accomplish this and even some small sliver of why.

Bast seemingly claimed the month of Miew Khem as Hers, and what a roller coaster of a month it was. Set stayed near, but let the feline goddess run things for those four weeks of soul-searching and self-assessment. I achieved a great deal, much of it having to do with finally getting closer to my emotional side. I allowed myself moments of vulnerability, however brief, that give me hope in my ability to someday trust enough to once again engage in outward expressions of grief.

Yet there was much joy, as well. The middle of the month had me traveling by train for twenty hours round trip, so that I could attend a beautiful ceremony for the Day of Eating Onions for Bast in New Jersey with many members of my Kemetic Orthodox family.

I arrived a night early, and was able to speak with Shefytbast on many engaging and fascinating topics related to the Mistress of the Perfume Jar, before the rest of the group arrived the following day. Further conversations about our gods and lives, catching up on important events both spiritual and secular, was both heartening and grounding. It was exactly what I needed in the midst of so much internal effort, to get out of my house, to visit with a group of trusted friends, and to let go of some of the dredged-up hurt through a powerful execration ritual. It was also just lovely as always to honor my Mother at the home of one of Her priests.

The results of this joyful weekend buoyed me when health problems struck shortly thereafter in the form of a minor, yet still fairly debilitating, neck injury and another severe allergic reaction to the subsequently prescribed pain relievers. I had one bad night grappling with the resultant fears such medical travails can inspire, but even that night proved useful in showing me aspects of my thoughts and behaviors that must change for me to fully accept myself and my emotions. I was able to move past the gut-reaction of panic in a matter of hours, rather than days and acknowledged this growth for myself. That the final days of Miew Khem were spent on the road and in meetings the next state over was a testament to the success of Bast’s lessons in self-care and patience with my body; I was still able to meet all of my obligations.

One of those obligations involved my Father, who about a week from the end of Miew Khem came roaring back into my life with a request. He wanted me to celebrate His Procession day,  IV Peret 17 (celebrated on the Kemetic Orthodox Calendar this year on March 17th) in some major fashion.

I was honestly uncertain that I could pull it off: the Procession fell smack in the middle of my midterms week, and I was traveling both the weekend prior and the weekend after. Fortunately it landed on one of the few days I don’t have an evening obligation for school, and so, still nervous about how this was all going to come together, I contacted local Kemetics and got to work.

With some plan, various icons of Set were successfully processed around Pittsburgh. My statue rode by car, first to my day job, then to a local library to pick up other celebrants. I made a mental note for next year that I need to come more prepared for balancing issues: yet Set seemed to be largely amused by the blue towel that I scrambled to arrange in some semblance of dignity so that He didn’t fall over while being processed. Another Set icon, a hand-made plushie version, went with my friend to all of her tutoring gigs for the day, where He was introduced to her students.

After the two processional parties joined together, all Sets were carried north directly alongside the Ohio river. Their destination: the home of my third Kemetic friend in the area, the recently-named Temseniaset. She had set up an altar for her Beloved, Yinepu, and all Set icons (including a few more statues we’d brought along) were arranged so as to greet the hosting jackal! We celebrated the journey and the gathering with an Irish dinner (my akhu would not have been pleased had I forgotten that *other* holiday on the 17th!) and offered soda bread and an imported Irish cider to our gods. We closed the evening with ritual, and then carried all the various Sets back to their home shrines.

It was a wonderful evening honoring my Father, and wonderful fellowship with good people. As I drove home after dropping off the last guest at his house, I reflected on the fact that I had managed to pull another spiritual event together, despite my initial misgivings. I knew the rest of the week would be difficult for taking the time to fulfill Set’s request, and indeed it was — I averaged three hours of sleep per night that evening and every evening following until Friday — but I did it, and made it through my midterms with flying colors. But more significantly, I kept to the standards I hold myself to. I managed all the things that matter: school, work, and spirit. It would seem that perhaps I am strong enough to keep striving towards all of my goals, but only, as my Mother taught me earlier, if that strength also involves knowing when I can push and when I need to step back and look to my own needs.

Set and Bast are so, incredibly, brilliant together as a team. I want to accomplish so much in their name, as their daughter, for Them, and for Their other children and followers of Netjer. With their guidance, with their knowledge as my map, I think, maybe, I’ll be able to do just that.

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

Two days prior to this past Friday, February 13th, I found myself reading through G.B. Marian’s recent blog update regarding The Holy Month of Miew Khem (or “Black Cat”). It’s well worth reading through his thorough explanation of this time, held sacred by the members of the LV-426 Tradition, which takes place between the rare occurrence of two consecutive Friday the 13ths. Marian’s group considers this time significant for, “…celebrating (1) the positive results of killing Osiris and (2) the marriage of Seth to Ishtar and Anath (as any of our normal Friday the 13th rituals would be); it’s also a time for (3) experiencing some major initiatory event.”

Though personally identifying as Kemetic Orthodox in terms of tradition, my spiritual path has benefited greatly through participation in reconstructionist-based, revivalist and modern rituals, as well as practices specific to my particular branch of Kemeticism and those from the wider Kemetic, polytheist, and general pagan communities. With this in mind, it was surprising, but not uncomfortably so, that the concept of the month of Miew Khem grabbed me almost immediately, with that sort of palpable force that many of you may be familiar with. The one that translated into words would go something along the lines of, “Hold on to your hat, kid, we’re in for a bumpy ride.” I sought permission from G.B. to participate (initially uncertain if this was something other-Set-worshipping folks could join in on) and upon receiving permission continued about my Wednesday, full of thoughts of the past and curiosity towards the future: namely what that impending WHOOMPH feeling was going to translate to come Friday.

Regarding the past, I’ll just share what I wrote in response to the initial blog post about Miew Khem, as it sums it up fairly well:

“[Your post] got me thinking back to what I was doing around this time in 2009, and I admit, I… was somewhat blown away at the realization. I don’t honestly remember all that much of the details of what happened during that month. I was in my junior year of college, I was at the lowest point that depression has yet to take me in my life, but this was… legitimately when it all hit critical mass. I wound up leaving school for a week at the end of February after almost doing something drastic, spontaneously fled … to be with my sibling Tenu, got off all the medications that seemed to have made things so much worse (for me) and in the midst of the vast red mountains, took an oath to whatever gods/spirits may be (I was too low to believe in anyOne specifically at this point) that I would do whatever it took so as to never scare and hurt my family so deeply again, even if I couldn’t see reason enough just yet to take these steps for myself.”

Initiatory? Yes. Messy as hell? Yes, again. Worth acknowledging as an incredibly significant moment in my life?

Absolutely.

With that in mind, I had intended for this Miew Khem to be about celebrating how far I’ve come since the prior occurrence of this month. I wished to honor how Set showed up roughly two years later and helped/forced (either verb would be accurate!) me to make drastic changes in my life that led me to become the healthier, stronger, more independent person I am six years on. I wished to acknowledge how Bast stayed with me through all of it, shifting through various forms that my mind could make sense of from childhood on, guarding and guiding through the turbulence of adolescence and my early twenties, and finally revealing herself as who She truly is once I was ready. Wednesday evening and much of Thursday I started to pull together plans for a personal ritual that would accomplish just this.

The celebration was put on hold come Friday 13th.

A brief note here before I continue: I am about to share some relatively personal information on what I know to be a public blog. I will avoid specific details, but I have made the decision to share the general gist of what occurred because I believe that mental health is something that is not discussed frequently enough in my part of the world and that abuse is not something the victim should be made to feel ashamed of or for. I also believe that sharing some of this is significant for my own well being, part of the process of acknowledging it, making it part of my reality. If this bothers or triggers you, I respect that and do not wish to harm anyone with my words. Please stop reading now.

Friday the 13th, I had scheduled a counseling appointment for myself. As someone who is in training to be a counselor, I had previously recognized that I had some unresolved issues from my past, things that fed into my experiences back in 2009, and knew that I needed to work on these things in order to be an effective helping professional for my clients.

My counselor, after hearing my story regarding this prior relationship, wanted me to admit that I was a survivor of physical and emotional abuse. I denied it. Defended the other party in question. Explained why I deserved much of what had happened, minimized the severity of it, claimed that I had not gone through enough to merit the “title” of abused. My counselor pressed me, kept showing me the truth of it, metaphorically holding the mirror up to my own face and making me took a good, long, look at myself.

I finally relented. Spoke the words that would begin the process of acknowledging that this had indeed happened to me, that it was not merely an unhealthy relationship but something worse, something that had warped my perception of my self-worth, something that had led me to do things, give things, I had not wanted to do or to give.

I made it home, and then I broke. For the next several days I was utterly useless to the friends and family I love. Grieving for something I’d known but had gotten by in not acknowledging. Angry but too exhausted to express that anger. I mostly hid in my apartment with my partner, reaching out only to him and to my sibling. I used Monday to force myself out into the world again, knowing that the evening would see me in class again, the following morning back in the office. I had to function, I had to find a better balance between wallowing in this new reality, the endless repetition of “how could I” and “why did I” needing some relief in the form of self-care and strength, even if that strength was somewhat forced.

Meeting the necessity of various obligations got me moving: class, work, online meetings, and finally — shrine.

I was not up to the festival I’d planned, when I finally managed to light candles and incense. I said the words of the senut ritual and then I just sat there, exhausted and not really wanting to be doing the rite. I felt dirty. I felt stained. I felt… abused.

“Sing.” Came the voices of several gods, “Sing our songs.”

I didn’t want to. I didn’t know if I could. But They kept asking, and so I did, working through the lyrics for Heqat, Hethert-Nut, Heru-wer, Bast, and finally Set. I started in on one of Set’s songs but He abruptly cut me off.

“Not that one. The first one.”

I was surprised — His opinion of my music has always been one largely of mild amusement. He appreciates the gesture but isn’t so… picky as Bast or Hethert-Nut, who’ve more direct associations with that sort of worship. So if He actually had a preference for once, I’d listen. I refocused, shifting my headspace from the fierce “Daughter of the Storm” chant to the low ballad of “Dua Set.” I sang the first verse, the chorus, the second verse, chorus again, then headed into the bridge:

“Tear me apart, challenge my soul. / I must be broken that I might yet be whole.”

I promptly choked back the rush of emotion that flooded me. I was and am so very broken. Less so today than on that initial recognition of the 13th, but still aching, still tender in spaces I’ve not explored for the better part of five years. It hurts in ways I can’t fully express to go delving back into my past, ways I don’t want to express, because I hate the rawness of it, hate the showing of those weak spaces, hate the tears that once earned me such harsh critique. Sekhmet pulled the depths of it from me once in a semi-public setting and oh how I burned with the shame of it. I do not like to cry at all. I absolutely abhor crying in front of damn near anyone else.

I couldn’t even fully cry then, in front of Set. I almost did, I almost am now, remembering the moment. He showed me in the lyrics from my own hand that I need to let it out, probably at some point fairly soon, but it may take a god again to haul it from me. Every time I try to release… whatever this weight at the pit of me is, there’s a wall. If I could just get past that, I think He would be willing to take it from me. I think Bast would too as She was there, less tangible but still present, an external wave of concern and acceptance of the mess that I struggled with and subsequently contained after the initial wave.

How do I do this? Where do I go with this? I’m so… lost again. Lost in a time that I was initially so happy to celebrate for all the good that I’ve found. Perhaps this is the true spirit of the month, the not knowing, the challenge and the change. I am doing my damnedest to honor that spirit, but gods above and below, it is so, so very hard.

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

I was recently telling a few friends that I genuinely believe that my gods enjoy the city of Pittsburgh.

I have quite a few reasons for this, many relating to the general culture of the place and the nature of the people who live here. Yet perhaps the point of most significance is this: we know how to appreciate and love a river. In fact, we know how to appreciate three.

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We do, of course, lack a sea into which any of these rivers might flow, creating a notable dearth of anything akin to a delta, but we have our three rivers and by the gods, our city is defined by them. From its industrial past where the rivers served as an ideal means of transport for the steel and other commodities produced within massive factories, to the cleaned up shores of the present day which serve as a rare example of how humanity can reverse the damage inflicted by careless pollution if they set their minds to it. I feel my primary gods as being deeply present here, in this space that appreciates its waterways as part of its livelihood and very spirit, in a way that I never could when I first met them in the purely urban sprawl of downtown D.C. This is not Their land, nor would I try to argue that the gods of Kemet are likely to truly prefer one foreign place over another, but I welcome them to it whole heartedly and take pleasure in finding that they seem pleased to stay for a brief time in this space where Ohio, Monongehela, and Allegheny meet.

This is a highly personal, yet meaningful, interpretation. Unfortunately for my overactive mind, I tend not to be able to just sit with such things; driven by the incessant ping of “Why does this matter so much!?” I found myself looking back across the Atlantic, examining my primary gods more closely, and studying the regions where they were worshiped. This came in part from the general desire to know more about these places, but also due to my understanding of the House of Netjer’s Rite of Parent Divination (RPD). By following that link, you can read through Itenumuti’s excellent, overview of the ritual as well as a few interpretations of the significance of one’s Parent names. Yet I also view it as a replacement for modern Kemetics being unable to live within a specific Nome, or portion of Ancient Egypt where a local god (or gods) would have been primarily worshiped by the majority of the population in that area. With this in mind I set about trying to track down a region where Set and Bast’s worship might have had the potential to overlap in some significant way.

I had a few personal clues, which wound up proving helpful. First, I knew to start my search based on temples functional in the New Kingdom, as Bast, while worshiped earlier, largely rose to popularity in Her cult center of Bubastis during and after this span of time. Second, I recognized that the “Set I get” is a northern version associated with Lower Egypt. He has often appeared to me wearing the deshret (red crown) of the region, standing in stark, proud contrast to Heru-wer wearing the white Hedjet. Finally, I know that my Parents appear to me as gods working in tandem, mutual defenders of Ra, and very willing to appear to me side-by-side rather than taking anything akin to oppositional roles.

Many articles later, and I found myself looking at three cities in the Eastern portion of the Nile delta: Avaris, Tanis, and Bubastis. The former two served as strongholds for the Hyksos during the second intermediate period, who introduced their storm god Ba’al, amongst others, into the Egyptian pantheon. Ba’al was recognized as Set by the Egyptians, and eventually the two became synchronized as one deity. Yet even after the Hyksos were defeated and sent back to the North, there is strongly likelihood of some number of their population remaining, contributing to continued worship of Set in their main towns. While Set’s temples would have been destroyed during the Amarna period, some scholars seem to suggest that they were rebuilt. During the 19th and 20th dynasties, Set worship definitively continued in these spaces, with Ramesside pharaohs incorporating the Avaris populations Set-Ba’al into the Egyptian pantheon through the addition of the epithet “Son of Nut,” honoring Set as the defender of Ra throughout Egypt by reviving His Old Kingdom conceptualization as a god of strength and ferocity, and even taking His name as part of their own.

The 21st and 22nd dynasties of the Third Intermediate Period would see a shift away from the Set revival noted during the middle to late New Kingdom, though power was centralized in the city of Tanis for most of the 21st before shifting to Bubastis near the start of the 22nd. As pharaoh Shoshenq I endeavored to gain power from the city of Bast, so too did the goddess receive greater attention, rising in popularity swiftly and maintaining that popularity through to the Ptolemaic period.

Do my Parent deities ever really geographically/chronologically overlap in a significant manner?  Perhaps not directly. Is this eastern delta region an area in which they would have most likely done so, if such were remotely possible? That is my hope.

It is also my hope that such initial discoveries will lead me to understand what few, baffling connections I had previously found between the two. For example, there has to be some explanation for why a magical spell listed in Bourghouts, describing a tale in which Set must provide Horus with his true name in order to be healed of poison, would show Set taking the false name of “a jug of milk milked from the udder of Bastet,” giving what Edward Butler describes as a reflection of part of His character, but not what encompasses the whole.

As per usual, I am left with more questions than I am answers.

One final realization that I made: a little nudge that perhaps I am focusing on the right span of time (massive though it may be), was a recognition about my Shemsu name. The use of standard-bearers as regimental leaders came about as part of the reorganization of the Egyptian army under Amenhotep III during the 18th Dynasty. The primary information I’ve found regarding Set as an army Standard? Under the reign of Ramses II.

I will be continuing with this, compiling sources, and writing up a far more academic overview of the roles of my Parents in the northern Delta between 1293 BCE and 730 BCE. Again, this is a huge span of time to cover but I just… can’t stop thinking that there’s something to be learned about this. About their relation to each other, their relation to me, and maybe even our mutual relationship to the wonder of rivers.

 

 

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

I needed to sit on this final post for awhile. As I told my friend last night, in so many words, the week brought up a tremendous amount of feelings and insight for me. I’m not entirely certain I’ve come to terms with all of it, even a week after it’s all drawn to a close, and I’m also not sure of how to write about my experiences in a way that doesn’t smack of self-aggrandizement, something I generally aim to avoid. I do want to try to share some of it though, for I got so caught up in the thrill of things, the challenge of balancing prayer, personal ritual, and community efforts along side my day to day wedding planning, graduate school, and day job, that I stopped being able to share when I was actually in the thick of it.  I don’t want to let that become a reason for writing nothing, in part because I want to remember, and use those memories as a foundation for future efforts, future personal growth.

The candles and barque have been put away for some future festival, the red festival shrine cloth folded and waiting to be washed of what incense and wax escaped their holdings. The small bronze hued statue of Set, Lord of so much more than any epithet can capture, has been tucked back into my cabinet where extra icons remain. The table that burned brighter and brighter with the light of six, sacred flames has been returned to a crafting space for music, words and clay, a space of creation, with a small shrine holding images of both Set and Bast, alongside Heqat and Khnum who watch over my efforts. My Father was honored here for six days. Each night as I sat with Him, He tore away obstacles, guided me to confront those things still holding me back, and helped me to see what will make me a better worshiper, counselor, leader. Now this small place of homage has been returned to a space where I can move forward, unbound, free again to add beauty to the world.

On the seventh day, I celebrated Him with seven others. We celebrated all He had done for those who followed Him, be they long time devotees who have known His ways for years, or newcomers, stepping beyond past assumptions to reach out to a god they had not yet greeted in shrine. We sang for Him, we destroyed our fears on clay pots in His name. We crafted ropes to remind us of the threads of His tail which serve as ropes for a sacred barque, and put our strengths into them that we might hold fast to such strengths in darker days. We gave Him many, many offerings; we reverted those offerings in fellowship. We returned to His shrine after night had fallen and naught but candles lit the room. We toasted Him again, and again, and again, each person present Honoring the Lord of the Red lands with strong voice and strong drink.

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And we had time to sit with Him individually, as the candles burned and He remained so very present. Each had time if they chose to sit and pray by the flicker of the candle light and the passing from shadow to fire’s glow. A few of us sat with Him deep into the night, holding vigil with our thoughts and feelings even as Set held vigil over Ra on their nightly journey below the horizon.

I sat with Him by myself at one point and found it quite difficult to find words adequate to thank Him for everything He’d shown me in those past seven days. How do you thank a god for reminding you how deeply you care for a sister, and in truth, how deeply you care for your whole spiritual community? How do you express gratitude for the necessity of being bluntly shown your flaws, reminded that no matter how much work you do, things can and will go wrong and the best you can do is try to repair them after the fact? How do you find words for the clearest moment of recognition that you’ve had in four years of following a god of why He chose you, and how His influence has lead you to the professional path you’ve chosen to walk?

The answer: you don’t. There’s nothing to encompass the sheer emotional mass of it. In recognizing that, I just endeavored to share with Him the fullness of spirit I felt, the gratitude that was emanating from what felt like every fiber of my being. I believe He accepted that small offering of sorts, and I believe I felt some sense of pleasure in return, that He was proud of everyone who had worked so hard to make these things come to pass, that He enjoyed the extra time so many spent honoring Him, learning about His complex, occasionally even confounding, methods of upholding ma’at.

I know, for myself, it will take many more weeks beyond His festival, beyond even this first effort to share some of my reactions, to fully delve into everything I believe Set shared with me during His week.

…but I very much look forward to the challenge.

Dua Set! Dua Netjer! Nekhtet!

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

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It is Tuesday night, the end of Day Three. I sit beside my Father’s statue and struggle to find words for what I’m feeling, when two days ago I wrote with confidence about my goals for the week, and those words rang true without question.

Tonight, there is a flickering candle, transient between moments of darkness and light, and my several attempts to launch into an in-depth analysis of the past days’ events have all felt hollow.

I focus beyond words.

There is an ache in my back from additional hours spent before a screen, organizing, planning, making foolish mistakes and trying to fix them. There is a tension in my shoulders and neck from nerves relating to a new graduate program, and a particularly trial-by-fire first day of class. There is a weight in my chest for the loved ones near and far whose mental and physical demons I cannot seem to slay, who have had less of me in the past few days than I would normally give. (There is even a tic in my eye from entirely too much caffeine in a 48 hour span!)

There is also a fierce joy beyond measure at the creative works and stories in Set’s name that have spread across my community’s forums and even a few blogs beyond. There is a boundless depth of gratitude that so many continue to lend their time, their presence, their service to this event which honors the Son of Nut. There is a reverbant thrum of excitement that a few individuals who had been gone from my community chose this week to return, perhaps because of Set’s festival, perhaps because of the New Year, perhaps because of a chance.

There is also, admittedly, a growing solidity at the core of me, summoned by the soft, firm voice that says of  my school and work and caretaking, “Yes. You have done well.”

The owner of that voice sits with me and I Him, the incense I’ve lit blowing up against His statue and back to my face.

I breathe and I am so grateful for all that has already occured and what has yet to come.

I breathe and I wish other things had happened differently, that I might have done better by my community members and our gods, both of whom I endeavor to serve.

I breathe and recognize that I cannot control whether the flame casts me in its shadow or holds me aglow.

I breathe and I think that tonight, sitting here with the One who embodies such transformations, I can accept the uncertainty.

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

RedWeekShrine

In late August 2014, I began putting together a series of events for my spiritual community in the House of Netjer, focusing these efforts around the worship and study of the god Set, my primary deity and the Netjeru I view as my spiritual Father. The seven-day festival, given the name “Red Week,” has already been a tremendous learning experience for me in relation to event planning, delegation, personal research for the preparation of lessons and heka, and maintaining an active practice of spiritual discernment in the midst of the malestrom of day-to-day organizational details. The last point was maybe one of the trickiest elements for me: working to maintain the necessary balance between what benefits the celebrating community in question and what benefits the god we wish to honor through our festivities. I’m sure I will continue to have continued insights about all of this as the actual event unfolds in the days to come.

I knew that I very much wanted this first opportunity in learning how to plan a spiritual event, and I knew I needed it at roughly this level/size. I have somewhat grandiose dreams of eventually working on such things both within my primary spiritual community and on an even larger scale, with Kemetics of all paths, or even other polytheists, to promote local gatherings and worship. I have been fortunate to start to find such people in my home town, and have seen how it can function: a recent ceremony held in Pittsburgh on December 21st was a tremendous success.  Two members of Kemetic Orthodoxy, an independent Kemetic/polytheist who follows both Set and Pan, a Druid, and a Ceremonial Magician came together to honor Set’s battle against Ap_p on the longest night of the year. We made our varying backgrounds work together, combining elements from our different traditions for a vibrant evening of spiritual fellowship, storytelling, song, and contemplation. While I can only speak for myself: I found it to be a thoroughly profound night.

Yet even as I look outward and to the future, as is often my inclination, so too am I reminded that the work I’ve put into these next seven days merits a healthy degree of introspection and mindfulness: I want to take time to enjoy the week for myself, to spend time with Set and consider the lessons He may have for me. I can share some of those thoughts here and on Facebook, in the hope that they might inspire discussion both within my temple and beyond, but also just for personal growth. Both, I must remind myself, are meaningful efforts and well worth my while.

I am so very excited by what has been accomplished in the past few months: so many have stepped forward to make these “Red Week” events happen; so many have given their time and creative energy to connect and listen, teach and learn. I sincerely hope that these efforts will provide an opportunity for renewed strength as we head into 2015 and a renewed appreciation for a god who, if already fairly well known, remains so complex in His identity and the role He plays in lives of His followers around the world as to be well worth further discussion, study, and worship. Personally, while I cannot, and do not, claim to be an expert — I’ve only four years to my name as His follower, two and a half of those as His daughter — I hope that what I have learned in that brief span, what I can share through my service and dedication, will still be of benefit to others.

As for my own, individual, goals for the upcoming week? It’s time to take a look within. I have spent so much time with Set as a god of change and transformation, a god who helped me to break the boundaries of the world I previously existed within to find something better for myself. With His aid I broke free of an unhealthy romantic relationship, have since found a partner who supports me and brings balance to my life. With Set’s guidance I fought my way out of the worst of my mental health issues, and have been able to come off of medications, supporting my emotional well being through other methods. Set gave me the backbone I needed to leave an academic graduate program that was pushing me beyond my physical and emotional limits, and guided me to Heqat. With His force and Her boundless patience and love I earned a place in a new graduate program, this time in clinical mental health counseling, within a span of months, and found decent work to financially support my time in school.

I think it is time to figure out what it means to exist as His daughter when I’m standing still, finally living in a healthy space, on a fulfilling path, with supportive people. It’s a strange thing to admit, but I genuinely struggle to define myself when I’m not moving. I can’t seem to understand the edges of this person who calls herself Saryt when I’m not pushing ahead to the next challenge, fighting my way out of the most recent emotional or physical scrape. When I was an adolescent I feared change, but beginning in college, and all the more so once I re-discovered spiritual belief in 2011 with Set leading the way, I have come to use change as a means of self-definition. Now that this transformative element is, at least for the time being, seemingly less necessary on the personal level? I want to work to understand who I am when I’m not fighting to become something else, and maybe, in that understanding, come to appreciate, and care for, that self a bit more.

In so caring for myself, I believe I will then in turn be a better counselor, a better advocate, a better worshiper, and a better friend.

My goals for Red Week: self-respect and self-understanding, that I can sustain my Father’s driving will to break down the bad and make space for something new, a will that I seek to emulate within myself through my words and actions.

Much love to you all. Looking forward to sharing more as the days progress.

Aqualung

Jan. 10th, 2015 09:44 am
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Originally published at Ekunyi's Embers. You can comment here or there.

“Hey and you snatch your rattling last breaths
With deep-sea diver sounds
And the flowers bloom like
Madness in the spring”

– Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”

Winter can be a notoriously brutal time for many of us, wreaking havoc on health both mental and physical. I’ve been following the words of many fellow bloggers and online friends with no small degree of empathy as they fight lengthy battles with illness. I’ve listened to those coping with SAD, trying to hold to stability as the sun gradually returns to a higher place in the sky, the light lasting a bit longer with each day. I’ve read the words of folks like Aubs, who took a genuinely terrible injury after falling on the ice and yet found wisdom from it. I’ve shaken with anger alongside Aine as she described what she lives through on a daily basis as someone who is chronically ill, black, and poor. I read about these experiences with bodies that have been hurt or are constantly hurting, see discussions through various media platforms about the dangers of uncritical positive thinking regarding one’s health, and in turn find myself struggling with a vague, writhing sense of how can I make this better while simultaneously looking at my own body and recognizing things about it that would have been much simpler to let well enough alone.

You see, I really hate caving to limitations. Hate admitting that there are things that I physically cannot do. I’m as stubborn as anyone I’ve ever met when I take on a challenge, and if I say I’ll do something, it will damn well get done, come hell, high water, or hypertension.

I had the realization recently, after talking with Khenne about the trend amongst dual-Parented members of the House of Netjer to connect more with one god over the other, that this relates to why I lean so much more strongly towards Set in my spiritual practice. I take pride in the sheer grit that He represents for me and that I aim to reflect in my active, day-to-day worship of Him. Every single dawn He’s up and fighting the Uncreated One, taking the bites and the poison, largely because someone has to but no one else can. There is no sense of “backing down” in this aspect of Set’s nature, there is no “today I’m going to take a break because I need some time for self-care.” There is only moving forward, getting the job done, and putting that critical necessity, that responsibility, ahead of everything else.

Through this lens did I view my responsibility to family over the past month, cramming five cities worth of travel by bus, car, and train into ten days.  All the while I played marital counselor to aging, angry parents, served as nurse to a relative who handled his illness as maturely as a five year old, and worked as organizer for an extended family who largely seem to have stopped caring about bothering to schedule time with those who travel for hours to be with them. I did this without complaint, keeping the grief I felt contained, and instead charging forward, getting through it, seeing my responsibilities through.

I was not surprised when I became ill half way through the trip, violently so by the time I returned to Pittsburgh, fighting my way through work on Friday through the necessity of keeping my job, and then effectively collapsing after taking the bus home.

But it was not Set whose presence I felt during the days that followed, my lungs rattling from the fluid in my bronchial tube, each breath an exercise in deliberate motion, shallow and controlled, trying to avoid the minutes-long coughing spells that would leave me dizzy and occasionally half-blind from lack of oxygen. It was not Set who watched me with concern and frustration as my right hand blistered over with hot, red welts triggered by a prescribed antibiotic that my body rejected, nor was it His voice that I heard as I reached out to my gods in a panic during my third day largely confined to bed, albuterol shakes and a fever ramping my anxiety to levels that left me irrationally convinced that I was actually going to die at age 26 without some way to fight the infection, some way to help me breathe.

It was Bast who watched me with cool green eyes, Her immense presence surrounding me and then forcibly drawing out the whole of my grief for a family that had hurt me, and a body that had caved, as it so irritatingly and frequently does under such stress and pressure, to bronchitis, anxiety, and allergic response.

I wept, I choked, I gasped, I wailed, and I hated every single minute of being so utterly out of control. I hated it all the more for occurring in my partner’s presence, when he’s had his own health battles to deal with of late. But then the experience was done, the rage and grief largely out of my head and heart, and I slept more fitfully than I had in days. My life predominantly continued to revolve around sleeping for several days following. I made it to work, I did the bare minimum for other obligations, but for almost everything else which I normally hold myself responsible, I just said, “No.”

I hear Bast in that “No.” See Her in the actions of my own black-furred cat who was dealing with a cold at the same time as I fought bronchitis. For all of Sammi’s sweet “nurse-cat” temperament when I am ill, rarely leaving my side when I’m under the weather, she instead took a few days to largely rest beneath my bed by herself, until she was ready to come back and be my loyal familiar once more. Bast is far more than cat goddess alone, yet the feline propensity for self-care, self-focus (a very different beast than self-centeredness, as I would be wise to learn) is something that I believe She would have me better understand. But it keeps me from so readily embracing Her as I do Set. I feel no pride in stepping back, in admitting that my body has been “defeated” or was too weak to continue. I despise the limitations that asthma, cancer scares, and ongoing battles with anxiety and depression place on my life, how they limit what I can physically offer to the world. I struggle to love and accept my body, because I am increasingly aware that there is no amount of will power that’s going to make all of my ailments magically go away. I cannot be Set’s stubborn, get-shit-done, tough-it-out daughter all the time, much as, in my ideal world, I would.

How do I accept my Mother’s lessons, and in turn accept myself? How do I become closer to the Eye who knows how to burn brightly without burning out?

I have no answers as of yet. Only frustrated acknowledgement that this… this needs to be dealt with.

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

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I have been extremely fortunate that for the past five years, every January 1st between 2011 and 2015, I have woken up in the home of much-loved Chicago friends to this view: sunrise over Lake Michigan. I’ve seen several years onmy own, I’ve watched it with a man I’d leave six months later, and I’ve even shared it with my current partner who I’ll be marrying six months from now.

This year I watched the changing shades of the sky alone, feeling a bit under the weather due to asthma but grateful as always for the past night’s company and the glory of the view, the small space of quiet in such a massive city save for the soft whistle of tea I’d set to boiling some minutes prior. My friends slept, while I gave myself a brief bit of time to contemplate how marvelously different things will be next year: one of my friends is due to have her first child tomorrow, is ready to meet him any day. I will be married and halfway through my counseling program. 365 days of change and growth and hard work and celebration.

Yet this time for me has never felt like a true ending and beginning. January 1st marks the changing of the Gregorian calendar year, but it’s more of a check point, really. I think of video games, where you’ve made it roughly half way through the level and whew, there’s the little flag to pull, the barrel to burst, which means you don’t have to push through all of this again, you’ve made it far enough that there’s no going back to the start if something awful happens, you’ve got a safety net of sorts.

That’s my January 1st. Growing up, it was school that established this sensation for me, and my first career path as an academic maintained it. The year began anew in late August: new classes, new teachers, new friends, new obligations. It ended in June, and then there was this wibbly-wobbly summer bit that felt like something akin to Van Gennep’s description of the liminal, where I was neither in one year or the next, but somehow both, recovering and progressing simultaneously.

That Kemetic beliefs regarding conceptualizations of the year fell in line with this perception was a happy accident. Of course the New Year shifts over in early August, by the Kemetic Orthodox calendar I use! Intercalary days, out of time and out of synch with the year before or the year to come, they too took very little mental adjustment. One mental envisioning of time slid neatly within and so reinforced the other.

But what then is to be done spiritually at the “check point,” the secular New Year, the point between semesters, the date that’s just under half way to the next Wep Ronpet? I might suggest that it’s a good time to take a good look at what you’ve made it through this far, acknowledge in some way that you’ve accomplished much, and simultaneously recognize that there’s no going back.

No one can take away what you’ve achieved in this span of time. Even if the actions you took were not perhaps what you originally set out to complete, you can’t be sent back to who or where you were five or six months ago, for better or worse. You’ve learned something, progressed in some way, so why not take the time to acknowledge it. Maybe even reshape the goals you set when you started this year. Remind yourself of what you wanted to do with your spiritual practice this past August. Does the new you standing at this January checkpoint have a different perspective on things now? Maybe an adjusted view on how to achieve those original goals, or a realization that perhaps the goals themselves look completely different from this angle?

Riding back to Pittsburgh, away from the state that holds so many of my loved ones, away from the state that is home to my temple at Tawy House, I feel like I’m being physically drawn away from my personal January New Years’ check point. But the past ten days have given me a lot of time to think. I’ve had time to recognize what is changing, what I’ve done to enable that change, and how I can continue to worship and learn from my gods as I walk forward with the flow of time into the second half of my spiritual year. Armed with the knowledge granted by reflection, I look forward to the adventure.

There’s no turning back, just making what I will of whatever is to come.

May your own stops at the 2015 check point prove insightful, and your adventures magnificent.