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2016-12-11 08:44 am

Cycles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are not alone, not now, not ever.

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2016-08-17 12:37 pm

Holding the Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016-05-01 11:21 pm

Garnet and Malachite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016-04-28 09:50 am

Focus and Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016-04-08 02:25 pm

March Celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

IMG_4107

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go go gadget smiting of rebels. ;)

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2015-11-11 11:32 pm

A Prayer for Veteran’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dua Set! Dua Bast! May it become!

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2015-11-08 12:30 am

To Honor Set and Bast

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

A Dialogue of Light

The image above is a painting by Cú Meala of Cait Sidhe Designs entitled “A Dialogue of Light.” Please visit the store for other sacred art and jewelry by this wonderful husband and wife team. 

The past few days saw a visit from my sister in the House of Netjer, A’aqytsekhmet. Our time together was full of laughter, worship with fellow Pittsburgh Kemetic Orthodox Shemsu Temseniaset, divination, and no small amount of spiritual discussion. Through our lengthy conversations (which often went to hours of the evening that I have not seen in several months due to my previous work schedule) I was able to flesh out some of the deep feelings I harbor for my primary gods, starting to find words for the depth of emotion and gratitude I have come to feel for them over the past four years of my life. I hope to put some of these thoughts to the virtual page, in order to avoid losing them again to the impending whirlwind of projects often known as End of Semester Doom.

When I try to describe my Parents to another, I see an ongoing journey of personal discovery. I am not one to follow the camp of “everything happens for a reason” but instead ascribe to the idea that “you can learn from everything that happens” and find myself in genuine amazement at how necessary many of those lessons have been. In my Parents, I have learned to see two halves of my personal whole. First, the driven, justice-seeking advocate who will be strong so that others have the safe space required to be weak and to heal. Second, the passionate artist whose music and joy of the sensuality of experience replenishes and tends the body that she pushes to its limits to care for others. Without the second, I would destroy myself through burn out or health issues derived from stress and overuse. Without the first, I would lack personal fulfillment and a sense of purpose to always keep going for as long as I feasibly can. I need the lessons of both my defender, warrior Father and my mindful, fiercely free Mother.

And those lessons extend beyond what they represent. They communicate and exist in such different ways. Set is largely solitary and solid in that individuality. He is concrete in a way that few other gods appear to me, readily heard, almost always embodied in a clear way that my mind’s eye can focus on and address. He is massive in His strength and power, but the connections He has to the rest of Netjer-as-whole are not so diffuse. I can always sense Him, always hear Him, can always ask what He wants of me and get an answer. I do not get lost in the diverse connections of other deities such as I do with my Mother, who in Her sheer existence has helped me to understand the complex power of being one of Ra’s Eyes. Bast is so huge it can be hard to figure out where She begins and ends. She can appear to me as the great cat or the woman with the dark lion’s face, but she can also extend back into Tefnut, outward into Sekhmet and Mut and Hethert and beyond. She rarely speaks directly, and so deeply cherishes the ideal of freedom that Her requests are rare. I often feel lost in Her depths, uncertain what She would have me do on Her behalf, and given that often the final answer ends in “Do as you wish and as it brings you joy” I struggle to understand if I am on the right track for honoring Her. Yet in these extremes of communication and desired forms of worship, I have come to better be able to reach out to other Netjeru. To have mental conversations with some, to not be discouraged by the relative quiet of others, and to accept the awe of meeting some of the oldest deities rather than being overwhelmed by it. I feel that together, They prepared me to greet the many other Names of Netjer, in their many forms and through their many methods.

If I tell fewer stories of Bast, it is because so much of what we do together is deeply personal. She has helped me to prioritize my life to focus on things that I want to be doing, rather than things I believe I should be doing, and in making those choices, to greatly reduce my stress. She has helped me to love my body for what it can do, being mindful of its power and ability rather than focusing on my frustrations when it aches or falls ill. She has helped me to live in the present moment, to enjoy what I can and experience in the instant I am doing it, so as not to worry about the “what ifs” of tomorrow or the next day. Yet so many of these lessons came through surprise experiences, a gentle nudge from Her to pay attention to an occurrence in the world, or even one of my actual feline companions bringing a tiny realization to mind. She and I don’t have the readily shared stories I’ve developed with Set through our daily coffee ritual, our informal worship through metal and science fiction, our formal moments in shrine where His voice rings in my mind and I sing back to Him in gratitude and fierce, fierce love. I have learned to accept that not all balance appears as such to others, and that this is okay as well, so long as you have found it for yourself.

Yet despite their differences, my Parents also function brilliantly together. They are both defenders, protectors, fierce and capable in their own right. One of the images they have shown me time and time again is of the two of them upon Ra’s boat, Set at the prow, Bast guarding the King’s back. They remind me of the importance of the concept of protection, how many forms that process can take. They would have me protect others through counseling, teach others to protect themselves and their well being through self-care.  They would have me protect community, working to provide spaces where the bonds between fellow worshipers can grow and strength. There is so much more to this idea of the defender that They wish me to explore, in part considering the relevance of my Shemsu name in relation to that concept, but I will save such thoughts for another time. What is important is just the acknowledgement that Set and Bast are incredible as partners, but also as contrasting forces of equally stunning power. I adore Them, I am grateful to be their daughter, and fortunate to have Them and the work I’ve yet to do in Their name as one of many reasons to always keep going.

I still have more work to do, but I am more whole, more stable, than I have ever been before, and I say this coming out of over a year of significant health concerns. With Their guidance, I have learned that I am strong enough to eventually get through most challenges. With Their love, I am reminded that opening up and reaching out for assistance is a form of strength in itself. With Their wisdom, I am able to see that in struggling, I have developed a greater sense of perspective on my own good fortune and greater sense of empathy for those who have suffered. In truth, I am now better able to serve my gods and my community than I was a year ago, having embraced what Set and Bast taught me during the obstacles that chance threw my way. I am grateful for that guidance, and for the depth of the love I sense from Them each day that I honor Their names.

Dua Set, Son of Nut, you are my spirit!

Dua Bast, Lady of Joy, you are my heart!

I honor you both, now and always! I lift your beautiful faces high!

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2015-09-06 10:57 am

A Month of Written Devotion #23-31

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

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

Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comfort

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

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

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

Knowledge

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

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

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

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

Growth

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

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

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

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

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

Balance

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

Still, there is another to defend.

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

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

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

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

Lost

Thank you, for pulling me out of the darkness.

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

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

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

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

Thank you for not giving me up for lost.

Today, I like the person I am.

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

Encouragement

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

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

Endings

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

Dear…

Dear gods of my family,

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

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

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

Your daughter and beloved,
Sarytsenuwi

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2015-07-18 10:58 pm
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The Ballad of Lanky Rae

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

So Witch Mountain’s “Ballad of Lanky Rae” keeps getting stuck in my head, and I realized that part of the reason I’ve latched onto it so quickly (let alone the fact that it’s one of those wonderful female fronted metal bands that I can actually sing along with) relates to my past… and my present with Set.

A long time ago
On a dark-as-night day
A little girl came entered this world
In a right wicked way

When she took her first breath
The doctor heard her say
“All you out there better beware
My name is Lanky Rae”

“Stay away,” said Lanky Rae

She didn’t like baby dolls
Barrettes or ballet
She thought a gun was much more fun
When she went out out to play

Ballet was one of the most miserable experiences of my life growing up. My parents made me stick with it from my earliest years through sixth grade, and I just… knew, even then, that I was never going to fit into this world of leotards and gran jetes. I was too long, too gawky, too thickly-moving and lacking grace. And gods, dolls. Nope. My dragon toys regularly “ate” my barbie dolls. I hated the frills and the dresses and honestly, most of what I interpreted as being a “girl” growing up. Laser tag? Swords? Castles and knights and archers and magic? That was where I wanted to be.

But Rae was all alone
And to her dismay
She never had met her dad
So she hit the highway

She heard he was a demon
Deep down in the clay
So down she dove to the center she drove
And there stood the daddy of Lanky Rae

He held two 45s
And his hair was ash grey
Spittin’ whiskey and fire and as soon as he saw her
Those two you could not separate

Now they roam the underworld
Raisin’ hell everyday
Doin’ what they do best and forget all the rest

So when the ground rumbles
Don’t you be afraid
It’s just a couple of outcasts happy at last
Yeah it’s Lanky Rae

It really wasn’t until college that I genuinely found people with similar interests to mine. My younger scholastic years were largely defined by being part of the “outcast” group, and a motley assortment of wonderful (but incredibly different) people we were! Yet post-college, Big Red came rolling into my life and then suddenly there was a god who wanted me to live, both figuratively and literally. That was an amazing realization. A deity existed who genuinely found me all the more fascinating for my love of metal music, science fiction, and martial arts. A god claimed me as His daughter who found my temper to be a benefit, my bisexuality a source of power, my questions about gender worthwhile, my need to sing and shout and scream and laugh and forever be vocally LOUD… proof that I was meant to be His.

So what does this song say to me? Outcast god, meet once-outcast child. Let’s go raise some hell and have fun doing it.

And that’s why I adore it.

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2015-07-04 09:39 am

A Month of Written Devotion #1 – Who

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.

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2015-04-30 07:17 am
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Three Years

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

I’ve noticed that on important days, my Father Set likes to wake me up roughly fifteen minutes before 6:00 a.m. For someone who almost always requires an alarm to get up and moving at the necessary time, these days stand apart. I get out of bed, even if still a little weary from a shortened night’s rest, and go about morning offerings as the dawn rises. I watch Zep Tepi in its most literal sense, seeing orange and red flood the sky over the Allegheny river valley, all the people in the neighborhoods below my apartment’s hillside perch turning on lights, starting their morning, getting in their cars and making the most of the new day, a first day unto itself.

I think I needed it this morning. This past April proved to be one of the most difficult months in recent memory, as I dealt with hospital visits for severe allergic reactions and infections, attempted to care for my partner’s illnesses in the midst of my own, was let go from the job I’ve been at for the past seven months, and most significantly, experienced my first loss of a very close family member. The last was not unexpected, given this loved one’s age, but the passing was swift and I’m still sorting out how to grieve for someone my mind has not wholly processed as actually being gone, even several days after the funeral. In the midst of sorting through all of these personal things, I’m also hurting for Nepal and Baltimore, the latter of which being very near the place where I grew up.

Life goes on with each new sunrise. I’m adjusting to the care my body needs. I start a new job on Monday. I’m allowing myself to grieve for my loved one. I made it through all of my school work for my first semester of my new program. I’m working to remember how to hope for a brighter future for my country and for those countries dealing with environmental or political tragedy.

I credit much of my (somewhat surprising, given how I believe I might have failed to handle all of this four years ago) resilience to my sibling Tenu, my partner, and my spiritual communities. The amount of support I received via social media, email, phone, and even in-person visits has been overwhelming in the best of ways. I have tried to express in words several times over the depth of my gratitude, and will keep doing so through my actions in the days to come.

I also give a great deal of credit to my gods. I have not been able to hear or sense them as easily as I usually do in the midst of everything that has happened, but I could still feel the magnitude of their presences, always near, waiting, strong and stable, until I was ready to reach out to them again.

Inspired by many of G.B. Marian’s recent artistic posts and Joan Lansberry’s beautiful works, I tried my hand at drawing on a particularly difficult day. Without even really thinking of it, Set appeared in my journal, contemplating the storms in His hands. It was a comfort, and a small way to start to reconnect (if obviously just a quick doodle by an amateur who very much needed the creative therapy.)

Set_doodle

I was divined three years ago today as the daughter of Set and Bast, beloved of Heru-wer and Hethert-Nut. Heqat joined our family of gods earlier this year, but is no less celebrated this day than the others. I am grateful for all five of these Netjeru, for what they bring to my life, how they remind me that each new day holds potential for me to live in such a way as to reflect their strength, their beauty. I will honor Them today in shrine, fittingly the first day in several weeks that I feel pure enough in body and heart to do so. I will also endeavor to honor Them through my words and actions, by moving forward, respectfully reflecting on what has been while always looking to the future and what I can bring to my community, my gods, and my world.

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2015-03-21 04:53 pm

Balanced

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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2015-02-23 05:09 pm

A Modern Holy Month: Miew Khem

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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2015-02-08 08:06 am

On the Significance of Nomes – Part 1

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.

duquesne-incline-pittsburgh-pennsylvania-5982962649-800x532

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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2015-01-27 07:12 am

Red Week – Days 4 through 7

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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2015-01-21 12:00 am
Entry tags:

Red Week Round Up

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

I still owe you all a summary of what occurred during Days 4 through 7 of Red Week, and I promise that I have such a post in the works. However, my brain is still processing a number of things that took place during that span of days, trying to find words for certain emotional reactions and sorting out feelings regarding things that I researched or discussed.

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In the meantime, I wanted to do a quick post that highlights some of the other ways that different followers of Set joined in on Red Week celebrations. I like to think that the week brought some extra attention (and positive “PR!”) for my Father, that He was pleased with our efforts, and that those who celebrated Him learned something about the Red Lord or themselves.

 

 

 

  • G.B. Marian of LV-426 Tradition (priests of Seth-Typhon) shared photos of a new Set statue he recently purchased!

 

  • A child of Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, Itenumuti shared zir experience learning more about Set during His week and perhaps a bit about zirself!

 

  • Kemetic Orthodox gatherings were held in Massachusetts (with Khenneferitw), Ohio (with A’aqytsekhmet), and Maryland (with myself and Heruakhetymose)!

 

These were just a few examples amongst the sculptures and drawings created, stories shared, and heka enacted in Set’s name over the past week. I remain humbled by how many chose to participate in some way, how many volunteered to pull together and make this festival a reality.

Finally, if you did something for Red Week, I’ve not mentioned it above, and you would like to see it added to this post, just let me know. :)

Dua Set! May the Son of Nut continue to walk with you and lend you His strength.

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2015-01-13 11:37 pm

Red Week – Days 2 and 3

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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2015-01-11 07:20 am

Red Week – Day 1

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

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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.