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.