The Song of Hethert-Nut My stars are bright, Dancing into darkness, Streaming into night. Here my stars are shining, Deepened in sorrow, Their colors twining. And to the melody, They come to rest, Alongside others, Against my chest. -by me The shock of events really does not settle into my heart or mind for […]
The Eye has returned from Her wandering journey, time away from Her home giving Her the peace and freedom She needed. Many Kemetics celebrated Her return with the Solstice, honoring the growing light, and cheering for the longer days that bring so many of us joy and needed renewal. I love this holiday, and will make offerings to Hethert (in Her syncretization of Hethert-Nut in particular) with the Establishment of the Celestial Cow in the coming days. Yet the Solstice night for me is a day for my Father, a day to acknowledge His longest fight of the year against the Uncreated One, and to give what offerings I can to lend Him encouragement and aid.
This year I was out of town visiting my biological family, and so a full, formal ritual like the one I celebrated the year prior with my Kemetic family was not a possibility. But I ordered a fancy steak when we went out to eat, and silently offered it to Set before digging in myself. I wore one of my t-shirts with his image on it. Once home, I took some time by myself to briefly visit a shrine space I’ve established in the duat to light candle and incense, pour cool water and beer. Then, while preparing for bed, Set made one more request of me. He wanted the very first song I’d ever written for Him, and He wanted it sung aloud.
I was nervous. I’ve had sinusitis for three and a half months now, and with it a bevy of unpleasant pain in my throat, ears, and mouth. I caved and made an appointment with a specialist in January, but as of right now my voice is still a fickle thing. Sometimes here, sometimes raspy, and sometimes gone. It’s been a challenge, separating my identity from the singing I’ve always been proud of, and finding other things to focus on besides my music in the meantime. But He kept asking, so I tried, not at full voice, but enough to carry the melody well. I made it through, despite a bit of pain, and realized that what hurt I experienced was no worse than what I feel at present when I have a conversation with someone. My fear about damaging my voice permanently was what had actually been holding me back, not the physical discomfort. Yet the experience of singing again after so many weeks of avoiding it was so fulfilling that I realized I needed to find balance in this aspect of my recovery as well.
The experience reminded me that while balancing my identity with other aspects of who I am and what I bring to the world is important, vocal recovery is worth fighting for. I sang and I remembered my power there, even if it was just one quiet, tired voice at midnight rather than the operatic soprano I once was, able to sing over choirs and pounding drums. I sang and I reconnected to emotions I’d been repressing for several days, as part of this particular visit home involves sorting out the severity of a serious health concern for one of my family members, and helping other family members get past their denial of the situation so that they can better care for her with whatever lies ahead. I have shoved my own feelings aside to get what needs to be done, done. Those feelings came back, and I turned on the shower briefly and cried where it would not be heard, but then felt a weight lifted for doing so. I can acknowledge the hurts I accrue while fighting my battles, while still being strong enough to continue to wield my spear at my Father’s side. I have seen the scars that mar His skin as the night wears on and the snake strikes and strikes again. He will win as He always does, but that victory does not come without cost, and that cost provides lessons, new tactics to stay one step ahead on the next night’s battle.
I am so grateful that my Father showed me these things, that He knew how much fighting my way through that one song would help me understand what needed to change. I will keep going, but I will do so with the recognition that I cannot do so clouded by fear. That the things I love matter, and will be my strengths as I work to care for others.
Dua Set. <3
Autumn sings to me via her unique, improvised melody of change. She is different from the other seasons, so distinctly herself, and integral to my senses and psyche in a way no other time of year can match. Her wind brings cooler air, the crisp scent of living things casting away the old in a spiral dance of saffrons and russets and earthen hues all claimed back to the earth himself. She is the time of harvesting grains and gourds, but also harvesting ideas and sun-kissed inspiration, readying it for the time of gathering by the hearth to place pen to paper, paint to canvas, voice to tales, and beyond.
She is all the stories that bring communities together in the winter months, families sharing hot drink beside the flame that keeps away both chill and dark. She is the advancing night sky, the twinkling lights of the ancestors above us spending lengthier hours guarding from on high. She is a time of connection as we return to our homes, re-enacting rituals of generations or crafting new traditions as we are called to do, treasuring those internal spaces all the more for the comfort of emotional and physical warmth after coming in from the cold.
In the traditional land of my spirituality this time of year would also represent a time of cooling, a closing of windows, a preparation of shrines for the colder points of the year. Yet the harvest was still long off; the third month of Akhet includes festivals to welcome the still-rising Nile, greeting the flood before it recedes and growth begins. It was a time to ask the blessings of Hethert, who presides over the month, and to continue efforts towards ones goals.
I appreciate this contrast, and find my blessings in the closeness I feel to others in my small corner of the world as the sun wanders away and we gather together in the darkness to await the Eye’s return. I find beauty in the light we create through shared meals, shared stories, shared moments of internal creativity brought to the forefront. We have more reason look within and subsequently encouragement from those who gather beside us to bring it without, to share and draw closer to one another. My personal goals often involve doing things for others, serving the communities I care for, and so this time of year gives me tremendous opportunity to do so. The sun sets earlier and rises later, so all the more reason for ritual candles to be lit, all the more reason for communal songs to be sung. I am given purpose in this season, both as I celebrate it here in Pennsylvania, and as I might have celebrated it in Egypt.
That purpose can only be fulfilled if I also look to my own needs, and Autumn holds me in that regard. She reminds me of transitions, of the only constancy in life being that nothing is constant. She allows me to let go of what was old, let it wither and feed the changes that will come again in time. There are always new beginnings, She says, but those beginnings require a casting away of what might hold you back.
A leaf falls, and I give it my difficulties with trust.
A leaf falls, and I name it remembered trauma.
A leaf falls, and the wind carries away my belief that I am worthless.
A leaf falls, and I watch my fears about my health drift away.
They are not magically gone, of course. It will take time for them to return to the earth, rot away, and become that which feeds new growing things in the soil. In the meantime, the limbs of the beloved oak outside my window are laid bare, as are my emotions: raw, naked, unadorned with the beautiful lie that everything is always “okay.”
But new leaves will grow, after many new returns of the sun, rising and passing overhead as I struggle towards acceptance and adjustment. Each dawn brings me a little closer to the final fresh start that I crave, each dusk gives me a night of creative effort and community. Autumn grants me connection to my spirit through artistic endeavor by candle light. Autumn grants me connection to those who so kindly remind me that they care as they share their stories in turn. I adore Her, the spirit of Her that lives in these Appalachian mountains. She works in tandem with my Father to help me break, then change, then grow again. They are a powerful team, the small aspect of the god Set which dwells in Western Pennsylvania, and the Autumnal netjeri of a season and a city and its people.
I light a candle for them, I sing for them, I write of their message for all who find this time difficult or painful for any number of reasons. My hope is that in sharing some aspect of why this season proves to be a blessing for me, that perhaps the darkness will feel even the slightest bit less overwhelming for others. I will gladly raise my mug to your own inspiration and connection with those you love. Be well, and may your life be changed for the better.
Do akhu play a role in your practice? How do you work with the akhu (shrines, rites, etc)? How do you set up an akhu practice?
Learning to honor the akhu, or the blessed dead, has been a challenging process for me. I wasn’t someone who came to Kemeticism with any prior experience of ancestral veneration. Those who had passed away were mostly gone from me, or so I believed, either “far away” in some form of afterlife, to be seen again only when I too passed away, or simply gone as I often felt in my moments of pessimism and spiritual doubt. Learning to open my mind to the possibility that maybe I could still connect with them, honor them, even speak with them? It remains an ongoing effort: difficult but rewarding at the best of times, disconcerting at the worst, and altogether strangely more challenging for me to speak about in a public setting than my interactions with the gods.
With that in mind, this post may seem less candid than others, with fewer references to specific individuals than you may notice in other posts where I readily discuss which netjeru I spoke with, how I perceived them, etc. This relates to that discomfort I mentioned: I struggle with the idea that I might be mishearing one of my ancestors, particularly those I knew in life. With the akhu, it’s harder to forgive myself if I feel that I am not accurately discerning what I actually hear from what I’m mentally making up, for reasons that are difficult to explain. I suspect it relates somewhat to ideas that the gods are beyond human error, will not be affected if I misinterpret something now and again. But to mistake the words of one of my family members, someone likely only being reached out to in this context by me and me alone? It sits strangely at my core, and often prevents me from reaching out beyond the recitation of specific prayers, or a quick hello as I walk by.
My akhu thus have a more generalized role for me, for the time being. I do have a dedicated shrine for them in the living room of my apartment, decorated with photos of various individuals from both my family and my partner’s family, and a few family heirlooms. At least once a week (though I am trying to up this to a daily practice) I greet them aloud, formally welcome them to share my home, and offer water. The water offering is later poured into a specific spider plant that I bought as part of a fundraiser at a Race for the Cure event, and thus I view this as a way of honoring the many akhu my partner and I have lost to cancer over the years. I do not revert this water myself, as I follow the Kemetic Orthodox practice of not reverting the offerings given to akhu, but instead give them to nature or, in my case, a small bit of nature that I tend indoors.
I will light a candle or incense on special events and holidays that would have been significant for my known akhu (their birthdays, Father’s day, veterans day, etc.) I also attend sixth day festival chats hosted by the House of Netjer’s Rev. Raheriwesir, speaking my ancestors names aloud and sharing them via chat, so that they are remembered and, as some say, so that they live.
I also engage in certain practices that relate to my ancestor’s culture and spirituality as a way to honor them that falls outside of what might be viewed as specifically Kemetic. I have learned and prepared various recipes from my Italian great-grandmother’s cookbook. I attend a Methodist church when I visit my father at home, to honor the faith that was so important to many, many generations on his side of the family, even if I personally no longer identify with that particular religion. On occasion my partner and I will sing or play songs that his father liked in front of the akhu shrine, or bake biscuits to recognize his southern heritage. It has been good to share this aspect of my practice with my partner, as I think it helps us both to deal with our losses in some small way, and to always remember.
The memory aspect is what touches me most, I think. Even if I struggle to communicate via conversation like I do with my gods, even if I have moments of concern that perhaps some of my particularly devoted Christian akhu would not want to be recognized through formal Kemetic ritual, they all deserve to be remembered and honored. You can be creative with how you choose to go about relating to those memories, what actions you take to recall what they loved, who they were, what they cared about. But whatever you do, it is worth it to spend that time walking with their memories, thinking of how you personally reflect those who came before, and allowing them to live again as you speak their names and remember.
Two weeks ago I spent several days in my childhood home in Maryland, visiting family and taking care of some planning for my upcoming wedding. Each night, after a busy day of visits and organization, I was greeted by the voices of hundreds of native treefrogs. The slow rising, alto creeeeeeeek of the upland chorus frog formed a polyphonic chant with the soprano chirrups of spring peepers. I did not see them on this trip, but recalled with joy being in my early years and finding the little creatures crawling on the sides of my parents house, loving that they were so small and yet had such a tremendous voice.
The return of the chorus frogs was always, for me, the first sign of the return of the warmer months. School would soon draw to a close, and a summer full of adventures would soon begin. So too would my personal new year be arriving, my August birthday arriving only a few months after the frog song began, and even when little the choir of ribbits got me thinking about what it would be like to be another year older, wondering about the year behind me, and the year to come. I would lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the rhythms of amphibian music, dreaming and pondering about new beginnings until eventually sleep took me.
This emphasis on Frog as a representative of new beginnings on the east coast of the United States once reflected fresh starts on another shore: that of the Nile delta. In Ancient Egypt, immediately following the annual flooding of the great river, thousands of frogs would seemingly “emerge” from the soil, as the sodden earth provided a greater expanse of habitat, and the various frog species began to mate and reproduce. Though my research has not yet lead me to which of the following endemic amphibian species to the Nile valley region (egyptian toad and mascarine ridged frog) most likely existed at that time, one or both contributed to the ancients’ understanding of the goddess Heqat: lady of rebirth, midwife to the gods, giver of life to the human bodies that potter Khnum created upon his wheel. When the frogs returned after the flood waters subsided, so too would crops begin to grow, new projects could begin as the silt was once again rich with nutrients and the sky rich with frogsong.
It cheers me that these various species on both sides of the globe remain listed as unthreatened, though the Egyptian frogs have declined substantially in the past 10 years due to overharvesting for university study. Hopefully something can be done to protect them, as the frogs serve not only as a symbol of renewal, a current cultural keystone within the Americas and a historic cultural keystone of the Nile delta, but also as a source of food for other predatory species seeking sustenance as they enter their own breeding seasons, a source of protection from imbalance as they keep insect populations in check.
The frogs are necessary to balance, necessary for new life. Their song must continue to be sung.
The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.
Due to my free time in March and April being eaten alive by a rabid grad school monster, I’m going to address two topics in one, though it will all go under the guise of “Living Kemeticism.” I will discuss the following: What does living your faith mean to you? How can others bring their religion into their day to day life or live their religion? How public are you about your beliefs and practices? How has it (or not) impacted your work life, your familial and friendly ties? What advice would you give to uncertain Kemetics about how to approach either telling or not telling others about their beliefs?
I think I was living as a Kemetic, in many ways, before I even found Kemeticism. I say this in the sense that I was already trying to live my life in a balanced manner, respecting myself and respecting others, caring for the world around me while caring for myself, seeking knowledge while simultaneously trusting instincts and emotions. I also held the belief in a divine force that could manifest as many individual and distinct gods or spiritual forms, which allowed me to worship and work with the entities that most strongly called to me, while respecting, from a distance, most of the gods and religious practices of others.
Kemeticism sort of wove its way into what was already there, fleshing out the details with a more complex definition of balance in the many questions of living a life in ma’at and giving me Netjer, an entity from within the greater divine force, from which many Netjeru extended into complex individual gods. While I began to establish a set ritual practice, and perhaps did more genuine praying than before, overall my day-to-day existence changed very little.
What did change was having a far more solid concept of the benefits of living my faith and a growing sense of responsibility to, and support from, a diverse range of Kemetic communities. In turn, “Kemetic” added a new layer of self-understanding within my identity, a form of security based upon the framework through which I could now learn more about myself, my relationships, and my world. The ideals I aspired to live somehow acquired greater weight in their manifestation in the revitalization of an ancient tradition. When I lost sight of these goals, there were others to whom I could turn to find my way back, books I could read to revitalize my interest. These were ways to cope with fallow times, rather than simply watching and despairing as my connection to spirituality withered away.
I have been far better off for having this foundation of Kemeticism beneath my longheld beliefs and ideologies. Yet living my faith extends beyond the complexities of the ideas that shape who I am and what I do, often creeping into the simple comforts of day-to-day actions. I always wear the ring that represents my devotion to, and connection with, Set and Bast. I also have a rotation of pendants and earrings depicting various Netjeru, an ankh, a scarab. These become physical reminders, their weight on my chest a reminder of who I am and what I believe. My Set-animal pendant in particular has grown shiny from the amount I’ve rubbed it between my fingers when nervous and seek a small reminder of my own strength.
Given how living my faith has so strongly proven itself to be a positive influence on my life, it is perhaps of little surprise that I guard it fiercely. I share my faith only with those I know I can trust, though have reached a point where I am no longer willing to lie if directly confronted and perceive no actual physical threat.
I am fortunate in that I live in a place where Christianity is not so deeply entrenched in the culture as to result in my potentially being attacked for who I am and what I believe. In my previous academic job, I was under some pressure to keep my spiritual beliefs, any spiritual beliefs, to myself, so as to be taken seriously, but I hope that my next career will be more open in this regard. My family largely does not know, but were I ever to move back in with them, this conversation would need to be broached. I do feel that, again, barring physical repercussions, I would owe it to myself and to them to be entirely open about my spiritual beliefs and practices.
In the meantime, I have made gradual, but significant, steps towards helping my parents understand that I do not identify as Christian, and have a different spiritual worldview. I hope, in time, to reach a point of complete openness with them, but for now, try to keep a balanced perspective on what I need them to know to be personally fulfilled and honest, and what small gaps in their knowledge might be better for their emotional well being overall.
Living as Kemetic requires this sort of balanced approach towards how “Out” you are with your faith. Consider your needs, your safety, and weigh these against how you can best respect the needs of others. Only you can make these decisions, and they are well worth contemplating over time, particularly if your life as a Kemetic has brought you as much joy and positive growth as it has me.
I will not live the live my parents led, and I am fine with this. As musician, artist, and scholar, hopefully someday counselor, my home will not compare with the home of two lawyers that I grew up in: again, I am fine with this. My home is huge in comparison with the homes of many. Three rooms full of instruments and art and books. My home is open to those friends and family who need shelter. My home is full to brimming with the affection between two human-bodied and two feline-bodied people. There is space in my home for the ancestors to visit, if they choose, a small space always left for a father, two grandfathers, and any other relations to drop by in whatever form they might take. There is space in my home for gods and spirits, a Kemetic shrine and animist altar well tended in separate rooms for separate moments of worship.
My home exists in the liminality of the mountains and the city. Sturdy brick with nearly 70 years to its name surrounds me, with human neighbors above and below. Yet the deer walk the small patch of woods behind my home, as do chipmunk and squirrel. The robins greet me in the warmer months, the crows laugh when the weather begins to cool. Wild turkeys occasionally posit themselves directly in front of my car, reminding me that nothing is so important that it can’t wait a few more minutes for them to strut on by.
In my mind my “territory” extends about a mile east, to the avenue that holds both my favorite cafe and my nearest big park. I wrote my masters thesis, in its entirety, in the local, family-run coffee shop. I know the people there better than I do the ones in my own building. After working and writing for hours on end, I can walk up the same street to my park, get lost in the trails that during summer are shielded from any roads. I can view the Allegheny river from here, greet a broader range of avian life: mallard ducks, Canadian geese, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, grackle… the list goes on. Only recently, courtesy of the animist course I’ve been taking, have I looked on a smaller scale. Ants, wee spiders hiding in the bark, inch worms, lady bugs… a world I’ve not given nearly enough notice to. The plants as well: a newly acquired Kindle has allowed me to download a guide to the wildflowers and trees. My goal is to know the park that has given me such joy since I claimed Pittsburgh as my new home three years ago. I owe it that much, if not more.
Yet my home extends beyond this physical space. My heart strings are taut. The core, bass strings are drawn out of love and duty to my parents and Maryland; these are also pulled fiercely to Texas where my sister, best friend, and heart-kin lives with zir mate. Higher pitched strands guide my soul to Colorado, North Carolina, Illinois, and West Virginia. These are the homes of friends, family; so many loved ones I cannot ever see nearly enough for my own liking. Pittsburgh remains within driving distance of many of these places, and I am grateful for that. For the places more distant, it grants me compensation: in being near other spaces important to those I love, it gives me the option to see them when they travel. It also provides me both the water I grew up with, albeit three mighty rivers instead of the one great Bay, and gods bless it for the mountains.
It is unsurprising to me that the places I travel in my meditative journeying efforts reflect the reality of the physical that feeds my soul. My internal temple, while Kemetic in design, was built within a natural clearing in a vast forest. It is near a great river where I work with Heqat and Hatmehyt, and the forest itself is rolling and wild, a part of some unknown mountainous region in my mind. I run the woods with deer and hound, I soar above the trees and see great valleys and other, unknown tributaries with Great Horned Owl. As my physical self, I seek similar places out in my actual travels. I clean litter from the aforementioned park when I visit, trying to protect what small corner of my ecosystem is within my neighborhood, my little human territory.
I would shrivel up without access to the woods, the water, the birds and the green. It is as much a part of my spiritual life as ritual and prayer.
Around this time, a year ago today, I was coming home after a small surgical procedure that would determine whether or not the “questionable mass” in my chest merited greater concern. My head was full of a lot of other issues on top of the health concerns — Would I finish my masters degree? Was I even in the right career? How could I deal with the toxic situation in my workplace? Where was my relationship going with this amazing person who’d stayed in the hospital with me all day despite his own recent emotional hardships related to family and cancer?
With as much emotional sand shifting beneath my feet, for both ill and good, it was with no small degree of gratitude that I had a very special occasion to look forward to that evening.
Ice pack strapped to my chest, pain medicine leaving me a bit more light-headed than I would have been anyway out of sheer excitement, I sat in shine as I prepare it when I’m not ritually pure. I turned on my laptop, glad to spend a fair amount of time talking with Tenu as we waited for the time when we would learn our Shemsu names and take vows to both put our Parent gods foremost in our spiritual lives and serve the Kemetic Orthodox community. Together we entered the virtual room that had become familiar to us as our online place of worship, together we were greeted by many, together we took our vows.
And now I am Sarytsenuwi. I’ve previously written about what that name means to me, how it related to my relationship with my Parents before I became a Shemsu. I don’t want to focus on that so much today, today I want to focus on what has happened since, and how it relates to being “The Standard [Bearer] of [My] Two” or “Two Standards for Me.”
Two Standards For Me
One of the biggest goals I’ve set for myself is breaking down my “double standard” tendencies. I’ve examined how I set standards for myself and how I live those standards:
1.) I am setting new standards for how I speak and write about myself.
This falls in line with the well known, “Hail Bast, coming forth from the shrine, I do not eat my heart.” What I say and write about myself affects how I think and feel about myself. This pertains to both obvious things — not denigrating myself , and being careful of the difference between self-insult and humility — and less obvious things, trying to write about solutions to problems, concerns, health matters, rather than simply listing them out. It’s a shift of mental standards as much as a shift of action, but I’ve found they greatly overlap.
2.) I am setting new standards for how I respect the sovereignty of others.
I am not responsible for the actions and words of other people. I cannot make anyone change, nor should I. My responsibility is to myself, and I can only set an example for others by being careful of what I say and endeavoring to be respectful unless I ethically cannot remain silent. My workplace is difficult to navigate in these terms; anything I say against another individual is almost certainly going to come back to bite me, no matter how much they may have angered or hurt me. I tried to change this environment by creating new organizations, promoting healthier social interactions. This having failed, and in my own realization that my professional calling lies elsewhere, my standards for respecting the sovereignty of others necessitates my departure for another path.
3.) I am setting new standards for self-care.
Aaaand this would bring us to that lovely concept that Netjer has tried to smack me upside the head with since I started this crazy journey several years back: “balance.” Balance in the Bawy, balance in my akhu reading from my RPD reading, balance in my efforts with Heqat, balance appearing in so many places that it’s become one of those words I read three times over because it’s no longer processing in my skull the same way. In the past year I’ve forced myself to try this brilliant new concept where rather than always focusing on work and school obligations, I give myself space to be creative, allow myself to take days off when I’m sick, and forgive myself for seeking help when I need it. Lo and behold, my mental health has turned a corner and I’m far more capable to help others.
The Standard [Bearer] of [My] Two
The year has also seen me seeking out a better sense of my own “calling,” though that overdramatizes it a bit. If a standard bearer was deemed specifically suited to that position, I wanted to use this year to determine what my own position might be, and how I might achieve that.
1.) I want to bear a standard for the community.
I really wanted (still do!) to get more involved with the Kemetic Orthodox community this year. I took a vow to honor and aid my spiritual family, many members of which I have come to deeply care for and who have added great joy to my life. I’m not where I’d like to be with this, admittedly. Far too often my schedule overlaps with the Dua times or I’m too worn thin to be up for fellowship. I’m working on it though, coming when I can, trying to stay on top of potential local gatherings via the forums. I’ve also felt at least somewhat helpful with my efforts at organizing the monthly fedw chats, and intend to keep that going as long as possible. I’m also trying to stay in touch with other Kemetic folks via Facebook and tumblr. We may not have what one would call a cohesive community, but I am constantly learning from all the different folks I meet online, in their various paths and takes on life. I hope to maintain those ties.
2.) I want to bear a standard of aid for those who need it.
This was a Big Thing for me, and it didn’t come easily. It took me many months to come to terms with the fact that I really wasn’t happy in academia alone. I needed more one-on-one interaction, needed to be able to carry my ideas about how music can be used in a therapeutic context into the world rather than simply writing about it. This is finally underway, as I’ve made plans to depart, and have started research for what comes next.
3.) I want to bear a standard of joy.
Okay, yes, this is the cheeseball fluffy bunny part of the entry (no offense intended, Wenut!) but I mean it. I want to be a positive influence for people. I’ve upped my efforts to reach out to the friends and family I’ve not heard from in ages, offering my company and my compassion if they want it. We have the technology, we can make it better, stronger– eh, you know what I mean! I want to write music and make art for people. I want to laugh and just connect. This is a work in progress too, but, you know, it’s a goal to reach for. I’ve finally got the spoons for it due to some of the other work I’ve done, time to make good on it.
So aye, my name and the goals I’ve taken on courtesy of that name. There’s far, far more to do. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more lessons from “Sarytsenuwi” in future years. But, it’s a solid start and I am prepared to keep carrying these standards forward into whatever comes next.
Lord, we want to see You … Lord, we want to see You. … O Lord, come in peace. Let us see You …
Little one! How lovely it is to see You. - excerpts from the Lamentations of Aset and Nebt-het
I witnessed the Mysteries alone this year, asthma necessitating my bowing out of previous plans to join in with an in-person gathering hosted by Heruakhetymose in Maryland. While I still hope to do a full vigil in years to come, my small-scale acknowledgement of Wesir’s passing still proved quite moving for me.
My partner had purchased a statue of Wesir for me from a local store after seeing my disappointment at my health’s ill-timed turn for the worse, and the Lord of Ma’at sat on my shrine for days, seemingly waiting for me to find the time to honor Him in my own way. I put it off for about a week, as stress over my music directorial debut and a brief dip in mood courtesy of the changing seasons made me wary of immersing myself in the solemnity of the occasion. Still He waited, a patient presence in the room, reminding me without anger that He was there, and He was ready when I found the energy to meet Him.
Finally, I prepared the shrine for Him with pine scented candle, sandalwood incense, a bit of earth. I kept his statue upright while I sang for Bast and Hethert-Nut, spoke the prayers to Set and Heru-wer that have become habit. It felt as though an honored guest had joined my regular host of deities, and there was no animosity.
Having gone through my regular senut prayers and praise, I lay Wesir on his back behind the pine candle. The shadows from the flame completely obscured His icon from my view when I returned to my knees. It was strange, having Him there, having just touched Him, and yet simultaneously being very aware of the lack of being able to see Him while the other images remained.
I read through the entirety of the translation of the Lamentations provided in Hemet’s The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook, and found my voice catching with each repeat of “Lord we want to see You.” When I finally reached the end, I took awhile, sitting in the silence to consider why this was hitting me. I closed my eyes, entered the river to find the calm that Heqat’s meditations have provided in recent days, and She joined me wordlessly while I attempted to sort things out for myself.
I am nearing a point in my life when my paternal grandfather has been gone from me nearly as long as I knew him in life. I love him and I do miss him, but I never knew him in the manner I might have as an adult. He passed while I was still too young to know the questions I would have asked, and while I am grateful that he (and, for that matter, my mother’s father who died of cancer while she was still carrying me) have both been willing to accept my efforts to honor them as akhu, it will never be the same. I cannot see him the way I did once, I will never know him with the same depth that I would have liked.
But this, for all that it aches on occasion, does not truly mirror Aset and Nebt-het’s grief in the Lamentations. Their consort and brother was close to them in a way that my grandfather, who I only saw a few times a year, never was. I have not yet experienced a loss of the magnitude of Wesir’s death, I have not yet grappled with the void of a death of someone I know inside and out.
I have, however, become acutely aware of the inevitability of experiencing such a thing, and perhaps sooner than I would like. My mother’s health has suffered greatly over recent years. She nearly lost a battle to kidney failure while I was overseas doing fieldwork, and I have spent several nights at her side in the hospital while she did her damnedest to fight off one form of infection or another. Her physical body has simply not kept up with the feisty, second-wave feminist lawyer that has so inspired me to become the proud, independent woman I am today. Her struggles in her battles with various ailments is antithetical to the sheer force of nature she can become out of love for her family, her career, and any child (two-legged or four-legged) who has ever needed her aid.
I am not ready to lose her. I suspect I never will be.
Granted, I sincerely hope that I will not lose her for some time yet. But the truth of the matter is, someday, I will. Someday, I will not be able to see the woman who I adore with my whole heart. The mother and friend I love so, so very much. She will be gone from me, and I will cry out, “Let me see you!”
And in time, some seventy days, I will. But it will be different. She will not be gone forever, but the way she appears to me will never be the same.
It makes me treasure each moment we have all the more.
Dua Wesir, for making me face these emotions. Dua Wesir, for allowing me to appreciate life and the time we have together with the ones we love most.
Heqat’s new statue arrived tonight, after a particularly difficult week that saw me facing serious abuses at work, family emergencies, and something of a “quarter life crisis” (though even I’ll admit that sounds a bit humorous.)
We’ve worked together for about four months now, all told. You can see my previous post for a more detailed description of how She entered my life, but suffice it to say, She’s made quite a difference in that mere third of a year.
I dedicated tonight’s senut to Her, and after offering my traditional brief prayers and praise for the four gods of my line-up, I joined Heqat in meditation as I now do on a daily basis.
It was simpler this time. I realized that in meditating, I could actually hear the faint whirr of what few evening insects still live in the woods behind my apartment as winter overtakes fall. I felt the heat of the candle’s glow on my face, envisioned it as sunlight. Heqat sat beside me, in my cupped hands, all around me. So small, so great, many dimensions and sizes and powers in one.
She-in-human-body reached out and touched my chest. I was aware of my heartbeat. Aware of my calm.
Like Serqet, one of Heqat’s epithets is “She who makes the tight throat breathe.” I am breathing easier than I have in years. I am calmer, more accepting, less riddled by anxiety. I can listen to my heartbeat, feel the passion and joy there, indulge those needs without guilt in far better balance with my drive to work and push and succeed.
I offered her bread and water. I read Her the poem I wrote in Her honor and submitted to the Bennu. I spoke briefly on what She meant to me, but She cut me short, so I dedicated the pair of earrings and brooch I had purchased for Her. She liked the earrings quite a bit, found the tiny, sparkling frog a bit too ostentatious, but appreciated the gesture.
She made me promise that after I left shrine, I would send the email that began my departure from my current field, and my journey towards work as a music therapist.
We sat for awhile longer, just enjoying the sounds of the night and not saying anything. I asked Her if I could take pictures of the shrine and She agreed, then bid me goodnight with Her soft smile that is less seen and more felt and was gone.
I rose, took the pictures below, then sent the message which will change the course of my life.
On many of Her festivals, Bast asks very little of me in terms of formal worship, instead making artistic requests or suggesting that I use the time I would have spent in shrine to spoil my “cat kids.”
Tonight She wanted me to play with the furballs and then to attempt a sketch of the image of Her and Set in Ra’s barque that I’ve seen in several dreams now. I’m not much of a two-dimensional artist, but I’ve enjoyed playing with digital paint programs of late, so I gave it a shot. It seemed appropriate for the day, after all.
I’d be curious to hear what you think of it, simple and stylized though it is. ^_^;
I have not been looking forward to the start of the semester.
I’m a part time teaching fellow, putting in about 20 hours a week (more if there’s grading to be done), and a full time graduate student. I’m in year three of my PhD program, and coming back to school after a summer of emotional and spiritual recovery post surviving the MA has been a bit of a kick to the pants. After a full week of 6 to 10 hour training days I’m officially back in the thick of it, teaching, reading, writing, and all the while doing my best to sort out whether or not I’m actually on the right career path.
I’m also facing some health challenges. Tomorrow I’ll have an ultrasound which may finally shed some light on several health issues I’ve been dealing with for the past four years, health issues that have necessitated surgeries and put me and my family on edge while we waited to hear if the issues at hand were something more insidious than we’d initially believed. I’m really hoping that this new test will get at the root of the issue, so we can move forward, rather than perpetuating the previous cycle of monitor, biopsy, consider removal. Granted, an ongoing emotional health battle compounds the lot of everything I’ve written above, so that’s another reason to get the tricky health stuff off the table if possible.
Since school began again I’ve gone from doing senut every evening to senut once or twice a week on Thursday and/or Sunday evenings, my only daily accomplishment the extremely brief mindfulness heka I shared in the previous post. I found myself angry for this perceived failure to maintain the habits I’d established over the summer, caught myself attacking my own inability to keep doing what I felt I “should.”
But “should” is stupid, terrible word, particularly when it comes to your relationship with the gods. Fact of the matter was, They weren’t guilting me, They weren’t tearing me down for what I could manage now that my schedule and life had become more complicated. Those insults were entirely my doing, my belittling of my accomplishments. When I finally directly asked Set if what I was doing was acceptable, He said He was pleased I’d managed to make a weekly commitment and stick to it, given that last year I’d go the better part of a month without sitting in shrine. He also reminded me to always live my belief with pride and passion, even when I can’t celebrate it as frequently with formal ritual.
I’m still sorting out for myself exactly what this concept of living the spiritual means to me. I hope to use the next several posts to form a series related to this topic.
For now, I’ll just share a few images that may serve as prompts for this effort.
I’d like to consider daily habits, like my morning ritual for the battle at the prow of Ra’s barque.
I’d also like to consider the significance of celebrating events with family, both Kemetic and not, such as my recent trip to Allegheny Cemetary with my partner.
Another post may deal with the ways in which Kemetics reach out to each other across the miles, such as the generosity and kindness shown to me by my spiritual family on my birthday.
And finally I’d like to consider the ways that things that seem largely unrelated to our spirituality may nevertheless prove inspirational to our spiritual goals.
I hope these posts will prove useful to others as I embark on my own journey of how I can maintain a balanced spiritual life, even when my mundane life necessitates shifts in the methods used to do so.
Following the Kemetic Orthodox calendar, I have just made it to the end of another official Kemetic year. Over the course of five days, starting today, I will be celebrating the birthdays of the five children of Nut, and using this time prepare for the new year or Wep Ronpet. For the few followers of my blog who aren’t familiar with these “Days Upon the Year” or “epagomenal days,” they specifically refer to five days which do not actually take place within one year or the next. To quote my much-respected acquaintance Shefytbast, “In myth, Nut was forbidden from giving birth to her children on any day of the year; feeling sympathy for her, Djehuty gambled with the moon and won five extra days upon which Nut’s children could be born: Wesir, Heru-wer, Set, Aset, and Nebt-het. These days, being outside the year, and further being a time of birth (always fraught with peril), are considered to be both extraordinary and dangerous.”
Other Kemetic friends and acquaintances are on slightly different time tables, depending upon their own calculations, but regardless of the precise dates assigned for each god’s day of birth, many of us are in in the midst of a time where we ready ourselves for a spiritual “reboot” if you will, reflecting on the year past and considering what we might do in the days to come. Occasionally, people find themselves dealing with profound changes, or strange and unexpected trials during these five days. I’ve certainly had my own bumps and surprises in the week leading up to this time outside of the year, but I’ve dealt with them as best I could, and moved forward.
I will spend the epagomenal days in a very different manner than I did last year. Wep Ronpet 2012 saw me in Wisconsin, with substantial amounts of time to myself even while I participated in an intensive study program. I was able to spend time in shrine with each god on their day, write an individual post in their honor, and seek out places or activities around town that reminded me of them. This year, I am staying with friends in Chicago until tomorrow evening, when I will head to Joliet to celebrate Wep Ronpet with members of the House of Netjer. This is an important step for me. I felt as though I could not, in good conscience, continue forward on this particular Kemetic path without meeting Hemet and more of the House in person. I was very grateful to meet a few of these folks in Pennsylvania a few weeks back, and very much enjoyed the experience. It was sort of like I’d known each of them for far longer than I actually had, given how smoothly conversation went and how quickly the time flew by. It was also kind of amazing for me to be able to openly discuss my spirituality in a group. In my day-to-day life, I generally only get to have full-fledged conversations about it with Itenumuti online, or occasionally with my partner when he wants to learn more.
I do strongly feel as though the gods wanted this of me, so while I am somewhat nervous about meeting so many new people, I am mostly pleased that I have been able to pull this together. I hope to learn a great deal in the coming days, both in terms of Kemetic practice in general and also about this specific community that I have taken vows to uphold, and the woman whom I trusted to divine my primary deities. I am optimistic that my positive impressions online will be verified in person, but it’s still a weirdly unnerving thing, giving the virtual the potential to become a far more intricate, messy reality by stepping away from the screen and into actual, face-to-face interaction.
I will try to do something for Wesir today, small though it may have to be. I suspect I will endeavor to spend some time with my akhu this evening, after my friends have gone to bed. Perhaps write some small bit of poetry in his name.
But yes, as the year is renewed, so am I trying my best to renew my writing efforts. I’d gladly welcome a bit of conversation to help inspire further posts, but also simply to hear from you, as it’s an exciting time for many of us, and there is much to talk about as we consider what is behind us, and what that means for each of us at the new year.
As this is technically a weekly blogging project, I am perhaps stretching the rules a bit by posting a creative work. But they’re really more “guidelines,” no?
Eye of Ra
I am as waves, shifting and pulsing,
a vibration that once was my visceral cry
quickens from roar to scream to explosion
In that instant I am more than the single strand of belief
which held me between your imagined sky and walked earth
Ecstasy holds me taut, faith draws a hand across me,
and those who know both will erupt with my birth
into the vision of humanity’s dawn
I am light and sound in that boundless repetition
My voice slows into the shaking of the sistrum at my right
My Eye rises into the blaze of the wand at my left
Sound in darkness
Light in silence
I am the destroyer of mere sensate dichotomies
And live in the soul of those who would burn
By the Kemetic Orthodox Calendar I’m technically a day late to be celebrating Set’s Feast day, but graduate student scheduling often necessitates a bit of flexibility when it comes to holidays. More than once I’ve had to give some small offering and an apology on an actual “Big Day” ™ and promise to properly celebrate a few days down the road, once I’ve made it through the paper, presentation, or what have you.
But that aside, it was quite nice to try a modern-styled ritual written by both a respected acquaintance and priest. The version of Set she presented was somewhat different from how I usually connect with Him, but I enjoyed the opportunity to try to understand Him from a different perspective, and also appreciated the similarities that emerged throughout the course of my reading through and contemplating both story and song.
I generally followed Shefyt’s instructions quite closely, though I did (by virtue of belatedness) combine the celebrations for Day 1 and Day 2 together and read the story silently rather than aloud. I also left Bast on the shrine: She wanted to be there for her role in the pacification, apparently? Who knows! (But one does not argue with an Eye.)
I spent the allotted celebration time in prayer, singing a few of my own songs for the Red Lord, and completing a divination. It was quite nice, having a bit of one-on-one with Set in shrine. Most senut experiences of late have been deliberately evenly split amongst my four primary deities.
I would also note that it was really just a lovely experience to have a brief, tangible connection with another Kemetic person that I’ve only interacted with virtually via blog and forum. I would love to continue this sort of experience with others, when and if you all have personal rituals you wish to share.
At any rate, I’ve included a few photos below:
How about that inadvertent glare placement. <_<
The print off to the left arrived today, thus became part of the offering. I find it amusing that it got lost in the mail last month, only to finally arrive on The Day I could fully celebrate its featured deity. Also, the incense burning is a new “Strength” blend I found today in my local Nepalese store while seeking out a red candle. It’s rather epic.
Bagel and clementine, aka: the itty!feast of Set.
Thanks again to Shefytbast for the chance to try a newly authored ritual!
Many thanks to those of you who’ve contacted me here and elsewhere to let me know you wish to attend my Naming. As some of you may have heard, the House lost one of its own this past weekend, and understandably Hemet needed to reschedule the celebration for next week while she grieves for a friend of twenty years and helps with the funeral. Many prayers to Hemet and the family of Rev. Butta; may Deena’s ka be justified and those who loved her find comfort.
Emky and I will thus be taking our vows next week, on the evening of February 6th, at 9:30 pm Eastern.
It will be an… eventful day for me. Due to an inconclusive ultrasound I had today of a breast mass I’ve been monitoring with my doctor since October, I will be having a small, surgical biopsy that Wednesday morning. Fortunately ritual purity does not seem to be an issue for this particular occasion, so I promise to be online, excited for the event albeit possibly a bit groggy from pain medications? (We’ll just say it adds to the general “WHEE! I’M A SHEMSU!” of the day.)
Such is life when you’re the daughter of Set, I suppose. Roll with the punches, and take your vows on the same day you have a mildly disconcerting medical procedure.
(…sometimes you’ve just gotta make light of things, you know?)
Last night I dreamed that I was running an online ritual for the House of Netjer, and I was doing it from my parents’ dining room table. This is strange in a number of ways. For one, my parents do not know that I am Kemetic in a spiritual sense, though they know that I have found strength and meaning in the mythological aspects of Egyptian lore, and that I “strongly relate” to aspects of both Set and Bast. (To some extent I feel as though they probably could figure it out if they ever wished to do so, but I don’t see that happening.) Two, I highly doubt I would ever advance much beyond Shemsu in the House. I have served as leader and counselor in various secular settings before, but something about taking on positions of authority in a religious context feels so sharply anathema to who I was a mere two years ago, fresh out of college and scathingly critical of almost any form of organized religion. It’s simply something I’ve never considered.
Yet that was the bulk of the dream, my parents’ lengthy table set up as a full, elaborate shrine devoted to Bawy, and me leading a ritual for twenty-odd participants online. I poured the water four times, said the words to akhu, Wepwawet, sebau, and ma’at, gave time for prayers, and then moved to the ritual itself, which was very straight forward. Each person was to sit, silently, for twenty minutes — a veritable achievement for many, including myself — and think about what they needed for themselves and themselves alone. What was required that they could be healthy and happy enough to bring light to the world? What self-care had they denied themselves lately? What aspects of their mind and their body were hurting, how could they be healed? How would these changes let them be (and this I distinctly remember) “a pharaoh to their family and community, a leader and a provider?”
I lit a candle in front of an image of Heru-wer alone, for whom the ritual was predominantly dedicated, and sparks leapt skywards nearly setting the ceiling alight. I became aware that my parents were there, concerned about the flames, but otherwise just intrigued and happy to let me continue leading my spiritual family through this important moment before we as a literal family went out together to enjoy the evening.
I woke up just after the participants finished, shared their thoughts, and thanked me for leading ritual that day.
This gives me a lot to think on. Not in a “calling” sense, just… why did I dream about this? Why so clearly?
I had a dream a few nights ago, very simple. I was attending Wep Ronpet at Tawy House, and had just arrived after an excruciatingly long drive cross-country. I walked in the door, weary but energized by my own excitement about finally getting to attend, in person, the biggest festival of the year. As soon as people saw me, they knew me and greeted me.
(Heck, they even asked me if I wanted iced tea, which amuses me to no end on further reflection. Thanks dream-friends, I really wanted that tea!)
Those who were closer with me hugged me in a fierce embrace, and then one person, laughing aloud at how overwhelmed but happy I looked, said “Welcome, daughter of Set and Bast!”
Something about being acknowledged, aloud, as the child of my Parents, and having everyone present believe it without hesitation, warmed me to my core. It was such a pleasant and unique experience to be able to fully express and live that part of my life. Share it with other people. Be known by the Names who claimed me.
And though this is hardly “proof,” I had a growing sense as the dream continued that the imagined experience was something of a gift from Netjer. Because that’s all there was to it: love, acceptance, and speaking aloud (ohai, heka!) that I was my Parents’ Child. I was completely taken aback by the strength of the sheer joy I experienced at finally being able to say such things, confidently,to my family of kindred spirits who recognized the power behind such words of acknowledgement.
I never have dreams this pleasant (almost everything I dream is nightmare-oriented) nor this simple (usually there’s something of a storyline, rather than just a snapshot experience.) However, what this dream does have in common with some of the other experiences I’ve had while sleeping is that it has stayed with me. I find my thoughts returning to it again and again during the day. I crave the opportunity to experience this sort of thing in my waking hours, and have been prowling both the Kemetic Orthodoxy boards and the Kemetic Interfaith Network in an effort to build on what digital connections I have. It ached that I missed the Lamentations for Wesir at Tawy. I’m scrabbling to find a way to attend the Midwestern “Moomas” even though I rationally know that I will be elsewhere with family on the same day it’s being held. A “Moomas” card exchange has lifted my spirits somewhat; even just the prospect of holding a physical object from another Kemetic friend cheers me. I’m also debating getting involved with several artistic projects being run by the House.
All this said, I find myself mildly amused at my own excitement at eventually getting to interact with other Kemetics in person. So much of my social life revolves around the computer, and has since I was in my pre-teens — why this sudden urge to push beyond the screen and speak, face to face, of the gods and faith that has become such a revitalizing force in my life?
We shall see what comes of this.
But what of you all? Have you had the opportunity to attend any gatherings with other Kemetics, be they of Kemetic Orthodoxy or another form of Reconstructionism? What did you do? Was it a worthwhile experience?
I always feel a bit odd apologizing on blogs for not being “around” or writing much, given that most of what I type is met with very limited response. This is not whining, mind; finding the energy to sort through ideas and meet them with your own, particularly given the abundance of spiritual blogs (and likely blogs on all the other interests we have) on which you might be asked to contribute, is difficult to balance with that whole, having a life off of the computer bit! I’m far from the best myself.
That said, I have been gone awhile. Graduate school — and more seriously, issues with depression — have me by the heart once again. Time for contemplation and spiritual matters has tanked; and even when I do have time for senut I’ve been physically impure for other health reasons or felt so down as to declare myself emotionally impure. Yet the few times I have managed “unofficial” shrine time in the past four weeks have been incredibly revitalizing.
Last night for example:
I was shocked not to be met with rebuke, but concern and compassion, after a particularly rough week emotionally. I’ve not been taking the best physical and mental care of myself; I know this.
Yet shrine time was simply… a reminder that I am loved. Worries were expressed by my Mother, Bast, She who is rarely so gentle with me. Heru-wer’s gruffness was also turned down, a firm reminder given that I should try to take better note of when my internet time turned from self-care and community to mindlessness, and to step away to do something physically or mentally challenging at that point, but even this was followed a “I know you can do this. You are strong.”
Hethert-Nut said very little, but just gave the impression of a starry blanket wrapping me up in a giant hug. Set just watched me, with a pain in that dark gaze that spoke volumes of His concern, even if He wouldn’t voice it.
I went to bed with my partner but continued to have a sense of them, each in their animal theophany, tall enough to reach halfway to the ceiling. A massive dark cat, a blindingly golden hawk, a star-furred thick-horned cow, and a huge red Set-creature, standing guard at each corner of the bed. For the first time in weeks I had no nightmares, and woke feeling genuinely rested.
Dua my Parents. Dua my Beloveds. I am forever grateful that even in the darker times, you remain at my side. I will try to better represent your strength and vitality in the days to come.