Jealousy.

I woke up this morning at a little after 6AM. I had no reason to be up so early, either, so I wasn’t overwhelmingly happy with this current chain of events. I had a three day weekend ahead of me, last night, which meant that I could use today to sleep in if I so desire. I had some ideas about what my day would entail today and waking up at such an asinine hour was not a part of those plans. But, my eyes opened and I was fully conscious within a few minutes. This is abnormal. I usually need about forty-five minutes in order to fully and consciously wake up when an alarm isn’t going off or about to go off. If I have no plans, I can laze around and normally do. Stubbornly, I lay there and glared at the ceiling, demanding my body to shut the fuck up and get the well-needed rest it fully deserves. This week, at work, has been completely full of bullshit and I have been on an emotional roller coaster for a little longer regarding religious things. I need to rest, I told my body. I curled up beneath the blankets more, rolled onto my side to spoon the dog, and glared at the wall in front of me.

Sleep, evidently, is for fucking losers.

Still, I refused to get up and make coffee or set out offerings or even remotely consider what the next steps were. I had woken up, not just early, but with a nagging need to get up, turn on my laptop, and go. This, also, is uncharacteristic of me. I am not that kind of person in the morning. I sit around and relax, drinking my two cups of coffee (only two throughout the week except on Sundays when I break habit and allow myself three) in mostly peace and quiet. On the weekdays, this isn’t always the case because, well, life happens and I have to get myself and my son up and ready in the morning. But since today is Good Friday, there was no school and there was no work, so I didn’t have to do anything. I could have sat around and had my cups of coffee, casually walked the dog, and did some cleaning (the house is in sore, sore need) before I even bothered considering turning on my laptop. But no, I remembered suddenly. I had said I would read the links that Desh and Fjothr provided to me “in the morning.” Evidently, “in the morning” meant that I had to be up at fucking 6AM and get to reading.

So, I turned on my laptop and made a huge mess on the counter while I was preparing my morning coffee. You ever just have one of those moments where you are so caught up in what you are thinking about that you don’t realize what’s happening right in front of you? Yes, it was like that. I had finished setting out the daily offerings to the gods and spirits who demand daily observances and I was making my own, first, cup of coffee. And I was thinking about the conversations I had seen that happened further after those links were provided to me and mulling over what I had seen therein, thinking about how those discussions impact me and how those discussions don’t impact me. And I was thinking about how all of that is just a muddle in my head and how, probably, no amount of reading is going to clear it up (spoiler alert: I was right). And I made a large mess on the counter with my coffee and my first cup tasted incredibly weird because I didn’t sign into my laptop like I said I would or because I didn’t add enough sugar, whichever the case may be. And then, somehow, after reading a few of those links, I ended up making a second cup of coffee and I couldn’t even understand how in the world I had enough left in the pot for a full cup of coffee after dumping half a cup on the counter.

Whatever.

My life is fucking weird.

After reading a couple of posts, I began to think, actually about one of my online friends. (I won’t mention names because I’m uncertain if they would like me to call them to the forecourt with this.)

Their life is weird. I always end up reading their posts, in the quick of the night or early in the morning, on both Tumblr and WordPress. I rarely comment on them, but I read them. Everything they have ever written about their life and the intense devotion and relationship they have with their deity, I absolutely fucking read it. And I was thinking outside this morning, after reading a bunch of those links and feeling as if my head were going to explode, and I realized why I don’t say anything, usually, when I read their posts and why I keep it quiet how completely in the loop I am about their life and their relationship with their god. I’m jealous. But what does that have to do with anything, right? Well, their life is something that the links I was given is about. It’s a life of devotion and that devotion governs many, if not all, of the life choices they have made in the last year. I have watched as they moved across the country, watched as they were shown where to learn things and how to learn things and what things to learn about, and watched as their life became almost entirely devoted to that deity.

I’m jealous.

I thought about what this jealousy stems from. Whether you realize this or not, I was an intensely and disgustingly jealous person for many years. I did a lot to break myself of that habit because, to me, jealousy is one of those emotions that will rule us and we will never rule it if we let it stay. I did a lot of work on myself in an effort to curb that jealousy because I saw how it made me behave in my relationships with other people, I saw how it made those people behave with me while we were in those relationships, and I saw very clearly that I would end up as a sharp-lipped old harpy if I kept that shit up. It was a years’ long process that was aided and abetted by various factors in my life until I was finally at the point where even the possibility of having a significant other who may “window shop” while we are out and about together gave me hardly a quiver. (Let’s face it: my eyes roam too.) I have moments now, of course, where I end up feeling really jealous, but normally, it’s about stupid things and I can easily and quickly trace where that jealousy stems from and then shut it up, stop it, or destroy it, whichever the case may be.

However, I have noticed that, on occasion, I can have such a deep and abiding jealousy laden moment in my religious life that I can find it difficult to breathe from all of the emotional upheaval. I find it interesting that my lack of jealousy in one arena – mundane matters – seems to have overdeveloped in other arenas – religious matters. But no matter from whence the jealousy stems, I still live by the adage that this isn’t a good idea and I need to discover the source of that jealousy in a better attempt to get a handle on what’s going on, internally. So, I sat down and pondered what it was that I was seeing that was causing such jealousy. I think, and I’m not sure yet and I probably won’t be for a while, if it was caused by the fact that they have let their religious path, in one form or another, determine their life or if it’s merely because it feels like their relationship with their deity is more intense and far more easier than mine.

In thinking about it further, I have to admit that I think it is the latter as opposed to the former.

This person to whom I know has a life dedicated to their gods. I’ve seen other people with similar lives, but this person lives it in a way that makes me envious. The other people I’ve seen in similar situations don’t seem to live their life in the way that this person does and their interactions, choices, and many of the statements that stem from either of those cases leaves me cold inside. I definitely do NOT want to have a lifestyle like those others. But this person whom I’m friendly with, who has watched my posts and my own comments about things in recent weeks and has given me words of encouragement the likes of which I cannot even convey in the last few months… that person has a life that I am envious of. They live a good life. Their deity pushes them in directions that are baffling to me, and occasionally baffling to them as well, but it’s the fact that their deity pushes them the way that the deity does… That’s where the jealousy comes from.

After having identified the basis for it, I could come to terms with it and let it go.

But I have to admit that I’m beginning to feel that I want… this other that my friend currently has. This friend of mine has done a whole lot in their life based entirely on what the deity in question has asked of them. And in that, there was a lot of fear. I can remember one post that they wrote, clearly delineating what could possibly go wrong with their life if they did the thing. And they ended up doing the thing and thus far, things seem to be going very well with their life. Things may be a lot more confusing now because they tend to listen to those nudges more often than they used to, but they seem to be having a very decent life. I understand, consciously, that if I were to attempt to follow suit in my relationship with Sekhmet, I wouldn’t necessarily get the same things or the same impressions or even have the same end result(s) that my friend has. But sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to give up control, just enough, to feel as though a deity is actually pushing me in the proper direction. (I don’t doubt that my friend is living their life according to their deity’s wishes, by the way. In case that came across as what I was saying, I didn’t mean it that way. I’ve tried to re-word that sentence a lot and just ended up going, “fuck it.”) But I have so much fear on that front that I honestly don’t think I could do it.

Besides, I am a control freak, in case no one was paying attention.

But as I thought back to this morning and this wakeup call at 6AM… I wondered if maybe that wasn’t Sekhmet pushing me… I honestly don’t know if that’s the case, but the links I was given are in relation to where things could possibly be heading when it comes to Sekhmet in future months. Things have come to a head and I’ve… finally gotten to the point where I am accepting of the initiation that I went through and even having the rug pulled out from beneath me. I’ve even noticed that, emotionally, I feel much more on proper footing than I did before my break. Sometimes, when I think about it, I’m still really pissed off, but mostly, I’ve accepted that things went down the way that they did and that there is nothing I can or should do about it. I can either accept it and move on or I cannot accept it and leave. I decided that I wanted to stay in all of this, so acceptance is where I went. And with that acceptance, I’ve begun to look to other possibilities – avenues that I never fully understood or only ever thought about – and I’m beginning to wonder if maybe…

Jealousy is that type of emotion that is based, in my opinion, on something that we see that we want very much. And I’m wondering if my jealousy was due to my own blindness. I’ve felt nudges and emotions and had ideas that seemed to come out of nowhere, but later as I began to put the puzzle pieces together, I realized that maybe it didn’t all come from seemingly nowhere. Perhaps my jealousy was out of a deep miscommunication with myself. I was so blinded, mayhap, by the emotional construct of my relationship with Sekhmet in the beginning that I was happy even in her disgust with me. And later, as I began to fight back and then even later when I realized what sort of fucked up shit was coming down the way, I realized that I wanted to be like that friend of mine. I was perceiving what the relationship they have with their deity was and wanted it.

Nudges.

Pushes.

Confirmed divination sessions.

But I am beginning to wonder if I haven’t always been guided, in a way. And that my jealousy is based out of a misconception. I began to pick up pieces and put them down this morning as I went through those links provided me. Later, I went back to a few places I used to haunt and saw some things that had me laughing at my own naiveté and my own… blindness. I think the jealousy I was feeling was based on a definite issue I, myself, was having but not because I wanted what I was seeing. I wanted what I thought was happening to that friend of mine. I was always guided, I just didn’t quite understand where that guidance was leading. I think I understand where that guidance was headed now. I believe I know what’s heading my way and I’m pretty sure the next few months… they’ll be interesting.

Now, if only Sekhmet could teach me how to cook properly…

Lent 2014 Revisited.

When I first decided to observe Lent this year, I didn’t really think anything would change. I figured, like last year, I would go into this with the intent of giving up something really important to me (diet Coke; diet Coke; diet fucking Coke) and take a much needed break from the craziness that was my relationship with Sekhmet. And then, on top of that, I would get to spend a bunch of extra time with Papa Legba, who is always a treasure to spend time with. It was a lose-win-win, I guessed, because I was giving up something really important to me (diet Coke; diet Coke; diet fucking Coke), but it was also a win because I could take about a trillion steps back from Sekhmet. And of course, Papa Legba. I have to admit, the amount of intensity I had reserved for looking forward to taking a break from Sekhmet was unparalleled by anything save the impending birth of my son. (Let’s face it – any pregnant woman will tell you how very much they are looking forward to the fetus within finally being removed.) I went into this with certain ideas and beliefs about what I was going to get.

The Road Not Taken by dusky-inc via dA

I didn’t expect to actually take the time to discover what Lent was actually about and find ways to apply it to the religious situation I live now. What was so surprising was how easy it was to pull the basic concepts behind Lent out of the dogma related to it and utilize it in a way that better helped me to define and remind myself what my religious life is about. I found that, while there are some aspects to Lent that are intrinsically tied to the Christian background from whence it comes, there are also aspects of it that anyone can use to help them realign and reinterpret what their religious needs should be and what their religious path should look like. I wasn’t expecting the amount of introspection that I delved into in a better attempt to understand why I needed the break, what I needed the break from, and what decisions, if any, I would make when it was time to look back at things.

What I wholly didn’t expect was the fact that as much as I was taking time off from Kemeticism as a whole, and Sekhmet in specific, I found myself thinking about it all too often.

However, it wasn’t as painful as it had been before the break happened. Leading up to Lent, things got incredibly painful for me. Thinking about my religious path ended, more often than not, with me burnt out, crying, and/or overly anxious. Things had been so difficult for me with Sekhmet and the initiatory rites she had me go through that to think about them was to leave me in physical pain from the amount of bullshit I felt I was being inundated with. The intensity with which I looked forward to my break was mostly because I was at my wit’s end, I was at the breaking point. I was seriously considering just giving it all up and shoving it away from me. I couldn’t seem to handle it anymore. I spent so much time, screaming unintelligibly or crying quietly to myself that the thought of even remotely continuing was too much. I knew that if something didn’t break, I was going to.

And then, like magic or more like the turning of the calendar, there was Lent. It was coming up and Papa Legba had said, “I need you to learn about Lent and I need you to not religion, can you do that?” And here I was thinking just to myself about how much I needed to not religion and there was an opening. Papa Legba was giving me a way out, temporarily at least, of the overload of emotions I was having regarding my religious tradition. And I went running to it so very hard and so very fast that I didn’t even stop to consider the nuance, the reason, or even what consequences might occur with what he was asking me. I didn’t stop to consider how this may or may not impact my religious path when I came back to it, if I bothered to go back to it. I was so focused in the idea of taking a break so that I could analyze myself and my feelings before making a, quite possibly, big huge and horrible fucking mistake by leaving everything behind on the spur of the moment. So, I went running ahead and I said, “I will not religion and I will learn about Lent.”

Every day, I would wake up and go through the motions. I still left out offerings and I still put on my religious-related jewelry, but I made a studious effort to ignore whatever emotional upheaval I was going through. With each passing day, the upheaval and turmoil grew less and less insistent. It began to fade. Just like with a wound – it started to scar. Only the healing took a good deal longer than a simple cut on the finger or on the leg. Instead of needing a few days for the wound to knit itself back together, I needed a couple of weeks. And in that time as I distanced myself from the hurt and the pain, I found that I could think more and more clearly about what steps, if any, I was going to take once I came back from the Lenten season. I found myself able to understand better what Sekhmet’s ultimate goals were, whether I knew specifically what they were, and what she was hoping to achieve.

I was becoming far more rational with each passing day and I hardly noticed.

As time went on, I began to look into Lent, as I had promised Papa I would do. When I started reading about baptism, I was shocked at the meaning behind what baptism was. According to what I found, it’s, more or less, an initiatory rite. And hadn’t I gone through one, not that long before? I felt, a little, as though I was being trolled. However, instead of just sighing in disgust and giving up, I kept up the research and ended up turning it back around to my own religious tradition. I had gone through an initiatory rite. Instead of having water placed upon my head, I had been forced to go through a very grueling and painful process, one that my soul has been building up to for many, many lives. And there’s something to be said here about the different types of initiations that one can go through. In Christianity, it is a simple decision. In Kemeticism, or more specifically in Sekhmet’s line of work, it is a death coupled with the re-forging of one’s soul to meet the needs and desires the deity in question has in mind.

I’m not saying, specifically, that this is what can be expected always when it comes to initiatory rites with Sekhmet or even with the NTRW. I’m just saying that in this particular instance, I had to die in order to be reborn into the instrument that Sekhmet wanted me to become. Death is never a pleasant experience and this particular death was not what I wanted. I understand the necessity of it, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. I also understood and even accepted the necessity of the work I had to do in the pit at her behest, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. And I didn’t. I was helping people, in many ways of course, but the work was dirty, painful, and hard to stomach day in and day out. The initiatory rite that I went through with her was so fucking painful and so distressing, but it was a necessity.

Just like a baptism is a necessity to enter into Christianity.

When I started looking into The Scrutinies, I found that while I couldn’t celebrate it the way that the Catholics could, I could at least take the message to heart. I found myself scrutinizing myself as deeply as I possibly could and found so much broken inside. Instead of just finding doubt, anxiety, and worry, I also found shards of broken glass in the middle of my heart and in the roots of my soul. I found that amid my very core, I could traverse the wilderness within and found that everything there hurt. It was a hurt borne of angst and anger; a hurt borne of confusion and fear; it was a hurt borne of not understanding and worrying; it was a hurt borne of the shattering of whatever illusions I had carved for myself in regards to Sekhmet. Everything within was a broken, discarded horror story that left me so filled with breathless sadness that I could barely stare at myself in the mirror anymore. What I saw was someone who was insufficient and quite possibly mentally unbalanced. I found someone who I didn’t like looking to.

So, I set about picking up the pieces the best ways I knew how.

I relaxed.

I calmed.

I told myself not to worry.

And when I broke those demands to stop worrying, I did everything in my power to toss myself away from those thoughts. I read heavily. I watched a lot of crap TV. I played games with the family.

I did everything I could to force myself away from all of that so that I could pick and choose what needed to be fixed and what needed to be discarded. The barren wilderness of my core was healing itself. From burnt out husk to partially green pasture in a few days. It seemed that by staying away from it all, I was doing far more work on healing myself and my broken promises. It was almost as if, by leaving it all alone, the mysterious inner workings of my soul were doing whatever the hell they needed to do in order to repair the damage. All I had to do was keep going and continue to make sure that I left that barren wilderness alone. I’ve looked back some since the moment that I walked out of my core and saw that desolation and have been shocked to find so many new things growing and even growth on older things…

With each passing day, as I would put on my heart-shaped ring, I would think about all of the things I wasn’t doing and wasn’t going to think about. With each night, as I would take my heart-shaped ring off, I saw the dark marks around my finger and sometimes, had to massage the feeling back into my finger. I was beginning to associate the heart, the ring, and the relationship with a heavy weight. And I think that the association with a heavy weight is important. By not taking it seriously, I could end up in hotter water than I’ve already been in or I could make things worse for myself. But with each day, instead of feeling angry or embittered about it, I began to feel calmer, cooler, more detached. And then as yet more time passed, I found myself feeling less detached and more intense. I was almost… looking forward to putting the heavy ring back upon my finger. I was beginning to remember why I had started all of this in the first place.

I went into Lent thinking that I was going to take time off, give up some diet Coke, see a whole ton of Papa Legba and learn about Lent.

I did take time off and it was worth it. I was able to remove myself from the emotional situation I was in and discover that I understood the nature in what was needed of me. And while I forgot, for a while, that my religion makes me happy towards the end of the initiatory rites I was going in, I remembered what it was about this religion that makes me happy. I was able to remind myself that while, yes I am in service to a god, I am also in this for me. And that includes doing the things that make me happy and make my feel worthy and remind me that I am living in ma’at. That includes reminding myself that while everything was really shitty for a while, it’s not always going to be that way. Rockiness is a natural part to any relationship, whether it is a relationship in the realm of the living, the realm of the dead, the realm of the astral, or the realm of the gods. Nothing is static and we can’t expect it to be. I needed to remember that everything changes and sometimes, it can be so hard to remember that as hard as the chaos of the initial change may be that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad change.

I did give up some diet Coke. I went the full forty days without having a single sip. I’ve been inundated with ads on Facebook and Tumblr for it. I’ve found myself surfing websites and there would be a diet Coke ad. I thought that perhaps, at the end of this, I could give up diet Coke completely. I found out that without having diet Coke around, I am more of an emotional mess than I was with it in my life. I also found that I have far less patience with work while drinking bottles of water versus diet Coke. It’s possible that the weight less I’ve experienced in the last month was due to giving up diet Coke, but I’ve also found that I am not a very good person without it in my life. It is an addiction and I understand the health risks wrapped up in that addiction. But it is my addiction and for fuck’s sake, I really like diet Coke.

I hardly saw Papa Legba at all this round. I felt his presence, occasionally, in the morning or at random times throughout the day. Sometimes, I would dream of the two of us in a garden or in the forest. He was always making something grow. He’s very good at getting things to grow, as I’ve found out. What I didn’t seem to realize until only just recently that each change in the scenery, the overall goal was the same: he was creating a garden and needed to nurture it. We talked a lot about the nature of what nurturing a garden was like and how that relates back to the nurturing one must do for themselves. He told me jokes and he told me stories. He said to me last night that it’s time for me to go back to where I belong; the lesson is over. And it was a lesson and a half. He wasn’t just giving me a way out of the really oppressive atmosphere I was in, but he was also helping me to grow, my core, my soul, and everything in between. He was busy nurturing the fledgling plants and the older plants that had been accidentally pinched out when I became so angry and so embittered.

I learned a lot about Lent. I learned about how it relates to Catholicism, but I also learned that the overall lessons for Lent can easily be turned back to focus on anyone else’s religious path. I also found out that the goals behind the Lenten season can, also, be brought to bear in any religious tradition. And it was in that lesson that, I think, I was able to really overcome the aggression, the anger, and the bitterness that I had been feeling for the six months or so before Lent started. It was because Papa Legba had asked me to learn about it that I was able to achieve introspective heights and understand, remind myself, and remember what it was I had started this whole path for.

I started on this path, all those years ago, not just because I heard the call of a goddess whose songs have been sung in my heart for hundreds of years, but also because I found a place where I belong, where I am comfortable, and where I am happy.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Oracular Session – April 2014.

I remember the day I thought about oracular sessions for the first time. I was driving on my way to work, still trying to parse out how to go about and offer services in Sekhmet’s name. I can remember that drive because, one moment, I was in the state of Massachusetts and then the next minute, I was about five minutes away from work. I got very heavily in an internal debate with myself, the first moment I started thinking about it. I knew that this was something beyond my skill set, beyond anything I could possibly offer. But the worst part about it was the approval I felt coming from Sekhmet the moment I had the thought. It made sense, in a way, to offer the service. I had been seeing, for some time, many people doing the oracular session thing for their gods, but I had hardly ever seen the case with ancient Egyptian deities and their recon/revival/whatever devotees. So, in that way, it made sense to me: I was offering a niche and I like to shove myself into tight, claustrophobic niches that leave me panicking.

Evidently.

Accurate representation of me about 95% of the time.

Accurate representation of me about 95% of the time.

But the main reason why I wasn’t really interested in doing so was because I didn’t know what the fuck that shit was about. All of those people offering those services – how do? It was like some mystical puzzle that had no pieces and there was no picture reference, anyway, to build that puzzle. I definitely had no idea how in the world they had done those things. I didn’t understand how they offered this thing, this mystical and weird and foreign thing, and then made words make sense to the people they were talking to. None of this made any sense to me, whatsoever. But it was the one thing that Sekhmet seemed very keen on. I could have decided, then and there, that my confusion outweighed her approval in the matter. But there’s something that most people may not realize about me or maybe they do and it’s just shocking to me: I always want approval. I especially want the approval of my deities.

I spent a lot of my rides into work worrying about how to do this. I decided that, no matter what, I was going to use cartomancy. But I have to admit that Sekhmet was giving me yet more odd emotive reactions regarding this. I couldn’t tell if that’s what she had in mind. I had, accidently and on purpose channeled deities before. I didn’t like it. I found the whole experience very painful and very confusing and very, very horrific each time. I found that the whole thing left me shaky, tired, aggravated, nauseated, and without any fucking spoons whatsoever. But Sekhmet has this thing where she likes to just have me do something. This should be quite clear, considering the fact that she never once explained to me the whole initiation process or what it was even for, but left me guessing. She doesn’t even to “go into the details,” I guess, and that drives me fucking insane. So, while I was willing to do the thing for people who may be interested, I was terrified about how I was going to actually do it.

I didn’t really do anything at all to prepare myself for what was going to happen. I didn’t know how to prepare myself. I could have napped all day. I could have lazed around. But I honestly don’t think anything I could have done in order to prep would have really helped. As I have made quite clear, I didn’t know what to expect since Sekhmet isn’t fond of details and I didn’t know what I would need to do in order to prepare myself. Did I meditate? Did I get really drunk? Did I get high as a kite (not that I’m into that sort of thing)? Did I try to reach a higher level of consciousness? Did I twiddle my thumbs? Did I read a book and hope that everything just suddenly fit into place? Like, what do people do to prepare themselves to do readings on behalf of people who want to reach out to a specific deity? I don’t know if what I did, at all, was really preparation but I had a pretty good day.

When it finally came time to do it, I realized that I was really fucking tired. I tend to think that I do my best card readings when my eyes are bleary and everything starts to blur at the edges because all I want to do is close my eyes. I’m not sure if I’m weird here, but I assume I am. Maybe it’s just because being tired allows me to relax the rigid, asshole-like control I have over everything and gives me a better ability to interpret what the cards are seeing. Or, maybe it’s just, simply, that I am able to zone out really well when I’m tired and I’m not so good at relinquishing control when I’m not tired. Whatever the case may be, I felt like shuffling cards and zoning out long enough to pull cards while mulling over whatever the request was about and then writing down whatever impressions I got from what I was seeing.

Sometimes, I got like little emotional impressions. Without getting into specifics: my first reading asked a personal query, specifically in relation to Sekhmet. I felt very much as though she were sighing and rolling her eyes. I got exasperation, aggravation, irritation, and put upon when I asked her the question. The amount of emotional overload I went through when I was asking for advice on behalf of another Sekhmet kid was made ten times worse because whatever shields I may have normally were completely gone. As I said, probably because of how tired I was, I was better able to give up my rigid, asshole-like control and get into the swing of things easier. Unfortunately, this meant that I was also able to get impressions that were in conjunction with my own impressions or complete opposite of my own impressions. Things that I knew I was feeling in relation to some of the requests were magnified beyond what they would normally be if I had been as tired as I was.

I’ve thought about this, trying to discern what the fuck was going on here.

I found that I was reacting in an overly emotional way to some of these queries. It’s possible that these emotional outbursts – at one point, I ended up crying for no reason other than that I pulled a fucking card – were due to any number of things. I’m trying to be rational here and not jump on the “I totes was hand-in-hand with my goddess” bandwagon here. But the emotional outbursts that I felt are difficult to parse out and decide what could be from other and what could be from me. I don’t really have any reason to be over emotional about anything that I was asking, though. The answers don’t fucking matter to me; they don’t impact me at all. So, why was I crying because of the Sekhmet kid who got a slot this month? I’ve decided that there are a couple of legitimate reasons as to my reactions: I was over emotional due to ovulation (TMI, right?); I was over emotional due to lack of sleep; I was over emotional due to the stress levels of this past week; I was over emotional because Sekhmet just makes me emotional sometimes. I was over emotional because I was really connected to the god.

I honestly don’t know what the answer here is. Anything could be possible.

I found that, in some cases, I was staring eye-to-eye with the statue of Sekhmet on my altar to give a better indication of what was going on or what I needed to know to relate back to the people asking. This, actually, left me very disconcerted. I don’t normally make eye contact with the statue. Hell, when I dream and/or astral in regards to Sekhmet, I very rarely look her in the eye. I honestly don’t know if it’s because I still feel so much less than in comparison to her or if it’s just a habit that I can’t break. Whatever the case may be, I found that whenever I would look her, eye-to-eye as one would when having a conversation with someone, I found myself uncomfortable with the direct focus. I found it really fucking difficult to maintain that eye contact, but also, I found it difficult to break that eye contact. Talk about a really weird and confusing mess, right? Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, staring into her eyes, so to speak, helped to aid me and whenever I did, I found that I was very stressful to maintain that eye contact.

I did, also, find that the little square bauble that TH’s aunt made for me after Christmas calmed me after those moments. I tend to think of this bauble as the “Ma’at Bauble.” It is gold and glitzy and has glittery ostrich feathers inside. It’s actually really beautiful and the moment I saw it, I knew that this was going on Sekhmet’s altar. It’s a sort of sign post or reminder to maintain ma’at, to maintain balance, but also that one of Sekhmet’s main functions is to protect and maintain ma’at as well. Whatever it is to me doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that when I felt disconcerted or overly emotional about things, I found that just looking at it was very calming. I could go back to doing what it was I needed to complete before going to bed. I found that it was easier to look at that glittery, ritzy, over-the-top-yet-gorgeous bauble and keep on, keepin’ on.

I did also note that my body had strange reactions to some of the requests, as well. When I stopped and tried to ask questions for myself, I ended up getting deep blooms of pain at my third eye and at both temples. However, as I continued to ask questions for other people, the response was dizziness and vertigo. I also received strange muscle spasms the more I asked questions. I’ve decided that this is probably due to the fact that I was sitting, mostly, in a hard backed chair all day and I was using another hard-backed chair to sit in while doing the thing. But the headache and the physical reactions were definitely not caused by how I was sitting or anything. I had felt perfectly fine, though tired, prior to sitting down. I’m not sure if it was just that I was asking my body to do more than I usually do, in a religious or spiritual sense, and that was my body’s reaction or if I can just expect that to happen all the time.

Only time will tell, I suppose.

The emotional fall out is still ongoing, I have noted. I am not a very emotional person, demonstrative or otherwise. I am very rigid and very controlling regarding my emotions. I don’t think that people need to see them, at all, and I try very hard to maintain this sort of tin-women façade. Sometimes, I fail and other times, I don’t. However, I found that as I was sending out the interpretations to everyone this morning, I found that I continued to have an emotional reaction regarding some of the readings I had done. I did find that the more emotional a reaction I was having was directly related to how close to the person who was asking. As I thought back, I think that was the case with some of the emotional reactions I was having the previous evening, though not all of them. But that makes sense! I’m going to, you know, have some feels regarding people if I care about them especially if I’m telling them things of a personal nature. I mean, that’s how friendships work or something, I think. But I’ve also found that the emotional reactions are still happening, which is not something I was expecting at all.

I have to admit that I spent a lot of my time, leading up to this month’s session, freaking the fuck out. Now that I have at least one experience under my belt, I’m not as freaked out. It kind of helps that the people who have received their readings have mostly all commented and many of them have been positive responses. So, I think that is a major weight that has been lifted. I also discovered that actually interpreting what I was seeing was easier than I thought it would be. For some stupid reason, I didn’t see the whole “story writing” that I ended up doing as a possibility even though that’s what I do when it comes to other forms of cartomancy. So, it’s kind of a relief to discover that one type of cartomancy, even if being interpreted from an intuitive and historical standpoint versus what a book tells me it should mean, is kind of the same as other types of cartomancy.

I did discover a good deal of other things, but the most important discovery was that, well, I can do this.

Kemetic Round Table: Hush-Hush.

When people start looking to other religious choices outside of the “usual fair,” there’s a lot of waffling back and forth about whether or not this is a thing. Not only are people worried that what they’re looking into may not actually be in their best interests, but they also have to take into consideration public opinion. Even though, in my opinion, religion and religious choices should be a private affair that’s taken into consideration on an individual basis, this isn’t the case in this country or in this hemisphere or on this fucking planet. Everyone has an opinion, sadly, about everything else and that includes religious persuasions. What makes it worse is that some of the newer religious choices are looked down on by other people for various reasons: some people think that they’re worshiping the devil and going to hell while other people think everyone with a religion is full of shit and making stuff up. In either case, these are things that must be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing what sort of religious practice, or not, is best for them.

This pretty much accurately represents this post in its entirety.

This pretty much accurately represents this post in its entirety.

Personally, I am both in and out of the “closet,” so to speak, when it comes to my religious practices. The short answer is that all of this is really fucking complicated and it comes on a case by case basis. I’ve been burned and I’ve been supportive, so it is truly dependent both on the status of my relationships with people as well as what reactions I believe they may have if I discuss it.

When it comes to family, I’m technically out. I don’t really discuss it with either my family or with TH’s family, however. It’s a subject of conversation, briefly, when it comes up, but I tend to shut those conversations down as quickly as they begin. I think part of this is because, in all honesty, to explain everything to a regular person is very difficult. Polytheism is easily explained as long as you understand what that word actually means. But when it comes to the devotions to various gods, the levels of those devotions, and everything in between, one can be looking at having a few hours’ long conversation that leaves heads spinning. Another reason why I tend to shut those conversations down is because I can see how some people react or based on inflection in their comments – if they sound like an asshole, I’m not going to want to discuss it any more than I normally do (and I don’t normally want to discuss it because, again, it’s kind of personal and not anyone else’s business).

My mother’s family is not supportive of my choices – they’re all staunch Catholics and so, as far as they’re [probably] concerned, I’m going to burn in Hell with all the other people who have chosen not to follow “the one twoo.” But my mother is supportive. She is ecstatic that after years of saying “I’m an atheist,” I finally found a religious tradition that works for me. She’s watched as I’ve changed dynamics and created something that works for me. I think, honestly, it’s based on my mom’s statement, “finally, you have faith,” that made me realize that the subject matter of that faith doesn’t matter so much as if people have faith. And I do. I believe. I believe in more than just myself and while things are weird and rocky and can be uncomfortable when my family makes asinine comments about it, it’s fucking mine.

TH’s family doesn’t really understand how many different branches of paganism there are and I don’t have the patience, usually, to enlighten them. They understand that I am a pagan and that I do practice magic (heka), however they don’t fully comprehend all the dynamic changes, on a personal level and on a spiritual level, that have happened since I first discovered this path. But at the end of the day, they’re supportive. They might make jokes and TH’s mom may end up using me as a threat against her students to behave properly (she told one student I would turn them into a frog if they didn’t cut the shit, which I’m just like, I can’t do that but that’s fucking awesome especially since the student actually did cut the shut). Of course, TH is aware because I do [occasionally] talk to him about this.

But when it comes down to it, I still have this staunch belief that who says what or who knows what doesn’t matter. All that does matter is if it makes me happy. And as much as I have to admit that this shit drives me up a wall with the wants and desires and the constant doubt, at the end of the day, it fulfills me.

And then I have so many different types of friendships that to discuss something that, to me, is as personal as my religious practice is is just not up for debate. I have acquaintances who have asked to read this blog and I have flatly refused, knowing that my blog may not be the best introduction to what a pagan religious tradition can look like. I have had Christian friends who read this blog and grew offended over what I said. (We’ve made up since that blow up, but we both leave one another alone when it comes to our differing faiths now, which is seriously downer.) I have pagan friends who know about this blog, but don’t know much about my personal life.

I guess you can say that when it comes to my friendships and how open I am about myself really depends, highly, on how much trust I place in them. And I have to be honest here. After having the person who was supposed to me the best get up in arms over things that I’ve written on this blog, based on my observations and based on my religious choices, I have to say that compartmentalizing my life like this works out for me. Does it suck? Yes. Ask anyone on Tumblr who I have spoken with about this – sometimes, there are just moments where I want to cry in someone’s lap because I’m pretty sure I’m not practicing a real religion but I’m just having taken a long walk off of the short pier of sanity. But I’ve been burned by the person I trusted and loved the most – and learned the lesson that compartmentalization with my friends is better off for me when it comes to our friendships than not doing so.

Of course, I have two friends, locally, who know a lot about what I believe in. One is a local Hellenic pagan. We don’t really talk as much as we used to and that’s… well, that’s nothing to do with religion but she knows what I’m up to. And if she doesn’t that’s only because she’s not reading this blog. My other friend allows me to wax poetic about the nature of souls and takes my spiritual advice even though she’s a Christian, but she is just like me: it doesn’t matter what faith is had as long as faith is had.

And of course, to make things even more complicated, I work for a Tea Party Republican who also just so happens to be very much a Christian. I honestly don’t know how Christian she is but she’s told people that she’ll pray for them when things go wrong (and then maybe she does, but I don’t know). And I can tell you that if she knew that the ankh I wear wasn’t just a fashion statement but a religious statement as well, she’d find a reason to fire me. The things she says about people who aren’t Christian (and I’m not talking about pagans, but about Muslims) is disgusting and disheartening. The things I could imagine her saying about me if she were to find out… Well, I need the paycheck so I have further compartmentalized my life.

Work. Friends. Family. Religion.

Very rarely do any of these in-roads meet. Yes, I am “out” and my Facebook profile even labels me as a “pagan.” But the people who are friends with me on Facebook, most of them, don’t look at that. Some of them because they like to ignore things – such as my mother’s family – and others because they don’t care and I’m not going to enlighten them. I’m a little open on my Facebook account regarding beliefs and whatnot, but I always second guess and third guess before I post something religion specific. As much as it sucks, and it really does, my life is a many-spoked wheel with me at the middle. And nothing really touches at all.

In case I haven’t really mentioned it, while doing things this way makes life easier and safer for me, it really kind of sucks. There are moments, at work, where I want to scream at Djehuty for not watching over a phone system when it goes down. Or, I want to meditate to Sekhmet, but instead, I’m stuck silently saying words that may or may not have power, depending on the spoon allotment and energy reserves I have at that moment in time. There are moments where I want to scream at my mother’s family and tell them that all beliefs are good beliefs as long as they’re taken to a good place and not used to condemn others for what they feel, think, believes, or are. There are moments in my life where I just want to scream because of how compartmentalized my life has suddenly become when even two years ago, it was hella easier.

I tend to feel, a lot of times, that this segregation is actually detrimental to everything going on around me. I can’t really pinpoint when I started to feel this way, but I noticed that carefully and purposely dosing out different portions of my life in this way began to tire me out. I would go off and be at work, followed by coming home and doing religion things and then I would spend time with my family and never the multitudes to meet. And I have to admit that it’s kind of dragging, a lot, to have to keep things so differentiated. It sucks. And I think a lot of times making sure that everything is not touching as carefully as I do, it takes a lot of spoons out of everything else. It leaves me breathless and bitchy and tired and depressed a lot of the times and I end up coming home and just staring at the television or reading a book.

I don’t think people are really meant to do this to their lives. Even if there are valid reasons for it, I just don’t think we’re made to keep anything separate from anything else. We are a multifaceted people and facets should touch. They should integrate. But in this day and age, especially with asshole bosses or unsupportive family members, we have to do these things, possibly even to our own detriment, if we want to have our cake and eat it too. (If that is even remotely apropos here because I honestly don’t know.)

Based on what I’ve shared, I have to say that if a new Kemetic wants to tell others, I strongly recommend not doing what the fuck I’ve done. I’ve kept myself so separated that I hardly know what the fuck way is up anymore. So, if anyone wants to tell their friends and family and their coworkers what their religious situation is – not that, I attest, it’s any of their fucking business – then I think that not doing what I’ve done is a good idea. It’s seriously just not healthy, in my opinion, and it ends up causing a lot of problems for you later on.

But the thing about telling people is that you have to be sure that telling them is even remotely useful to you or whether or not them knowing has any benefit to you whatsoever. You can shout whatever the hell you want from the rooftops and back, but if there’s no real point in telling them, other than you think you should, then you have to seriously taken into consideration the reasons behind why you want to tell them. Do you just want to share something new and exciting with people you care about? Or do you want to shock them? What is the point in telling them something that, quite feasibly, will not impact them in anyway? So, it comes back to having to decide of announcing your personal religious choices is useful to you. If you think that’s the case, then I think the next thing to take into consideration is whether or not they’ll be supportive.

And this is the crux of the matter for many pagans out there. We live in areas that aren’t supportive of anything outside of “the norm,” whatever that is. And there are people who we love and adore who may react very negatively towards whatever choices we make in our lives if those choices are deemed to be outside of “the norm,” whatever that is. So, if the person you believe you are telling will be supportive and benefit you, then I absolutely think that you should move forward with what you want to do. However, if the person is going to behave like an asshole because you’ve made a choice about your life, then maybe keeping it quiet is in your best interest. As much as you may feel that telling them is a good idea, if they’re going to be a complete dickface about it, then I strongly recommend just not doing so.

Honestly, I have to tell you that when it comes to telling people things about you that, in my opinion, are personal and private, such as one’s religious decisions, doesn’t really gain you much. Hell, in my experience, it seems to have caused more anxiety than when I was quiet about it. Just because you think someone will be supportive and nice about it doesn’t mean that they will be. Or maybe they’ll start off that way and then change their mind later because you say something they disagree with or because they convert to a religion that doesn’t tolerate others’ “differences.” While I can’t say that all people are going to react the way I’ve come to find many to most of them reacting in my life, I do have to think that what I’ve experienced (as generalized as I’ve described the experiences) should at least be taken into consideration when someone decides they want to tell others.

But of course, how one decides to live their religious life – privately or publicly – is entirely up to them. And anyone who tells you that your choices are wrong are assholes and anyone who doesn’t support you in doing something that makes you feel good about yourself is, also, an asshole. And people like that… well, they really shouldn’t be in your life anyway.

Scrutiny.

It should be no secret that when I decided to start observing Lent, I came into this completely ignorant. I honestly can’t remember what, if any, particulars were discussed about Lent in the Sunday school classes I took when I was a child, part of the Methodist church. According to my research, both regarding Catholic observations of Lent and other Christian cultures’ observations of Lent, I’ve come to learn that Methodist observations aren’t the same as Catholic ones, but there are similarities. According to Lent 101 from a Methodist perspective, there are sacrifices to be had in the act of giving something or some things up, allegedly ashes are placed upon the forehead on Ash Wednesday, there are fasts, there are Friday dinners held for parishioners, there are services provided to the needy, and they pray. According to everything in that 101, there really isn’t a large difference.

But I don’t remember much of church from my childhood. I don’t know if it’s because I went only for a few years to this church before deciding I didn’t believe and not paying any attention whatsoever to what was going on around me. Or, maybe I just didn’t have it stick. There’s quite some ceremony to even Sunday services, never mind major services like Lent and Christmas, in the Methodist church but maybe it was ceremonial enough to make a lasting impression. This, I think, is why I can say, confidently, that I know shit about Lent. From a Catholic perspective, I knew even less.

According to the Lent FAQ I’ve been reading, there are certain rites that happen during the Lenten season. Those rites are known as “The Scrutinies.” According to that page, “These ritual celebrations on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent are communal prayers celebrated around the elect to strengthen them to overcome the power of sin in their lives and to grow in virtue.” (The elect, or the catechumens, are people have not yet been initiated into the church.) However, these ritual celebrations aren’t merely to pray for the elect to overcome the power of sin. As the FAQ states, “There is a danger in celebrating the Scrutinies if the community thinks of the elect as the only sinners in our midst who need conversion. All of us are called to continuing conversion throughout our lives, so we join with the elect in scrutinizing our own lives and praying to God for the grace to overcome the power of sin that still infects our hearts.” In essence, these celebrative rites aren’t simply to pray on behalf of others, but also pray on behalf of the parishioners as well because fighting against sin and living by the grace of God is a consummate battle, or so it seems.

Sin is rife and people become infested with sin. Lenten season is, also, about removing that sin and recommitting to the original conversion to Catholicism.

This thing about sin is very strange to me. I’ve always had a difficult time understanding it. Sin, if I’m reading this correctly, is a constant battle waged, usually within the heart of the parishioners. According to the Vatican, sin is “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.’ Sin is an offense against God: ‘against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.’ Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods,’ knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus ‘love of oneself even to contempt of God.’ In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.”

So, what kind of sins are committed that one may need to scrutinize their lives and get back to God? The Vatican went on to educate me, “There are a great many kinds of sins. Scripture provides several lists of them. The Letter to the Galatians contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: ‘Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.’” Further: “Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man.’ But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds.”

Well, it kind of seems like anything can be a sin. If I recall correctly, the opening statement when a Catholic goes to confession should be something like, “Forgive me, Father, fore I have sinned…” And then they discuss how long it had been since their last confession. Well, if not talking about one’s sins with their spiritual adviser is a sin, then that kind of leaves whole vistas of possibilities as to what sins are? There’s no specific definition really about what could constitute a sin. Someone makes a decision about what a sin is, either on their own or through interpretations of theological thought, and so therefore, it is a sin. People say that being a homosexual is a sin because of a passage in the Old Testament. But the problem I have now is that, didn’t Jesus’s death technically negate all of that? His death led the way to the Kingdom of Heaven and forgave us of our sins… as long as we live our lives in obedience of Jesus.

But how do you do that? What is the obedience that Jesus gave, right? According to the Vatican, “‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.’ By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who ‘makes himself an offering for sin’, when ‘he bore the sin of many’, and who ‘shall make many to be accounted righteous’, for ‘he shall bear their iniquities’. Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.” So, if I’m reading this correctly, as long as we follow the Lamb of God, then we’re A-Okay. But in the Catholic Church, they acknowledge that people slip, people have crises of faith, people get stuck and muddled in the physical instead of the spiritual, and so you can go to confession and say some prayers that the priest tells you to say in order to atone of those sins.

But during the Lenten season, you can do all of that and partake (even silently) in the Scrutinies in order to combat whatever sins may be infesting the heart.

To an extent, this makes sense to me. I understand things that can manifest in one’s heart. Part of the Kemetic belief is that we must live within ma’at or our hearts will be infested with isfet. If isfet over takes our hearts, then when we enter our own form of judgment in the Duat, then we will be found wanting. Our hearts will outweigh the feather of Ma’at that it is weighed against and Ammut will eat the heart. According to the scholars, Ammut will eat the heart of those found unworthy and those souls will cease to exist. (This particular aspect of the ceremony – found to be wanting and the soul’s destruction by Ammut – are never shown, so this is guesswork. The thing is that it makes perfect sense that such scenes would not be shown since the imagery and writing of ancient Egypt were all tied in to heka. By depicting such a scene, one was giving it power enough to occur. By not depicting it, the ancient Egyptians were negating that power and forcing only good outcomes.) Another theory, at least as far as discussions with my Kemetic friends have come along, is that the soul doesn’t cease to exist but that they become muuet, or the unjustified dead. (Justified is the name given to those souls who have passed through the Duat and the ceremony successfully.)

In a way, I understand the need for scrutiny. I understand the need for praying against the sins of the heart, against the sins that can crop up. But I also don’t.

In Kemeticism, isfet is the only sin. Isfet is uncontrolled chaos. As Sard defined it, “Isfet is pure and total entropy, representative of the Void, and is the driving force behind wanton destruction and purposeless disorder which undermine the Ordered Creation of the Gods.” In ancient Egyptian belief, isfet and ma’at created a balance within one another, however it would appear that isfet was more powerful than ma’at. Ma’at needed constant defenders, usually in the form of pharaoh and the gods, to achieve the goal of maintaining ma’at whilst isfet was everywhere, always seeking for a single rip in the cosmic fabric of time and space to unmake the world and cast our reality back into the void from whence it came. We don’t have pharaohs any longer who can actively achieve ma’at, can maintain ma’at. Now, all we have are the diaspora recreation of people who have fallen to the path of Kemeticism and attempt to maintain ma’at in whatever ways they can. No overwrought ceremonies to achieve the course of the sun through the day time sky or formal words spoken to aid on its journey through the Duat each evening. No wars against foreigners, themselves the embodiment of isfet, in an attempt to reign ma’at upon their unrighteous heads. No such things exist anymore – just the solitary moments in which men and women and children of this faith attempt to maintain ma’at in their own ways.

In Christian religions, there are many more sins than all of that. There are physical sins. There are spiritual spins. I suppose there are also emotional and mental sins. None of that exists in Kemeticism. The religion was not orthodoxic the way Christian religions tend to be. The ancient Egyptians didn’t even care if you truly believed in their gods. Their religion was orthopraxic and so all that they needed you to do, in order to become like them, was to merely maintain ma’at, was to fight against the enemies of ma’at with your actions, and that was all one needed to do. There were no moments of intense prayer for one’s ability to overcome the power of sin, either by others or by themselves. There was simply the moments one took to maintain ma’at and everything else would be dealt with when the time came – in the Weighing of the Heart chamber deep within the Duat.

Even though sin is not quite defined the same within a Kemetic structure that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that I can’t take time to scrutinize my life in an effort to overcome the power of isfet. It doesn’t mean that I can’t take a few days out of the Lenten season to see if I am full of isfet even if I believe that I am full of ma’at. I have taken the time and I think that I am still walking the path of ma’at. Even with such thoughts as doubt and fear, which are almost daily reminders that I have no idea what I’m doing and perhaps, just maybe, everything is a made up story in my head – the gods, the path I walk, and the belief of what they want from me. Even with a constant inward battle regarding my faith in the gods and, more specifically, the ongoing work I have been doing for Sekhmet, I am still walking hand-in-hand with ma’at. I am fairly certain that my heart will not be found wanting and Ammut will not destroy me.*

* I would say that I am 80% sure. I do, as mentioned, still and always deal with doubt about everything. And remember, doubt may be a sin in Christian religions, but it is not one in mine.

But on the heels of scrutinizing my path and finding that, all things considered, I seem to be doing okay that doesn’t mean I can’t scrutinize in other areas. I have found that I am less angry than I originally was after the initiation process and more resigned, tired, and full of doubt. I have also found that I have become more easily susceptible to words from other people, not usually specifically regarding my faith but still promoting doubt about others’ belief systems, which cause yet more doubt. This in turn, leads to an anxiety attack the likes of which I cannot break out of, which finally leads to the ever lovely (and by lovely, I mean fucking shitty) shame-spiral that follows. I’ve been quiet, partially, because my own scrutiny has found holes within the aqueduct of my faith and I am trying to damn those holes with fingers instead of mortar and stone. I have also been quiet because, frankly, it’s incredibly fucking difficult to discuss how much pain I am in while I scrutinize my life, my path, and my thought processes therein only to find that my anxiety has trebled in the last three months and everything, whether religious or otherwise, is likely to set me off on an anxiety attack.

Quite. Fucking. Lovely.

I have scrutinized myself and found myself, well, I found myself wanting.

There is no prayer hear in which I can confirm my faith and re-confirm my devotion. I can ask for heka, or possibly do some of my own. But I tend to find it less than likely to succeed if I am doing heka on behalf of myself when doubt is at its core. Since, of course, if I do heka to remove my doubts and remove my anxiety, I am going to end up doubting that the heka I am doing will be successful. And it’s all just a sort of muddled mess where I end up moody and bitchy and on the verge of almost-tears. So, instead, I read books that are not religious and I shy away from the face in the mirror.

I have scrutinized myself and found myself wanting.

It is easier now simply to admit that I doubt, that I am anxious, and that things are fifteen days away from ending.

It is simply easier to deny myself diet Coke and to deny myself religion in a better effort to get in touch with the quivering soul beneath my breast.

It is just easier to ignore it all after coming to these conclusions and losing myself in a work of fiction.

I have scrutinized myself and found myself wanting.

Baptism.

I’m twenty days in to this Lenten season and I have to say that I am still dreaming about diet Coke… only now it’s literally. Since I can’t have diet Coke because, like an idiot, I gave it up, I’ve been having dreams about it. They’re not every night, at least. I don’t know if I could handle it if I had to do this every night where I wake up from a dream in which I’m scheming in an effort to take a sip. I don’t know if this is what addicts of things go through when they give something up, honestly. All I do know is that at twenty days in, I’m still fucking missing the taste of diet Coke. I thought that after forty days, I could just give it up. I would be done with this addiction and could move on to other addictions in the upcoming years. But I have to admit that I don’t know I’ll be all said and done with diet Coke after this. I also have to mention that I haven’t seen a damn change in my waist line because of giving up diet Coke, so even that bonus appears lost to me here.

Obviously, that’s not the point in this post, but I find it weird that I’m dreaming about diet fucking Coke.

I’ve been thinking about baptism a lot the last week.

It’s kind of an integral part of what Lent is about so it makes sense that I would be honing in on it. As I stated in my last post about Lent, I don’t really understand the requirement of baptism. I’m sure there’s more to it than just immersing a child’s head in water around the baptismal fount or dunking one’s entire body under a body of water for the same reason. Since I didn’t understand why people did that, I started looking up what the point in baptism, according to Christian theological discussions and dogma, happened to be. According to this page, “Christ Himself ordered His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and to baptize those who accept the message of the Gospel. In His encounter with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: ‘Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the very mark of a Christian, because it brings us into new life in Christ.”

Okay, but this didn’t really track with me. I mean, I can understand the point behind it when it comes to Christian requirements, however that still didn’t make sense to me. Why would Christ want people to cover their heads in water for a couple of minutes to mark them as being one of his followers? So, I went Google searching and found this answer. However, since I wasn’t sure if this answer was specific to a single branch or if it was true in all forms of Christianity, I had to read the response aloud to TH in order to verify that this was the case. As he pointed out to me, “Why in the world would Jesus want his followers to throw down serious money to convert people? Plus, oil wasn’t easily accessible, was expensive, and not commonplace. So, why not water?” The man certainly has a point and so did that response on ask-dot-com. Okay, so now I understand why water was used and now I understood why it was the whole point.

But I still had a fundamental issue: I still stand by the belief that baptism is something that people should decide on their own. But did that really negate what I was supposed to be ruminating about regarding Lent? I didn’t think so.

I started focusing on this quote, “”The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism. Preparation for Baptism and for renewing baptismal commitment lies at the heart of the season,” as I found on this FAQ. Okay, so, what exactly is baptism? Maybe the reason why I couldn’t quite grok the issue had to do with the fact that, maybe, I didn’t understand what the hell the word actually meant. According to the dictionary, “Ecclesiastical; a ceremonial immersion in water, or application of water, as an initiatory rite or sacrament of the Christian church. Any similar ceremony or action of initiation, dedication, etc. A trying or purifying experience or initiation.” Okay, so this had to do with an initiation into the Christian religion. I was on much firmer ground here. I could understand initiatory rites and the like. Well, maybe not the specifics of the initiation into the religious tradition, but I could at least understand that baptism equates to initiation.

As my mind focused on the fact that baptism is a form of initiation, I started to understand it. I also found it very ironic that I was focusing on the act of the initiation after having gone through one not a few weeks previously. The difference here, though, is the fact that I was thinking about it in terms of Catholicism and Christianity, as a whole, versus how such an act would impact me. But the point in Lent is to renew oneself. It was a moment of rebirth for the tender flock. How they went about that is inherently personal, I would expect, but all in all, it still comes down to the fact that they are renewing their commitment to the choice of their religion.

Rebirth is a very common topic in Kemeticism, so I was on firmer ground here. I could understand the idea behind Lent as a form of renewal, rebirth, and recommitment to the overall goal. But in this particular case, what exactly am I supposed to be renewing? Papa Legba explained that I needed to be more philosophical in my approach than I was last year (which was just about giving up chocolate). And when I pointed out that I didn’t understand philosophy and had purposely ignored those humanities style classes because, you know, it sounded boring, he pointed out that I could at least be more thoughtful. I assumed that he was trying to point out that I jump whole hog into something without really looking into something a lot of times. (This isn’t always the case, but I am a Leo so it’s kind of the case sometimes.) I figured he just wanted me to be more aware of what Lent was about and that it was more than just “giving some things up.” Okay, I could handle that. But the more I’ve looked into this, the more I’ve realized that it’s more than just me needing to be thoughtful regarding what it is I’m supposed to be doing.

The facts don’t really line up here – there’s something more here.

Papa Legba tells me that I need to give up an addiction and my religious affiliations for a while. He admits that I can’t quite push all of Sekhmet out after a very grueling and painful initiatory process since I have obligations to meet in the form of my Kemetic laity articles, the rites and services I offer, and the Kemetic Round Table posts that I write. He admitted that these particular obligations would happen during Lent and that I had sworn to do them, so therefore, I had to do them. (I’ll tell you what, I seriously thought about just saying, “Fuck all of this shit,” and running away screaming but Papa Legba is really good about keeping me committed to the things I’ve committed to.) He then points out that I had to be philosophical about the point behind Lent. He also tells me that this isn’t really a sabbatical, as I’ve referred to it, but that it’s a time off to get perspective.

Okay, so what perspective do I need?

I kept coming back to baptism, though, and how it’s about initiation. But more specifically, this is a time of renewal of that initiatory rite.

Again, I was on firmer ground because Kemeticism is all about the whole rebirth process. We have a deity with a scarab on his head who rolls the sun – in the form of a giant dung ball – across the sky. The phases of the day are about the whole cyclical process, in my opinion, of birth (the initiation) and rebirth.

We start off the day as new and bright with a happy-go-lucky sun rising over the horizon. This is the form of Khepri. The sun matures into an adult to become the noontide sun. This is of the form of Re. The sun further matures into an older man, which becomes the evening sun. This is the form of Atum. Then Re goes through the Duat, slaying what beasts would get in his way, only to be reborn in the morning in his aspect as Khepri. And thus it happened over and over again, every day. Day in and day out. This cycle thing can be hearkened back to the whole point of Zep Tepi, which is in and of itself an act of renewal – the start of a new cycle.

Zep Tepi is one of those complicated, but not complicated topics that come up in Kemeticism. (Hell, this is the case with a lot of shit in Kemeticism, to be honest.) This whole thing is something that I’ve discussed once or twice before. Zep Tepi is the period of time when the gods walked upon the earth and ruled the humans that had been created. Discussions regarding Zep Tepi, in a modern context, tends to be more related to how the restart of a cycle. That moment of a restart – no matter what the restart is – hearkens back to that First Time on earth, that moment when things were, well maybe not perfect, but pure in its beginning, innocent at its start, and uncomplicated.

In a weird way, I can kind of see the actions taken during Lent to be a sort of hearkening back, in a Christian sort of way, to that Zep Tepi. The decision to commit to the tradition has been made, either by the person’s choice or through the choice of the parents during the initial baptism. And then, each following Lent is a recommitment to that choice, either of their volition or otherwise. They are bringing the cycle back, each year, to the original commitment of what their baptism meant; specifically, they are recommitting to being a part of the teaching of Christ and a part of the doctrine that He spoke to the people. Their original baptism creates that choice; the observation of the Lenten season brings them back to that moment. And just like the daily, the yearly, the momentary cycles of birth and rebirth in everyone’s lives that brings Zep Tepi into focus, so too does Lent bring Zep Tepi into focus.

But what, oh what, does this have to do with what I’m aiming to achieve this Lent season?

Well, if Lent is about recommitment, renewal, rebirth, etc. regarding the commitment the believers have made to their religion then why can’t that also be the same in my religious tradition(s)? They’re not the same as Catholicism, of course, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t use that time to do the same. I think the point that Papa Legba was trying to make was that I need to observe the point behind Lent, specifically, but I need to formulate that in a way that keeps me true to my religious path. While I was baptized into the Catholic Church and raised in the Methodist church as a child, I made a conscientious decision to convert to Kemeticism. While there was no water upon my brow when I made that decision, I committed myself to this religious tradition anyway. But sometimes, things get tiring. I get fed up. I go through phases of deep angst and bitterness. And it can’t always be bitterness and angst. Sometimes I need to be spiritually reborn, too, through whatever process may be to hand.

In this case, that means observing Lent.

And getting more thinky-thoughts regarding the point of Lent.

Hm…

I see what you did there, Papa. I see that.

All this time I was thinking about Lent as a break. And that is the case, of course, because I’m studiously not paying attention to the pushes that Sekhmet has been throwing my way. (I swear to the fucking gods, she is testing to see how much resolve I have here. And let me tell you: I got me some fucking resolve.) But it’s also a moment to make a formal decision regarding my commitment. For the last few months, I’ve been not doing very well regarding my faith, my belief, and what the next stage in the process, for me, is supposed to be. I’ve had a lot of hitches in the last few months, which is mostly why I thought of Lent as a break from the intensity of everything that was going on around me. When in fact, it’s a moment to recommit myself, to renew myself.

I said to Sekhmet, “This is my path and I will do these things.”

And now I have to remember why I said that and recommit myself to that.

I hope the reason why I said that was less about wanting to be accepted and more about wanting to be spiritually connected.

Kemetic Round Table: Nisut-Bity[t].

In 2012, I had a lot of time on my hands because I was unemployed for the entirety of the year. So, I actually did the pagan blog project that year and got all the way up to W before I had to stop. During that blogging project, I actually discussed the topic this KRT entry is about, nisut. Even though I wrote that entry only a year and a half ago, I re-read what I had written there. It’s always a good idea to review past opinions on certain topics as well as past beliefs that may have changed over time. If we forget what our religious path is like, then we’re going to end up making an ass out of ourselves in one way or another. And as this blog clearly shows, I’ve grown a lot. Some of my opinions have changed and some of them have not. I always have the option – and occasionally do – go back through my older entries in an effort to see the growth I’ve done both in terms of how I practice, where I practice, with whom I have relationships with, and how I feel regarding certain topics. For the most part, aside from becoming more mature, adding a ton of new netjeru, and utilizing more historical information than in previous years, most of my opinions regarding the core tenets of my personal faith have remained the same and the nisut question is no exception.

For those not in the know…

In ancient Egypt, the term nisut-bity[t] translated as “[s]he of sedge and bee.” The two symbols, a sedge and a bee, together, symbolized ancient Egypt itself, which is where the terminology stems from. The sedge plant is a plant commonly found in the marshlands of Upper Egypt and it was from this plant that Upper Egypt was represented. The bee and the practice of bee-keeping was a characteristic of Lower Egypt (the part of the Nile that branches into five distinct branches). The flowering plants caused by the irrigated land were a fertile feeding source for the hives of bees. And it was from this bee that we Upper Egypt is represented. These two separate symbols together, unified in the manner shown, is how ancient Egypt was represented and where we get the terminology “of sedge and bee.” (The modern-day term, pharaoh, actually comes from the Greek word, pharaō, which is a translation of the ancient Egyptian word, pr-aa. This ancient Egyptian word is translated as “great house.”)

We don’t really have a modern context for the nisut-bity. What I mean, outside of religious traditions, there is no way to show anyone in a modern metaphor specifically what the pharaoh and his power would have been like. We can attempt to bring a modern context by associating the pharaoh with more modern rulers, like kings and queens, but even that is pretty far removed from what the pharaoh was and how he acted in ancient Egypt. The pharaoh wasn’t just a man (or woman) on high who ruled the land, but he was the spiritual ruler as well. In a way, we could give modern interpretations to a pharaoh akin to how Henry VIII ruled England after he took power away from the Catholic Church: he was both the spiritual and the temporal ruler over all of England. But even with all of that, I still feel that the nisut-bity fails easy translation even with a generally well-known “modern” metaphor available. Not only was the pharaoh the ruler of all things religious and mundane, but [s]he was what kept the world in line with ma’at (balance); [s]he was the alpha and the omega; and [s]he was the beginning, middle and end. Everything began and ended because of the pharaoh, or at least in the name of the pharaoh.

In the modern world, there are supposed to be checks and balances preventing any single person from having so much power, so, for all intents and purposes, there is no full way for a modern human being to fully understand (even with all the boring reading available) just what it must have been like to live under the yoke of such a person. I’ve mentioned a time or two how difficult it can be to properly translate ancient Egyptian words when we need to. I think the same can be said regarding positions of power, not just with the nisut-bity but also with the varying stages of the priesthood. And I think in many instances, it isn’t the translation, specifically, that fails but an attempt to modernize the concept enough for it to be understandable to people who don’t live like that any longer. Modern humans haven’t lived like the ancient Egyptians in a long time and it’s near-on impossible, in my opinion, to fully recognize, understand, and interpret just what things must have been like, especially when it comes to the ruling caste.

One can always try, of course, and we have a modern interpretation available to us in Kemetic Orthodoxy.

Tamara Suida is the nisut-bityt to Kemetic Orthodoxy. As found here, her function is a spiritual and cultural role. She provides a spiritual and physical bridge between those of the Kemetic Orthodox faith and the netjeru. According to KO’s Wiki page, she conducts daily rituals to prevent isfet from gaining a foothold, as well as acts as adviser, teacher, leader, and the modern manifestation of the kingly ka. This doesn’t mean that the members of the faith believe Tamara to be divine, as was the case in ancient Egypt, but merely that she fulfills the role of housing the kingly ka.

However, it was because of the nisut business that I turned away from Kemetic Orthodoxy all of those years ago. I absolutely wanted to join. I thought, here’s what I’m looking for! Part of that reaction stemmed from laziness and an unwillingness to take my historical readings and put them into practice. It also made sense that there should be an organized temple or three out there for people to turn to. Just as with many, I looked at ancient Egypt and saw that in order to recreate it, there had to be a hierarchy. I thought of it in that way and didn’t consider what it would be like to recreate something on my own. But it was because of the hierarchy that KO provides that I turned away from it. Even though, all those years ago, I was interested in it, the knowledge that they had a nisut bothered me.

For starters, they didn’t have an about page like they do nowadays when I first found their website. So, all those years ago when I was researching Kemeticism and excitedly clicked on KO’s website, I had no idea what the hell the nisut business was about. So, I took to research and realized that they had a king, so to speak. Of course, there wasn’t a lot of information available to non-members and at that point, I didn’t know any. I couldn’t ask them, “What’s this hullabaloo about a pharaoh? How is it even possible that they have one? The religion is dead and we’re just recreating it.” But when I saw that word, nisut, and found it in my books, I turned away. I was nonplussed. In all honesty, all those years ago, I thought that the organization was being run by some cult leader who claimed they were some reincarnated pharaoh from back in the day. I’ve since learned this is not the case and have quite a few friends who are both current and previous members of the organization. But when you’re just starting out and you find that bit out, it can be a bit of a turn off.

So I turned away from Kemetic Orthodoxy.

I turned away from the nisut business.

Years later, I reassessed myself and figured out that I still didn’t want anyone to be my nisut-bity[t]. I had been raised within a religious tradition where there always was someone between me and God. I found myself as a youth unable to build a personal relationship with that religion and that deity. And I think, though I can never be sure, that it was this lack of a personal relationship with deity that led me astray and looking for other options. Now, I have a personal relationship with the various netjeru that make up my personal pantheon. The relationships vary in their intensity and their length and their personality and their activity, but they are all mine. And I wouldn’t want anyone else to come between me and those relationships. I wouldn’t want to have to turn to anyone for interpretation, for mediation, or for anything else. All of those years ago, I looked at the idea of a temple to overcome my fear of striking out on my own and moving down the path to where I am today. Now, I look back and smile at the fact that I never seriously looked in that direction because, now, I just can’t imagine how that may have ended up for me.

How my relationships would have ended up.

How my religion would have ended up.

In all honesty, I think it is all best summed up as that Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. I’ve always loved that poem and I’ve always felt that it very much best described my religious path better than anything else. Never more so than right this moment as I, yet again, contemplate what could have been versus what is.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Petition to Sekhmet – March 2014.

When I agreed to do these things for Sekhmet, I thought of myself as just someone who interceded on behalf of others. I understood the reasoning behind it – Kemeticism, in and of itself, is changing and so, too, are the needs of the many who are Kemetic. By providing these services, I’m recreating something that was around in antiquity, sort of. While I’m sure my methodology differs drastically from what may have happened in ancient Egypt, I’m willing to act as the intermediary people need in order to get their messages to her. And when it was first thought of, first proposed, it made absolute sense. I’ve spoken with another Sekhmet kid, Fanny, who evidently used to do the same thing (perhaps a little differently from my own concept of it). And it made me wonder if I was just filling in until she was ready or if this would be something I would be doing years down the road, perhaps with fewer and fewer requests as the years went by. I still haven’t found out the answer on that one, but since Sekhmet appears fond of my flailing about, screeching unintelligibly, I doubt I’ll ever really know the answer.

Yesterday was a mish-mash kind of day, which left me feeling tired and cranky by the time I had to write petitions. I think that part of it was the anonymous ask someone dumped in my inbox on Thursday. I answered it yesterday and posted that response, which was apparently received well by others. However, the fact that I had to respond to that query bothered me, the second I received it all the way up to and including the moment I hit the publish button. I really just don’t understand people. I don’t know if, maybe, it’s the platform I use to get the word out there (mostly Tumblr) or if it’s just because I posted my reminder in the Tumblr-pagan tag. Whatever the case may be, this is the first time I have received a response like that and I’ve been doing this for fourfive months now. I should get used to these types of things, but the first time is probably always a little prickly.

I found that I kept thinking about that ask throughout the day and I’d get miffed all over again. I’m one of those people who harp on things a lot, in case you weren’t aware. I harp and harp and harp in my head until I explode unless I can use the power of my mind to shunt my thoughts elsewhere. I was successful in that a bit of the day and not-so-successful the rest of the day. Like I said, yesterday was a mish-mash. I found myself questioning my process and found myself questioning everything, which is fine and dandy. However, I shouldn’t have let some anonymous dickhead get to me. And that’s the crux of it, too. Some anonymous person disagreed with my methodology, my process, and my religious practice enough to think that they should place something anonymously in my inbox to state their opinion. I think the reason, really, that I got so het up about it the days prior to answering it and yesterday was because I don’t question anyone else’s religious practice just because I don’t know what the fuck is going through their heads, what leads them to what they do, or anything so I expect the same courtesy. Of course, when people write about things, I can draw conclusions, or not, but I still don’t bother with telling them how they shouldn’t do something because of X, Y, and Z. UPG is UPG, you know?

So, because my mind does whatever it wants and gets overactive regarding things, yesterday was a bit of an off day.

I lazed around the house after doing some cleaning and then watched terrible horror movies in the evening. In case no one was aware, this is something I do when I feel like I need to escape from the world – I enjoy really bad horror movies. I’m not talking about those obviously terrible science fiction movies that the SyFy network puts out every week, either. I’m talking pretty much most of the 80s horror movies with its bad hair, promotion of smoking, impromptu and over-the-top sex scenes, and really overwrought music choices. I chose Forbidden World (1982) last night and I honestly have no idea what the point in the movie was. It was just what I needed to get me back up to speed. But, of course, since I spent most of the day in a haze of my own thoughts, cleaning in between, and watched an entire terrible movie, I was late getting my start on.

It all felt so off.

I’ve thought about that feeling a lot. I don’t know why it was something I was feeling. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a doubting period since Lent. Maybe it’s because of Lent. I’m not supposed to religion, really, and yet there I was, religion-ing. Even though Papa Legba reminded me that promises are promises and that I had to do what I said I would do, it still felt kind of weird. This is a time of reflection and introspection and moody thoughts and sitting around while I figure all of this shit out. Instead, I was going about and doing what I said I would, so maybe that’s it. I honestly don’t know. I just know that it felt so off.

I seriously considered putting off the rite. I mean, it doesn’t help anyone if I’m in an emotional state that isn’t exactly conducive to what in the world I’m trying to put out there. I thought about posting somewhere on Tumblr that I had put off the rite because of things and that it would happen… at some point in future. But, I only had a handful of petitions this month. And maybe that was another reason why I was feeling so off about the thing. I had apparently been used to the 40 or more petitions I normally got and I think I got about ten of them. Maybe it’s because I didn’t put the call out sooner – I forgot to put out the post on Facebook and didn’t do anything with Tumblr until Thursday, when I try to get things out the day before – or maybe it’s because people are tired of this shit already. I don’t know what the reason was, but I didn’t get as many as I usually did.

But as I thought about it, I realized that wasn’t such a bad thing. My emotional state was kind of bleh and since most of the people who had put in requests were mostly thanking Sekhmet for various things, I didn’t have to seriously consider how intent my heka was before I wrote out the petitions. Since I had so few petitions, I could get away with fewer offerings. And since I could get away with fewer offerings, I didn’t have to spend a whole hell of a lot of time actually doing what needed to be done. I figured I could be in and out within 15 minutes and back to watching really bad horror movies.

Here’s the thing – I wanted direction here. I wanted so much direction. I wanted someone to take my hand and tell me what to do. Do you ever just feel that way sometimes? Do you ever just want someone older, wiser, and more mature than you to tell you what to do? I’m supposed to be the adult and yet, a lot of times I end up feeling more like a child who needs her mother to instruct her on how to properly do anything or how to come to a logical conclusion. I don’t know if I chose a logical conclusion by moving forward with last night’s right. Mostly, I was being hammered by that commitment feeling that people have. You know the one where you said you were going to do something so your mind kills you slowly, second by second, until you actually do what you said you were going to do? Yeah, it was that one. So, instead of having someone hold my hand and instruct me properly, I stood up and went about my business.

I had bought flowers earlier. There wasn’t much to choose from at the store that I went to. Since my local store was out of my favorite apples, I had to go across town to another grocery store that I knew would have it (and my yogurt) stocked. I knew when I walked in that I would be kind of picking over some crappy choices for flower arrangements, but it was a sacrifice, in my opinion. (I’m technically dieting right now so I need apples and yogurt for breakfast.) I found a pretty decent bouquet with some sweetheart roses. It was the roses that did me in. I love roses. I think they’re the fucking greatest flower ever and I don’t even know why. There are millions of other flowers out there that can do me in – like lily of the valley – but it’s the damn roses that suckered me in to that bouquet. It was white and yellow, two colors I associate with Sekhmet often if no one has noticed, and I found one with just enough different flower types that appealed to me. But it was those sweetheart roses, man, which really dragged me in. Those damn flowers were so small and sculpted to just about tug my heart strings near in half.

I sacrificed one of my precious flowers in offering to her. I don’t buy a lot of apples all at once. Apples are one of those expensive foods that are almost like a luxury in my house. Well, not almost like, but very much a luxury. But I love apples. I love cutting them in half and slicing them into little chunks to eat. I love the skin that gets caught in my teeth if I don’t eat it just right. I love the juice that squirts all over my hands when I dig in. I love everything about Macintosh apples. My friend is in love with honey crisp apples, but I’m a Macintosh girl and always have been. (You should see my face when my stores stop carrying them.) I cut one of those bad boys in half and arranged it on the plate. I stared at the little star like center on both halves, feeling like I was getting better at this cutting them in half thing. You see, I try to cut them in half to show the star in the middle? But, I usually fail. I like cutting them that way because the star reminds me of the ancient Egyptian stars in their artwork and I like the symbolism there. I cut it in half and, for once, I was able to see the little star thing on both sides.

I added some orange-zest chocolate I had laying around. I don’t like oranges and I don’t like zest, but I like orange chocolate. This stuff is stronger than those chocolate orange things they start selling around now. You know the ones where you smash them into a table to open them? Since I have the Lindt stuff (sale, baby), its dark chocolate or cocoa 70% or some shit. So I don’t like it. But I nibble on it as the days go by, one square at a time, because even though I cannot abide by the things, I can’t waste that shit. (You should see the face TH gives me when I force him to eat the chili chocolate I have left over.)

I added a slice of bread because I wanted to kick it a little old school. I haven’t offered her real bread in a while. I usually offer the gods those little dollhouse foodstuffs that I bought a while ago. A friend of mine sent me some more dollhouse food things (yeah, baby! More choices!) and so now, I can give them fruit as well as bread. But I haven’t offered real, live, toast-it-in-the-toaster bread in a while. So, I figured I should probably do that since it’s a staple and I was looking for something to even out the offering thus far.

My final addition were grapes. In case no one has noticed – and I really don’t know how anybody hasn’t noticed this – I fucking love grapes. I hate red grapes, but I love green grapes. They were on sale for $2.49/pound and I knew that I was leaving the store with some fucking grapes. They’re normally like $4.99/pound and there was no way I was passing that up. Besides, I better get all my grape love in now. Since that drought has hit California, which feeds a lot of America, I’m sure the price of grapes will go up soon enough. I may as well give all of my favorite foods to the gods now, while I can still afford to do so. I wish grapes weren’t so expensive, though. I wish I had a green thumb because maybe I’d try to grow my own grapes. (But since I live in Massachusetts, which has really bad soil for growing certain things if I recall correctly, I’d probably fail anyway. Then again, maybe not because my neighbors used to have grape arbors all in their front yard until they took them down last year.) Man, I really love grapes.

I gave Sekhmet a glass of water, cooled with ice. I thought about giving her alcohol. I even thought about giving her diet Coke, even though I can’t drink it because of Lent. I thought about making her a mixed drink of diet Coke and vanilla vodka. I thought about just giving her a shot of vodka. I thought about lots of things, but I hearkened back to the “kicking it old school.” Cool water and bread were staple offerings in ancient Egypt. And this was a meal of thanksgiving, mostly. I figured I could go with a time tested libation and leave it at that. I placed it in her little star goblet that I love beyond belief.

I set up my altar just so. That actually takes me the most time because I’m incredibly anal retentive about this. I like having everything even. If no one has noticed when I leave my offerings on a plate, I make sure that they’re doubled so that it evens out. When it comes to leaving things on her altar, even after the petition is over, I like to have everything centered and make sure that there is evenness on either side of that center. I switched out my small heka jar for a big one. (The white thing in the middle.) I placed the prayer beads that my lovely Dodgy made for me on top of my heka jar. Then I placed the flowers and the goblet on either side of Sekhmet’s little ben-ben area. Down the center, I placed the offerings right in front of her and then added incense and the petitions in a little cup.

Everything all set up and set before the Lady of the Flame.

Everything all set up and set before the Lady of the Flame.

I finished everything off by lighting a red candle for her.

After leaving everything for her, while I munched the grapes that I had left for Sekhmet, I stopped in front of that altar and watched the candle flame for a while. I don’t know if I went into a trance state because I don’t think I really know what that is. But I watched that candle flame until there were blue-black afterimages in my eyes. I watched that flame pole-dance around the wick and generally do what a flame is supposed to do to a candle. I stared at it and thought about my feelings. I thought about what it was like to doubt. I thought about what everything I had gone through in the last few months. I thought about that ask that bothered me. I thought about what I was doing. I worried about all of it in those moments while I stared at that candle flame. I knew real and serious doubt. I knew real and serious worry. I knew it all and I slipped my petition, my request to her, in with the others. She probably won’t answer it – she seems to like the Kermit arm flail. It doesn’t matter, really. I think I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing even if I feel like a weirdo and a liar a lot of the time.

The candle flame spoke to me, I think, and it said that everything is okay.

I felt a little calmer after that, at least. If nothing else, I was able to sit down and veg out enough to fall asleep to 300.

Lent 2014.

Last year, just prior to the Lenten season, I began to dream about Gran Bwa. I can remember those dreams – I was searching for him. He was walking ahead of me, wearing a mask, but I knew who it was. He never spoke to me, or if he did, I never remembered what it was he said or those parts of the dream. But I can remember following after him, attempting to catch up with him so that I could ask him what he was doing in my dreams. Around the same time, I began to dream about Papa Legba in that veritable forest-of-my-dreams that I now associate almost exclusively with Gran Bwa. On nights where Papa Legba showed up, we mostly sat in companionable silence around a large bonfire. Sometimes, we would talk, but he never answered my questions about Gran Bwa. All he would ever tell me was that it would be up to me to decide why I was following after him and what it was that was supposed to mean. I back-burnered those dreams because I couldn’t make heads nor tails of them. I figured when it was time for me to figure out what in the world was going on, then I’d figure it out.

On Ash Wednesday last year, I drove by the Catholic Church the way I did every day on my way to work. And I can remember seeing that the parking lot was very full and I remember wondering to myself, what in the world is going on? I did some quick calculations in my head and realized that the Lenten season had begun. I thought about what, to me, Lent meant. In my brain, it meant that you started everything off with ashes upon your brow and then gave things up that meant a lot to you. Most of my experience, to that point, with the whole concept stemmed from conversations I had overheard from my Catholic family members and from Catholic employees. One of my past employees … I remembered, on that drive, she had begged to go to church to get the ashes on her brow during her shift and I covered her shift while she was gone. When she came back, she gave up lottery tickets and swearing – two things that were inherently a part of her – for the next forty days and we all made sure she stuck to it. That moment was a turning point in my life, something I didn’t fully understand and even a year later, I hardly understand it now.

That was my first time attempt to celebrate Lent. In the grand scheme of things, I failed. And with it went a lot of other things that I ended up failing at. I felt, back then, that it was Gran Bwa pushing me to observe the sacrifice. And I still believe that it was him with those dreams and the odd music choices that would come on the radio when I was contemplating those dreams that led me to observe Lent last year. Since I ended up failing at sacrifice, I felt as though I was failing Gran Bwa. Twelve months later, I still feel more than a modicum of guilt at having eaten the chocolate cake. I started over, of course, after that failure but it felt less… pure and less willing. By then, it felt like I was wearing clothes too tight for me and I was uncomfortable. I had fucked up. I had to learn the lesson – I suck at the sacrifice shit – and move on. Gran Bwa stopped visiting me in dreams and I was pretty sure the two more than just a little tied together.

What I failed to understand was that the whole thing – Lenten season and what I saw it as – was incorrect. I had to do more research.

As I said back then, and I’ve commented on since, I wasn’t ever raised as a Catholic. Lent season, in my eyes, tends to be held in a different sort of reverence with Catholics than it does with other sects. I was raised in the Methodist church and I honestly can’t remember doing anything for Lent. I just checked out my childhood church’s website and noted that yes, there are things that they do for the Lenten season. Perhaps the amount of sacrifice or the amount of reverie isn’t as intense as it is with Catholics and that’s why I think Catholics feel it more intently? I honestly don’t know where this feeling stems from. I don’t remember my mother ever giving anything up for Lent when I was a child and whatever conversations I overheard from my maternal family about it are very watery and distant. Looking at all of this, I had to admit that I don’t know shit.

Why is this important to Papa Legba? Why is observing Lent important to the voodoo things that I do? What does all of this mean?

So, I started doing some research. I read this FAQ about it to get me going. I have to admit that a lot of what I was reading made me uncomfortable. I’m not a Catholic, nor do I intend on becoming one. There are bits and pieces of the religious tradition that I always found interesting and something beautiful, but the overall message that it sends out there has always made me uncomfortable. Hell, let’s be frank: organized religion on such a mass scale is the problem. I don’t like it. I think religion should be something personal and individual, but you can’t do that with the Christian traditions that I have taken part in. You have to have the community and the man or woman at the pulpit, telling you what to do and how to do it. That is what bothers me. God, Bondye, Super Nebulous Void Guy, whatever – whatever relationship that is built should be based on the needs and requirements of the soul looking for that connection. But that’s not all that has gotten me while reading up on this stuff.

This quote is something that makes me uncomfortable: “The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism. Preparation for Baptism and for renewing baptismal commitment lies at the heart of the season.” The act of baptism has always baffled me. In many traditions, we put some water over a child’s head and christen them into a set denomination. That, in and of itself, bothers me. My son is not baptized and he won’t be unless he makes a decision to do so. I think, part of the reason why baptism has always bothered me is because it’s a decision, again like the relationship with deity, in which someone should be able to make on their own and not be made by their parents. I think another reason why it baffles me is because, again, I think relationships with deity need to be a personal thing. While I do acknowledge that the laity need priests to act as intermediaries, I don’t think it’s on the same level that priests and reverends are utilized in many Christian traditions. (I’m sorry if this isn’t very clear. It’s all kind of a *speechless in an attempt to explain*.) Back to the quote: my discomfiture mostly stems from someone’s parents making a huge commitment on behalf of a baby and then forcing them to see it through until the end of time or until they’re finally old enough to make their own decisions.

But, let’s go back to that – the parents make a decision for their children. And then the children are expected to follow through on that decision until they are old enough to make their own religious decisions. But the quote doesn’t talk about that. It talks about a renewal of the baptismal commitment. So, in a way, it’s like the Church is openly acknowledging that baptismal commitments need to be reconnected. Okay, but is that because childrens’ parents make a decision for them or is that just because they may be lacking in a few key areas? I don’t know. And because this is all very new and weird territory for me, this is why it makes me very uncomfortable and I feel weird discussing it. But these are things that I have to address because I guess I promised to do this every year. So, I need to stop being uncomfortable and make some decisions.

One day.

Even though the first part of that FAQ had me questioning a million things, I kept reading. I had other things to look into, of course, because Lent is more than just giving things up, right? So, I kept going. And of course, there was a section about giving things up. I read the section on it, brow furrowed. Then I got to this part: “Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ.” Well, that actually explained it better than I ever could. And it made me understand things a little bit better. It wasn’t just an act of giving things up because, hey let’s do that! But it was about giving lives over to Christ and to his way of life as well as to give up sins. That didn’t sit well with me, either.

I know this is because, again, I’m coming at all of this from a different perspective than most. The concept of Christian sin has always confused me. It varies from sect to sect, honestly. Some people would see it as a sin to “be a homosexual,” (as if there is a choice involved) while other sects do not find this sinful at all. I mean, sins as they exist according to doctrine are pretty complicated things. It’s more than just breaking the Ten Commandments because there’s so much more in the world that constitutes as a sin. The thing is that some of the things other people give up don’t seem to be sins, in my eyes. Someone I know is giving up potatoes. (She’s not Catholic and this is actually an experiment or something for one of her college classes, but people give up food all the time. I gave up chocolate last year.) Is eating potatoes a sin? Is eating chocolate a sin? No. But there are people out there who give up eating certain foods. They give up drinking a certain drink. They give up all manner of things, but is it really an act of giving up sin?

How many people can really say that they come out of the Lenten season free of sin?

And again, I keep coming back to that word. I don’t like it. It doesn’t sit right with me at all. Maybe it’s because in Kemeticism we don’t really have a concept like that. We have living in ma’at and not living in ma’at. There’s no middle ground. There’s no accidental “sin” in which we may be isfet briefly and then go right back to being in ma’at. The 42 Divine Utterances are hardly even an indicator about what is or is not considered living in ma’at since they changed from person to person – but that’s my overall view on this religion stuff, isn’t it? Whatever constitutes “sin,” whether it be of a religious nature or otherwise, is up to the person who is giving up that sin. Minus the bit about Christ and his way of life, since I don’t follow that in any way, it makes more sense and that bit about sin makes me less uncomfortable.

I kept reading because the next part was very interesting. It talks about “The Scrutinies.” This was whole new territory to me because I had never even heard about that shit before. What was that about? This stood out to me: “To scrutinize something means to examine it closely. The community does not scrutinize the catechumens; the catechumens scrutinize their own lives and allow God to scrutinize them and to heal them.” But who were the catechumens and how come they were the only ones scrutinizing? Why can’t everyone scrutinize? Why can’t they all put everything under a microscope and make some mass decisions about what’s going on deep inside? “There is a danger in celebrating the Scrutinies if the community thinks of the elect as the only sinners in our midst who need conversion. All of us are called to continuing conversion throughout our lives, so we join with the elect in scrutinizing our own lives and praying to God for the grace to overcome the power of sin that still infects our hearts.” Well, that answered that question.

So, scrutinizing one’s life is pretty much a no-brainer, it’s part and parcel. And if you’re not part of the elect because you’ve already been baptized, then you get to go through the Sacrament of Penance.

And that’s when I kind of put it all together. I realized that this wasn’t really an act of sacrifice, although sacrifice is definitely a part of what I’ve been asked to do. But it’s also about Scrutiny and it’s also about Silence. It’s also about Patience and it’s also about Introspection and Reflection. But above all, this time is about me and my needs. This isn’t about Papa Legba. This isn’t about Gran Bwa. This isn’t about Sekhmet. This isn’t about Djehuty, Hetheru, Aset, Wesir, the community, the bigger picture, or anything in between. This entire experience is about me because I am important. My wants and needs are important. What I need to bring to the metaphoric table is absolutely fucking important. And I need to remember that. I need to take time away from the heavy hitters and away from everything that’s been pounding down on my head for the last few months, take a bunch of deep breaths, and reflect, introspect, scrutinize, decide.

This year, I went into Lent with a different perspective. I knew a little bit more about what the basis of Lent was, for starters. I had done what I should have done last year and actually looked things up. While I’ve admitted, here, that a lot of what I read didn’t agree with me or left me feeling uncomfortable, vaguely confused, and generally feeling like the overall message for Catholics didn’t quite fit with me, I’ve come to understand the basic premise in the tradition. I get it. Or at least I am beginning to.

This year, I went into Lent knowing that I would be giving up a major part of my life. I gave up diet Coke. People reading this might laugh at me, but I don’t think you understand how much diet Coke I drink. I drink a lot of it, every day. It’s a staple to me, as much as milk and coffee are. But I knew I had to do something bigger than just chocolate. I can handle not having chocolate for forty days (even if I’m too stupid to remember that I’m eating chocolate cake). Chocolate isn’t as important to me as diet Coke is. So, I knew that I wanted to give up a staple in my life. I gave up diet Coke and I’ll admit, every day, I think about drinking diet Coke. Someone said that it gets better after a while. It’s Saturday, so I haven’t had any diet Coke since Tuesday. There’s a bottle in the fridge and I open that refrigerator up, purse my lips in sadness, and move away. The caffeine headaches are a bitch, but they’re getting a little better each day. If I come out of this never drinking diet Coke ever again, I’ll be surprised. If I stop thinking about diet Coke longer than a few hours at a time, I’ll think it’s a miracle.

I miss diet Coke, damn it.

This year, I went into Lent know that I would be giving up another major part of my life. I gave up my religious side of things. I have rites and services scheduled for Sekhmet, of course, and Papa Legba is big on keeping one’s promises. But I’m not doing anything else. This isn’t about the netjeru anymore. This is about my life. So, I gave up my religion, so to speak, to incorporate a religious tradition that doesn’t sit well with me in an effort to better understand myself, my religious practice, and everything in between. I know that kind of sounds weird, right? But there’s something to that adage about letting birds fly free because if it’s meant to be, it’ll come back to you? I’ve always found that when I request a break from the netjeru, then they don’t live up to their end of the bargain for whatever reason. Things get pushed forward, things about the bigger picture usually, and I end up getting sucked in. But not this year, not for these next forty days.

No religion. No diet Coke.

For someone who was pretty big about faith and stuff just two years ago and for someone who was drinking three 20oz bottles of diet Coke a day, well, that’s a lot.

But this is about reflection, introspection. This is about fleshing out a more solid foundation for me, which includes the lwa.

And that, honestly, is something that I only just realized. Papa Legba, Gran Bwa – whomever – they weren’t really wanting me to pay attention to the religious observance, per se. They wanted me to pay attention to me. They wanted me to take care of myself. And part of that includes them. They always get sent to the backseat because there’s always something important going on with the netjeru. And that’s just no good. I’m supposed to be serving them and too often, I find my services lacking because I’m too caught up in shit for Sekhmet, shit for the community, and other miscellaneous horse shit. Last year, I said that it was all about balance, but the last part of the year and the first two months of this year have been everything-Sekhmet. And while I understand the need to push and get me to where I am today, I’ve kind of had it.

I chose Papa Legba as much as he chose me all those years ago.

The least I can do is remember that and act on it and say, “No,” when I need to.

Right now, I’m saying, “no.” I’m saying it to Sekhmet, my religion, my diet Coke.

And I’m reminding myself that foundations are important.

Foundations are always, always important.

And there is no foundation without me.

The End.

I was sweaty, cranky, and tired. This has never been a good combination for me, whether in the astral or otherwise, and it wasn’t a good combination then. I stared up at Sekhmet, panting. I had never realized how intense this process was likely to be, of course. I hadn’t conserved my energy. If I had thought about what she would have wanted from me at any length, I could have probably have prepared myself better. Instead, I had been snotty and bitchy, I hadn’t asked any of the proper questions, and now I was at the end of my tether. I knew time was running down for me. I had to go. This overwhelming urge to just go was pounding through me, which made the sweaty, cranky, and tired combination that much worse.

I felt like I was going to snap.

Instead of snapping, Sekhmet waved her hand and the darkened doorway lightened. I watched as it slowly lit, like an energy saver light bulb being turned on. I knew what the next series of tests were. I got to leave, but to my own detriment. Without a map, I had to figure out myself out to get out of the Duat in time to meet up with Papa Legba for the Lenten season.

I glowered at Sekhmet as I stomped over to my knapsack. I glowered at Sekhmet as I angrily pulled the flap closed. I glowered at Sekhmet as I tossed the bag onto one shoulder. I glowered at Sekhmet as I stomped through the room on the way to the door. I glowered at Sekhmet as I snapped my fingers, signaling to my netjeri – who apparently liked the name Maurice the best – that we had to get going. I glowered at her as I stomped my ass out the door and into the hallway beyond.

And that was my parting shot – a metric shitfuckton of glowering.

Okay, so I admit that the reaction and the whole bit was overrated. But I was tired. I was cranky. I was silently freaking out that I would miss my appointment with the Old Man. But above all else, I was pretty much just completely out of fucks to give. I had spent days upon days in that damn room, doing things that were beyond my normal range of astral things and without very little set up from the grand orchestrator herself. I mean, yeah, I was probably acting like a big baby, but so what? If the gods can’t handle our pissy-ass responses to things that irritate us or annoy us, then they should probably find better devotees.

As I said, I was all out of fucks.

Without thinking about it, I turned left out of the doorway and began hiking. Maurice kept good pace with me, walking right beside me. Sometimes, he would run forward a little bit and then run backwards. All in all, he was very much like an overly excitable puppy who had been left inside for a little too long. Now, he was finally able to do much more than pace around a circular stone pit with holes in the floor. Once, he went running all the way down the hallway, tongue lolling out as he ran. I laughed after him, enjoying his freedom and his joy at the situation.

At least someone was pleased.

The corridor we were in was long and lit on the left hand side by periodic flaming torches. Sometimes, I would pass by a netjeri with a strange head or walking on all four limbs, but aside from that, Maurice and I were mostly alone. Sometimes, there would be either lightened or a darkened doorways on the right hand side. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see what was going on inside of the dark ones. All the ones that were lit were open and unused. Many of them looked very much like the chamber I had just left. Some of them had other paraphernalia that I didn’t want to think about.

As Maurice and I made our way down the [really fucking long] corridor, I began to get lost in my thoughts. There’s something about repetition, and boring repetition, that can bring on the most philosophical and strange thoughts. I’ve found this to be the case, most often, when I’m doing something like washing dishes IRL. There’s something about just moving the sponge over a dirty dish, making sure that I clean out every nook and cranny, which loosens my mind enough to bring things into better focus. It’s strange how something so mindless, like walking or washing dishes, can elicit some of the most profound or intense moments in one’s life.

I thought back to that first jaunt into the Duat all those months ago where Sekhmet had taken me to the Lake of Fire. I’ve thought about the purpose behind that a few times since then, always trying to surmise what the original point behind it was. I know that was the start. I know that, no matter what was discussed or what happened before that first trip, it was her taking me to the Lake of Fire that began this process. And I had to wonder, what was the significance in going into a really lava/fire pool thing with me at her side?

Originally, I had thought that the point behind the whole excursion was for me to observe the proceedings. I think, though, that I was wrong about the original intent. I don’t think the intent had anything to do with my, specifically, but with everyone that came up to her in the Lake of Fire. The statement involved me, of course, because I was there. But instead of the statement being to teach me something important about the power of observation or the power of my own intuition or whatever the hell I thought any of these lessons might be… I think honestly the lesson was just what the gods have to go through when they make a statement regarding certain devotees.

She was showing me off, announcing to the enclave that I was something she had been working on and she was ready to unveil it. I kind of feel like it was very much as if an artist, keeping their work-in-progress covered by a sheet from prying eyes, she had finally come to the conclusion to introduce the final stages of her work-in-progress to the rest of the gods. It was like she was saying, “This is mine. I have been working very hard on this thing. Tell me what you think of it and oh, by the way, keep away from it.”

I think, too, that was the point in the first party she threw. Maybe she really did throw parties all of the time, but that first party was also a statement. And again, the statement had nothing to do with my observing everyone else and seeing what knots I could parse together with what I was seeing. Again, it was a statement of fact regarding me and what I meant to Sekhmet. It was yet another moment in time where she could show me off to the gathered group. Why in the world I merited enough attention to be shown off was beyond me. Or maybe that was just something that gods did when they had ensnared humans so completely.

But as I walked down that hallway, thinking about all of this, I was pretty sure that my being shown off the wide world of the netjeru was the point to all of that. I didn’t necessarily understand it and honestly, I’m not sure if I understand it even now. All I know is that with each footstep forward, as my thoughts wandered over everything I had been through over the last few months, it made a serious kind of sense that she would announce to the netjeru that she had chosen me for something and that she had to let them know.

Maybe it had to do with the other gods in my life – the ones that had grown quiet. Or maybe it was just a matter of propriety and that was just another step on the endless list of things that happened when gods made big decisions regarding devotees. Whatever the underlying case may be, the whole point had been less about me paying attention to what was going on around me and more about Sekhmet announcing to the world that I was a chess piece for her to maneuver as she saw fit.

Maurice was stopped up ahead, waiting for me. His tail waggled at me as I came up to him. We were stopped at a fork in the passageway. I looked down the right fork and saw darkness punctuated by occasional lit torches. I looked down the left fork and saw the exact same thing. There didn’t seem to be any perceptible difference between the two of them. I thought about flipping a coin, but I didn’t have one.

Maurice sniffed first one corridor and then the other. He wagged his tail up at me again and then sat back on his haunches, waiting for me to make a decision. With a shrug, I took the left fork.

As we trudged on, I thought about the sandbox.

When I had originally got tossed into the sandbox and had been unable to figure out what the hell was going on, I had figured it was a contest. I can remember discussing this with Devo a time or two. I thought that I had been thrown out of the palace for perhaps a perceived slight against Sekhmet or her honor and that I had to admit that slight in order to go back. As time went on, and I didn’t end up going back no matter what my mind decided may have been the slight against her honor, I came to the conclusion that the whole thing was just a contest between who was more stubborn: if I capitulated and asked for her to pull me out, then I was the loser. But if I stubbornly kept my ass moving in the sandbox and didn’t ask for the help, then I won.

But really, I would be the loser either way because I wouldn’t have ended up going back to the damn palace without her help.

As I walked, I came to realize that the whole point in the sandbox was, in a way, a metaphor for stubbornness. But it had nothing to do with who was more stubborn. As Papa Legba had said so clearly, I had been a stubborn shit and I had needed to get over that stubbornness in order to move on to the next phase. The entire sandbox was one changeless, quiet metaphor for my stubbornness, or more specifically what I was being stubborn about. I was so intent on remaining who I am and not changing as I walk this road that the place I got exiled to while I figured out what the next step was held every aspect that I was intent on keeping.

I had noticed repeatedly as I walked how quiet the whole place was. I wanted to keep to myself, remain the wallflower. An integral part to keeping that part of me is the quiet and solitude embodied in the sandbox by the lack of creatures. The only sounds that were made, outside of the wind when it was picking up, were my own screeches and hollering. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so frightened of losing myself in the changes that were coming, the sandbox would have been a little different. I’m almost sure it would have been.

No matter where I walked in that giant sandbox, everything looked the same. One dune blended into another dune and another. I could have been walking in circles and maybe, just maybe I was actually walking in circles. But the changelessness of each movement forward was what I had been most worried about. I had been so worried that by accepting the deal with Sekhmet, then I would change irrevocably. And I was so frightened at what I could possibly become – let’s face it, that stupid fucking prophecy, not-prophecy from the beginning years was probably echoing deep in my subconscious – that I didn’t want to become anything but who I already was.

Papa Legba wasn’t just telling me that I had accept the fact that I needed to get to the doorway, and probably do something I didn’t want to fucking do in order to get there, but he was telling me to accept the fact that I might or might not change. And just fucking go with it.

So often, I’ve spent all of my time, making sure that any changes to my character have been good changes on this path. So often, I’ve taken stock in everything in an attempt to make sure that my religious path hasn’t changed me irrevocably for the worse. And that’s something that I’ve always felt a religion is supposed to do: it’s supposed to make you a better person. But with all the shades of gray discussed when it comes to living in ma’at then you know, I have to admit that I was probably being overly worried about a bunch of bullshit.

Sometimes, destroying some bitches is just as necessary as making sure you aren’t a total dick 100% of the time.

I thought about the dune buggy, that bastard of a yellow thing that disappeared whenever I got too close, and felt my blood boil a little. While I told myself to calm down since it was a useless anger to have, Maurice and I took another left fork. The floor seemed to almost perceptibly be moving upward as we walked.

That damn dune buggy – what a pain in my ass. And also, yet another lesson.

As made yet another left turn, I thought about that damn thing. The dune buggy, I had assumed, was yet another lesson in shit I cannot attain or cannot achieve. I thought it was just another bit about who was more stubborn. At one point, I think I said to someone, “here is this magical item that can make your life so much easier. Look at it. Want it. Desire it. Breathe it. But nope, motherfucker, keep on dreamin’ because that shit ain’t for you.” I thought in terms of absolutes and in a way, the buggy was an absolute. It was an absolute pain in my ass and it was an absolute misdirection.

I had been focused on getting that dune buggy up and running. I had been so focused on just getting out as opposed to getting to the next phase. Each time that dune buggy appeared, I went running towards it in an attempt to get the hell out. I hadn’t wanted to move on to the next phase, whatever it may have entailed. I just wanted to get out of dodge and never look back. With each time that buggy showed up, I became more and more resigned to the fact that there was no easy way out, no matter if I wanted it or otherwise. It didn’t matter.

The point was that it was a test. It was an ongoing test to see how far I would go before I finally gave up on taking the easy way out. I needed to go the hard way – traversing the sandbox – to get to the next step. Even if I though I deserved a ride.

Even, I had to admit, the way in which I died was all choreographed with a lesson involved. How seriously pathetic is that? Of all of the damn things to have a lesson attached, death was not what I was expecting. Who in the world learns a lesson from dying? I guess I’m that lucky sonofabitch who does. And you know what it was? Face my fears.

Yep. Yep.

Face. My. Fears.

Of all of the really important, magical moments a person can go through in which a lesson is attached, I get probably one of the most horrifying, terrifying, gut-wrenching moments and I get “face my fears.” I mean, I get it of course. Duh. The overall goal was to get me over myself and to get me on to the next phase and to do so, I had to go through something that I really didn’t want to fucking go through. The lesson wasn’t really just “face my fears” but also “get fucking used to it.” I would have to do a lot of new and innovative things that I probably wouldn’t like in any way, shape, or form and that was just the icing on the cake.

I snorted as I made another left turn. I was pretty sure the floor was sloping a lot more now. Maurice danced around my legs, yipping in excitement. I leaned over and pat the top of his head as he bounded right on by, jumping off a wall on his way by me. If nothing else, this was marvelous exercise for the both of us.

I was really not liking all of this damn thought-filled shit going on as I slowly, but surely made my way out of this place. Of course, that stood to reason to, I mused. I mean, of all of the places to be introspective, the Duat is kind of, like, where you’re supposed to be introspective. It was a place of change, either because the place itself was always changing to keep up with the new soul or with the new desires of the people who created it or because death was kind of one of those big huge changes people went through. And of course, it just really fucking figured that I would be thinking about all of the new and change-inducing things I had been forced to go through while going through the Duat, the biggest fucking place of changes ever.

Har-de-fucking-har.

I was already poking and prodding at things that really sucked, I might as well keep it up.

My thoughts, of course, went to the last two experiences I had gone through. Both of them had been pretty gut-wrenching in and of themselves, but in different ways.

Killing and dispersing souls was a lot of hard, pain-filled work. I had to turn off whatever little parts of me held such things as sympathy and empathy in order to do what needed to be done. I could play a good game and act the part, of course, but somewhere deep inside, each scream from my intended victim was enough to cut me anew. I had been forced to steel myself in a way I never thought possible. In case anyone is wondering, yes, it is possible to steel your soul against the entreaties of others. It just is a lot to have to put yourself through unless absolutely necessary.

And there was another change in me, I could feel it. I could feel things again. I had been so busy worrying about being empty that I had forgotten that I was filling that emptiness up with things. And instead of filling it up with things like the excruciating screams and the requests for mercy, I had filled it up with a solid steel core around my soul. I had pushed all of the things I had done deep down and steeled myself enough to get the job done.

Instead of bending like a reed in the wind, I had reinforced myself. The only thing I forgot was that even skyscrapers could bend in the wind.

And that’s where the healing work came into play. It wasn’t just healing the other souls that were paraded before me that I had to do. I also had to bind up the steel reinforcement with enough elasticity to be able to handle whatever gets thrown my way. And while I worked diligently on pulling apart the people in front of me, removing the gunk that had infested old wounds or stitching closed newly inflicted wounds, I had found ways to make me more malleable so that I could stand up and face whatever would come my way.

Things may not be as dicey as they were down in the sandbox or they were down in the Duat, but things would continue to come my way.

Of that, I have no doubt.

I squinted my eyes and focused on Maurice. He had stopped his steady progress upwards and was wagging his tail slowly at me. I brushed the dust and hair out of my eyes and looked behind him. A gateway was open. The black iron doors were flung open wide in the sunlight of a new morning. I rushed forward, excited beyond belief. I knew what this meant – I was out. I was really fucking out. I was getting out. I stepped outside and tilted my face to the sun, soaking it into my skin like a flower would. A gentle breeze caressed my cheeks.

I looked back at Maurice who was standing at the gate, stuck in shadow. “Come on, boy. I’m sure the old man won’t mind having you along,” I said. Maurice wagged his tail and panted at me instead. Silently, he seemed to be telling me that now was not his time, but we’d meet up again later. I felt sadness mixed with my relief. I had bonded with this creature so thoroughly within the Duat, more than I had ever bonded with Sekhmet or anyone else. And now, I had to say goodbye.

I knelt down in front him and wrapped my hands around either cheek. “I’ll be back for you, Maurice,” I told him earnestly. “And we’ll explore everywhere.”

Maurice wagged his tail and then stood up. He shook himself and walked away first. It was probably a good thing that he left me first. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do likewise to him.