The Art of Balance.

I think I’ve been babied by how most of my interpersonal deity relationships have been in the last few years.

I talk about being a deity collector; I have a lot of deities that I pay homage to at any given time. Some of those relationships are more fleeting than others, which is how I am able to handle my shit without flipping my shit. Geb and Mut are prime examples: they do the “deity pop-in.” I only ever associate them with outdoors type shit so I don’t need to pay homage to them nearly as regularly as I do with other deities. Bes is only given attention when I’m at home and doing home and family centric things (pretty obvious with that one); Set gets attention when he’s told to send me a pick-me up; Anup gets attention when the akhu are involved. Hetheru, Djehuty, and the rest have all been so quiet since I flipped out on them for constantly pulling at me, trying to get me to do what they want when I had someone of larger importance already having led the fucking charge. In the end, while I do pay attention to those relationships that began when I was nervous and worrying about things, they’ve mostly gone the way of the Dodo.

Some of this is okay; the work with those deities was for Bigger Picture. I understand that now although I didn’t necessarily fully understand what that Bigger Picture was way back then. So, I had to learn to use heka effectively under the tutelage of Aset to prepare myself for the intermediary status I took on last year. I had to learn to write more effectively under Djehuty’s demands in order to make my heka more effective. Hetheru has always been there, waiting in the wings, until she felt I needed someone’s affection. (She counter balances the intensity of my relationship with Sekhmet by not being intense, at all, and not demanding anything from me except some fun periodically. She’s always kind of been a breath of fresh air.)

Thing is, they’ve all been relegated to household deities while things have seriously picked up with Sekhmet. I had made my choice; I wasn’t getting cake and eating it, too. They’ve quieted down and stopped asking things of me. I seem to have even lost that counterbalance with Hetheru, not as if it was a permanent addition to my life anyway. I don’t have the energy and wherewithal to give them any more than what I’m doing now: a daily offering, perhaps some words, the occasional, “hey, how are you,” and then I move on with my life. I was pleased and happy that I had been able to move from “active deity collector” back to “one track mind.”

Then Heru-Wer showed up and I’m beginning to flip my shit.

You see… I have never really had to learn the act of balancing relationships.

balance

Balance via Flickr

I am not very good at that whole thing. I talk a good game, but I’m very much a MUST HYPERFOCUS ON THIS THING RIGHT NOW BECAUSE REASONS and everything else falls to the wayside. This was the fundamental issue between Sekhmet and Hetheru. I always just assumed that Hetheru was around for a purpose and I strongly suspect she was only there as an escape when things would get really hard with Sekhmet. I don’t think I’ve necessarily burned the bridge, but I do think that she’s kept her distance for good reason. (I was a massive ass face when I made my decision last year.) The problem is that I don’t really seem to have that option here. Sekhmet is demanding and fickle; I bound myself to her and that is just simply what it is. However, as I’ve been looking more and more steadily into the mythology of Heru-Wer and wondering about what relationship we will have and figuring out what the fuck it’s going to entail, I’ve come to conclude that… well, he offers a really awesome balance point between HARDWORKHARDWORKHARDWORK and PLAYPLAYPLAY, which is something I need to fucking learn like yesterday.

How the hell do people do this? How in the world can you balance yourself out between two different deities that want two different things from you?

I got off scot-free, so to speak, and now I have to pay the piper. That’s… how it feels anyway. I was able to do my thing with Sekhmet and still do some things with other gods, but while it could suck at times, there was still something in the back of my mind that said I could run away if I needed to. I could walk away if I needed to. In the end, the decision was made for me anyway. The decision to end all intense relationships outside of Sekhmet’s was made and I have lived with that decision for almost a year now. I can’t tell anyone if it was a good one or a bad one, in all honesty. I think, with everything, it is shades of gray: I had to stop getting pulled in a million different directions and my loyalty was to Sekhmet first and foremost. Everyone else was cannon fodder for that Bigger Picture I was just harping about.

The problem is that I’ve been able to escape all of this learning curve. Perhaps because of my own inability to NOT be so single-minded about things, I never had to learn what it was like to actually balance a relationship with one deity and then learn how to add another. I tried it, sort of, when Hetheru joined Sekhmet in annoying the fuck out of me the beginning. And I found that I was so intensely focused on the various aspects of Hetheru that I couldn’t jump out of my head long enough to make that relationship more than an offshoot that was painful and frightening. Perhaps Hetheru knew something I didn’t back then: I wasn’t ready for this whole balance thing. In an effort to terminate that relationship, I have done everything in my power to push that particular goddess out of my life, too unwilling to stop long enough to think about other aspects of her that I needed/need to pay attention to. Instead, I have severed and strangled that connection to the point where it probably needs more than just mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate it.

That is my own stupidity, however; my own inability to work on the things that need to be worked on. I recognize that I have a lot of failings, by the way, and I know myself well enough (at least in this particular ball park) to know that I have a lot of fucked up shit that I have been very firmly ignoring. Sure, I look at it and I poke and prod at it occasionally, but what it comes down to is that all of the associations that Hetheru holds the keys to regarding that fucked up shit made it nearly impossible for me to do much more than to push her away. She got the hint long before I did, probably. I haven’t felt her since last year and then when I made my decision in October, I figured everything there was no longer available to me. Now, though, I have another deity in my life and I… well, I don’t want to be an asshole. I don’t want to strangle that connection until it is as dead as some of my other connections and relationships. I want…

That.

That.

Right there.

I want.

I want to try it. I want to see where things will head, but I don’t necessarily know how to do it. I recognize that I have limitations; didn’t I just say that? I also recognize that there is a possibility here that is very frightening on a lot of levels. The possibility though is made more possible because I don’t have the issue with my head getting in my own fucking way. With Hetheru, as I said, I was too aware of her other associations to be completely comfortable with all of it. Heru-Wer doesn’t really have those types of associations, as far as I have found. He has associations with Hetheru (which is possibly where this randomness comes from), but the things that made me pull away from Hetheru aren’t necessarily there with Heru-Wer. That, in all honesty, makes it a lot easier for me to be willing to explore the realms I need to in order to move forward and I desperately want to.

Maybe it’s only now that I am fully aware of how fucked up my shit is and how much I need to, you know, actually work on it.

But I have to ask how people do this thing. I know of quite a few people who have intense relationships with various gods and they manage to work it out all right. They don’t seem to (in my limited view into what they do and who their relationships are with) have had the issue I have where the brain pan has been too busy fucking with them. And from what it looks like, while not easy, it seems feasible. I just don’t know if I have it in me to balance anything appropriately. I know myself too well: that thing about being hyper focused on things isn’t even remotely an exaggeration. I’m a Leo, for fuck’s sake; it’s in our nature to be like GIVE ME THE SHINY to the detriment of all else.

But I also recognize that the whole fucking point about this religion is balance (ma’at). I recognize that, maybe, this will help me with the whole ma’at thing.

If nothing else, I can only hope it helps me…

Festival of Wag 2014.

There are days where I realize how much I enjoy festivals that have no relation on my gods. Don’t get me wrong; I like celebrating for my gods and on behalf of my gods. I kind of, though I will deny this later, enjoy where things are headed and the deep fulfillment I get when I create a service to the gods and know, deep inside, that I have done them proud. But it’s also that fulfillment that can leave me feeling tired and shaky afterward; I always feel as though I am on display.

Considering my relationship with my akhu and how deeply I’ve connected with them on so many levels, I have to admit that I don’t feel as though I will be judged wrongly for making a mistake or for being so simple with what it is I intend to do. I hate the fact that, quite often, I’m debating on how ornate my celebrations should be for my gods. But when I saw the notification that the Festival of Wag was this past weekend, I knew that I wouldn’t have to pull something both ornate and shiny out of my butt. I could just do what I do best – grave tend – and everything would be okay.

The thing is that grave-tending was something I started because of my relationship with Bawon. Since the lwa have disappeared, I’ve worried a bit about how to proceed with things regarding my ancestors and the veneration I’ve taken under Bawon’s direction. I knew, of course, that things would change when I realized the lwa had disappeared. I just didn’t know what aspects of that service to Bawon that I would be able or need to continue.

I’ve mentioned before that Anup has been less than pleased with me because my relationship with my akhu began not at his behest but at someone else’s. And in so making his displeasure known, he’s made it incredibly difficult for me to come to terms with what parts of the services I rendered are okay to keep and what parts are not.

But I have to admit: I really enjoy grave-tending. Graveyards are quiet and relaxing to me. I am, again, not on display and all that matters is who or what I am doing in that moment, who I speak with, what I leave, and whether or not I can leave that graveyard knowing that I have done a job well. Besides, I haven’t visited my family’s graves in months and months. I haven’t been maintaining the grave-tending since the lwa left after Lent this year and the idea of going to graves with so few spoons in the last few months has been, well, it hasn’t been a good idea.

I figured if I could pass off the on-call cell phone (because, you know, of course I was on-call this week), then I would go grave-tending.

…I passed off the on-call cell phone Friday night and knew that I had to go tending.

Since the Feast of Wag is a two-day festival, I had enough time to get the things done that I wanted to get done without feeling pressed for time. I have a lot of family members who are buried locally and while I had hoped that I would be able to hit some of the graveyards that have been left untended and forgotten, I knew that my direct ancestors were the main focus here. So, with my son in tow, I went to three cemeteries and was able to connect with the most recently deceased.

We went to the veteran’s cemetery first since there are three people there: my maternal grandmother and my significant other’s two grandfathers. I took pictures of my son with the headstones and beside the wall plaque for his father’s paternal grandfather. I also made sure to let them know that I would be having a little celebration the next night and they were all welcome to join, if they so desired. I couldn’t tell you if they took my invitation to heart; I was off and running to the next cemetery before I had really managed to process my invite.

I’ve mentioned before that I find it harder to connect with the more recently deceased. This is still an issue for me and I still heartily believe it’s a matter of religious disconnect. Whatever the case may be, I had no hope that my grandmother would show up, but I somehow thought that my significant other’s maternal grandfather may show up; he kind of enjoyed parties.

The next cemetery had four graves to visit. I found my [step] grandparents on my father’s side; my [step] great-grandparents, my great uncle and his wife, as well as my [step] great-great grandparents. They all seemed a little overgrown, though, so my son and I spent time playing in the dirt, clearing back as much of the overgrown grass as we could. I also stopped at some maternal relatives’ gravesides who I happened upon accidentally (I know they’re related to me since the last name is rare and I recalled their names on my mother’s genealogical project). Everyone was given an invitation to the feast I was thinking up on their behalf.

I find it easier to connect with this side of the family even though my father has made it clear he is displeased with all of this “hullabaloo.” I think part of the reason why I felt a better reception at my invitation for these relatives is because, outside of myself and one aunt, no one really pays them any heed. It was by accident that I found my great-uncle and his wife and by accident that I found my long-dead great-great grandparents. (Interesting side note: I discovered that my great-grandfather and my great-uncle died the same year, which is really very intriguing especially since no one knew or seems to know anything about either of them.)

The last grave I visited was my father’s. My son and I spent some time there and we cleared back the grass since it was beginning to overtake his grave again. Honestly, if I don’t go to my father’s grave on a regular basis, just like with his family members in the Catholic cemetery, it starts to seriously get out of hand. I find this hilarious since my mom swears up and down that it was years before any grass would willingly grow on his grave. Again, I extended the invitation; received absolutely no positive or negative feelings regarding it; and took my son home.

The first day was pretty damn relaxing, in all honesty. I didn’t feel pushed and prodded to get it done. I didn’t feel like I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t feel like I was going to fuck anything up. I was doing something that I did regularly though so maybe that’s why. Whatever the case may be, I felt like I was really living a dead religion.

The next day, I decided that I had absolutely no need to go over the top with foods. I have a very limited income, anyway, and while I had wanted to make something special for them – I was thinking about the French meat pie recipe – I knew that, financially, I couldn’t. Besides, French meat pie is all well and good but because I don’t make my own pie dough, I would have had to buy that as well as buying ground lamb, which can be pretty pricey in and of itself. So, I decided to just do something really easy and simple.

I think the dancing skeletons really brought out the color in Anup's eyes.

I think the dancing skeletons really brought out the color in Anup’s eyes.

I gave to them a large bunch of grapes, bread, and cool water. I created a small space on my blue cabinet, which I decorated with the lamp and a small statue of Anup. I added two more candles and lit incense for everyone. They probably didn’t show and it probably wasn’t enough by the standards they were used to when they were alive…

…but I often have to remind myself that it is the intent behind what I am doing, not what it is that I am doing.

Hopefully, they felt my intent to honor them and their memories.

Kemetic Round Table: Akhu for Beginners.

To the ancient Egyptians, who you were related to was pretty important. This is born out in all of the inscriptions we have identified, which indicates how so-and-so was the son of so-and-so, who was the son of so-and-so. The important part wasn’t so much the genetic aspect of who was descended from who, but who the heir to the family line was and so, therefore, who would be next in line to fulfill their father’s office. While the pharaoh could and occasionally did exercise the right to appoint someone to office – due to bribery, the end of a familial line, just because, etc. – generally speaking, offices were passed down from father to son. It wasn’t so much who you knew as who you were related to since lineal descent bore fruit for the females of the family as well; the priesthoods were filled with nepotism. And it was through a father that a son could become an important political player, such as vizier or mayor of a nomarch. So, while the genetics aspect is pretty important from our modern standpoint, the actual blood line didn’t matter in so much as whether or not that blood line could further your career… or end it should someone from that line piss of anyone more powerful.

Not only was the who’s who of your family important, but so too was seeing them properly taken care of in the afterlife. Considering the wealth of afterlife beliefs in ancient Egyptian religion, this really isn’t so surprising. It was important for the people of ancient Egypt to continue to pay homage to the cult centers of the pharaoh even after they had died. The nobility had similar beliefs after they were granted “access” to the afterlife as akhu (plural form of akh, meaning “transfigured dead”) in the later periods. The laity had absolutely no hopes whatsoever of doing anything other than serving in the afterlife, just as they did in life (the whole concept of the afterlife was, also, filled with nepotism), which was technically taken away from them by the creation of the shabti figurines in the Middle Kingdom. But making sure that the spirits of the dead were remembered was the most important part. The rulers and the nobility could pay “in perpetuity” to have their names spoken aloud, offerings provided, and ensuring that they were not lost to the sands of time. (This didn’t last past the next intermediate period, but with large standing monuments to their death, there was obviously some remembrance of them.) This wasn’t the case with the laity. They had to hope their line would continue and someone would be around to at least speak their names.

Failure to remember them was the worst desecration imaginable to the ancient Egyptians. There’s much discussion about “chiseling out” names, especially when it comes to the Amarna Heresy. This wasn’t simply an attempt of later generations to remove the Heretic King and his direct descendants from the kings’ lists, but a direct attack against their spirit and their attempt to reach the afterlife. If images weren’t available and a body wasn’t available, the ba would have nowhere to regenerate and to feast upon its offerings. If the names weren’t available in texts, then the name would die out and be forgotten. The ancient Egyptian belief in the soul listed the ren (or, the name) as the very essence, the very foundation of the person and by obliterating any memory of that name, then they were effectively killing off the soul. So, remembering the deceased was one of the most important aspects to the ancient Egyptian religious system.

A lot of people, when they start entering Kemeticism, get hung up on the akhu question: should I or shouldn’t I? It’s kind of a personal question, so whether or not people decide to move forward with integrating the akhu into their practice is up to them. Of course, I totally get it. There are a lot of people that many people are related to who are, for lack of a better term, fucking assholes. And who really wants to remember fucking assholes, am I right? It is possible to obliterate, so to speak, those fucking assholes from the akhu thing if you’re interested. I strongly recommend not letting some fucking assholes ruin something that you may end up finding to be really awesome and really useful. It can be nice and almost cathartic to remember the people in your lives – genetic ancestors or inter-marriage relatives or adopted relatives or whomever – who have passed before you.

The in-home akhu altar space is simple, but effective.

The in-home akhu altar space is simple, but effective.


Personally, I do have a relationship with my akhu. It can be very difficult though because I have a lot of family members who have passed on and I want to honor all of them. I honestly can’t have an akhu altar in my house for all of my ancestors. I would always be adding someone new, either because someone in my family has passed or someone in my significant other’s family has passed or because my dad’s family married and divorced so many times that I have a ton of fucking step-grandparents and step-aunts and uncles. So, I mostly have a generic altar space that I use in my home (very rarely, mind) to pay homage to the dead. Usually, on large holidays such as the Festival of Wag, I will set up a temporary altar space in my home so that I can pay my respects to those whom have passed and I leave it at that since I can’t really get to all of their graves in two days’ time.

Something that I have found, and other Kemetics have also found, is that it can be very difficult to integrate the deceased into a religious practice that is not something they are familiar with. Most of my family members who have passed are Christian stock. My daddy was born and raised a Methodist and my mother’s family are all conservative, die-hard Catholics. What I have found with this is that, the closer they are to the time when they passed, the more push back I get from them. I visit my father’s and grandmother’s grave often, but the offerings that I provide to them are grudgingly taken. They appreciate my remembrance of them, but they do not appreciate the trappings that memory is cocooned within: Kemeticism. I have had intense dreams with my father yelling at me about this, in the past, and I’ve felt similar misgivings from other family members as well.

Some people have decided that this means they should not incorporate the akhu veneration into their practice. Others have found that by incorporating religious frameworks that the deceased would understand has made for an easier time with those deceased. Though she is no longer around, I knew a Kemetic of Philippine ancestry who incorporated Philippino ancestor veneration into their practice when her ancestors gave push back on how she was trying to incorporate them. Another Kemetic blogger, also no longer around, found the same issue and incorporated Jewish traditions into their veneration. While there is nothing specific to culture that I have found to ease the process with my family members (their argument is based solely on religious grounds, it seems, as opposed to cultural), I still try to appease them as well as myself when I reach out to them.

What I have also found, though, is that the longer someone has been deceased, the less likely they will care how you remember them. All they seem to really care about is that someone is actually bothering to pay some attention to them. My mother completed a large genealogical project when I was in high school for her family. She included some of my father’s family in this project and so, I have the wherewithal to visit the local graves of many of my longer-deceased family members. My great-grandparents and great-great grandparents seem to not give two shits if I provide them standard offerings as based on a Kemetic framework, so long as I take a little jaunt over periodically, clean off the grave, and let them know that they are remembered. Just as with the netjeru, it seems to be the intent behind the practice for the longer-deceased than it is about how you go about the work.

The theory that those who have been dead for longer care less about the trappings is born out my grave-tending duties. While these duties didn’t start off because of my akhu veneration (it actually all started because I was serving the Bawon Samedi, in all honesty), I do occasionally fall back to a Kemetic standpoint when I decide to visit and leave offerings to the graveyards in my area. All of the graveyards I visit are ignored, passed by, and hardly get any attention from the cities that are supposed to be tending to them. I have found that because I have let them know that I will remember them, take care of their graves, and have photographed them (so that when I die, should no one continue this work after me, there will be a “forever” memory so to speak), they are all for it. They think it’s wonderful. I have gone into graveyards that have been ignored for years and found that they were pleased with what I was doing because at least someone was paying some damned attention to them.

I think, all in all, the practice is very rewarding on numerous levels. How other people decide to move forward, if they decide to do so, when it comes to the akhu is of course going to be dependent on how they feel regarding their ancestors. But I have found that I feel very much more connected with the world, at large, because I do incorporate them into my religious practice.

Further Reading

Re-Opening Scabs.

Shadow work is probably one of the most grueling things we can ever undergo. I’ve often known that I need to work on things and I have just as often shied away from the prospect, knowing how much pain I could and would unleash upon myself. It’s not just fear that has kept me from working on these traumas, but it’s also the knowledge that I will still need to smile and interact with others, others who may not understand and who may not care, as you work on bits of you that have been folded into the very fabric of your soul.

Picking and pulling apart your soul is hard work, but even with all of that, you still need to live your regular old life. If you don’t answer the questions of people around you, they’ll start asking you what’s wrong. And if you are very busy pulling yourself apart, there is no way that you can explain it to them without sounding, well, without sounding a little unbalanced, a little unwell. So, of course, you have to continue to live your life as you normally would and maybe they’ll forgive the fact that you’re just a tiny bit off your game for a while since you’re so busy destroying who you are on a fundamental level in order to rebuild yourself into who you may have been without those damned fucking traumas having gotten in the way.

I ripped a scab off the other day. It was gross. You know what it’s like to rip off a scab from your knees, when you’re a kid? It’s kind of painful but you’re just like intent on fucking ripping that shit right the fuck off. I don’t know why kids feel the need to pick at their scabs; I used to do it and my son does it unless it hurts too much. I don’t know if picking at scabs is really useful when you skin your knees, though. You end up with scars if you do that. But sometimes, I think, the scars are useful because you can wear them proudly and point out to people that you survived.

I’ve done a lot of shadow work in the last few years. I know that I’m not perfect and I know, clearly, that I have a lot of things to resolve. I doubt, most times, that I will be able to remake myself into the form I want to be before I die, officially die. Rebirth is all well and fine and a part of shadow work, but I mean honestly and fully die. I know that I’m only thirty [-one] but sometimes, the uphill battle to get to where I need to go is so difficult that I can’t be bothered. I just can’t look up any further at the cliff face I’m climbing and I just stop.

But the thing about shadow work that I often have to remind myself is that that there is an ultimate plan in play. Sometimes it relates to bigger picture; sometimes it doesn’t. I have a lot of issues that I have to contend with on a daily basis; issues that I didn’t realize how deeply they impacted me until I started picking and pulling at what needed to be reformed in order to work through the trauma and come out the other side. I thought that after the yearlong work I did regarding my ex would be sufficient for the needs; I was wrong. I was very wrong.

I guess shadow work is one of those ongoing processes that we all have to explore and go through. Each person’s journey will be unique, of course, because the issues that we have faced and how we came out of them relatively intact is going to be completely different. I can write whatever the hell I want to and say what I think people will need to hear, but whatever journey we have been on is [probably] going to flavor the unique shadow work before each individual. There’s no all-purpose way to do this, unfortunately. There are only some tricks, some ideas, and some possibilities to throw out there for those looking to learn.

My best advice? Be prepared to fuck yourself sidewise ten ways to Sunday, screaming and crying [internally], and hoping that you get the fixing you part right one day.

Ripping that fucking twat waffle of a scab off was some really fucked up shit.

I have discovered a lot of triggers in myself lately. I don’t really like that terminology, honestly. I understand the point behind it and this gif set illustrates it the best. But the reactions that I have to those moments aren’t necessarily “trigger” like. I don’t have a flashback; I tend to have a flight-or-fight response in all honesty. If I see it, I can fight it out and end up in an emotional avalanche coupled with such terrific physical reactions as increased respiratory and heart rate; cold sweats; and the shakes. Other times, I end up fleeing the fuck away from whatever the hell it is, either physically or mentally, and I bury myself in a world that doesn’t include such things.

This doesn’t really help in the long run, I admit. The point is that I have to get through what has happened and, hopefully, build something workable. I don’t have any blueprints, though, so I’m not really sure what “workable” means. I can assume what it means by its very definitions, but when it comes to breaking yourself wide open and see what parts fit together after removing the tender bits, well, maybe not everything will really be so fully functional at the end of it all.

I wish there was a manual for these types of situations. I really wish there was this one way that would make everything work out appropriately. Everyone just follows the instructions and everyone can come out the other side, maybe not completely whole, but relatively close to that. It would be like one of those dance floor mats that teach people who to do the samba or the waltz; you put your feet in the designated places and teach on autopilot. Unfortunately, no one thought one of those mats was in our best interest when they realized that we have to destroy in order to become reborn.

Rebirth is a terrible process, but it’s the process we all need to go through at some point or another.

Shadow work is some fucked up shit.

But so, too, are the experiences that we’ve gone through. It’s all some fucked up shit. People think that the end goal is some kind of utopia or something. I don’t think that’s really possible. It sure sounds sweet when you look up what other people think a utopia may be like, but I don’t think perfection is really the end goal. We’re imperfect creatures with wants, desires, and feelings. No matter how old we are and no matter how ornery we may get in that old age, we still have those wants, desires, and feelings. They make us imperfect, I think, but they keep us human.

One particular trauma, specific to the ex-husband here, keeps coming back to me. I’m not re-living it, per se, but I’m poking at the hornets’ nest that is that moment in time. There are other things associated with that moment; things that I honestly can’t even begin to fully comprehend. The worst part about this is that the single moment I’ve been working on is tied seemingly imperceptibly to everything else. While I can focus on this one thing right here, I have to admit that it means pulling apart bits of other things as well. I end up with a giant fucking mess on my hands and wonder, how the fuck am I supposed to pull out the good parts while shedding the bad parts and end up, nominally, whole at the end of it all?

No manual; no road map.

We just move forward with a hopeful look that things will end up better at the end of it all. And when things get hard, there are ugly tears with snot running down our faces and blotched cheeks and sobs so hard that you can practically feel your ribs breaking from the pain of it all. At the other end, you can only hope that what ends up coming out of it is all right and that, you know, you were able to put the pieces of you back together.

To be functional.

To be “normal.”

Okay, maybe just to be relatively complete.

Sometimes, when I’m working hard on those things, I try to desensitize myself. I know that this type of therapy is used for certain disorders and most often phobias. I don’t think what I’m putting myself through, reliving this shit, is really a phobia. But desensitization has worked, slightly, so that I don’t freak out publicly. I can have that frightened, scared rabbit moment in the confines of my own home, usually locked in the bathroom underneath the shower spray so I can grieve or hurt privately. I don’t recommend this therapy type, in all honesty; I don’t really know if it’s helping at all.

Sometimes, I just poke at things like a kid with a stick. I don’t look at anything; I don’t read about anything. I just follow the yarn until I come to a point that needs to be plucked about. Poking things is all right, I guess. It gets me a little farther, I think, than the desensitization. But the problem with poking at things means that, at some point, I’m going to awaken something that I didn’t really want to wake up. And then I have to deal with the aftermath of that. Periodically, that aftermath is at work or when my kid is up and asking for a story or when I’m lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling. The angry monster inside of me surges and I know nothing except that monster. I’m not sure if I really recommend this type of shadow work either; I couldn’t say if it’s beneficial or not.

Sometimes, I just let it lie. I leave it alone and wait for something to occur to me, an epiphany of sorts, and hope that I can parse out the meaning of that epiphany when it happens. Shadow work, in my opinion, isn’t always on the go type of stuff, but can also mean lazing around while you wait for the next thing to come to you, in my case, an epiphany. The problem with his particular trick is that, maybe just maybe, there are other factors pushing me toward resolution and I can’t wait amount for that single moment of clarity to happen. I don’t think this is helping me at all, but it gives me a rest at least from the hard work.

Sometimes, I ignore all of my hang ups and try to just live my life. Nothing is wrong with me and I am perfectly fine. This is a lie I’ve told myself for years; it’s still there in the back of my mind. But when I look at myself in the mirror after assuring myself that I’m okay, I can see the lie in my eyes, in my nose, in my hair. It’s all just hanging around, the big fat epic lie, and I know that I can’t hide from it anymore. As scared as I might be, I have to move forward. I don’t recommend this at all. Don’t lie to yourself. As painful as the work will be, lying to yourself makes it that much harder to break things down to their fundamental parts and work them back together again.

As I was saying, I started ripping off the scabs with full abandon recently. I didn’t care what scab I was going to rip off; I chose one at random. The scab, though, was connected to another one and another one. I ripped that fucking thing off like nobody’s fucking business and got a punch to the face for my trouble. It hurts, you know, when you do it that way. It hurts worse when you’re pulling off emotional and mental scabs than it does when you’re picking at physical ones. You don’t know what sort of pain you’ll unleash when you pick at them, of course, which is probably why it hurts worse.

I ripped off that fucking scab and reveled in the moment, briefly. It was nice to feel a little free. I am free, I screamed, from this pain. And then it came back twenty times worse and whatever heka I thought I was doing by screaming that out loud was wrong. I wasn’t free because there was more lurking under the surface wound. A lot more. I didn’t realize how much more.

I’m tired all the time; I’m weepy all the time; I read too much to hide from the pain; I delve deep into the work when I’m sleeping, hoping that one day I will wake up and it will be better again. Someone told me yesterday that this was long-term shit, at least a year or more. I can’t say that I’m shocked by this, but it still sucks that I have so much fucking hard work ahead of me.

There’s no manual about how to do this hard work, so I have to hope that what I do, at least a little, works well for me because otherwise, this job will take me that much harder.

I ripped off a scab the other day; I ripped that motherfucker off and screamed with the power of my own intentions. I just have to remember that, I think, while I work hard on this shit. I just have to remember that moment when I screamed and reveled, thinking about burning down my enemies with the power of my own thoughts. If I remember what it’s like to feel that way, then maybe, I’ll be okay through the next year or so.

And maybe, in the end, I’ll come out of it a little more whole than I am now.

Hawkish Shenanigans II.

I wasn’t going to actually talk about this until I had something more definitive but it bares discussing, if for no other purpose than to marinate on the prospect further.

So, last year, I found myself surrounded by hawk imagery in June. I broke down after a few weeks of constant push and finally wrote about it. I mentioned in that post that I had no idea what was going on and it was seriously starting to piss me off. I did my usual, hey, if you need something, make yourself plain. But nothing came of it. I ended up actually giving up on the entire experience because I couldn’t make sense of it.

There were some ideas that I tossed around, but to be perfectly frank, there are so many hawk deities out there that it’s next to impossible to put a name to what may or may not have been coincidence. And that was the fundamental problem: it could have just been all coincidence. The imagery on my dashboard; the birds in the sky; the screeching cries of birds that weren’t real… It could have all been easily explained by things. This is the problem, I think, when it comes to discerning what is and isn’t actually happening: things can easily be explained by happenstance.

And in every instance, I felt that it didn’t necessarily mean anything. Maybe I was making it up.

At the end of the day, I decided that I was probably being called toward Khonsu. He was the only hawk deity that I could think of in which I would have any sort of tie whatsoever. While my relationship with his mother is very akin to the relationship I have with Geb, it didn’t used to be. However, as time has gone by, things have cooled drastically between myself and the plethora of deities I’ve had active devotional relationships with. As Mut became relegated to a more background role and something akin to my relationship with Geb, it made sense that I would assume the hawks were because of Khonsu… mostly because the first time I saw one was in an area where I see the wild turkeys that made me think “Mut.”

So, I dropped the issue and gave it up.

Thing is… I think I may have been wrong about the identity.

About a month after I really started paying attention to this, it was the epagomenal days and I ended up having a pretty pleasant time with Heru-Wer. No big, right? I’m the deity collector and I try to be friendly towards many of them, most especially if I’m honoring them in some way. Since then, I’ve thought of him fondly but in that, “oh, that was a nice experience to have with a god,” and left it at that. Of course, the thing is that, you know, he’s kind of got a hawk association, doesn’t he?

But I was so intent on the idea that the hawks and related imagery were because of Khonsu that I was just like, “I’ve figured it out; he doesn’t want anything apparently. We’re done here.” So, each morning, when I would see a hawk on my way to work, I would think about Khonsu and that was it.

Thing was that it wasn’t actually it. The feeling wasn’t the same as I would get from the turkeys and their association with Mut or the Canadian geese and their association with Geb. When I think of those two and the wild animals I associate with them locally, I get… well, I get feels, I guess. I don’t really know how to describe it other than to equate it to that meme phrase: feels. Those moments where I associated the turkeys or the geese were intense, microscopic moments in time in which I felt the deity. They may not have been with me but I could feel them and I was overcome with the emotional backlash of that association. (I’m probably not explaining this right and I do apologize.)

What I found with the hawk thing was that I didn’t have that sort of intensity. So, I just left it alone. I figured that either I was (A) wrong about the association or (B) Khonsu wasn’t really interested in me as he thought. I don’t know why he would reach out to me, at all, other than he’s not very popular amongst other Kemetics, or doesn’t seem to be. And I seem to associate with some of the known names but not the names that are associated with actual devotees (Geb is a clear example; all Kemetics know who he is, but they don’t really have relationships with him).

The hawk shenanigans faded out because winter hit or because I had misinterpreted. Whatever the case may be, it became less of a thing to see hawks. Winter hit; I saw one periodically; spring happened and then there they were again. I decided that, maybe, they didn’t really need a single association. As I said, there are a lot of hawk deities out there and, you know, I could just adapt to the times. The other day, I saw a hawk and I was like, “That’s Montu, motherfucker, because why the hell not?” It works for me, but now I’m beginning to wonder if, you know, I’m just as dense as they come.

So, this past week for Wep Ronpet, I did the same thing I did last year and reached out to all of the kids of Nut and Geb. No big, right? It’s their birthday; we should party to the max. And you know, I had Heru-Wer feels. It was beautiful reading others’ experiences of him and it was just as wonderful feeling like I was honoring deities who weren’t well known or very popular. Yeah, man; I’m awesome; look at me, honoring all the deities…

Thing is that the Heru-Wer feels haven’t really gone away.

And the hawk imagery is popping back up again in unexpected places.

I can easily explain it away on my dashboard. I follow a couple of bloggers who randomly reblog bird pictures. (I have a friend who has an affinity for chickens.) And everyone likes hawks because they’re majestic birds of prey, so they reblog pretty pictures of them.

I can easily explain seeing them all over the place (now) in my area. The population has benefited from the loss of local farmland and they’ve become more frequently observed in the suburban and urban sprawl of the city I live in. There’s a red-tailed hawk who lives in TH’s aunt’s tree line. I’ve seen two of them fly across the river between me and the city next door on a regular basis. The article I found on it explained it away.

It was all just so believable, you know?

Rationality won out for a bit as I began to explore this sudden upswing.

The time frame for reblogs coincidences almost to the time frame as the year before. It kind of makes sense that people who consistently reblog certain types of bird imagery would do so in patterns: specifically, in the months where such animals would be most commonly seen. Hawks are out and about all the time (since I’ve seen them in the winter) but they seem to be most often seen and paid attention to in spring/summer.

The time frame for my having personally seen them made sense, too. And the fact that I was seeing so many more than I had when I was a kid made sense, too, especially after seeing that article (from four years ago). And then I had a similar discussion just this past weekend with TH’s aunt’s boyfriend as he explained to me how to tell the difference between turkey vultures and hawks (I had no idea we had turkey vultures around here). It makes sense that birds of prey would proliferate even with the loss of farmland. There are still creatures to be eaten in the urban sprawl…

What a nice neat package I have.

I hate neat packages, but rationality is hard to fight back against when the explanations just make so much sense.

So, of course, the feels happened around Wep-Ronpet, which culminated in my hilarious “operation get Heru-Wer drunk” when it was the KO peoples’ time to honor his birthday. I figured it would all fade, just like last year, and we’d be fine. Except that I’m still having those feels things, which, even though they really can’t be explained and really can’t be understood in any rational context, should probably be paid attention to because, you know, instincts and whatnot.

I figured I would just peek around into the Heru-Wer thing and got not a lot of information back. Apparently, no one really gives a shit about Heru-Wer except for the single kid I know who was divined his child when they did the RPD for KO. Even Henadology’s page on the guy was mixed in with the other Herus. Seems kind of sad and depressing that, you know, there’s not a lot out there for me to look into in a better attempt to figure out what the hell is going on.

And then, last night, I dreamed about him. I saw just flashes of imagery, mostly, but it was Heru-Wer iconography and images from the temple of Edfu with his hawk statues in the forefront. Then, I saw his name flash across a white background, like I was writing about him in my blog, but the font of his name was gigantic, maybe like 24 or 26 point font? And then, I saw more images of his iconography in my mind before I went back to sleep.

Thing is, I’ve been researching him, you know? So maybe that explains the dream away, too. Rationality can easily win out here, too. But I have to wonder if I’m just a complete dunce, unable to fully comprehend what the hell was happening last year so it’s kind of upped its “fuck with you” game this year?

I legitimately have no idea. I don’t mind adding [yet another] deity to the grouping. I will admit to being concerned, considering where my loyalties currently lie (with Sekhmet and the intensity of our relationship), and bringing on someone new. But of course, I’m even more concerned that I’m off my game (it’s been over a year since I’ve had to play this who is it game). And if I was wrong last year… maybe I’ll be wrong this year?

Discernment is a bitch.

Wep Ronpet 2014.

I like Wep Ronpet. The very feeling behind the celebration shoots both joy and excitement throughout my body and I can feel, almost, as if my body as renewing just as the year is about to. I think the excitement and joy comes from the knowledge that, soon enough, the year will reset itself and the hope of a new year will be upon me. Whatever sorrows and horrors that may have happened within the last twelve months will soon be gone and something new, something perfect, will be before me.

The best way to describe these feelings would be to explain about the first snowfall of the winter.

Just as with many people in the northeast, I am not a huge fan of winter. It is a long time to live with gray clouds and hardly any sun to peek through, with temperatures rapidly plummeting. There is nothing to commend it, really; icy roads, blizzard conditions, and depression. But there is something that has always made me, even as a little girl, look forward to the first snowfall. I can remember, when I was little and when November would start to stretch towards Thanksgiving, eagerly peering out my windows every morning in the hopes that the first snow had fallen.

And the gasp of joy at the beauty that the land awaited when it did fall! Everything was covered in ice crystals and the snow was pure and perfect, never touched by man or beast. The crusts of gray and soot from passing cars hadn’t yet touched it; it was glorious. To me, that glorious first snowfall is a lot like Wep Ronpet and what I can expect to see for the upcoming year: a pristine field of snow, untouched and unsullied, just like the New Year.

I was both excited and worried, in all honesty, for this year’s festivities. I thought I had more planned than I actually did, I think. I’m not sure what it was that made me worry I wouldn’t be able to get it all done. I have to admit that working a full time job really cuts into the whole religion thing. I often feel that the amount of time and effort I would prefer to dedicate to something is not available to me because I have to go out and into the world, work for a paycheck that barely gets me by. But, I also understand that this is way of most people, so I am at least aware that I’m probably not alone with my unhappiness at the prospect.

Initially, that morning, I was going to lay my icons out to rejuvenate in the sun. This is something that I have done for the last two years and I like the idea. However, with Sekhmet currently in hiding until The Feast of Drunkenness, it didn’t seem right to have the other three icons out and about. So, I nixed this idea that morning. I prepared the usual daily devotions to my home altar shrine and set up the altar space I had been using for the intercalary days in preparation for that night.

It was a little crowded and a little hectic, but finally, I felt that everything was set up properly.

On my way to work that morning, I ended up stuck in stop-and-go traffic. This isn’t actually very usual for my trips into work. As I watched the time click slowly passed when I should have arrived at work, I began to grow crotchety. There I was, stuck in traffic because some idiot got into an accident. Fuming, I shot off the closest off-ramp and sat in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot to have a pep talk with myself. (By that point, I was already very late and had called into work to let them know I would be there when I got there, so I figured a pep talk wasn’t really pushing the limits of tardiness.)

I reminded myself, carefully, that I was at a crossroads with the New Year. Things were still resetting and that wouldn’t solidify until tomorrow. It wasn’t my fault that someone hadn’t taken extra precautions while [possibly] driving [recklessly] down the highway. While I did have to sit in stop-and-go traffic because of it, I reminded myself that not everyone can be prepared for the chaos that the reset of a new year can cause. And I also reminded myself that chaos tended to float around the days outside of the year and impact Wep Ronpet, even though it’s most often seen as an auspicious day. Calmed again, I went off to work and kicked some telecommunications ass.

When I got home, I immediately started fully planning the festivities. My first step was to create a sa. I used this guide to create it and I used this one for figuring out how to and what type of sigils I would use in the interior. I had decided to create the sa about a month ago and purchased the supplies when I went on my merry little chase for all things Wep Ronpet. I chose silken cords for the interior and exterior in white and red and ended up choosing red felt for the actual sa itself.

I went through my book, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark for inspiration on what sort of sigils I wanted to use. It seemed appropriate that I would choose symbolism from ancient Egypt as opposed to anything that I myself would create. It seemed like it would be more effect, heka wise, if I chose something with extensive history. I ended up choosing the shen ring, the glyph for eternity, and the glyph for life. These three symbols were used to create this sa specifically as a protective amulet in my car. The message I was aiming for was, protection for eternity, protection for life; may a long life by lived. I also did create a personalized sigil specific to the aim as well.

I ended up finding out just how difficult it can be to braid something that isn’t your hair. I chose one red strand of cord and two red. I knotted them at the top and realized that, well, I had nothing to anchor the end to so that I could begin braiding. I ended up holding the knotted end in my mouth so that I could braid it all. When I got to the other end (measured against the length of the felt I had purchased), I knotted it together and beheld my work.

I also didn’t expect for the cordage to shrink so much because of the braiding. I had measure it out specifically to the length of the width of the red felt and hadn’t considered that I would end up with something that was completely hidden in its center. What I also didn’t expect was just how thick the damn red felt would get when I rolled it into a tube shape. It was thicker than any of my fingers and completely unwieldy. I ended up cutting it down until the sigils, which were in four strategic places on the inside, were at the very edge. When I rolled up the felt again, it was still pretty thick, but not as much.

It's fucking huge.

It’s fucking huge.

I had my son hold out his finger to me so that I could use that to tie a single white cord around the center to hold its shape. With that in place, I took a long strand of red cordage to wrap around it, creating the distinctive sa shape by pulling it as tightly as I possibly could. I then managed, with much concentration and a bit of power words (f-bombs, mostly), to string a white string in the center. I had originally wanted to thread white cordage around the sides of the rounded top, but was unable to do so because of how thick the felt was. I ended up just using the white thread to hold it together for when I tie it to my rearview mirror.

Once that was completed, I placed it on Sekhmet’s altar in the middle of the offering plate.

Booze it up, up, up.

Booze it up, up, up.

My next step was to hold a final celebration for the children of Nut and Geb. I ended up setting everyone up that morning, but chose to add an alcoholic beverage on top of the cupcake. I used my “royal cup,” which was a gift on my birthday last year. I didn’t use the crazy straw when I placed the vodka and diet Coke concoction down, but I did sing out that everyone had better get it before I snapped the damn thing up. Calories be damned; I was having me some vodka.

In a totally strange coincidence, by the KO calendar, my Wep Ronpet coincided with Heru-Wer’s birthday. I was enjoying all of the stories of peoples’ experiences with him throughout the day. Somehow, one of his kids (from KO) and I got onto the topic of getting him drunk as hell and it just kind of gamboled out of control until many people were offering him booze, whether they were celebrating his birthday or not. I joined in on this particular shindig and ended up with no fewer than two cups of alcoholic beverages out for him. I really can’t say if this was received properly or not (I had a distinct impression he had screeched, “CHALLENGE MOTHERFUCKING ACCEPTED,” at one point, but I could be mistaken).

It was fucking hilarious.

While this was going on, I danced around the house to a few tunes that deserve to be danced to. While I was shaking my booty up and down the hallway, I ended up pulling both my son and TH into the little festivity. With the three of us dancing around the kitchen until my knees and hips hurt, I figured we had done justice to the celebration of Wep Ronpet. And I have to admit, I was pretty happy to have had both of my boys join in since neither usually do.

While listening to calmer music, I ended up writing down 25 possibly dangers to execrate for the year ahead. I won’t list what I wrote down, but I will mention how I wrote them down: on a simple sheet of paper, I wrote a heading indicating why I was listing these words. I then went through a list of possible things that may come up in the next year and things that have been plaguing me this year, hoping to clear them from my life with this execration.

I took this and the heka I had been hoarding since November of last year and went outside to execrate.

It took two fucking hours to burn the massive chunk of heka. That’s right; I sat outside of my house, watching a myriad of visitors going to the bar across the street, for two fucking hours while every ounce of heka was burned into soft gray ash. I added my heka for the year to come to the pile and watched it blow the fuck up. In fact, in those two hours, it burned a soft steady coal red-orange and then would go back up into a pyre of flames when I stirred at everything. When I had enough (there were still some lit embers), I dumped the ash into the world in a pile.

I then stomped upon it and spat upon it. As I stomped I said, “I step upon your brows as pharaoh did to his enemies. I spit upon you so that you may know your vile presence is not needed. I beat you back as a pharaoh at the head of his victorious army. You are nothing. You are less than nothing. Be gone.” And then, I walked back inside.

I don’t know if I can really say if last year was a good year. I do know that I have hopes for the next year. And I hope, beyond all hope, that they come true and that the renewal of this year infiltrates my being, from my ba to my ka to my ib, until it is not just the year that renews, but myself as well.

I have high hopes for this upcoming year.

And right now, I intend on seeing those hopes come true.

Intercalary Days 2014.

Last year’s intercalary days, I often felt like I was always rushing about in an effort to get everything done before the netjer‘s birthday the next day. I didn’t like how I always felt like I was about twenty steps behind, so I decided that I would change things up a bit. I decided to go for what I classify as “simplistic ritualistic birthday.” I don’t know if that’s really a proper descriptor for what I ended up doing, but I do have to say that it makes sense. I wanted a touch of ritual, but I also didn’t want to feel like what I was doing wasn’t enough. So, I made sure that everything I needed I had in advance and I spent one entire day preparing things before the actual celebrations.

I’ll tell you what I learned: as much as I despise planning ahead, it kind of helps in the long run.

I knew that I wanted to change up the “icons” I used of the gods during their birthdays. I had bought a really awesome coloring book last year and was able to color in the designated netjeru the night prior to their birthday. That was, in a way, a kind of communing action while I introduced myself to the three children of Geb and Nut whom I had not interacted with previously. While I enjoyed the coloring book, and still do when I need to unwind and want to color, I wanted something a little more… I don’t want to say “adult,” but sedate might work.

I ended up purchasing card stock from Michael’s. I chose two black sheets, thinking that I would write their names in hieroglyphs, all along the same size and shape. However, after I purchased the card stock, I realized that I also wanted to honor Nut and Geb as well. They are, after all, the parents to whom we should pay homage for having given us Wesir, Heru-Wer, Set, Aset, and Nebthet. So, after realizing that I wanted to honor all of them, I went back out and purchased five more sheets of card stock in colors that I felt were best associated with the five: Wesir was given green; Heru-Wer was given sand; Set was given red; Aset was given blue; and Nebthet was given purple.

I believe the last two associations are probably UPG related. The Aset icon that I have in my own, in the altar space of my home, has a lot of blue and blue-related imagery associated with it. I have always chosen this color for her, though I can’t quite decide why. Purple was a last ditch effort for Nebthet, to be honest. I don’t know her and I have had one minor interaction with her, which occurred last year on her birthday. Outside of that, she is a complete and silent mystery to me.

To write out the names in hieroglyphs, I purchased a glitter gold gel pen. It didn’t occur to me how I would actually write the hieroglyphs. I ended up realizing the night before the birthdays that I couldn’t free hand hieroglyphs. I don’t know what I was thinking. Perhaps I was hoping that I could utilize the hieratic form and go from there, but it occurred to me that I liked the full version, the actual hieroglyphs themselves. So, with TH’s suggestion ringing in my ears, I printed out their names in hieroglyphs, cut out each individual glyph, and taped it to the card stock to trace over with pencil. I think I spent a good two solid hours doing it, getting everything right.

Surprisingly enough, everything came out okay. I was really thinking that it would look terrible, but things works out in my favor.

In preparation for the intercalary days, I had to do some altar moving. I ended up packing away the things I had set up for the lwa on my bookcase in the kitchen and moved the household deities to there. This opened up the top of my blue cabinet as an available area to stage the intercalary and Wep Ronpet celebrations. But as much as I enjoy having that much space, I also felt that I needed appropriate covering for it.

I chose a plain black scarf, thinking about the black silt of the Nile when it floods. I then added blue for the water of the Nile, but also for the sky as well. To top it off, I found some birthday confetti on sale with stars in it. In all honesty, all that was missing was the red for the desert. The glittery “happy birthday” confetti kind of took care of that.

I placed the black scarf down first and then followed it with the blue. I then very haphazardly arrange the confetti into a non-pattern. My son helped me here, finding it greatly entertaining to be sprinkling stars and “happy birthday” onto scarves. What I didn’t think about was how those fucking glittery stars would follow me everywhere. The second I walked away from the cabinet when my rites to the netjeru were over, I found stars in my hair, on my sandals, and attached to random areas of clothing. (I’m pretty sure my butt never fucking touched that damn thing and yet, I found one on the back of my jeans one night. What even is that?)

I had purchased the confetti specifically looking for the stars. I wanted to have stars or star imagery associated with my five days because I had chosen black, a color I associate with Geb, and blue, clearly a color associated with Nut, for the foundation. It felt off though because Geb is the foundation – he is the earth, whereas is counterpart is the sky and ephemeral. I can touch Geb, but I can’t really touch Nut. So I wanted physical reminders of her in more than just the color of the scarf. But what I got was more of a birthday celebration than I had intended.

Since I went with the happy birthday confetti, I ended up buying cupcakes (and nothing else) as offerings for each day. I have a metric shit fuck ton of birthday candles lying around. (I legitimately don’t even know why because we always have birthday parties at TH’s mother’s house.) I knew I was definitely going to have a birthday party… if a little muted.

Wesir

I don’t think I’ve ever really had any interactions with him that have ever left me feeling like, “hell yeah, I’m all about the fucking Wesir.” I don’t honestly think Wesir has any interest in me whatsoever and I’m mostly okay with that. Even though I have deep associations with my akhu, I didn’t come by that through my Kemetic background. I came through that because of the interactions I had with the lwa and even though both Anup and Wesir could fill in the gap, I never once considered it. (And when I tried it with Anup once, he was just like, “oh fuck no.”)

Or, maybe Wesir doesn’t like my sense of humor. So, on the way into work on Wesir’s birthday, I thought, “hey whatever song that comes on… that song is for you!” And then I kind of felt like he was there, waiting to see what would come on next. And then it was Dead and Bloated by Stone Temple Pilots. If ever there was a more appropriate song… I laughed until I was crying, which was clearly not well received.

I didn’t feel him around when I lit his blue birthday candle and sang “happy birthday.”

Heru-Wer

I really liked Heru-Wer when I met him last year. That was a complete accident, but he was so down-to-earth and so relaxing to be around that I find myself often thinking of ways to see him in the world around me. Sometimes, when I see the hawks or falcons (whatever they are) that are flying on the road I drive down every day to and from work, I think of him.

This year was quieter than last year. I didn’t necessarily feel his presence as I did with Wesir. And unfortunately, no really appropriate songs sprung up on the radio when I was hoping for one. But I did go out and spend time with family while listening to a cover band. (They mostly played old C&W or rock/C&W.) When I got home, I sang him his song du jour and lit that birthday candle all happy like. I can’t say if he was really, really happy with how things turned out in my household, but I know the cupcake went down well.

I had a fleeting image of a giant hawk-headed man with chocolate crumbs around his beak and puffed out cheeks. That, to me, says an offering well received.

Set

I didn’t really feel much from Set. I’ve been kind of ignoring him, but I also understand that he’s rather busy. He’s come around a time or two, but whatever connection we may have had has since faded. I’ve been told to expect this with the myriad of netjeru in my life (and I can definitely state that the connections have faded for most of them since October of last year, but even more so since the bonding took place).

I gave him a pink candle in his chocolate cupcake. I sang happy birthday to him and made sure to refer to him as titit, at Devo’s request. (I guess this is slang of some sort for ‘peen,’ which is received by Set in varying shades of irritation.) I don’t know if the reference irritated him with me or not, but I found it amusing.

Aset

Yet another no-go here. Aset and I haven’t really spoken since I screamed at her in October of last year. I’m not sure if she’s angry with me or if she is just no longer interested in maintaining a relationship with me. Of course, something that most of the netjeru have come to expect or are finally aware that they will always need to take second fiddle to Sekhmet. Some deities, such as in the case of Djehuty and Heru-Wer, seem all right with this. But I don’t think this is something that Aset likes (as I’m finding out with someone else in a similar situation), so we haven’t spoken in nine months.

I still had to go through the motions, though. I gave her a blue candle in her cupcake and sang her happy birthday. I got more interest, I feel, from her parents than I did from her. But so be it. Second fiddle is the game and she will either deal with it or she won’t.

Nebthet

I got absolutely nothing from this little lady. I’m not really surprised, though. I’ve had a few conversations with other Kemetics and they have had similar experiences with her. I often wonder if she’s just too shy, especially considering how “important” her siblings were in antiquity. Or perhaps her quiet is just merely a part of her nature. Whatever the case may be, I have never felt a thing from her except for briefly and that was last year when I introduced myself to her.

I honestly don’t know what to say to her.

I chose a pink candle for her cupcake and again, as with her sister, I felt more of a rush from her parents than I did from her.

I was relatively surprised but also pleased with how this year’s celebrations turned out. They were quiet affairs. Outside of the candle in a cupcake and the repetitive singing of happy birthday, I felt very much as though I had accomplished something worthy. It’s possible that this feeling stems more from the good feefees I’ve had since I “swaddled” Sekhmet on Thursday (as Devo deems it) or if it’s because I planned something out in advance and it worked out (for once).

I will say that the card stock idea is probably one of the better ideas and I’m going to use it from now on. It’s much cheaper than having icons and while it’s time consuming printing out the glyphs and tracing them, it also makes me feel much, I don’t want to say it but it’s the only word coming to mind, closer. Since I am not an artist and since all I can do is write on behalf of my gods, being able to write their names in the language that they know best makes me feel like I can touch them, in a way, even better than having an icon does.

I plan on using this for any and all further celebrations in future with any and all deities that I don’t have icons for.

Netjeru in the Natural World.

I think one of the things that I always felt completely confused about having religion was how the hell it was supposed to mesh with my mundane life. I know people who are all, “praise be,” and down with God like 75% of the time. And that is really aspiring (sometimes) and I often wondered, when I first got started, how I could be like that even with my own religious persuasion.

But I had to admit, even way back then, that the process on how to get down and dirty, feeling as if my gods were a part of every aspect of my life and not just shoved into a particular niche, well that shit is fucking hard. And as I am often complaining about, no one thought that writing a manual on how to modernize a dead religion that you are attempting to recreate would be a good idea. So, I often found the whole experience that my friends and family members have remarked – making it clear, to me, in their terms that they were down with their deity of choice quite often – bewildering (mystically bewildering, even).

Over the years, I’ve stopped caring whether or not my religion was a niche aspect to my life. It mostly is. I don’t talk about it much with people outside of my community for a lot of reasons. (Most people don’t understand; some people are worried about what I’m doing and possibly believe I am consorting with “devils;” I realize that discussing some minute aspect of one of the netjeru with people outside of my community isn’t scintillating conversation with my significant other; etc.) I figure it would happen or it wouldn’t and I would share it, or I wouldn’t.

It occurred to me, though, that perhaps I have done this and I just didn’t realize it.

So, about a year and a half ago, I started seeing Geb in this field that I was driving by twice a day to get to and from work. I no longer drive by that particular field so regularly, but I think that’s when it really started. I was able to not just associate Geb with that particular field and the geese that were so often doing geese things on that field, but it opened my horizons to new and innovative ways to see the netjeru in the natural world around me.

Prior to this, for whatever reason, associating the netjeru within the natural world was a foreign concept. Sure, it’s fine and dandy to do so when you think they may be sending you a message with a particular bird species you don’t see often, but it didn’t really occur to me that doing this throughout the natural world was a good thing. Or even possible. Or something that should be considered. Yeah, I got it when I read that post by Dver about associating gods with local flora and fauna, but I still didn’t really get it I don’t think.

Maybe the thing I had issues with when it came to Dver’s post was that I was trying to force the relationship associations. I looked for particular things I might see locally and figured that was probably a good association as any. But the thing was that I neglected to actually look for things that I would see regularly. Or maybe I just didn’t see local fauna often enough to make the connection. This is, by and large, quite probable since I live in a very urban area where things like fauna are either mistaken as scenery, hidden very well, or just not see in the light of day.

However, when I took the job that I work now, the trip down to a more rural area made it more likely for me to see fauna that could be associated with various netjeru. A glaring example, of course, being the baseball field that I would drive by and the Canadian geese who take it over once the whether starts warming up again. It became easy for me to see Geb in that and feel his presence whenever I would drive by. (Seriously, note to self: drive by and see how things are going.)

The connection I didn’t start to realize until later was how this particular relationship would flavor other relationships that I would develop.

On that longer drive when I would go by Geb’s field, I would look for other animals that I wouldn’t necessarily see living in a big city. One day, I saw turkeys waddling around in the field by the local prison. I don’t know what it was about these wild creatures that made me start to think of Mut, but there you have it. I began to associate that little family of turkeys (there were usually three but later, they were joined by two more) with Mut.

That’s weird, though, right? She was associated with vultures, which were seen as mother-like creatures in ancient Egypt. So, what the fuck was it about the turkey and the family that made me scream, “THIS IS MUT,” in my head? It was because of the first time I saw them up close and personal (and then realized I was seeing turkeys): one of them was flying across the road, directly above my car with its wings outstretched. It looked beautiful and majestic and it reminded me of the iconography of ancient Egyptian vultures with their wings outstretched in a protective embrace.

As that shadow passed over my car that day, it was solidified for me: turkeys = Mut.

I kept looking around for things that I wouldn’t necessarily associate with any particular deity that I worked with, per se, but for wildlife that I found majestic and beautiful. I found it when I began seeing hawks and/or falcons all over the fucking place. I suppose that road that I used to drive down is a prime place for them because I saw them often. There they would be, floating on the wind currents while they searched beneath them for something to snack upon. Or there they would be, sitting on the light posts as I drove beneath them.

These hawks and/or falcons (I’m sorry but I don’t know what they are except that they have the tearing beak thing and they’re big but that’s all I know) made it easy for me to find parallels with other deities: Khonsu, Heru, Re, Montu, and the like. There are a whole swathe of ancient Egyptian deities depicted with hawk heads and it was easy to see them, depending on the circumstances from which I was seeing them, as any of those deities. I tended to associate the ones from that road with Khonsu in his hawk-headed aspect because of the turkeys I also saw on that road.

The eight hawks I saw the other day, on a different road, were all of the hawk-headed deities to me. The loner hawk deity who I saw the other day, on a completely different road as well, was Heru-Wer because his birthday was coming up (his birthday, according to my calendar, is today). I began almost having fun with it – what deity could I possibly see today?

This morning, I saw Wenut in the world around me.

Across the street, there is a small rabbit that has made its home out of the bushes my neighbors have across their front yard. This morning, the rabbit was sitting up straight in a small patch of grass, looking around as it munched on whatever it was that it had found. And as I watched that rabbit for a good fifteen minutes, snacking away, there was nothing else for me but to associate that tiny little bun-bun with the long-ear Wenut, the swift one. And I watched for a few minutes more until it paid credence to that interpretation of Wenut’s name as it took off across the driveway and beneath the fence that separates one neighbor’s yard from another.

This may be unorthodox and it may not necessarily mean that I actively find the netjeru everywhere. I still can’t find a single way to associate them, other than through the ma’at I conduct within myself, at work or in other places. But I think it’s enough. I think it’s a good way to find religion in the world around you even if only for a moment.

Propitiation of Sekhmet 2014.

When I began seriously thinking about Wep Ronpet, about a month before it was to begin, I thought about how I could incorporate Sekhmet into the festivities. It seemed weird to me when I was celebrating last year that she had nothing to do with it. If not for her, I wouldn’t have a calendar. And if not for her, I wouldn’t even be a Kemetic. But, I also know that the historical record shows that Sekhmet is very much absent and on purpose around the Wep Ronpet season. Historically, the intercalary days were very chaotic days. There were specific prayers and acts of heka that were seen to in order to prevent Sekhmet and her chaos-wielding netjeri from inflicting harm and suffering on the general populace. Providing people with amulets of Sekhmet was a common gift at the New Year, provided in the hope that this would be enough to keep her and her netjeri from causing harm to the wearer. Based on the historical record, it really didn’t seem like a good idea to actually incorporate Sekhmet in the festivities.

It dawned on me that, with her associations with the more chaotic days of the year, then maybe I could incorporate her sort of in the kind of way that, maybe, the ancient Egyptians would have found satisfactory: I could placate her as best I could and keep her occupied enough to prevent her harmful netjeri from being sent out and into the world. While I can’t assume, based on UPG or otherwise, that keeping Sekhmet tied up with all of the frips and frills I could think of would necessarily keep the netjeri at bay. But I can always hope that, even just a little bit, it would help. I assume that after all of these years, the netjeri have developed desires all their own, but at the very foundation of it all, they work at the behest of Sekhmet. Whether she specifically and emphatically details who should be sought out and had harm brought to them is neither here nor there. At the core of the matter, Sekhmet is their de facto brain/leader/wielder and I can only hope that by placating her with enough things and stuffs, then I would be doing the world, at large, a service.

Hopefully.

As I kept thinking about this, I realized that it made sense, in a way, to keep her occupied prior to and including the actual day of Wep Ronpet. The point in Wep Ronpet is for the year to renew its cycle, to hearken back to that world that was Zep Tepi. So, too, would it be a renewal of Sekhmet if my thoughts on cycles and renewal merit any legitimacy. And of course, as I thought about it, her main focus upon her creation as an Eye of Re was to extinguish the life of those who had been planning against Re, which turned disastrously against Re when he unleashed her. So, in a way, it could be seen as a form of renewing her original purpose, which stumped me. I certainly didn’t want to think of all of this as renewing her decision to kill humanity. (We can do that well enough on our own, anyway.) So, how in the hell did I keep her occupied and let the renewal process happen, but not let her kill all the things?

I thought about how to prevent this by looking to other Kemetic practices that I have read about. One particular rite came to mind: Devo’s yearly rites for The Mysteries of Osiris. Each year, while she celebrates these rites, she wraps her icon of Osiris up in a blue cloth that she uses specifically for this purpose. To me, this symbolized that Osiris was “hidden” from the world. And in a manner of speaking, I would like to keep Sekhmet hidden from the world while things are getting so chaotic before the New Year celebrations begin. I decided that the symbolism – wrapping her up and keeping her “hidden” from view – was the perfect addition to keep her satiated. Since I didn’t have a cloth in mind or even something that would work, in my opinion, I had to decide on what sort of cloth and what color would be most appropriate.

I chose a simple black scarf for the purpose (and let me tell you, finding a “simple, black” scarf was a pain in the ass). I chose the color black because this, above all else, reminds me of Geb and the earth. Above all else, the main purpose isn’t really to hide her from the world, though this is part of the reason, but I want to keep her “grounded,” too. Now, I don’t mean this in the New Age context regarding meditation services, but literally grounded – as in sending her to her room without any supper coupled with the idea of keeping her in the here and now, as opposed to caught up in the New Year festivities and the chaos it can bring. Even though the color black could symbolize “resurrection from the dead and even fertility,” (source: see entry for “black”) I was aiming less for the symbolism as denoted in ancient Egypt for the color and more on personal interpretations.

But, I worried that maybe this wasn’t enough of a thing to keep her occupied. It dawned on me that maybe because I don’t have a shrine cabinet where I can lock the doors with a shrine bolt that perhaps it just wouldn’t be enough. After all, Sekhmet isn’t just the goddess who destroys humanity once, but she is also the deity that other deities quake in fear of. (She has no less than six epithets that I can find that talk about how she causes fear.) With that in mind, I thought about how else I could keep her from doing something dangerously ridiculous and making lives miserable. While driving to work one day, it dawned on me that I could metaphorically offer myself in the stead of the human race by leaving the two pieces of jewelry that I wear daily, at her request, in front of her: my heart shaped ring and the ib amulet.

I legitimately debated the merits of this action for a few days after thinking on it. It dawned on me that, perhaps, I was not making the wisest decision here. I mean, after all, I was technically telling Sekhmet that she could eat my heart and destroy it if she so desired just in the hopes that she would keep her mind intact instead of losing it. But, considering the dimensions of our relationship, I didn’t think it was something that I was risking, per se, but something that I was willing to do just in case. I honestly don’t think that she’ll take me up on the offer, though it’s possible. And if she does take me up on the offer, then I have to hope that the purpose is less about destruction and more about adding further dimensions to our existing relationship. Though I’m still leery after waffling back and forth regarding this, I feel that the ends justify the means and that the benefits outweigh the risks. I’m prepared to sacrifice myself in the name of my goddess for a hypothetical situation that may not even happen.

I guess that’s devotion for you.

With that all out of the way, I had to decide how long this was going to take place. My original thought process was that I was going to be doing this for the week of Wep Ronpet and then unwrap her the day after. I looked through my calendar to see what I was looking at as far as timeframes went. On August 2, there’s a feast day I have marked and noted as “The Feast of Sekhmet in Darkness.” This amused me and intrigued me; I had no idea what the hell this particular feast day was original for, but I found it interesting that it was to take place about a week and some change after I had hidden her away – forcing her into the dark. I decided to incorporate that feast into what I was doing and decided to push out when I would unwrap her. Looking at the rest of my calendar for the month of August, I noted “The Feast of Drunkenness” on August 20. Well, honestly, if that wasn’t the perfect day to actually unwrap her from her bindings and bring her back into the light, then I didn’t really know the definitions of coincidence and serendipity. (Seriously, I had no idea these feast days were coming up before I checked my calendar.)

At this point, I decided I should check in briefly with Sekhmet to see if this time period worked out for her and to verify that everything I had planned thus far would work out. We do, as it is, have an oracular session scheduled to conduct August 9 and I was concerned that keeping her hidden from the world in her own form of renewal would cause issues. She rejected my offer to pull the date forward for when I would pull her free from her moorings, though, and she agreed that my planning so far was looking pretty good. (Can I just mention how completely weird it is to “check in” with a deity about how you’re going to hide them from the world and they’re totally on board with the prospect? And of course, let’s just all stop and stare at that last question and think about how weird it looks.) With full steam ahead, I kept planning.

I thought about what, if anything, I would provide as offerings during this time period. I wanted, in my heart of hearts, to give her red beer as this is my interpretation of what Re provided to her during her destructive phase. However, it occurred to me that I wasn’t quite to the point where I wanted to mellow her out. I needed to keep her pleasant and calm during these five weeks (FIVE WEEKS? DID I REALLY AGREE TO FIVE WEEKS?) with her wrapped in her scarf. What I needed to do, though, was probably get her fairly liquored up on a regular basis. The point isn’t so much that I needed to overwhelm her senses with alcohol that looked like blood to keep her from going on a killing spree; I needed to distract her with as much as I could to prevent her from starting the spree. So, since I can’t stand beer (ick) and I hate tomato juice (ugh), I decided that a weekly vodka and diet Coke will suffice. On the Feast of Drunkenness, then I may make terrible faces while I revert red beer down, but not before I have to.

Cleaned and prepared. Ready for the morrow? Probably not.

Cleaned and prepared. Ready for the morrow? Probably not.

Two nights ago, I began the preparation process. I wanted to have everything set up and ready for when I would finally sit down and actually do the thing. (The thing is the vague blog phrase of choice for this rite prior to this post. Most people on Tumblr and on FB will be familiar with this.) First steps for preparation was to clean off the altar. I cleared everything away, tossing the linen napkins I use as table cloths into the wash, and pulling out clean ones. I decided to lay down plain white ones instead of using my usual one red and one white. I was hoping to eschew colors that would incite a riot, you know? And white is symbolic of purity, which is what I’m aiming for. I may not pay much attention to those ancient ritual purity things that other devotees can and do (I don’t decry the practice, per se; it’s just not me and I’ve never been ordered to be “ritually pure” like others have) pay attention to, but I wanted to at least get a nice purified and clean space going for the next day.

I pulled out my black scarf and shook it out, brushing away any stray pieces of linen and making sure the tags had been removed. I then folded it up very carefully and left it at the foot of the table, in Sekhmet’s view. I wanted her to be reminded of what she was signing up for with this and I also wanted to have it readily available for when it’s time. I placed a white candle, covered in healing related herbs, on top. This candle is something that I had prepared last November and I felt that, besides the color itself, it was pretty fitting. Sekhmet is also known for her ability to heal and it is this particular aspect that I want to have the attention of during these weeks.

I pulled out one of the lotus-shaped plates I have, this one in white with the etching for ma’at at its center, and placed important parts within: my prayer beads, my ib amulet necklace, and the ma’at feather that Bezen made. (Shameless promotion of all things beautiful: buy these gorgeous reproduction amulets!) I put away a few of the more random thing that I leave out on Sekhmet’s altar since I want the main focus to be on Sekhmet and this five-week long rite as opposed to the pretty baubles I’ve been placing around lately. To finish everything off, I cleaned off the “benben” that I place my icon on. (Obviously, I don’t really have a benben because I would have posted pictures about it and screeched a lot about my reproduction benben. What I use to keep Sekhmet’s icon elevated is an old wrought iron candle holder. It came in a set of three and I was using the other two for similar purposes before I broke them.)

Finally, I was ready for the thing.

And nervous as all get out.

The day dawned bright and cool and I was in a shitty fucking mood the moment my eyes opened. I soon found out why when I noted that my body, ever ready for a moment of betrayal, decided that it was just that time of the month. I found this ironic and fitting. It goes to show that the body has no time for such fickle things as ritual purity. I, of course, don’t pay any attention to that jazz. But I had to wonder, while the cramps ramped up and what good mood I might have had quickly dive bombed, what would a high priestess have done in antiquity if just such a thing had occurred to her? Would she have kept her mouth shut and kept up with her duties? Or would she relinquish control of a great rite, an important rite, something that probably heralded a great precipice of religious proportions that was really fucking important…? Would she have been able to give up her duty in order to maintain ritual purity? I have to assume that, you know, the make believe woman I was wondering about probably would have. Ancient Egypt was, if nothing else, a dictatorship and if ritual purity was to be upheld, then so be it.

Still, it makes me wonder how many ancient women may have had this issue.

I did my best not to think about what I was doing, why I was doing, or how I was going to do the thing throughout my work day. Work was, of course, stressful, which really didn’t help my already piss poor mood. I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t do it because, you know, I should have probably have been in a better mood. But I reflected and realized that I couldn’t very well always let things like work and the stress surrounding it preventing me from doing things. I use that excuse a lot when it comes to things. It’s not always religious things, though some of it is. And I have to admit that I don’t like the idea of having that other part of me – the part that looks like every other working class citizen – preventing me from doing things that I enjoy – the part of my that lives, breathes, and works within their religious preferences. So, I decided that I was going to go home, shower, and then get the show on the road.

I did the shower thing and hope that I managed to get enough of the stress gunk off beforehand. I wasn’t very… successful in that.

A meal fit for a queen? Maybe.

A meal fit for a queen? Maybe.

After I ate my own dinner – thinking about the Snickers commercial while I did so – I fed Sekhmet. I provided her with as large of a meal as I possibly could. Looking at it, it doesn’t look that big, but it was sufficient in my opinion. I gave her the usual green grapes and added a banana. I thought about adding bread and whatnot, but decided that I would give her cookies instead. I bought cupcakes (birthday cupcakes) for the Intercalary Days celebrations this week, but I bought red velvet cookies with buttercream frosting specifically for this particular holiday (and also because I really fucking love them). I suckered her up with some vodka and diet Coke, which I am finishing as I write this. I lit a cone of incense, made sure all of the jewelry I was going to be offering to her for the next five weeks was on the white dish I had rested the prayer beads on, and went about my business. I was trying to get ready for the thing.

I still felt very much out of sorts, though, and kind of angsty about everything that I had gone through at work. (It wasn’t even that the day was, like, bad or anything, but it was just a mixture of things and the period thing and just general nervousness about the whole thing, I think.) So, I ended up going around and driving, listening to music while I psyched myself up for the work at hand. I chose to listen to Skillet, really loudly, for a while and then switched over to Fall Out Boy. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this to anyone, but there are a few songs from their most recent album that have particular sentimental and personal value in my relationship building exercises with Sekhmet. I, of course, chose those ones to listen to while I cruised around, trying to get into the mood.

So, finally, it was time.

I got home and nervously paced the altar. I had to seriously ask myself, am I doing this? Am I really going to do another thing that has no baring, probably, on what happened in antiquity? And is this going to become a yearly thing? And am I really fucking doing this? I must be crazy. There’s no way.

So, then I did it anyway.

As Devo has said, it always comes down to a FOB lyric, "I'm gonna change you like a remix."

As Devo has said, it always comes down to a FOB lyric, “I’m gonna change you like a remix.”

I whisked away every ounce of food product and the dishes. (I made sure to finish the grapes and the banana is for breakfast tomorrow morning.) While I sucked down the vodka and diet Coke ambrosia, I set the black scarf up so that it was just big enough to cover my icon of Sekhmet width wise. And then, I wrapped her up. I decided I didn’t like what I was seeing and unwrapped it. I did it a second time and liked that even less. The third time around, I spoke (in my head) and said, “I bind thee from unleashing your special brand of isfet, lady. With this cloth, your powers are bound. Your netjeri are bound. You will cause no harm.” I felt very kind of like The Craft with the wording – possibly where my head went to when I started thinking/saying it – but I also felt successful.

I then bundled my heart ring, the ib amulet, and the feather of ma’at amulet into a little golden package that I wrapped with a white cord. I placed that package on the white plate where I had left my prayer beads.

And thus, I have propitiated (hopefully) the goddess.

And just as hopefully, this lasts the full five weeks.

And even more as hopefully, this works out.

Visitation.

The pain of having something that has infested the entirety of your insides removed one finger-licking moment at a time is intense. It is so intense that, after a while, you really just want to pass out. In fact, it can get to the point where you truly ask your mind to shut the fuck off and let you sleep it off. Perhaps because of the nature of the ritual or perhaps because my body is a traitor, I did not in fact pass out. As much as I prayed to any deity I could possibly think of and as much as I cursed at myself, cajoled myself, and generally begged myself to let me pass out, I did not. I felt each tug as the demon creature purified my body.

I had, after a lot of thought, decided that was what was going on. I couldn’t be sure, of course, but it made a certain kind of sense. This was clearly a ritual of some form and the purpose, at least partially, was remove the green-black gunk that the shard had dripped into my body. Periodically, I would catch glimpses of the creature’s face – some mix between the Gnarl and some monstrosity from an episode of The X Files – that was doing the job as my vision resolved its issues. When I saw it, for the first time, licking every last drop of ooze from its fingers… that was the first, real, time that I begged my mind to shut off for a while.

I couldn’t be sure, of course, but I thought that being awake for the entirety of this was probably part of the ritual, too. I had already requested to go to the Nun in order to regenerate myself from the wound I had inflicted upon myself in an effort to sever the blue ball’s bonds with my body. There was my consent, I supposed, to the matter at hand. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was what the purge would look like and what part, if any, I would have to play within it. It seemed that the only part, besides being there, that I was to play was to be awake for it.

Sometimes, I would feel tears falling down my face. They were warm and dried out the tender skin of my temples.

Sometimes, I would just close my eyes and wonder what the hell the matter with me was.

Most of the time, though, I just hoped fervently that I would pass out.

I knew when we were nearing the end, though. It felt like an eternity had passed and I was pretty sure I was more than ready for this to be over with. But the creature sucking at my interior was slowing down. And as my vision cleared again, I watched it press its face into my abdomen. When it pulled back, it had the blue ball in its mouth. I watched, fascinated, as it swished the ball around in its mouth very much like a small child attempting to keep a marble away from a parent’s questing fingers. It seemed thoughtful as it sucked the thing clean and then, with a little audible noise, it popped the ball into its hand.

We both inspected its job – it probably was looking on with pride and I was definitely looking on with a mix of disgust and interest – before it popped the damn shard right the fuck back inside.

I was almost positive that this was antithetical to the process. Like, I was very sure I had come on through the cold blackness and the hot blackness to land on a really uncomfortable table and to be babbled at and to have weird things caressing my naked body and then doing icky, nasty sucking things to my insides NOT to have the shard/ball/thing put back inside of me. I was pretty sure that it was the cause in the apathetic goo that had infested my insides so, you know, it didn’t seem like a good idea to put it back in fucking side of me.

I stared at the demon and it, seeming to realize this, turned to face me. It gave me a grin, showing me needle like teeth, and then my vision went out again. The babbling at my ear seemed to fade as my hearing started to go, too. Oh, of course, I thought snottily. This is when I fucking pass out. And that is precisely what I did.

When I came to, I had a lot of things I had to process. It took me a long time to process it all.

My first thought was a very ungracious, fuck, I’m still here. This, to me, signified that I wasn’t at all done and there was still some things left to do. That didn’t really seem like a good idea because, you know, I had just had a demon spend hours upon hours abusing my internal organs while it ate out the pestilence that had infested my body. I probably should have been grateful but after having had to suffer through that, awake for the entire time damn thing, I had very few nice thoughts left in my head.

My next realization was that I was dressed. I was wearing a sort of halter-like dress. It had a slit along the abdomen, leaving my wound open to breathe. At least, I assumed that was the case. I honestly didn’t know what the point in keeping the thing open for anymore was. The poison had been cleaned from my body – I could tell that easily enough – so why was access to it still there?

The next thought was that the stupid little fucking ball was still, very much, in my body. However, instead of it being rooted into my internal organs as had been the case before, it was free floating. I could feel moving around in there, bouncing against what felt like my intestines. That seemed like a really not good idea, either. It had liked it so much down there before that it had sent out little roots that had poisoned my body. It very much seemed, to me, as though we were playing with fire here and just asking for trouble.

Probably, I had to remove the ball on my own, but of course, my body was still very much not moving.

After coming to terms with all of this, I realized that the babbling baby guy was either being quiet or I couldn’t hear him. On the heels of that recognition, I became aware that there was someone sitting by my right shoulder. Whoever it was had placed their hand on my shoulder very gently and was humming into the room around us. I swallowed thickly and opened my mouth for the first time in a long time. I thought about screaming, but decided that probably was counterproductive.

“You know, little one, things wouldn’t have been so terrible if you had merely asked for help sooner than you did,” Sekhmet assured me.

I pondered this statement. I had a few things I could remark here, not many of them very nice. I thought about just shrugging and maybe going back to sleep since I was still very tired. Instead, I said, “You make me seem like I can do anything on my own. I had to try.”

She hummed a little bit more and I could feel my body coming alive underneath that sound. It was like she was speaking to me on a level beyond bodies and beyond people. She was speaking to me, I felt, soul to soul. “If I tell you that you can’t do everything all on your own, and teach you that you should ask for help all the time, then you will never learn anything. Instead, you have finally learned your own limitations.”

I found my tongue thickened, cotton mouth becoming a serious issue to continuing this conversation. “I never thought I was capable of doing all of the things I’ve done on my own until you told me that I had to do all these things on my own. And now, you tell me, that I have limitations.” I coughed. I felt her left hand curl around my neck and lift my head, her other hand pressing a glass to my lips. Water cascaded into my mouth, across my tongue, and down my cheeks. It was the most delightful thing I had ever tasted. When I signaled that I had enough, I said, “I’m a little confused. Can I do everything you’ve asked of me on my own or not?”

“Most things,” she said enigmatically. This conversation was maddening. Either I was all of category A or I was all of category B. And of course, as I thought that is when I realized how ridiculous I sounded.

Wasn’t reality shades of gray? Wasn’t that what ma’at was about? And weren’t bodies and their functions just as much shades of gray? And weren’t people and their personalities and what they were good at and what they were bad at and what they were so-so at all a giant swirling pattern that, when looked at properly, was a shade of gray? I sighed. “I’m dumb.”

“No,” she corrected me, “you are just very young.”

I giggled. I had lived so many lives and here she was, calling me young. But of course, in relation to her years, I supposed I was young. “So, you knew I couldn’t do it all on my own?”

“Not necessarily,” she admitted. “I had hopes that you would be able to clear yourself of this all on your own. I knew that when the collar was put in place, this would flare up. I also knew that you would either clear yourself of the poison on your own or you would require help. You ended up requiring help and, I will admit, your request to come here had some ingenuity. I wasn’t really expecting it.”

“But, you told me that I didn’t need to come here.”

“How many times have you told someone what they think they want to hear from you even though that’s not what you are thinking or feeling at all?”

I was kind of startled by this question. I had, of course, told a lot of people any number of things because it was expected of me. They would look at me and see me as X, when I was really just a little bit of X and maybe mostly all of Y, and knowing what they saw when they looked at me, I would tell them what they were expecting to here. I had done this to Sekhmet; I had done this to other gods. I had done this in my waking life; I did it much more there.

“Are you telling me that you said those things about fallibility and infallibility because you knew I would expect to hear it?”

“Yes.”

“Are you telling me that you are proud that I asked for help?”

“Yes.”

I figured I may as well strike while the iron was hot. “Are you telling me that –.”

“I am telling you that I love you and I will do whatever you need me to do in order for you to be what you and I both need you to be.”

I was getting a little choked up here. I couldn’t really figure out what in the world I was going to say. All I kept thinking was about how I had always thought she had loved some of her other kids a little more than me. They were way more important than me in the grand scheme. I was just a fill in for other things. Or, if it wasn’t that particularly, then it was the idea that I, in a life I could no longer remember (nor wanted to), had agreed to this little shindig without knowing what I was agreeing to and I had denied her so much in the intervening years that she had grown wary of me and disappointed. She was telling me that whatever I had always thought wasn’t true at all.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I know,” she said. “This is a lot to take in all at once.”

I mulled that over and then decided I would think about all of this later. “When I agreed to this, all those years ago, did I agree to things I didn’t understand?”

“Yes.”

“But I did consent to it.”

“Yes,” she said, seemingly startled. “You consented clearly and fully. I even had witnesses at the time, at your request.” Well, I thought, I was pretty smart about it. “But you didn’t realize that what I needed was more than just a simple lifetime’s worth of work. I don’t think you clearly realized all that would go into what I wanted from you.”

“I probably didn’t know what to ask.”

“No,” she agreed, “but you were a new soul. I needed a new soul.”

“I know.” I thought about all of these revelations, trying not to wonder why in the world she was telling this to me now. Usually if she was telling me important things, it meant that more important and confusing things were coming down the pike. I had a feeling I knew what those important and confusing things were, but decided not to discuss it. “So it’s… not because of you that the shard started, then?”

She seemed surprised by my question and she needed a few moments before she responded. “No,” she said slowly. “You’ve always had this issue, of course. But it was built into who you were when you were first created. This is one of your… lessons.”

“Are you telling me I always fail this one?”

“You can’t be perfect in every life,” she hedged.

“So, I can expect to fail this time, too?”

“No, you may just beat this finally. But it’s been in your abdomen for a long time. You let it grow when you got confused by what you needed to explore. You went forward, when you should have gone back. If you had gone backward, you would have realized that this has been a lifetimes issue, not a lifetime issue. It was built into your nature this life, too. Sometimes, it seems less at the surface than in other lives, but it is always there.

“This is why you were tied to it for so long.”

I was startled that she would even refer to that one. We had both done our utmost best not to mention it at all. But of course, it made sense; what she was saying. This issue had been happening for lifetimes instead of merely just this one. And it explained, as she said, why I had been tied to a dark soul for so long. That soul had looked for someone like me, unwilling to ask the right questions or not knowing what questions to ask. That soul had looked for someone like me, whose soul had been built with a few cracks within it. Maybe my soul had been handcrafted on a whim or maybe I had been born defective. Whatever the case may be, that particular soul had found me, had lured me, and had bound the two of us together above all others.

This, also, explained why I had denied her in so many lives. Maybe, in some of them, it hadn’t necessarily been me doing the denying but having been manipulated into it. And maybe, in some of them, I had known what I know in this life but being unable to sever that bond, I had denied her in some weird belief that I was protecting her.

Knowing what I was thinking, Sekhmet nodded. “So you see?”

“You didn’t offer me any help when I needed it.”

“You created the mess,” she reminded me.

“But I could have used your help.”

“Yes, you could have and you would have relied on me for everything. Just because I can do a thing doesn’t mean I will do a thing. Besides, it wouldn’t have done you any good if I had done all of that.”

“What if I had decided to rip the bonds out?”

“I may have stepped in,” she admitted.

“Well,” I said around a huge yawn. “That’s a relief.” We both sat in silence for a while. “This isn’t over yet, is it?”

“No, the shard is much bigger now and I think you could remove it if you wanted to.”

“Why wouldn’t I want to?”

“Are you ready to hurt again?”

I thought that over again, thinking about the pain that I had caused myself and the pain that I had relived. “Maybe I will wait on that. It’s been in there for this long and it doesn’t seem to be sending any poison through my body anymore.”

“Just don’t leave it too long, little one.”

“Yes, mom.”