The Savior Complex.

Some weeks ago, I lay down in the arms of a god and asked for his comfort. He had no comfort to give, or really, it was not the comfort I was seeking. I felt broken and shattered from the last workings on this ongoing path before me and all I wanted was a few moments of safety and solitude. I didn’t find any of that. I found a conversation that punched a hole in my shaky regeneration and I was told that while the conversation itself wasn’t important enough, the basis for it and the general lesson were. I was informed I had to internalize that lesson – let it become a part of me. It wouldn’t be my salvation but it would definitely make things a little easier at some point.

Some weeks before that conversation, I began being tested at work. My boss has this thing where she tests the hell out of you in preparation for a “management” position. She doesn’t call it management – she calls it the next step in the evolution. She says that financially, it will make up for all that she puts us through. I know, nominally, what she thinks a financial reparation is like and I have to admit that I am not wholly interested in this. But the testing began and it’s enveloped my entire waking being.

After the tests began, I snuggled into the arms of a god and asked for comfort that he could not give me. More painful truths were needed before I could become more than the rusted out hulk I thought I had become. I thought that I could begin to feather out and make whole that rusted out hulk, but I’m beginning to think that it isn’t simply a matter of returning to what I once was but changing the metamorphosis so that I become something new – something still me and something else as well. But the tests began at work and I have been consumed with the razor blade tap dancing those tests have forced upon me.

And truly, I have been consumed.

It has become so much that I end up dreaming about what sort of tests she may throw upon me next. When I am not dreaming about work, I am thinking about work. If I am not think about work, someone has asked me how work went that day and all I want to do is punch them in the face. I don’t because assault just because people wants to know what’s up with you sounds like a bad idea. But sometimes, I day dream about it because in a day dream, you can do anything. And I’ve been conveniently able to put that request, “think on this; internalize this; make this a new part of you,” to the back burner.

It’s so damn easy to put off the difficult to near-impossible personal tasks the gods ask of you if you have something more obvious directly in front of you.

That’s the thing about shadow work, though. You have to figure out how to balance it with your waking life. While you are broken and shattered and bleeding from the insides out, you also have to go to work to pay your bills and feed your pets and pretend to have friends. And all the while, you have to at least try to look like a real human being without the scary face smile that you want to wear when people ask you how you’re doing.

How the hell do you balance out pain so intense that you feel like your insides are on fire every waking moment with living your life? How in the fuck do you work on transmuting yourself into the next iteration of your regeneration with painful truths building you up just as everything else in the world around you goes crashing down around your ears? How in the world are you supposed to pretend to be okay when everything feels like you are dying inside and you can’t even remotely say the words out loud or in a text conversation with people who seem to give two shits about you because the pain will threaten to engulf you and destroy you if you voice it out loud?

How even, indeed.

The burning questions, I think, often go unanswered. How am I going to survive all these tests and still be me? How the fuck am I supposed to internalize something I don’t want to admit?

One of the reasons, I think, Sekhmet chose me is because I have a complex. Who doesn’t, really? But at the end of the day, I have this intense desire, intense need to fix things. Whether I am the cause of the damage or not, there is something that speaks to me that says I need to help, I need to fix. I don’t know if she’s really the fixing deity type, on the whole, but I think she has a thing for it. It was to her, after all, that the ancients prayed to when her Arrows were on the loose. I think, perhaps, she has a savior complex, too. It may be why a lot of her kids seem to come to her damaged in some way, looking for the way to become whole again.

I am, in case you were not aware, quite damaged.

I’m working on it, though.

After my conversation with Heru-Wer, I was able to ignore it. He lets me get away with that type of behavior. So, too, did Sekhmet. I think actually most of them do. They recognize that occasionally things are too harsh and painful to full integrate and work on in one fell swoop. My problem is that I like to be able to push the limits of any such time frames provided until I am ordered, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it must be completed. I don’t know if Heru-Wer will tell me forcefully that I need to stop dicking around like Sekhmet has in the past. I do know that I don’t really want to push this one out too far.

You see, it will only get worse the longer I put it off.

I know that; I recognize it. The thing about me pushing things out and ignoring them isn’t so much that I don’t want to do it. I have delusions that one day I will be whole and winsome, ready to face the world as what I should have been before the traumas started. The thing that I’ve come to recognize is that I will never be what I want; I can only be me with the traumas healed as scar tissue. They’ll always be there but probing at the unhealthy scar tissue of a trauma that was not dealt with… well, that shit fucking hurts.

I prolong it all because I don’t want to hurt and I know it’s going to hurt. The conversation left be feeling bereft and raw. It took me most of the day and well into the night and part of the next few days before I finally began feeling a little like my [broken] self again. There was less fire as the days passed by and the stabbing heartache of that conversation began to fade. And then things got ramped up at work and I was able to ignore it some more. I was prolonging the moment when I would have to rip off the Band-Aid, rip out the scar tissue, and start the surgery that I needed so that the next round of healing would be a lot less ugly and little easier.

Funny aside – I’ve been telling one of my friends that she needs to shit or get off the pot for months now. (Actually, more like years, but whatever.) That’s been the key phrase for all of our interactions. Isn’t it funny how I can just dish out exactly what I need to hear for everyone and sundry and then bitch and moan when they don’t take that fucking advice? Yeah, I have a complex all right – I’m complicatedly fucking hypocritical.

I’m an asshole like that.

These last few weeks have been a blissful trip in ignoring the reality in front of me. I stopped harping on the painful conversation and threw myself into my work, not as if I had a choice. It took over everything and left little else beyond a sallow-faced and tire-eyed woman. I had no energy to do anything besides read my book(s), watch mindless television, and not think about anything. It was actually kind of peaceful and restful.

I also recognized that it was bound to fall down around my ears at some point. And I also recognized that I would probably fight the falling down around my ears more if I actively did something about it all. Yesterday, I received the Tower card as my daily divination and I laughed because I got the point that the divination was trying to portray: not quite that everything was being destroyed actively, but if I didn’t get the fuck on it with it, then it would be. All right – message received loud and clear.

So I sat down in front of a puzzle and built a good portion of it yesterday while watching historical drama television on Netflix. And while I built the puzzle and traded wise cracks with TH about who was really doing the puzzle (we took turns) and who was better at putting pieces where they belong (I feel that I won because I was able to build the top third of the puzzle, which was difficult since it was all blended in colors), I thought about the conversation. Not the wording. Not the feelings left over from it. Not anything in specific, but the gist of what was voiced out loud.

I have a complex about saving people.

I can see it in my interactions with people and with my interactions with the gods. I admit it; I like to help other people. It’s not something I openly admit either to myself or to others often. But I like feeling useful and I enjoy knowing that I was able to provide something that gives people the ability to finally connect a puzzle piece they’ve been poking at for a while.

If I look back far enough, I can see the thread in many relationships. I think the first time was the Christian friend, but I’m not sure. Maybe it was a natural high or maybe it was just the moment epitomized and the complex was then born. I honestly don’t know, but since then, I’ve looked for the people who needed someone to save them. I’ve failed a lot of times in the attempt, but sometimes, I’ve been successful.

The problem is that I’ve watched in recent years as failure at the attempts have become more common place. The failure may not be in actuality – it may only be my interpretation of surrounding events. And that is why these things stay with me; because I feel as if I failed and my complex doesn’t take kindly to failure, perceived or otherwise.

Heru-Wer said to me, “It stays with you so much and it burns you so much and it kills you so much because you thought to yourself, ‘I can save this one wayward lamb,’ and you attempted it with whatever means you had at your disposal. But he did not want you to save him in this life or in any of the ones preceding it.

“Sometimes, the attempt is enough to make them save themselves, but sometimes, it is only another step on the path that will lead them to bigger horrors. You couldn’t save him because he didn’t want to be saved – not by you, anyhow. You must remember this, miw, and you must accept that sometimes this path is full of failures but you must release yourself from the guilt you fill yourself with if you are to stay alive.”

Part of the reason this still burns is because of my own failure and the guilt that the failure feeds. I can remember looking at him once and saying, “I will save him from himself,” and I started the building blocks of it. It was a firm foundation that I began with but when it came to the worst of the suffering he had undergone, both at his own behest and at the behest of others, I could not save him. And so I let our connection fester until I was forced to destroy it utterly lest I drown in my guilt and shame at having failed in the task I had unwisely or otherwise undertaken.

I grieved for the loss of him.

I grieved for the loss of the life we would have built together.

I grieved for many things when it became painfully obvious that I had to skedaddle or die.

I never grieved for my own failure and I never absolved myself of the guilt of that failure, even though you cannot force a horse to drink. I gave him firm foundations to build upon and maybe he did end up using them. I think he did because all signs – all information – seems to point to the fact that the foundation I had begun has been completed and is still in use to this day. My own foundation was tied to his and I had to rip it away, but he was able to keep on afterward. I was only able to fall over ass over tea kettle, rolling down the mountainside as the pain of my guilt shredded me wide open.

I have a complex, the savior one. And I failed in that attempt as I failed in other attempts that came afterward. I am eaten alive by my own guilt, feeling inadequate for the task. Not that it was ever, truly, my task to undertake but they let me try at least.

Some nights, I wake up and I can feel the shards of my guilt stabbing at me. I can never determine which bout of guilt it is that has woken me so, but I can hope that at least with the admission to this – this complex – that I can admit that I failed in what I had set out to do with that ex-bonded mate of mine. And maybe the shards of my guilt will stab at me a little less.

Kemetic Round Table: Vocabulary.

Words are important.

Language is important.

If we don’t have language, and at its most basic level words, then we have no way to communicate properly. Sure, there are things like body language that we can rely on but how many times have you assumed the cute smirk on the girl next door meant she had a crush on you when in fact she was silently picturing your death at her hands? Or, the mistaken kiss cue that was really just your not-lover’s way of getting to an awkward itch on their back. Seems to me like relying on something like body language when we’re all raised on using verbal and written speech patterns may not be a good idea.

And of course, it can be highly stressful when people can’t communicate on the same language level. Have you ever tried to take the order of someone who speaks a completely foreign language and has no basis for same-language communication? Or, how many times have you been anxious as all hell because you need to ask where the rest room is but all of the signs pointing the way are incomprehensible? Or what if you have never once heard what verbalizing is even like and you have to have an interpreter around for every little attempt at communication?

As this quote says best: “Through language we can connect with other people and make sense of our experiences.”

Consistency in jargon can be important when it comes to practicing an ancient religious tradition in a modern context. By sustaining the status quo with wording and definitions, it can help to provide a sort of legitimacy that some traditions may feel are robbed when modernization enters the mix. In other words, it can inflate egos and make people feel more comfortable with the fact that they have no fucking clue what the hell they’re doing.

However, by keeping the old and throwing out the new, we’re also preventing ourselves from growth. We’re trying to retain a two-dimensional image when we’ve been shoved into the third dimension. And by allowing modernization, both with terminology and in other areas, then we can keep ourselves comfortable while realizing that we have no fucking idea what the hell we’re doing. Of course, we’ll probably still see people with inflated egos (something like “only my definition is the true definition” or something), but at least we can bring the past into the present.

I find myself waffling back and forth on this.

On the one hand, I don’t personally care who calls who by what name and who uses what sort of definition to describe words specific to the religion – like heka, ma’at, and isfet. But on the other hand, it helps to have a common basis linguistically. If I use the term “ma’at,” then most people will know what I’m saying even though we may all translate it differently. If I use the term “isfet,” then, again, most people will know what I’m saying even though we may all bicker about the specifics regarding its definition.

When it comes to talking to newbies, I think maintaining a certain set of parameters regarding terminology could be a good idea. Some of the words that many of us still retain from the ancient Egyptian lexicon are important foundational facts of the religion itself: ma’at and heka, for example. And those particular words can come out sticky and warped if we try to translate them into languages not quite built to incorporate those types of concepts.

However, while I think it may be a good idea to continue to use the ancient Egyptian word-form for things like those concepts, I also think it’s important to use the warbled translations we so often expound to others: ma’at means balance; isfet means a type of chaos; heka kind of means magic. This provides legitimacy to a more modern interpretation, which is important to the great community and its steady growth in the wider pagan community.

The thing is that I strongly believe that having a strong foundation for any practice is important. Terminology and phraseology can provide stones to aid in the building of that foundation. Without that foundation, things can crumble down around our ears without our really realizing what’s happened. Terminology and phraseology that’s universal also provides common ground with co-religionists and, hearkening back to the quote I wrote above, it gives us a firmer connection with those co-religionists, even if the little things (like exact definitions and nuances of rituals) are different.

So, how necessary is terminology and language?

At the very, very bottom line: it’s important. You can’t go out and create something without having some form of basic nomenclature, which is made better if that nomenclature is already established. However, as time moves on and things change, the common ground becomes constricting and a need for a more modern outlook must be made. The leap from the old to the new can be terrifying and worrisome, but I think it’s pretty thrilling, too.

Personally, I tend to use the established terminology – ma’at, heka, and the like when discussing certain concepts. I don’t do this to differentiate myself or to make myself feel superior, but because I know that new people are going to be reading what it is that I am writing. And so, by giving them the possible building blocks with the established vocabulary, I’m hoping that they will one day get to the point where they will feel the need to take a leap into the more modern world.

The thing about terminology is that, outside of certain words and phrases, it can kind of get wishy-washy. So, let’s look at the names of the gods. As an example, we have Heru-Wer, Heru-Wr, Heru-Ur, Haroeris, and Horus the Elder. They all mean the same deity, but which one is the best name? Or, more accurately, which one is the correct name? They all are correct because they’re all referring to Horus the Elder. When it comes to talking about the gods, use whatever works out best for you. (Just be prepared for someone to look at you funny or to ask you what the hell you mean.)

When it comes to the names of the gods, it doesn’t matter, in my opinion, nearly as much as certain words would because they are all correct and they all mean the same thing. Besides, no one actually knows what the gods’ “real” names are. Their real names, for all we know, could be something so ridiculous that we would laugh ourselves hoarse if we ever had to say it or write it.

So, in summation, the thing about terminology is that having a general framework that is already established is pretty important. And it’s pretty important for newbies to learn that established framework just so that they can have a good foundation to build their practices on. But, once a comfort level with the established framework has been reached, then you know what? Go crazy. Use words that make sense for you (as long when posting publicly you at least denote that those words aren’t necessarily canon but your own interpretation of canon) so that you can get comfortable even more.

A Bitter Pill.

Last year, quite a few netjeru and I went toe to toe over a ton of things that were, in my opinion, none of their fucking business and were seriously crossing the line. While that sentence may sound a little weird to some, that’s almost exactly what happened. I left the whole situation hanging like an elliptical sentence for the last eleven months. Having the blinders ripped from my eyes in a very not-nice way had left me shattered and angry. Having to deal with the ramifications of that shattering was not something I was capable of and I have suffered for my cowardice.

I found it easier to ignore the reality in front of me than to actively pursue it. While I don’t recommend this for anyone, honestly, it’s part of my modus operandi. I tend to do this for a lot of things and I can openly admit that it is very unhealthy. I’ve brought this bad habit, unfortunately, into my religious life and suffered for months because of my stupidity and cowardice.

The terrible thing (though, in all honesty, it wasn’t particularly terrible in relation to the world, but only in relation to me, myself, and I) that took place from September to November of last year was harrowing. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t particularly want to learn and it changed everything entirely about my practice. Even months later, thinking about that moment when it all boiled down and everything came up to slap me in the face, I want to clench my hands into fists and snarl with the best of them.

For all of that, I am much calmer now. While putting things off with no particular interest in picking them back up again to make a decision regarding them is unhealthy, it certainly allows for being able to make rational decisions later on. Part of the reason why I tend to push things off is because I tend to react hotly in the heat of the moment. It didn’t seem like a very good idea, at the time, to react in the heat of the moment since my initial reaction was to give everyone the finger and walk the fuck out on everything.

Eleven months is not as long as all of that, but it’s still enough to give me perspective and to give me a cool head. It helps, I think, that the scars from that episode are mostly healed and even though the flares of anger can still be palpable if I wallow too long, there is nothing I can do about that right now. It has happened and I must live with the decisions that I unconsciously made at the time. However, what that means is that I have to also come to terms with the subtle changes and the not-so-subtle changes in my religious life and the path I’ve been on.

I think we can all safely say that I can no longer count myself as a deity collector. That’s the gist of the moment, the culmination of it all, but it still wounds me to have to admit that to myself. It galls me to no end to have to say that out loud, to have to type it on this blog, to have to announce it to the wider world (or to anyone who cares about what the fuck I’m up to).

I always feel this way, though, when things change. I always like the idea that I can be a vocal voice for a minority that is discarded or looked down upon… and then it feels like once I am comfortable within that role, then I am cast off into the sea in order to determine what the next step is going to be. I really fucking hate how it seems like being comfortable with things after months of discomfort over it ends up, invariably, leading to changes that I’m not ready for.

Maybe that’s the point in having a religion, though. You aren’t supposed to remain static in a single place for an extended period of time. Perhaps that is why people become unhappy and unfulfilled with religion often enough: they have become so comfortable with the status quo that the idea of pushing off and looking for more is too much.

It doesn’t seem to me like I get the luxury of relaxing for an extended period of calm in the status quo, though. It feels very much like once I consciously have decided that I can be comfortable at this point, then I have to start looking elsewhere. I don’t know if that’s just my particular flavor for this particular path or if I’m reading too much into something. Whatever the case may be, I often feel that I achieve a comfort level and then end up being pushed off without an inkling of where I’m supposed to end up.

The thing about going toe to toe with the gods is that, sometimes, you’ll learn things that you weren’t expecting. I learned a lot of things and none of it was something I wasn’t to learn. I ended up realizing how drawn into that bigger picture fiasco I had been and that, when it came down to it all, the deity collecting would have to go. By that time, I had amassed a large following, so to speak, and I found myself frozen with the knowledge that I could choose Sekhmet or I could choose… anyone else. But in the end, I had to make a decision.

I went with the deity that I’ve known and felt the closest to for years… and lost everyone else.

That’s a bit of an overstatement, but that’s how it feels.

My decision was, mostly, acknowledged politely and the rest moved on. I still have passing relationships with some of those deities – Djehuty is always available for a laugh; I see Geb and Mut in the natural world as I always have; Hetheru periodically comes to me in dreams and we talk. Everyone else has disappeared. Sometimes, when I look for them around me, I realize how much I miss them. Other times, I recognize that I did the right thing and as nostalgic and lonely as it is now without them, I know that things have worked out better this way.

I think, in a way, this is why I have had some issues when I recognized that Heru-Wer had made an appearance. Hadn’t I just done this song and dance months before and ended up as [mostly] a one-deity marching girl parade? Evidently things are changing yet the fuck again, but that’s an entry for another day. Maybe.

For the last eleven months, I haven’t admitted that things have changed at all. I have refused to rename myself except for in quiet quarters amid friends or in the embrace of my netjeret. I haven’t wanted to openly admit that I was holding on to the last vestiges of hope with scrabbling fingers, praying that what I had learned in November of last year was wrong. The thing about growing in our own path is knowing when it is time to admit things to ourselves and to the wider public. Another thing is knowing when to admit that whatever you are hoping to achieve isn’t going to fucking happen and it’s time to stop hoping and give in to the reality.

Last weekend, I cleared off my household altar space. I had Aset, Djehuty, Heru-Wer, and Hetheru on it. I kept three out of the four, but placed the icon I had purchased for Aset away. It’s in a box, awaiting someone who needs it badly. Her icon was, in a way, the very physical representation of my attempts at keeping the old way alive and well. What it also signified was inertia: mine, hers, theirs… take your pick. I put her away and bid farewell to the old way of life, officially.

It only took me eleven months.

The Rusted Hulk.

We all have darkness in our souls. I often wonder if that’s what the ancient Egyptians meant when they talked about the isfet that can infest a person’s heart. Maybe it was the darkness that can infect the soul and overtake it with bitterness, rage, and screams of futility. I don’t know if that’s really what they meant. I probably will never know unless I ask someone more knowledgeable and willing to teach me the tricks of that particular trade. On the days when I am more in tune with that darkness in my soul, I think about isfet and how you’re supposed to correct it so that you’re living in ma’at. I don’t have an answer for that, either.

Maybe one day I will, but today is not that day.

When I started this most recent batch of shadow work, I knew how it would end. Technically, it’s ended and the outcome is what I had predicted. The thing about me is that I’m predictable. I know myself well enough to know what the bottom line is, at least as far as I am concerned. I knew I would come out of it more wounded than I have been in a long time; hurt and alone; angry and sad. I am all of these things. The bitterness that I washed myself in for weeks is over now; it’s simple a mixture of sadness and regret, horror and pain.

Yesterday, when I was looking at the newness of myself after this most recent work, I saw myself as a rusted out hulk. I was like one of those old metal jungle gyms, shaped into a rectangle or square. The bars had broken due to years of disuse and were rusted, daring anyone who touched them with their threat of tetanus. I felt as though someone had taken a melon baller and ripped out my insides, dumping them for someone else to have. Nothing could fill me but sand and the darkness of my own soul. I still feel empty and yet, I also feel as if I’m still bleeding.

I am raw with it.

When I started down this particular brutal path, knowing what the ending would be, I asked others what I should do here. There was talk amongst my most trusted advisers and someone said that I should write about it. I write about it all often enough, but how many entries have I started about this particular batch of pain and suffering only to delete the thousands of words strung together? How many new entries had I written in my head, demanding that I release this all into the atmosphere because if I didn’t, I would end up drowning in the minutiae of the suffering that I had forced myself into? How many times have I heard a keening wail shouting throughout the darkened corner of my mind, unable to release and vent the anguish I was going through?

I bought a journal; I write in it sometimes. Most of my entries are nonsense. I don’t know if they’re particular prose like, but they’re raw… just like me.

In an attempt to wrest control from what’s happening around me, I assure myself that I am simply depressed. It’s just that time of the year and things have been rocketing out of control around me for the last few weeks. It’s only normal to feel like crying because you don’t like what dinner is. It’s only normal to feel as if the world is ending around you, but everyone keeps moving around as though they don’t sense it. It’s normal to feel as if everyone can see deep into your core and know that you are damaged and broken. It’s normal to be depressed because it’s just that time of year and it’s been so long since I’ve really sunk into a deep depressive phase anyway.

But I have to admit that I can tell myself anything I want to; it doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

When the world around me, or rather deep within me, is full of isfet, I try not to look at it. Poking at it will only uncoil the snake that’s roosted itself within me and make it destroy me as thoroughly as Set kills A/poop each morning. Only in my particular case, I won’t be revisited the next morning and the next: it’s a one-time destruction and there will be no attempts; it just would be. Once the flames are out, I will be nothing but the rusted out hulk I’ve metaphorically announced myself as, my insides scooped out with that proverbial melon baller.

Maybe that’s why the ancient Egyptians really feared that particular serpent. It wasn’t so much the unmaking of the world that they feared but the unmaking of the veneer they had slathered over themselves to make it easier to live with the consequences of their realities.

I suppose you could say this particular batch of shadow work has made me a bit maudlin. Understatement of the fucking year.

I was pretty sure that I knew who I was and what things were going to be like before I started this little adventure. I just knew that this and this and this would be my life. I’m a complacent motherfucker; as much as I talk about all the things people need to do in order to stand up for themselves, I am that asshole that will only stand up for myself when I’m backed into a corner and have no choice any longer.

I stayed with my ex-husband for nearly seven years, not out of any other reason than because I always whispered to myself in the dark of the night that I could leave whenever I wanted if I so desired to do it. And it wasn’t until I was backed into a corner, knowing full well how this could and would turn out if I didn’t fucking do something… It was only then that the inner sense of self-preservation kicked in and I burned my house to the motherfucking ground, laughing while I did so.

(Metaphorically speaking. Please, no one think that I’m a pyro or something.)

As I was forced to look at myself form each new discovered angle, I found more within me than I had ever thought possible. And as I looked at myself in that mirror of shadow work, the bit that makes you stare so deeply into yourself that you can memorize the road map of where you’ve been and where you’re heading, I found myself horrified that I didn’t really know myself at all. Everything I thought I knew about who I am and what I wanted was thrown out the window with hardly a second thought. There was no laughter and no self-preservation here. I was forced to look at myself and all I found was a gaping, bleeding wound that just won’t fucking quit.

I don’t know if that’s the worst part or the best part about shadow work: in the aftermath, you only then realize how much you thought you knew and how much you didn’t know at all.

I keep trying to figure out how all of this works out in the end. I knew what the end result of this particular little adventure was going to be: I knew I would come out of it more wounded than I have been in a long time; hurt and alone; angry and sad. I am all of these things. The bitterness that I washed myself in for weeks is over now; it’s simple a mixture of sadness and regret, horror and pain. I am all of these things and I am more because there were parts of myself that I didn’t know and had no clue how they would merit in the end game. I knew I would be all of the above things but I’m more than that.

Chernobyl's Atomic Legacy  Explore #8

Chernobyl's Atomic Legacy # 8 via Flickr

I keep coming back to that image of a rusted out hulk, left forgotten and hollowed out into nothingness. I keep thinking of all those hours I’ve spent, looking at what has since become of Pripyat, the city that housed Chernobyl and its subsequent atomic disaster. I feel like the physical reminder of those images of a place forgotten. There is mystique in that place, something that I don’t have. But the images, the intensity of those images, fills me with something that makes me feel like we are kindred spirits, Pripyat and I. We are both on the same fucking page: lost to the annals of history, a minor footnote in the future that’s to come and the thousands of years that have since past.

I keep trying not to be fucking prosaic with all of this; legit. I keep falling into patterns that end up in that written fucking journal I talked about above. That white notebook that I keep hidden from the world in my purse, waiting for the spare moment when I can jot a few notes down and look them over later. I wrote the truth in that little beauty yesterday and I felt destroyed all over again for the truth of the words I used. I wanted to do nothing more than sit and stare, but the world keeps knocking even when I feel like I’ve been hollowed out and used up.

This week, while I tried to handle all of this with no one to talk to, I kept coming back to this entry that Devo wrote last year, around this time. I have come back to it a few times since she wrote it, but it’s been in the last few weeks that it’s made the most sense. She talks about burning her house down in that entry, something that I can appreciate and understand the reasoning for. While I don’t think burning down my house is particularly what I need to do, I know that I need to do something more than just writing in that white little notebook, hoping that someone will recognize that I am hurting and need help.

Help that, let’s face it, I would probably refuse to take because that’s just who I am: dichotomous and hypocritical, that’s me.

How many times has someone posted somewhere that they’re available if I need to talk and I ignore it? How many times have I received private message from people asking if I’m okay and I brush it off? It’s easy enough because they’re people I only know through the power of the Internet, so I don’t technically have to respond. I can ignore it and then the pain that I am living with isn’t real because no one in my reality actually sees how much I’m hurting.

What’s even worse is that I don’t know if it’s just the shadow work that makes me hurt or if it’s the conscious decisions I’ve made in relation to it. I decided on something clearly – I drew more than just a line in the sand, I fucking blew that sand up like I was the demolitions expert to the stars. There it is, I told myself, after doing it. I made a clear and concise decision. And I’ve been in the middle of my pain-filled world since then. I don’t know if it’s the buried truths of who I am that this shadow work has made me face or if it’s the simple fact that I’ve cut myself off to the point where it feels like half of my soul is missing. I am lost and alone, now, and it’s because I thought I was doing what was in my best interest.

I am so miserable that I want to scream for it. I want to sit in the bathroom, surrounded by the darkness both within my soul and in the room, crying while listening to the most depressing music you can possibly imagine. (I’ve been listening to something by Lana Del Ray on endless repeat for writing this entry. I’m sure she’s one of those singers that I shouldn’t like because she’s done something terrible and ageist or sexist or genderist or whatever, but the song man… The song speaks to that open wound within me and I can’t stop.)

On days like today where I can’t hide how much it hurts, I think about the darkness that festers in my soul and how best to scrub myself from it. Or maybe, the whole point in this is that it is part of the cycle of ma’at with its shades of gray and I have to learn to live with this portion of the isfet in my life. On days like today, I wonder at the isfet that infected my heart and whether or not it will damn me or be my salvation.

But truly, on days like today, I want nothing more than to have someone hold me tenderly as if I’m made of glass and even the hint of a breath in my direction will destroy me utterly and they know this instinctually and they don’t care so long as I’m not alone on a day like today.

Kemetic Round Table: Ma’at & Isfet.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. For all the entries relating to this particular topic, take a peek!

When it comes to certain concepts within the ancient Egyptian religious tradition, some of the most popular words bandied about are ma’at and isfet. For many modern Kemetics, these words have quickly entered our daily lexicons in our various and personalized attempts to both find an understanding for words that are difficult to translate in to modern dang lingo as well as provide that knowledge to newbie Kemetics.

As a newbie Kemetic, I wanted the easy way out: I wanted someone else to tell me what the hell these types of concept things were about and I would just go with the flow. While this worked out for a while, after a time, it dawned on me that I could go with someone else’s flow but it didn’t really satisfy me anymore. I often thought that it kind of equates to the quote from Liz in the movie Dogma: “He said that faith is like a glass of water. When you’re young, the glass is small, and it’s easy to fill up. But the older you get, the bigger the glass gets, and the same amount of liquid doesn’t fill it anymore. Periodically, the glass has to be refilled.”

After a few years of listening to what other people were saying, I realized that I actually needed to get up and fill the glass with water from my own damn tap.

While I’ve detailed my repeated attempts on what to quantify ma’at (linked below) as, it was through conversation and positive reinforcement from my Kemetic friends that the basis for my definition of ma’at came about: it is balance. There are a ton of different ways various Egyptologists have defined the concept over the years. But in my opinion the simplest way to look at it would be to simply think of it as shades of gray and balance.

When it comes to determining what ma’at means, those of us who have been around the proverbial block a few times can, of course, tell you what it means. But if you look to the historical record and see what qualified as living in ma’at, then that is when you’ll see what I mean by shades of gray. Some things that were considered living in ma’at were,

  1. Being good to the gods (like giving them offerings and not stealing said offerings)
  2. Warfare (with other countries)*
  3. Not being an intentional jackass to others
  4. Execrations (aka cursing)

* Please note that there was a very big difference between war amidst nome leaders, which was considered isfet, and war with an enemy of the state, such as foreigners.

But how is that even a thing, right? If living in ma’at entailed things like being a pretty stellar human being, but also allowed the whole cursing thing – what the fuck? How is it possible to have a concept that both includes things like blood-letting on a massive scale and possibly blood-letting on a personal scale?

That’s the thing about ma’at – it’s not all roses and sunshine. If things like bloodshed and curses can be considered a part of ma’at, then clearly the phrase “shades of gray” is highly appropriate when defining it. I think another way to describe it as a mix between “be excellent to each other,” (a quote from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) coupled with “but take no fucking shit lying down.” The best thing, in my opinion, about what ma’at is would be that it doesn’t demand that you lie down and take whatever guff you think or know that people are going to throw your way; it demands that you stand up for yourself in any way available, only demanding that your desire to be an intentional ass face be checked at the door.

The thing is that most people have no idea how to integrate this concept into their daily lives. Living in ma’at was the foundation of the ancient Egyptian state and religion (which, technically, went hand in hand). It was this difficulty that brought us those two important rules of Kemeticism that Tumblr Kemetics spout a lot:

  1. Give stuff to the gods.
  2. Don’t be a dick.

Since the belief in the gods was immaterial what with the ancient Egyptian religion being an orthopraxy (correct action; not correct dogma), rule number one could be thrown out the window so long as rule number two is followed.

The thing about “don’t be a dick” is that people tend to think of it as allowing people to walk all over you; they conflate it with some deep-held belief that it means you should be nice all the time. The thing that’s implied, but not emphatically stated with that rule, is that it’s “don’t be an intentional dick” as I stated above. However, as we know, it also means that when it comes to protecting yourself and others, you must do whatever you must do in order to guarantee that protection.

When it comes to living in ma’at, which is of course probably the most important religious thing ever, I have to admit that I still get stuck. I give stuff to the gods; I try not to be an intentional dick to anyone. (Let’s face it – I’ve been a dick for more years than I’ve not been a dick, so I’m going to backslide occasionally.) But is that the be-all, end-all to how this particular concept can infiltrate one’s life? Or is it possible to have it fully incorporated on a grand scale?

How people decide to work on incorporating ma’at into their daily lives is going to vary from person to person. Some people put shopping carts away. Some people are nice to everybody and try not to judge. Some people take those 42 pesky little principles of ma’at and attempt to live by them. Some people don’t change how they behave at all.

Personally, I know that I was successful in having at least achieved living in ma’at when I come home from work. After a long day of being everybody else’s chew toy or reciprocating said chew toy status upon unsuspecting unhelpful carrier representatives, when I step into my house and I can clear my head enough, spend quality time with my family, go online without taking out the day’s frustrations, and settle down to sleep without harping on my perceived mistakes… that’s when I truly feel as if I’ve managed to achieve some semblance of establishing, maintaining, and living in ma’at. I don’t always succeed and I honestly don’t think that it’s possible to succeed every day in living in ma’at especially since I wasn’t raised with the notion.

But on the days where I don’t feel like I’ve been pummeled nearly to death with stress and worry, those are the days where I feel like I’ve been successful.

The opposite of ma’at is known as isfet. Just as with ma’at, defining the term can be a little difficult. Since there are so many different words which are oft-equated with ma’at, so too the opposite of those words can be defined as meaning isfet: harmony, balance, order for ma’at while on the opposite end of the spectrum, disharmony, imbalance, chaos for isfet.

The thing is that, just like with ma’at, isfet can be best determined to be shades of gray as well. The thing about ancient Egyptian trains of thought on religious items like these is that there is nothing pre-defined and easily checked off into a neat little box. Ma’at can incorporate isfet and isfet can incorporate ma’at.

So, for example, living in ma’at, as I stated above, could mean that chaos may be required in order to set that balance into motion. Take the god Set for example: he is a deity of chaos and yet, he is also shown as maintaining and establishing ma’at as well. My day may be shitty and nutty and I may come home feeling like the shit end of the stick, but the next day means that projects are set in motion, my task list is a little lighter, and I can actually feel like I’ve adequately achieved something because I suffered through the chaos or isfet of the day before. Without that day of isfet, hour of isfet, second of isfet then the next day may have been just as shitty but because I did have that crazy day, I was able to establish myself for the rest of the week.

It is through isfet that the entirety of creation was made manifest. The waters of the Nun are equated with that primordial, frightening chaos that is most often seen in a negative light when you start reading really boring Egyptological papers and books on the topic. However, if not for those chaotic waters, we wouldn’t have the world that we live in today. Isfet, however, was also seen as the evil within someone’s heart. (I couldn’t say what sort of evils that were or if it means all evils. Or even how people knew that their hearts were evil before the whole reconfigured for being all dead and whatnot thing, but you know, it was apparently a thing.)

As far as how much or how little isfet has anything to do with my practice, I would like to say that it has very little to do with me. Clearly, that’s not the case. I’ve had days where I’ve come away and said: “Why yes, today was the embodiment of isfet,” as I’ve said above. But I don’t think those types of isfet really are a part of the primordial, terrifying chaos that was the very thing the ancient Egyptians were trying to prevent from gaining territory and from destroying the world at large by the ritual acts of the pharaoh, the correct living of the people, and the ritual acts of the priesthood [in the stead of the pharaoh].

Some days are so hectic and crazed that I need to do a ritual execration (or curse) in order to feel myself being freed from the aftereffects of having been within the hold of isfet all day. Some days, I can shrug it off and know that just spending time with my family will be enough to make me feel better. And other days, I have to wonder – because of how bad shit is – how it’s possible that the sun can rise the next day, thereby alerting me to the fact that ma’at still reigns supreme, when everything sucks so fucking badly. But the sun continues to rise and that renews me as well as the world around me to fight it off in any way both myself and the world are capable of doing.

These concepts are not easy and, frankly, I long for the days where I used to have someone else tell me how to think about this stuff. But to be honest, there’s only so long one can take being spoon fed what other people think. We all need to come to decisions about these things on our own. And there’s no telling how simple or how difficult it will be to come to terms with both what these concepts mean and what, if anything, they mean for each of us. I can assure anyone reading this that even close friends who have had discussions about these concepts, meanings, and share similar thought processes can and will differ on the fine points. And that’s okay. Don’t stress it if what you think ma’at and isfet happen to be don’t exactly correlate with everyone else. We’re all individuals, graced with individual experiences, and those individual experiences will color those definitions and interpretations.

Further Reading

  1. Ma’at
  2. Isfet
  3. Kemeticism is Orthropraxic
  4. Kemeticism is Orthopraxic II
  5. Kemeticism is Orthopraxic III
  6. Violence and Ma’at
  7. Isfet…

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.