July 24 – August 19 The Propitiation ends with a festival of drunkenness. A celebration that harkens back to sweat-slicked bodies, heavy drum beats, an overabundance of alcohol, and a spiritual awakening brought about by the excessiveness of all three. … Continue reading
For the last few months, I’ve been doing nothing but fighting. I’ve been clawing up out of the muck and mire. I have been catching bits of sunlight glinting before my eyes and then, I slide back down in the mud hole. Sometimes it encases me like a body suit and sometimes it’s just a little dirt.
These past four months have been hellacious in comparison to the previous year, year plus.
The previous eighteen months weren’t a cake walk by any means, but it was still … well, easier. It was more like… a well worn groove that I had created by pacing. I could just keep following it. But at some point in the last four months I lost that well worn thread and I can’t find my way back to it any more.
As a kid, my childhood best friend and I would spend hours in the little pool behind her house. We would drift and be mermaids, but a lot of times we would work on creating the most powerful whirlpool we could and then work to break it. No matter how many times we went round and round that pool, we could always break that whirlpool in a matter of minutes.
The last four months have been a little like that whirlpool except that I haven’t been able to break the current. I’m stuck inside that swirl and I can’t find a way out. If I just lie very, very still then I can float along the surface and let it take me wherever it wants me to go. Sometimes, I still fight it because isn’t that what humans are supposed to do? But mostly I just don’t bother.
I know; I know. It’s just depression. I can find a doctor and go back on the anti-depressants that worked the best. I could easily find a solution, but even just finding a doctor is a fight. After over a year of fighting with the state about whether or not I actually had health coverage and then trying to find doctors in network that are actually accepting new patients…
It’s just yet another nail on the coffin.
I’m tired of fighting.
I spoke those words aloud to myself a few days ago and then just kind of stopped. I was a little shocked when they came out of my mouth. It was like a reflex of some sort, though nothing that I could think of really caused the reflex in the first place. I remember looking around as I voiced the sentence out loud again. I don’t know what I was looking for, but whatever it was supposed to be wasn’t there.
After I announced to the empty house that I was so tired of fighting, oddly enough my first thoughts were about Sekhmet. I wasn’t even concerned about what it might mean about my state of mind. I just immediately jumped to thinking about her.
I thought, wow, what a failure of a Sekhmet kid you turned out to be. She hasn’t said anything about it to me though she’s shown up in dreams since then. I have gotten the impression that she doesn’t think I’m a failure, it’s all just my own spin on the situation. But I still can’t quite get it out of my head that, unlike every other fucking Sekhmet kid out there, I’m ready to just fucking give up.
I mean, of all the ancient Egyptian gods to want to emulate, to claim a connection to, I chose the one god who is the most well known for going in fighting. She’s the one everyone turns to when it comes to fighting back, to standing up, for survival of the fittest, and for strength. She is the one that everyone turns to and says, “this is the deity who is going to teach me how to stand with spine straight.”
How many posts have we all seen about people turning to her in their time of need? They reach out when the tide is high and drowning is on the horizon. They turn to emulate her when they need to stand steadfast against the systemic -isms prevalent in this world of ours. They claw at the shit heap that life has thrown their way, spewing the blood and guts of their personal war into the universe.
She is what everyone hopes to one day be.
But here I am, a child of hers, and all I keep thinking is, “I’m just so tired of fighting. I want to stop now.”
With Wep-Ronpet nearly upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Distant Goddess myth. I am most likely not alone in this since this myth heralds the inundation and the renewal of the year itself. It’s just that time of the year for Kemetics, I guess.
There are numerous variations of this myth out there. Some of them are little more than allusions, breaths of a myth cycle that have since been lost to us (the Anhur/Menhyt version). Others tend to more prominence and are more often discussed: the cycle indicating that Tefnut was the Wandering Eye with Shu sent out to lure her home or the cycle where Hetheru is the Wandering Eye and Djehuty is forced to cajole her back to her father.
It should truly come as no surprise that I’ve chosen to align the Wandering Goddess myth within the confluence of the Hetheru/Sekhmet dynamic I’ve created for myself over the years.
According to my findings, it is after the goddess flees into the wilderness that the Destruction of Mankind myth takes place at some later date in time. My research seems to show that Re is not yet well established as the premier ruler over the world when the Eye takes off in anger.
Based on the Hetheru/Sekhmet dynamic I mentioned above, the idea that the Wandering Goddess myth takes place before the Destruction of Mankind never made much sense to me.
While most likely the reason I find it difficult to see the timeline in that way is because I’ve lost something in the translations I’ve read, there’s no telling if that really is the case. I will readily admit that it’s also possible that I prefer my own carefully crafted narrative when it comes to my two goddesses. Whatever the case may be, I’ve found a different timeline that sits better in my mind.
In my head, it always made much more sense that after Re tricked Sekhmet into drinking the red beer that she grew upset with her father and the world he had set her mindlessly upon. In the midst of the emotional upheaval that his trick most likely caused, she chose to flee into the wilderness.
Maybe she just needed time away for perspective or to race off the remains of her bloodlust. Whatever the case, she needed to get away.
Upon her leaving, she was still angry but knew that any acts upon the people he had chosen over her could end badly for her. After all, Re had clearly proved that he could outwit her. Maybe she realized that she wasn’t up for the task of trying to take him on. Or perhaps it wasn’t that she just simply couldn’t handle the idea of a full fledged battle against her father.
Perhaps it was necessary for her to rest after having gone balls to the wall against the world Re had created. After all, she was mid-bloodlust before he forced her to stop. Having the wool pulled over your eyes by the very being that called you into being as a manifestation of its own rage has to be something that throws you for a loop.
As I’ve theorized before, it seems to me that rage is most likely not an emotion that you can just drink away no matter how much booze you ingest.
How often has something happened that forced us to acknowledge a need to get away from it all? It’s not so much running away or giving up, but a need to take some time so that you can sort out all the minutiae that’s gone into whatever it is that’s upset you in the first place.
As I pondered the mythic narrative I’ve felt more and more comfortable with over the years, I’ve often seen Sekhmet’s version of the Wandering Eye myth much like we would see a mental health day. In her case, of course, it took much longer than a simple day and another god had to talk her into returning eventually, which didn’t exactly go well the first few times. But eventually, she returns.
As I thought about how sick I am of fighting, I wondered if that’s what Sekhmet was aiming for when she ran off. I mean, it makes a lot of sense in my opinion. She went from pure rage to being forced to stop with no available outlet for where the anger was supposed to go. I know that we’re just supposed to believe that all that white hot fire went away with a number of jars of red beer. But it makes more sense that she took off for parts unknown to get her head screwed on straight.
It wasn’t that she gave up necessarily; she stopped fighting.
That certainly sounds pretty familiar to me. After so many months of trying to keep my head above the surface or being shown tantalizing glimpses of the hopes and dreams I have that don’t seem to be able to come to fruition no matter how many times I’ve tried, no longer fighting seems like a pretty decent option. It leaves you open and available to pick up and start fighting again at some future point, but it also gives you the time you need to take stock and figure out what the fuck is going on.
I came out the other side of that sentence, “I’m tired of fighting,” thinking that I was just a terrible Sekhmet kid, that I was doing everything to prove that I was all around a very terrible devotee. But maybe I’m just following her myth cycle a little. I’m going from a need to fight and keep my head above the waves to just letting the damn ocean current take me further out to see. I’ll figure out how to get to shore eventually… probably.
O Lion, I am a weneb-flower; the shambles of the god is what I abhor and my heart shall not be taken from me… – Spell 28, The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner
This past week, I had a part of my body removed because it stopped functioning properly. I tell people we removed my gallbladder because I’ve been beating it up for the last 18 years and we needed to permanently part ways, which is true. I told my gods I was sorry and I didn’t mean to and couldn’t they fix it so I could keep all parts of my body for the afterlife?
It was a very confusing time leading up to the surgery.
To be fair, it was a very confusing time leading up to the diagnosis.
I don’t know why I let it get as bad as it did. The first few times I had a gallstones attack, the pain wasn’t bad enough to drive me to the ER at 1 in the morning. Google-fu pretty much told me what was happening to me (gallstones) so I cut back on fatty foods to the best of my fatty food loving ability and the attacks were minimal. I had one or two in a 6-month period that first year and swore I’d deal with it next time.
But I just kept putting it off (sometimes with valid reasons and other times with probably not quite so valid ones).
Three years is a long time to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. But I kept assuring myself that waking up my family in the middle of the night because of the pain that would eventually clear up was not worth it. My body and I were on an uneasy keel, but I was managing pretty well.
My gallbladder had other ideas of course. Maybe it got sick of my shit or maybe three years was too long. After a meal that was not very high in fat content, the pain was bad enough to force me to the ER where the doc said, “oh it’s definitely gallstones. There’s an awful lot in there; how long has this been going on?”
It was kind of nice to get the confirmation of what I already knew, but now I had to deal with it. I read up on different ways to contend with it and found non-surgical alternatives. However they all weren’t permanent solutions; the stones always came back.
I decided to ignore the implication that I would, by necessity, have a part of my body permanently removed. The fear of the surgery itself weighed too heavily on my mind, but I was also completely freaked out by the loss of that body part. I could lie and say just losing a piece of yourself was what was freaking me out, but to be frank, it was trying to figure out how this could impact me in the afterlife that was causing my issues.
It had never occurred to me before I faced this that I had always just assumed I would be fully intact upon my death. But now I had to face the music: my poor nutritional choices had brought me to the point where being fully intact upon my death was no longer an option.
The month of June was completely overwhelming as I faced the news that I needed my gallbladder out. My liver function became less efficient and the doctors were highly concerned because my gallbladder had also begun to harden after 3 years of attacks that I hadn’t dealt with. I found myself crying a lot as I tried to think past my own fears of what was to come.
One night, I cried in the shower, begging the gods to enact a miraculous cure. I knew they couldn’t do such a thing but I was still angry when I woke up with the dull ache around my liver and gallbladder as I had been off and on since the second trip to the ER. I had known the only way to deal with this was removal but the terror that I wouldn’t go to the afterlife because I was missing a piece of me held on and squeezed at me.
That sounds almost ridiculous, I suppose. “I’m terrified of surgery because my beliefs tell me I need all of my body to get to the afterlife.” I don’t want to say that this was a crisis of faith because it wasn’t. It was more like failed attempts to correlate a belief system from early human civilization with the modern era.
This is probably quite common for those of us attempting to create an historically informed practice from an ancient religion. For the most part, I’ve moved beyond these issues and have modernized my beliefs and practices where I needed to. But sometimes, apparently, something comes up that tosses you into a tailspin.
The thing that finally got me over this particular hump was something a coworker of mine said when I mentioned how much the notion was freaking me out. “Maybe they’ll put it in a biohazard jar so you can bury it.” It was said in jest and made me laugh, which was the overall point at the time. And somehow, hearing that set me a bit at ease as far as loss of organs went.
It occurred to me that I was probably being ridiculous. As I came at the fear from another angle, I had to remind myself that people in ancient Egypt probably also lost body parts and may not have been able to keep them for whatever reason. I most likely wasn’t going to be barred from the afterlife because an organ had stopped working properly and needed to be removed before causing me any serious harm.
When I was able to see it from that angle, I felt better. I was still a little weirded out by the whole thing since, aside from canines that didn’t come in correctly, I had never had to have anything removed before. But at least I could turn my anxiety away from what my soul would uncover upon death and focus heartily on my fear of the surgery itself.
I knew fear as an intimate companion the days leading up to the surgery. I would hear that phrase from Christian burials, “and yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” and I would sit in a haze of terror. I would shake with it and I would hold onto my apotropaic amulet and let fear race through my veins.
I broke down minutes before the surgery, whispering in my mind, I don’t want this; I don’t want to be here. Please let this be a nightmare. But it was reality and forward I went. The SO squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead, but I was still terrified of what was going to happen to me.
The removal of the organ; the death like sleep doctors were going to control while I was out; the unknown pain and recovery of what was to come after. All of it coalesced into a sort of miniature battle where I wasn’t really sure if I would survive as intact as I hoped to be.
This sounds ridiculous but it felt a bit like a battle against that entropy snake we all battle against as Kemetics. It felt like I was going into battle against an unknown and unseen enemy and I could either survive another day or I could die in the attempt. I didn’t step into the battle with courage like you’d expect from a true warrior but with tears on my lashes and a team of ladies in blue injecting something into my IV.
Split seconds before I passed out, I was staring at the ceiling and thinking that this was a bit like being drunk without all the terrible consequences. The grating in the ceiling above me did a full 180 spin and I can remember thinking, it’s like bed spin without the nausea, and then I was waking up in a green room with nurses everywhere.
I’ve felt very fragile since the surgery. It’s kind of made me realize that our bodies can easily break. I mean, I knew this in a sort of abstract way – I had a fractured elbow a few years back and I’ve fractured my ankle before – but it’s like the point had to be made real again. I feel very much like I could break completely, maybe next time it will be in half.
I’m recovering though, no matter how dark my thoughts or how fragile I feel.
The pain is weird; it comes and goes. Sometimes I feel like I could just recover on my own and then the next time I go to get up for something, I have to call for help because I can barely even think of the idea of getting up without someone helping me to my feet. I overdid it yesterday with all my trying to do this on my own and I’m suffering for it now.
My body feels a little foreign because of the pain, a little like it was someone else’s and now I’m trying to make it fit. No. No, it’s honestly like I put on a different skin suit after the surgery sometimes and now I have to figure out all the motor control again.
No. No… maybe a better description would be like being reborn…
I am reborn, I see, I behold, I will be yonder, I am raised up on my side, I make a decree, I hate sleep, I detest limpness, and I who was in Nedit stand up. – part of Spell 174 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner
I’m being stalked by the ritual card from the Amethyst Oracle. I mean, I’m pretty much okay with this. After introducing themselves to me as a deck that was going to be a little odd but definitely capable of dragging my ass, I decided I could live with that. So far, so good anyway.
This past week, the card flopped out at me and then showed up in a legitimate reading. I immediately went to my calendar and notes that Friday was the Day of Pacifying Sekhmet. I had no doubt I was going to do something. I just had to figure out how I was going to pacify her.
I mean, a lot of people tend to think of physical restraints when it comes to pacification. Maybe that’s a byproduct of the colonialism mindset most people in the western world are raised in. I don’t know, but I can say that the mere idea of restraining Sekhmet left me completely uncomfortable.
No way could I, a simple human, subdue such a dangerous and ferocious creature. And I don’t believe that the ancient Egyptians would have gone that route either. They feared her alongside revering her; no one would have been fortified enough to even consider such an idea much less going through with it.
According to the dictionary, the definition of the word is:
- to bring or restore to a state of peace or tranquillity; quiet; calm:
to pacify an angry man.
- to appease:
to pacify one’s appetite.
- to reduce to a state of submission, especially by military force; subdue.
All right, so appeasing sounded like something plausible. I could do that. Probably.
It wasn’t really that I was going to take her on, but more cajole her. I wanted to lure her to me, to ameliorate the rage that no doubt still simmers beneath her skin, but without having to force the issue. In effect, I needed to seduce her… but with what? How does one seduce a god, so to speak, in an effort to pacify the wrath that created her?
I have some experience here since I do something similar towards the end of her Propitiation each year. But there was a subtle difference. During the Propitiation, I am luring my distant goddess back to me. She tends to be fiery and energetic upon her return. This time, I was luring her in the hopes of keeping her calm and pacified.
I knew I needed to seduce her with ma’at-affirming things. As I have mentioned previously, the ancient Egyptians utilized green to symbolize Sekhmet in a ma’at-affirming frame of mind. In that post, I described that this was also a form of appeasement, a way to show that the Lady of the Flood could be appeased and pacified.
During the Propitiation, I am most often using words to draw her back. It isn’t so different from the Wandering Goddess myth where Djehuty or Shu talk her into returning to the fold. I could have used nothing but words, but the green-faced Sekhmet iconography that I needed to create seemed to say that more than mere word play was needed.
My first step was to find foods that I felt would be most appropriate in the act of pacification.
I knew immediately that I was going to use cucumbers. They’re associated with her and I absolutely love them. (I eat one a day typically.) In their associations with her, it seems more that those who would eat them were doing so for a fertility aspect.
While we often hear people tell of the mercurial and fiery aspects of Sekhmet, her ability to protect, maintain, and live in ma’at has more than just these connotations. In my point of view, it is the coolness (as in temperature) of a cucumber along with the gentle taste of these green veggies that help her to remain calm in the face of her own destructive nature.
But I wanted to give her a full meal, a sort of smorgasbord of deliciousness bent entirely on enticement.
Grapes were another given. I have always had a soft spot for the little orbs so long as they’re green. The red ones taste odd to me. Suffice to say merely that I absolutely love green grapes and as Sard pointed out in their post about colors in ancient Egypt, the color green was associated with ma’at-affirming behavior, just like the cucumbers.
Another reasoning behind grapes is because they are expensive for someone on such a tight budget. A banquet fit for a goddess should include items that are a little beyond the norm and as much as I love green grapes, my budget can typically ill afford them. Sometimes, the gods should get a little more than the usual fair.
For the main course, I chose tilapia because of this epithet of Sekhmet. I couldn’t say definitively if eating tilapia was a taboo or not since food taboos are a hot mess of a topic in relation to ancient Egyptian religious food proscriptions. But I figured that if she didn’t really want me to go that route, she would have made herself clear. Since the fish was on sale, I concluded it was a go.
As with every banquet/meal/food time that I have with my gods, I chose chocolate (totally within ma’at and you can fight me if you say otherwise) and also included some organic kettle corn, which is my latest food obsession, and diet Coke. (Hard stop on anyone interested in disabusing me of my diet Coke loving life.)
I felt, well, moderately successful. I mean, as I placed everything together in front of her partially open shrine, I felt like this was a good meal to lure a goddess. It’s possible that I was just overwhelmed with a feeling of my own peace and contentment but I’d like to think some of those feelings were hers.
The thing about this though is that living in ma’at is far more than just a good meal and some beneficent feelings. If it was that easy, we wouldn’t have as many arguments about what exactly it entails (and everyone would most likely be doing it). Living and maintaining ma’at includes actions as well as words, as well as food, as well as good feelings. It’s all tied together and somehow, I had to figure out how to go beyond.
I had to stop and think really hard about what exactly ma’at entails to me. I wound up breaking it down into two component parts: the public stuff that everyone sees me posting or discussing and the private stuff that is not available for public consumption.
The private stuff was easy to pull up and get in front of her. While I won’t go into the details of what it all is, I can tell you that those items are aspects of my personal devotion to her. We may not always get along or spend quality time together, but there are time honored traditions within our relationship which are specifically associated with various items.
I placed those items within the shrine for her with the intent of showing her my “green” living as it relates to our relationship.
The next bit was a little harder. I had to find physical reminders of daily actions that are, in my head, associated with living in ma’at. It’s one thing to say that X, Y, and Z thing are part of your ma’at-affirming lifestyle; it’s quite another finding physical reminders of those things.
The pieces I chose included items relating to my family, my ancestor veneration, self-care, and my faith. I carefully chose what I did in an effort to personify both myself and the belief that I live in ma’at everyday.
Afterwards, I sat in quiet reflection with her. Just as I felt after the meal we shared, I had the distinct impression that she was appeased, pleased with both my efforts at conducting a ritual for her and my attempts to show what my life-affirming propitiation was like.
Maybe, even if for just a few short hours, she was happy.
Recently, I purchased a gorgeous new oracle deck. This isn’t really surprising news or shouldn’t be. I’m a deck collector and I can’t say no when a deck has eye catching artwork and an exquisite use of color.
I have to say that I truly love the Amethyst Oracle with every fiber of my being. It has been one of the best choices I have made for a new deck in a long time. Beyond how much my heart pitter patters whenever I have that deck in my hand, it’s also helping me a lot through a particularly trying time. One of the regular bits of advice it gives me is Ritual.
This has been something that I have been particularly slacking on for the last two years. When your entire world has stagnated and turned gray, it is particularly difficult to give a tin shit about rituals or holidays. Even though I still give daily offerings, in themselves a form of ritual, it’s so ingrained a thing for me to do that it’s more like background noise than an actual ritual.
This oracle has thrown this card at me so often that I’ve found myself searching my calendar for ritual type things to complete just to get a new card now and again. There are a number of things coming up this month, particularly the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion, and while I knew I would be celebrating that, it occurred to me that I should get my feet wet with a few smaller things before then.
Last week, I did a very small celebration for the Day of the Executioners of Sekhmet. This week was the less than descriptive Purifying of Sekhmet. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do but it was going to be something at least.
I tried to remember why I had this on my calendar, hoping to knock loose some idea about what this day was supposed to achieve. I mean, sure the name is pretty clear about the root to the day, but I was thinking along the lines of how in the hell do I purify her? And am I even qualified to anymore?
The last time I spent any time with my gods, Sekhmet included, was during her Propitiation last year. I haven’t felt a desire or need to really do anything heartfelt or expressive. With my days tied up trying like hell just to get through and survive for another 24 hours, the truth is that my relationships with any of my gods is a fairly low priority. With that in mind, I had to ask if I was really the person to do this.
She hadn’t thrown any wrenches in the works. Each new and low impact idea I came up with just kind of unfolded before me. I was in and out of the grocery store in 20 minutes and within budget. I found most other supplies I had in mind tossed behind other junk in my cabinet of religious shit. Even getting the flowers evenly trimmed down for the perfect vase that I had been sure had been tossed out months ago seemed to go smoothly.
Maybe it was the deck spirit or maybe it was Sekhmet or maybe coincidence. It didn’t seem to matter why things were going well just that they were.
As usual, I tried to soak myself in as much symbolism as I could. Sometimes I’m incredibly successful and other times, only moderately so. I looked into creating a sort of quick meal that was generally healthy as well as choosing some foods that have garnered a “purifying persona” according to the magazines.
And then I thought beyond that.
Both incense and flame (candle) are considered purifying in various capacities. So too can colors and scents (aside from incense). I found two leftover ocean scented tealights from last year that I added to the mix since going to the ocean as a kid, for my family, was like a purifying ritual to get away from the drag of the city. The flowers I chose were predominantly yellow and white, colors of life and purity.
I think I did well.
After the simple formalities were out of the way, especially the reversion of offerings, I got a little more serious.
Most rituals for me tend to be quick affairs. I don’t have the energy or time typically to spend hours in ritual, focusing on whatever needs to be focused on. That doesn’t mean that I am bad at this or that anyone who does likewise is either. It just means that I have a life beyond religion and gods that barges in usually when I’m in the midst of something important. So it was easier for me to just simplify everything down as much as possible.
This meant that I could feel like I had made the time and maybe even felt successful in the attempt while simultaneously making it harder for me to think beyond a 15 minute timeframe. I had more time though this round so I knew I had to go a little further out of my comfort zone.
I ran through a long winded and time consuming ritual. While the ritual has specific aspects and actions described within, I decided to focus instead on myself and my relationship with Sekhmet. After months of ignoring the giant elephant in the room, I was going to face the seeming desert between us head on.
I’d like to say that something clicked and things are already starting to get better. I would like to say that an Arrow came up from the Duat and told me where we go from here. I’d like to say that I did more than get over emotional. I would like to tell you all that the words I wrote in Her journal were received and acknowledged. I would love to believe that everything is back to normal now.
But sometimes relationships are hard. And miracles don’t tend to be the trend.
I do feel as though I was able to convey my point appropriately. And I think that perhaps I took a right step. I couldn’t say for sure, but maybe this was the right direction.
I have a planning mind, I guess. It’s a trait from my mother. We all plan things in various ways. We make lists for all types of necessities: shopping, next steps, goals, packing, etc. I can remember watching my mom make lists and my grandmother’s lists on the kitchen table when I was a kid. I have never figured out if it was simply a learned behavior or just a requirement stemming from genetics.
I walked into Lent a little half-assed. I knew I was going to do it some weeks before it began. The ancestors were hammering me so. I couldn’t have said no even if I wanted to (and oh, I honestly did want to) and so, I went forth with a half-assed plan:
- No meat dinner on Fridays
- Quitting smoking
- Donations to worthy causes
It wasn’t a huge list but the ancestors agreed it was a good idea. They backed my play and when I asked them what I could expect they turned sorrowful, almost regretful. They said I would know despair but that it was for the best in all ways. They told me not to worry – they told someone with anxiety to trust and follow the road ahead no matter where it went.
It was a large and bitter pill to swallow.
It choked on the way down.
It started as innocuous as could be. The hardship was there, but as I looked over it each morning, I found the mountain ahead not quite insurmountable. It was perhaps a little difficult to climb, maybe the path wasn’t always so very clear but, I was fairly certain I could do it.
To be fair, it’s easy to look back at a time of darkness and make it lighter. To prevent myself from doing that, I kept careful notes each morning. And yes, it was hard and annoying. And yes, I whined a lot. And yes, I grew quite wrothful. But going through my notes, it looks a bit like it maybe wasn’t as bad as all of that to a degree.
It’s the mind that gets you.
I’m out of the forest of depression and anxiety now. They’re both still there but not to the nth degree that they were. The gray, finger-like branches of depression and the thunderous cloud bursts of anxiety have faded. I’m grateful for all of that.
They mentioned trust; the told me sorrow.
They reminded me in little ways that this was all for the best:
- The SO telling me that Lent is about bettering oneself and what is quitting an addiction if not bettering oneself?
- The son telling me that I was doing so well.
- My mother buying me a mid-Lenten hurrah gift to show me how proud she was of me.
- My boss buying me a 12-pack of diet Coke to succor me through the hard days ahead.
There were many little things that popped up to remind me that the road ahead, while tumultuous and obviously sorrowful at some point, it was all for the best. So long as I continued to trust in what was coming, then I could move forward perhaps not quite with alacrity but at least forward.
I was reminded as I moved along of all those conversations I had had in the last 2 years with gods and fellow polytheists about trusting in the path, the journey, the gods. Those conversations tended to be about a sort of blind faith and I fought against those pieces of advice every time.
The ancestors laughed when I mentioned this to them. They told me that I was trusting them now. How different could it be from trusting the gods?
They had me there.
Lent was less a time of introspection, of sacrifice, of bettering myself than a steady nosedive into a fiery oblivion. I could recognize that many of my actions were self destructive but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. Even when I assured myself that I would not fall prey to my own foolishness, it seemed as if I had to go through with it anyway.
The ancestors shushed my qualms and told me to keep going.
I burned my bridges with alacrity, destroying everything in my path.
During one such moment, I was yet again reminded of Sekhmet and the Destruction of Mankind. While I burned and destroyed, leaving decay and chaos in my wake, she did too. When I felt closer to her than I had in over a year, she came to me to succor me as a mother to a child. Her presence was calming and the rage within subsided.
By then, though, I had fucked myself ten ways to Sunday.
It was 30 days in and upon realizing that everything was a disaster, I gave up Lent. I didn’t give to another charity. I ate meat that Friday and had picked up smoking that very morning. The reasons are immaterial to this blog or entry and I won’t go into them. But when the haze of rage finally cleared, I saw the destruction I had wrought and I truly knew despair.
The ancestors were right.
I was, of course, angry with myself but I was also angry with them. They reminded me about trust. They told me that it was dismal now but things were going to get better. I figured they were lying to me, trying to keep me around before I dismantled their altar and kicked them all out.
Maybe it’s human nature to want to believe. Or maybe the idea that I would be getting rid of one of the few things in my life that I had come to rely on stayed my hand. They reminded me to trust, to believe, and I did.
Just before Palm Sunday, the dismal abyss of my life began to light up again. The ancestors were coy and cheerful when I checked in, but they assured me that I was headed in the right direction. They also assured me that they had my best interests in mind. The overall theme of that conversation was less about trust and more about belief; they’d get me through.
So the sun came out and shined upon me. My anxiety and depression had already receded to moderately manageable levels when I had started smoking again. It fell back further, hiding from the light that was shining down upon me.
Things are better now. The spiral into the dark chasms that was the first 30 days of Lent became an uphill climb out of darkness the last 10 days. Everything is far from perfect, but it’s much better now.
Immediately after seemingly to fail, I asked the ancestors if they were disappointed in me. I was a little disappointed in myself, less because I had failed and more because so many people had assured me they were so proud of me. I had disappointed them all and assumed my ancestors would feel the same.
They laughed at me when I asked. They told me that this road I had traveled for Lent wasn’t about the goals I had made for myself but had been more about my ability to trust in them. I had proved over and over again throughout Lent that I trusted what they were telling me and acted upon those words. They were sorry for the hell I went through but advised it was the only way to kick my ass into gear.
And they were/are right.
I needed The Tower to happen in order to meet Death.
I needed destruction and death on all sides in order to be resurrected.
Them akhu be damn tricksy, but I trust them finally. I believe them when they tell me not to worry about X thing but to instead focus on B. We’re all in this together with concrete and symbiotic goals that we need to meet to fulfill a dream. They’re needs are intertwined with mine and I realize that they can be trusted to get me through.
Thus endeth the lesson.
The next one, well… I can say it’s a bitter pill to swallow too. But perhaps not quite so bitter as this last one.
I’m just at the halfway mark and I would love to say that things have changed so very much. I want to say that I’m upbeat and positive, that the mood swings have gone, and that I am floating on a natural high of my own ability. I want to tell everyone that I feel better, healthier and ready to get active again.
But I can’t say any of that. The ancestors promised me despair; Lent has more than delivered.
I don’t necessarily feel like a monster anymore, which could be a good thing. Maybe monster is too strong of a word.
Every day tends to have at least one single moment where I am ready to break down and say fuck it, fuck this, I just can’t do it. There is just that given moment in a given day – sometimes more than one and sometimes just the one – that leaves me questioning why I chose this course of action in the first place.
People always remind me then to look to my reasons. They tell me to remind myself with the reasons behind this choice to keep myself on track. To be honest, I can’t actually remember what those reasons were anymore. I stop and ask myself why the hell I’m doing this and I honestly can’t remember.
I always come back with an ambivalent response. There is always a “but…” in there somewhere. I didn’t really want to quit. The ancestors didn’t give a shit what I fore-went during this season. And I could have found something else if I tried hard enough.
But here I am, ambivalence and all, on day 20.
The least expected thing to start cropping up was the depression. I knew that I used this addiction to aid me through my anxiety and that it helped me to cope with all of that. I had figured that part out pretty quickly. It just honestly never occurred to me that I had been using it for my depression as well. I don’t know why I never thought of it.
My depression is usually small, pretty manageable. It’s the anxiety that causes the most trouble.
I’m high functioning so most people don’t realize that I do have mental health issues. The first time I mentioned my anxiety to a coworker at work, they stared at me in shock. I haven’t ever mentioned the depression; I can imagine that I don’t fit into my coworkers’ ideas about what a depressed individual looks or acts like.
My depression is something that sits there on my back like a gray monster. Sometimes it is big enough to smother me, much like it is now; other times it is just a small annoying weight back there. It started to grow around day 13 or so, maybe day 12. It seems to have grown as much as it was going to. I don’t think it’ll get any worse at any rate.
To be honest, I was kind of hoping it would stop of its own accord and start to shrink back down again.
It most likely won’t.
I’ve noticed that I don’t have a lot of patience anymore. I scream a lot more in the car and while everyone always said that I drove like an asshole before, I definitely do now. I yell a lot at people who can’ t hear me yelling: neighbors, my son, the dog, something that happened last year. I’m angrier than I was before.
Sometimes I can trace out what makes me so angry, what specifically about the quitting that has made me angry enough to overreact to what is happening. Invariably, I am always overreacting. I shouldn’t be so upset that the neighbor put the broken plastic chair on the side of the road; it doesn’t affect me. I shouldn’t be so upset at the car that’s inching forward to merge into the next lane; they’re over there and it doesn’t impact me.
I haven’t noticed any difference in my breathing or the aches in my chest. Everyone always says, with almost a badge of honor, it’s the coughing that let’s you know when you’re over a hump. I haven’t tried to clear out my lungs since I quit. I think I’ve had two coughing fits and nothing that came up with any substance. My chest hurts every day; sometimes it’s a panic attack and sometimes it’s this.
It actually annoys me sometimes because I can’t always tell the difference between the panic attack and my chest just hurting. Sometimes, it’s a muscle ache; sometimes it’s more than that. The ghost pains move around my chest, up near my arm pits one moment and then down near my diaphragm the next. It annoys me every time I stop, every time I am mindful of my body. Somewhere in my chest, it always hurts.
I can’t breathe through my nose still. I suppose I could just assume that I have allergies and that’s why I’m living with a perpetually clogged nose. I think that’s a lot of bullshit. I think my nostrils are probably just fine; they just haven’t caught the memo yet.
At the end of the day, I don’t feel healthier or better.
I kind of assumed I would. I mean, when you give up something that you have been doing for 15 years multiple times a day, aren’t you supposed to just suddenly feel better about, I don’t know, yourself, life? Something? I don’t feel better. I still feel as gross as before, but of course that could just be the depression talking.
I speak every day to the ancestors about all of this. Without fail, I jot a few words down to form a small string of sentences in the morning. I tell them how bleak I feel; what my dreams are filled with and how it relates to how fucking irritating this shit is; how annoyed I am with myself and my surroundings; and what the fuck was I fucking thinking.
Sometimes they respond in whatever way they feel is necessary. Sometimes, they don’t at all but I kind of feel them a little bit. Personally, I think they’re still cheering me on even if I don’t hear it. I guess I’m okay with that.
I just wish the depression would quit already.
I did notice that while I’m more aggressive and bitchy still, I’m able to laugh more. I don’t know if that makes any sense? It’s like everything is funnier or brighter sometimes and it just makes me laugh for no apparent reason.
I spent hours on the couch with the significant other last week just laughing at stupid shit. None of it was particularly funny, but it all kind of streamed together into a long drawn out laugh. I had a similar experience with my son; it was definitely funny. He made that face he makes that gives me a case of the giggles, only this time it was a paroxysm of barking laughter.
I was thinking just the other day that, honestly, as horrible and annoying and as bitchy as I am about all of this, I haven’t really had to exert willpower during those times when I want to break down. I don’t even really distract myself during those moments. I just ride it through. Sometimes I’ll breathe through it, but mostly I just let it ride.
It hits, it overwhelms, it’s gone.
I guess I’m doing okay. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t gotten into a car crash when I was driving like an asshole. I’ve caused a lot of mayhem in other ways. I don’t know if I’m working through those parts or if I’m just going to let it ride, just like the cravings.
I figure one day I will be safe to be around again.
On the final day of February, a mere few hours before Lent was set to start, I went off by myself for a few minutes while I considered what I was getting ready to do. I needed to think about what I was giving up, what I could expect. That card reading I had done for myself kept showing up in my mind’s eye, reminding me that what I was looking forward to was despair.
It honestly seemed like no matter how much I tried to spin how positive this experience was bound to be or was supposed to be at any rate, I kept coming back to the bleakness of despair.
Since the start of Lent, I’ve woken up twice in mimicry of the 9 of Swords. I’ve managed to put down the feeling of anxiety and depression those moments brought with them. Before falling back to sleep in those moments, I turn over the image of the 9 of Swords in my mind and kind of sigh. I mean, what other type of reaction can I really have?
I knew what I was getting into and I honestly thought that I could get through this.
I’ve felt a little bit like a monster since the 1st of March. I’ve also felt a little like a doll made of porcelain, minutes or hours or years away from a cracked face, knowing that the cracked face will occur one day. I have also felt more than a tad like a broken piece of pottery, something perhaps once used in someone’s heka, that has been used up and destroyed.
It’s been 10 days since then and my emotions are all over the place. Everyone tells me that this is normal. I’m kicking an addiction – something that I have been absolutely assured is not done every day or even in a day – so emotional upheaval is part of it, I guess.
I don’t know if I really want to hear it though. All I keep thinking about is why in the fuck I’m doing this and what this is supposed to achieve. Everyone says something different from each other about it and in the end, I’m left more confused and annoyed than I was when the advice first popped up.
Quite obviously evidenced from the above paragraph, I spend a lot of my time complaining, though mostly in my head.
I never realized how much having an addiction could, like, lessen your ability to give a tin shit about outside things. I also never realized that this was the one thing I did regularly to keep my mental health in check – I honestly didn’t understand what a coping mechanism this is or how completely unprepared I was for that fucking despair thing the 9 of Swords talked about.
I am far less entertaining with my ongoing monologue while driving and use a lot more curse words (and I’ve always used a lot of them). I am far more willing to get off the phone with someone who is angry not-with-me or maybe-a-little-with-me over work stuff that isn’t my fault and cry. I don’t typically cry at work so that’s been interesting. I’ve done a lot of yelling in the last ten days and I’m not a quiet person once you get to know me.
It’s been… it’s been a lot for all of us.
The significant other keeps reminding me that this is absolutely a good idea. Sometimes I tell him to fuck off. He smiles and laughs since he’s been in my shoes. Other times I tell him that I want to stab him in the eye and he gives me his telltale smirk and continues on with his day. I feel bad for all the times I thought very uncharitably about him when he was going through this.
But mostly, I feel like a monster. I feel like something dark and rabid, living in the swamp with all the dead things.
Every single morning, I wake up and think about how much I can’t do this. The push to just give up is overwhelming. I always knew my mind was an enemy of sorts. I am very used to listening to my brain tell me what a complete failure and loser I am about so many things. It’s a daily occurrence, so it’s not like I haven’t gone through this particular song and dance before.
The idea of giving up just pushes at me like a weight on my chest though and it is so strong. Frankly, giving up is louder and more insistent than the voice that has always told me what a horrible human being I actually am. I never really considered the fact that there would come a day where I could honestly say that the voice in my head that is named Anxiety is drowned out by something louder.
And truly, it does get drowned out when the voice of Surrender whispers insidiously and seductively in my ear.
When I open my eyes and I am finally aware of my surroundings, I think about how stupid this is. When I have my second cup of coffee before I wake up my son during the week, I think about how it would be easier to stop this ridiculous exercise. When I drive to work, when I get angry, when I want to cry, when I am reading a book, when I am scrolling through Facebook, when I am going through Duolingo for my French lessons, when I have forgotten to take a lunch break at work again, when I have gotten out of the shower: all the fucking time, I keep thinking about what a farce this is.
The key, or so I have been told, is to distract myself. The funny thing is that I would use my addiction to distract myself from the voice in my head that tells me how much I suck at everything. Everything else I try now seems to pale in comparison or fail miserably. Chores, books, conversations, etc. They all fail to offer the distraction that I have been assured is the key to this.
I write about all of this, thinking about what Alex said in a comment on my last entry about this. He told me that sometimes willpower isn’t the way to go, sometimes asking for help is the way to go. I’m not very good at asking for help, so I write a small paragraph each morning to the ancestors. I think they’re listening.
Last night, a very nice and happy cheerleader appeared in my dreams. She wore an A on her uniform and her skirt went to her knees. She had white sneakers and a peppy little grin. Her eyes were made of the universe; she was my ancestors in a single body. They did a cheer about how I could do this and how I shouldn’t give up because, of course, yesterday’s daily entry was about giving up.
I haven’t given up yet, but I want to.
It’s not all horrible, I suppose. Part of Lent includes donating more regularly than I already do. If I hadn’t gotten a body modification within the last year, I would have most likely donated blood which is a favored go-to of mine for a myriad of reasons. Instead, I have been having a lot of fun researching various organizations to give to in order to ensure that almsgiving, as requested, is a part of my Lent experience.
I get to donate every 10 days and I get to choose the organization so long as it is not the ACLU. I have a recurring donation set up there and the ancestors requested that the places I donate to be new places. I have determined which two organizations get the first two donations – Planned Parenthood and Hope for Paws – and I have a pretty good idea of what the third will be. I guess I’ll have to look around for the fourth.
When I’m not complaining or hurting or annoyed, I think things are going remarkably well. I’ve managed to ignore my desire to give up on all of this and I’ve managed to keep to the goals I had set for myself. I don’t think I’m doing too badly all things considered.
It could be worse, I keep reminding myself in as cheerful a way as I possibly can. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. It just really depends on the day.
Recently, I started thinking about that story in Genesis where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son to God. It’s kind of a weird thing to be focused on, but I woke up one day thinking about how Abraham just got this message one day and instead of fighting back against his deity, he went ahead with a plan to sacrifice his kid.
It’s been a few years since last I heard it spoken of in relation to the Bible, but I can remember wondering why in the world anyone would do that. It just never made a lick of sense why the hell someone would be willing to do that.
I mean, did he cry at the thought? Or did he just go “yeah okay” and get on with the program? I always had to ask myself whether or not the whole story was “yes, I will do this thing” from Abraham or if there was a lot more fear, anxiety, and ranting against what appeared to be a completely unfair request.
I kind of thought, as a kid, that he probably was pretty upset by the whole thing. I mean, can you really just go ahead and willingly sacrifice your child out of blind faith? I personally don’t know the answer to that question, but I have a better understanding about sacrifice and faith as an adult than I ever did as a kid.
As a kid, the sum total of things that I would sacrifice was, well, bullshit. It was stupid things. “Give that to your brother” or “stop doing that because I said so.” I mean that’s what I thought sacrifice was. I just assumed it was being told by someone more powerful than you to stop doing the thing for their own reasons.
It’s not really like that, but it also is. I’ve been told any number of times by my gods that X had to happen in order for Y to occur. And X usually entailed having to surrender and give in to blind faith that they would ensure that Y really did occur.
This is an actually an overarching theme in my religious relationships and it comes around quite often. I don’t trust, therefore I have a hard time foregoing whatever it is they think I need to let go of in order for Y to occur. It’s a cycle or something.
To me, it has always been scary and frightening whenever I’ve had to do that. There’s no stoicism here as shocking as that may be to some people. I have ranted and raved quite a few times because what they wanted just seemed so damn unfair. But even with all of my bitching and moaning, I did the thing and gave into faith…
My gods have never come and told me – either through themselves or through alternative means – that I could stop sacrificing whatever it was because I had proved my faith, proved my fear of them. Maybe Abraham got the better end of the deal because he didn’t have to give up something he loved.
The theme of sacrifice has been popping up a lot lately. I kind of expected it. I usually hit this theme around now when Lent is around the corner. Last year, I studiously ignored all of the little neon lights pointing at Lent and kept tooting on my merry little way.
I’m not so lucky this year.
Some weeks back, my ancestors began hemming and hawing about Lent. I kind of assumed they’d be a little outspoken about it since they had asked me, very politely of course, to observe Advent and I had declined for perfectly valid reasons [at the time]. I guess they figured since I wasn’t able to partake of Advent, then it would be perfectly okay to push for Lent.
I kind of went round and round the idea for a bit with them. They were very sure that they wanted me to observe Lent, but had little other advice to offer. It was only after a particularly grueling session with them that I came to the conclusion that this was A Thing and that I should do The Thing.
I figured I know how to go about this and I have a sort of blueprint to follow, it couldn’t be so bad as all that.
Though they were particularly mum when I pushed the point in that grueling session, I have since learned from my ancestors that the original blueprint is a little faded and aged (maybe they had to think about it before getting back to me). I need to revamp the process and start over.
That’s around the time that I started thinking about Abraham and his requirement of sacrifice.
The ancestors made it clear that the sacrifice this year had to be bigger than diet Coke, had to be bigger than chocolate. It had to mean something to me personally. I wasn’t really sure what they were looking for, so I of course asked my son for a few suggestions. He only had one even after my pressing and pushing for more.
When asked, the ancestors agreed that would do.
The funny thing is that I’ve been thinking about giving it up for a while so it’s not really anything that’s come up out of the blue. It’s just unexpected and a little rushed. If I had more time, I’d plan it out. But my ancestors know me of course. They know that’s an excuse; if I don’t go for broke, I’m never going to fucking go.
The other day, I sat down with them and went through a long list of questions and answers. I asked them what I could expect all of this to look like and wouldn’t you know it? Despair. I got a lot of despair. I kind of had to laugh; you’d expect someone who is sacrificing something pretty big to be going through despair.
In one of those flip moments, they also told me that if I didn’t bother, then I would be much happier. It’s like they just needed to let me know that this isn’t supposed to be a pleasant process. They even came back three separate times and reminded me that sacrifice isn’t supposed to be easy or simple; it’s supposed to hurt.
When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who has a longer Catholic association than my tangential one, she reminded me that the 40 Days of Lent were related to Jesus’s time in the desert where he’s being constantly harassed by the Devil. If that doesn’t resemble despair, I don’t know what does.
But as with Jesus in the desert, the refusal to give in to temptation is what I’m after here. I can only hope that my will power is enough to see me through.
That, and hopefully my friends and family understand just how completely awful I am going to be while I sort this addiction bullshit out of my system. But at least I can always remind myself (and them) that I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
I’ve been purposely quiet lately. The whole last month – last three months really – have been a sort of nightmare that Americans woke up to the day after the election. There is so much going on everywhere that it’s enough to send anyone into a spiral of darkness and depression, myself included.
Every single day, I wake up at 6am and spend a half hour looking through the news reports I missed out on while sleeping. I comb the various social media platforms I am on and reblog, share, and retweet the things that I find need to be shared. I spend much of my breaks at work or periods throughout the weekend doing the same thing. It’s honestly one of the few things that make the darkness a little more bearable.
It also tires me out. I mean, there really is only so much of these horrifying things you can take before you want to hide in a pillow fort for a few days. Life continues though, no matter how scary the real world has become and no matter how your mental illness reacts to it.
I still have to go to work and pay the bills. I still have to get groceries, do laundry, help my kid doing homework, and clean the old homestead. I still have to have the same arguments about fruits and vegetables with my son. I still have to feel miserable when shit starts flying at work. I still have my life to lead amid the nightmare fuel the world has seemingly become.
Sometimes it’s a wonder any of us can get up and greet a new day.
During all of this, there has been some beacons of light in the darkness. I have turned to comfort from my ancestors. Some of the reason that I have turned to them is because of that old whispering commentary telling me to get right with my ancestors. But that’s not the whole of it.
I know enough about them to know that there were members who fought for freedom in some form or another. I figure they’ll understand all this stuff we’re going through now. My grandfather and his brother joined up during WWII, the time frame that seems to most mirror what we are going through today. I know they probably get it.
I don’t actually know what caused them both to join the air force. I couldn’t say if it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the atrocities committed by the Axis powers, or just a need to be a patriot. My grandfather once told my mother, after learning that I did not vote in the first election that I could have, that he was disappointed because the fight for that freedom to vote was something he had done or something like that. So maybe it was just the need to fight for freedoms.
I don’t know what, if anything, they had to say about the Japanese internment camps. I don’t know what they thought or felt about any of that and I will most likely never know. I have a romanticized dream that both my grandfather and great uncle thought it was just awful. Maybe the rose colored glasses will be ripped from my eyes one day or maybe not. I of course prefer my possibly false characterization.
Whatever their reasoning, I have turned to them, and my akhu as a whole, more and more often. Multiple times a week, I find myself talking to them, thinking about what they would say to me during this trying time if they were alive. Perhaps nothing; perhaps something. It is a comfort to me.
And that is predominantly why I’ve been so quiet.
One would think that in such dark times, I would turn to my two warrior gods. They would be two whom understand fighting against a sea of swirling isfet, and to be sure, the world certainly seems full of that right now.
But I have found myself unable to do so. Whenever I think of it, I talk myself out of it. Things aren’t so bad for you. Let them focus on those who are in danger, those who truly need advice from two warriors during this trying time. I need comfort and wisdom too, of course, but in my mind, not as much as others.
I can feel them both like distant statues seen in the distance. The image is hazy even when squinting. If I were to move closer, I would no doubt have the image resolve itself. But I can’t seem to make myself move closer.
As I spend more time with my ancestors, I have found that they like being in the limelight less and less often. It seems very much to me that they lived quiet lives and want to continue that practice even in death. They have often asked me to be silent, to keep details back.
I have half a dozen drafts of posts that will never see the light of day simply because they have asked me to keep it quiet.
And to be fair, I often agree because the idea of going full on ancestor veneration under public scrutiny is disturbing to me. A little of that is because it feels lile breeching a previously unknown boundary.
But too it is also the idea that this world of akhu can get a little lonely.
Often it feels like a lonely little island with not so many other people discussing the subject. Since my ancestor veneration looks more like a cross with Kemeticism and Catholicism, and an occasional pinch of Methodism, it seems like keeping it all to myself makes the most sense from all perspectives.
The akhu have filled a sort of empty niche, willingly placing themselves at my disposal. Maybe this is the road I need to be on while I “get right with them.” I guess I’ll find out eventually.