On the Periphery.

My relationships with my gods used to fit in neatly confined spaces. I used to have a box for Sekhmet and a box for Hetheru. I added a box last year to include my relationship with Heru-Wer. They were all separate and unique things. While looking deeply into the history of Heru-Wer, I began to catch glimpses of both Sekhmet and Hetheru. It was like those moments when you see something in your peripheral vision. It’s there for a second and you’re so sure that it’s there that your heart starts pounding in double time, but when you look for real, it isn’t there.

Day 188: Gleaming Peripheral Glimpse

Like whispers ringing in one’s ears, it was never really there. It was only a split second occurrence. (Image by Snugg LePup.)

Consciously, I recognized that the gods probably had interactions outside of whatever bits and pieces of our relationships were there. I mean, they had been around a lot longer and there are so many myth cycles out there, detailing all of the things they have done before I came onto the scene. There are probably myth cycles lost to us, too, which detail further shenanigans between them all. I’ve found this within most of the epithets listed for my main deities in their LAGG entries: tantalizing glimpses of things that make me go, “what is this? why is this?” And of course, I am left knowing that I will probably have nothing concrete to say except to add some UPG to my lexicon of unverified personal gnosis.

However, I am one of those people who must define something concretely and it must be defined as its own thing. Suffice to say that I was quite comfortable with leaving the relationships of my gods within their own little niches in my life. Perhaps this was a byproduct of being such a devout hard polytheist for so long. I honestly cannot say, but when I found that glimpses and pokes from the sidelines were coming, seeming to herald a more soft polytheism than I had previously been comfortable with, I kind of shut it down for a while.

I didn’t want to see Hetheru and Heru-Wer together, or Sekhmet and Hetheru together, or Heru-Wer and Sekhmet together. I didn’t want to see the invisible webs that kept them bound by some indefinable force that worried me. Part of the reason I stayed as far away from the hawk-headed Heru deities is because of all of the squishiness going on with them: they’re all the same and yet all different; puzzling out their differences can be a career unto itself.

As I explored Heru-Wer more and more, I found bits and pieces of Sekhmet, which in turn, of course, led me back to bits and pieces of Hetheru. It’s not surprising: Hetheru’s very name means “mansion of Heru.” We know that just be speaking her name, either aloud or in our minds, we are paying homage to the connection between Hetheru and [one of the] Heru. In my brain, this is Heru-Wer – not as the seeming forgotten child of Nut and Geb, but as the child of Ra and Hetheru, and as with Heru-sa-Aset in later myth cycles, overtaking the realm and place of his father, Ra, to become the husband-son of Hetheru.

The longer that I spent time with that derpy hawk brain, I found Hetheru in the little places. It was like she was the cracks of gold between his broken pieces. She fitted together with him in a fluid sort of reality that I cannot even begin to say it or write. The Japanese practice of kintsugi comes to mind as a perfect visual representation. Hetheru was there in the in-between, healing the cracked parcels of Heru-Wer so that he could be the derpy hawk bird the Kemetic fandom knows and loves.

Cleaned up seams

To me, she was like kintsugi: the golden aura used to fix the pieces of this veteran back together. (Image by Pomax.)

I found that the bits of my relationship that were specifically about Heru-Wer began to envelop Hetheru without my asking. It was like, one moment, Heru-Wer and I were in a relationship and there we were, two meteors crossing the sky of my own inner rebirth. Then, in the distance, a third meteor streaks along with us and joins our group. Before I could even map it out in my mind, it was the three of us, like a triad of sorts, just hanging out and poking fun. Sekhmet was there, in the background, but less like the streaks of meteors and more like the golden sun that creates the gravity that we need to complete our path.

Their relationship affects me on so many levels. I see it as one of those like epic love stories that overwhelms the consciousness and creates a longing in the heart. Maybe their relationship isn’t necessarily like that, but I think it is. If you look at the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion and the journey that Hetheru undertakes to get back to Heru, then you can kind of see it as an epic love story. Just knowing that after 300-plus days of being apart that a four-day journey is all they need to be back together again for 2 weeks or thereabouts… yeah, maybe you can see what I’m talking about. A love story beyond the piece of Romeo and Juliet; that puts Lancelot and Guinevere to shame; something beyond the mere word “epic.”

I can feel it like the pulse point at my throat, wrapping itself around me and threading itself through my veins. It overwhelms me a lot of the time, to the point where I can only scream internally from the feels of it all. For someone who is not used to that much emotion in a single day, having it thrust upon me and unable to properly speak on it can be hell. But I muddle through with all of my rants and raves and internal screams, hoping that someday someone will understand what it feels like to have your veins on fire because of someone else’s love.

I have come to find that my relationship with Heru-Wer is nothing without Hetheru. Sure, we have our bits together where it is just the two of us. But there is always the overwhelming knowledge that the Lady of Dendera is there as well, a sort of background hum if she isn’t in the middle of us and then another limb to our conglomerate body when it is the three of us.

You know, there’s an epithet in the LAGG entry for Hetheru that I found amusing, “Who Brings Along Her Heru.” Only in my case, or I should say in our case, I think it’s a bit backwards. It wasn’t Hetheru who came to me and brought along her Heru. It was Heru-Wer who came to me and forged a bridge to renew the relationship that I had let fizzle to near nothingness with Hetheru. Really, the epithet should be: “Who Brings Along His Hetheru.”

Head Covering.

Years ago, I found out that there is an entire movement within various pagan hemispheres regarding head covering. I find the whole thing kind of fascinating and I spent a good deal of my time back then, reading through various pagan blogs about the phenomena. There were a lot of different reasons that pagans chose to cover their head and while I found it interesting, I knew it wasn’t for me. In my mind, I kind of associate covering one’s head with priest roles and since I am clearly of the laity brand of Kemeticism, it obviously wasn’t for me.

Flash forward to a few months ago and I got this overwhelming urge to just take a “peek” at what other Kemetics are doing as far as head covering. I wouldn’t say that there is a movement, per se, but there are a few who have taken on covering their heads. In some instances, it is a daily thing. In other instances, it is on festivals and holidays to a particular god. In still other cases, there are occasions of priestly duties being fulfilled that require [on the part of the personal practice of the devotee] the act of covering one’s head.

All very fascinating, of course, but what the fuck did this have to do with me?

After perusing through the blogs of people who do this sort of thing, I got a sort of like mini-whisper at the back of my mind: like wouldn’t it be kind of neat if you did this? I said very surely and very emphatically, “no.” I then took it upon myself to take a bandana into the bathroom with me and tied it over my head so that the ends were covered by my [very long] hair. I stared at myself and was completely freaked out by the fact that this was getting too close to that line in the sand, the one that said this stuff was a priesthood kind of thing and I’m not interested. I consequently ripped the damn bandana off, threw it across the room and yelled, “no.”

I know this sounds like me being a prat and to some extent, I am being one. The thing about it is that, to me, covering one’s head is more emphatically “priesthood” than I am willing to delve. I do a lot of things and fulfill a number of roles that can easily be perceived as priesthood – and I admit that – but the fact that I was taking head covering seriously was yet another step in the direction that frightens the hell out of me.

There does seem to have been some hair restrictions within the priesthood of ancient Egypt – shaving one’s body hair seems to have been a thing – and I’ve remarked that times have changed often enough. It stands to reason that instead of shaving one’s head in a Kemetic context, a devotee would have the push to cover their hair instead. For the most part, we don’t live in a place where having excess hair could cause overheating and we don’t live in a time when hygiene is a huge problem.

I got the push a few times to cover my head and each time, I very forcefully refused. “I am not interested in this. Please let’s come up with a level of compromise that both sides can be comfortable with.” Since my hair is so long, there are actually very few hair styles that work on a daily basis… but braiding helps to keep it out of my face. It also prevents the pain at the crown of my head if I wear my hair up too high for too long. (You may not realize it, but hair can get fairly heavy.)

I quailed and dithered about this for a while. Again, I was being put in a position to do something that seemed far more devotional than I am willing to commit to. Again, I recognize that I’m probably coming off as an ass and a whining baby. But you know what? I went into Kemeticism not with the idea of priesthood, but with the idea of creating a functional practice that I could hand down to others.

To me, being a priest is a sort of calling and there is a limit to who can and cannot become a priest. By jumping into a quasi-priesthood role, I felt as though I was moving away from what I had originally intended and into an area of dark, unexplored territory that I had firmly informed myself that I would never go into.

Never say never, I guess.

In the end, I decided to just bite the bullet. Braiding one’s hair isn’t so bad. So, I ended up moving forward with braiding my hair on a regular basis. “Okay,” I said to whomever was pushing me, “I will braid my hair 90% of the time when I leave the house. Is that acceptable?” The push to cover my head faded and I relaxed about it.

During my last services to Sekhmet, I got another kind of little push in the head covering department. I told her she could take a long leap off of a short pier. Actually, my phrasing was that I would go ahead and do that if she could scratch my back first. The feeling faded quickly enough and I went back to ignoring that whole shtick and everything it entailed. Until I got the hit this morning while I was getting ready for work.

constellations (or a childish imagination)

Like indelible ink, it is written upon my face and I cannot escape it. (Image by Ana Luìsa Pinto.)

All right, all right. I figured I could just give it a shot.

Aside from all of the remarks I got from various coworkers about the bandana wrapped around my head, I felt absolutely nothing different. Oh, that’s not true. I was annoyed that I was doing this. I was annoyed that I got a ton of comments from my coworkers (which range from being informed that I am channeling my inner Lucille Ball to reminding another about weekends spent cleaning the attic). I was annoyed that the damn bandana kept slipping back and I had to retie it repeatedly. But above all else, the most annoying bit was that I felt more relaxed and clear-headed than I have for weeks while at work.

Shit.

I am not comfortable with this, at all. The idea of wearing bandanas every day is kind of bothersome, never mind the comments or the fact that I don’t know how to prevent it from sliding back on my head. But even with the knowledge that I was quite comfortable and felt rather more relaxed than I have been lately, I have to ask myself if this is something that I can commit to. It’s all a jumbled mass in my mind but at the top of it all is the frantic high-pitched screams at the back of my mind because this isn’t how things were supposed to work out. I recognize that things may ease up considerably, stress wise, but I have to ask myself, am I really ready for this?

Logically, I should just go for it and get it over with.

Illogically, I am a gibbering idiot, screeching about how this isn’t fair.

The Beginning.

About a week ago, I was told that I needed to go back to the beginning in order to get some clarity on everything that has been going on lately. Mostly that divination was talking about more mundane matters, but it actually makes a lot of sense when looking through the lens of one’s personal religious shenanigans. Sometimes, looking back across the span of time is a good way in order to get a whole lot of perspective on what is currently infesting your life. So, I went back to the beginning…

Not that long after I gave in and officially embraced the idea of developing a relationship with Sekhmet, I began getting “Hetheru feels.” It was a little daunting and very worrisome for me. I wanted to be a one deity kind of gal; I didn’t want to have a multitude to be at the constant beck and call of. While one new deity doesn’t exactly equal to a “multitude,” it felt like if I added even one more to the mix, I was opening a door that wouldn’t be shut again. I wasn’t quite wrong but that is neither here nor there.

I was not interested in working with Hetheru.

Another part of the problem was that, to me, she embodied everything that I knew, deep down, I would never be. She is a deity about beauty, womanhood, sexuality, coquetry, sensuality, drinking, etc. All of the inherent qualities that we can think of when we hear the name “Hetheru” would come bouncing into my face, slapping me with my own inadequacies, and it worried me greatly that a deity like that would be interested in me.

You see, it made complete sense that Sekhmet was interested, but not Hetheru. Sekhmet’s interest wasn’t simply because I knew that we had done this song and dance before, but because I was a destructive, slow-burn kind of person. I felt like that was something that Sekhmet could both understood and respect having been in that place before. I didn’t see how this could possibly relate to Hetheru, at all. It didn’t make sense that Hetheru would be interested. My hard polytheism was showing, maybe, but the constant fear and worry I had at the idea of adding Hetheru into my personal practice was something that began eating me alive.

I quailed about this issue for a while before I gave in to temptation. There was just something about Hetheru that made me go, “okay. All right.” So, I purchased a statue and went looking around for things about Hetheru that would help us get jump started. And everything that I ended up finding about her only made my worries on the matter seem even more valid. All of the sex stuff was just getting in the way of everything else. I’m gray-ace though I didn’t realize that back then. (I hadn’t even heard of asexuality yet.) And I just kept wondering what in the world a sex goddess would want with someone with severe sexual hang ups?

Let me explain something: I thought I was broken back then. I just thought that I was severely wired backwards and incorrectly when it came to sex. I didn’t understand that there were people, like me, in the world who did not experience sexual attraction or, if they did, it was rarely. While that’s something that I recognize about myself today, it wasn’t an option then. As far as I was concerned, it just seemed incredibly strange that this sexual and sensual netjer would say, “yes, you are someone that I would like to have devoted to me.” I couldn’t understand it at all.

What was it about me that spoke to her in some indefinable way?

What was it about me that made her come to me in dreams and in divination and in random occurrences both on and off the Internet?

I began to suspect that, since I was “obviously” broken, then maybe that was the reason? At that time, it freaked me out and I thought perhaps that my freaking out was a good thing. So, I tried diligently to throw myself into a sort of loop where I worked on the things that were “broken.” The problem being that I wasn’t interested in working on those things and I had no business working on those things. Ace or not, I have had sex repulsion and that is due to sexual abuse. I thought that those elements to my sex repulsion were what I needed to work on in order to “not” be broken anymore and that was the point in Hetheru showing up.

This didn’t work out because, frankly, I wasn’t ready to look into all of that shadow work. I was not ready to even consider it. So, I ignored the sex stuff (possibly to my own detriment and possibly longer than I should have) and thought about what else Hetheru could embody. Well, she was a mom. She was a woman. She liked pretty things. She liked make up things. She liked feeling like a woman. Like, everything that makes you go, “yes, that’s a woman and she is beautiful and she loves who she is and what she looks like and that is fucking awesome” was everything that I associated with Hetheru.

So, I thought maybe I should try to be more like that?

But the thing that I have to admit to myself is that I’m not that kind of person. Make up is nice and clothes that make you feel good about yourself is okay, but I’m not really into it as much as other girls. I’ve never been that type of person. I hate putting on make up to go out somewhere and try to keep what I do wear, if I wear any, very basic. Clothes that are fitted don’t seem to fit me correctly. What it comes down to is that, basically, I am a T-shirt and jeans kind of gal. Give me a pair of sneakers over heels; give me a good book over watching You Tube videos about how to properly apply eyeliner.

It didn’t work out.

It made the things that I thought I should do that much worse.

And in the attemps to be what I thought she wanted me to be, I was causing serious issues in my relationship with her. I began to dread having her show up in dreams. I began to dread the idea of having her in my life. I began to hate her and everything about her. I just wanted her to go away and leave me alone. I packed up shop – I kept her statue and I gave her daily offerings when I finally got back into all of that, but to be perfectly frank, placing these sorts of “she wants you to be a better person; she wants you to be more like her” restrictions on our relationship wreaked not just havoc with my personal practice, but my relationship with Sekhmet as well.

It was wrong to do that.

I was looking through a very narrow lens and I wasn’t even remotely thinking that there could be a bigger picture to look for.

I was wrong.

I was very, very wrong.

I’ve gone back to the beginning and I’ve come to recognize a very real pattern here. I went into things with a preconceived notion, something that I’ve remarked previously is very dangerous and is generally not a good idea. But it’s something that I have only just realized, after being informed that I should go back to the beginning, just how dangerous it can be. My relationship with Hetheru has suffered because of those preconceived notions and it has only been in the last year, with all of the moving parts oil slicked and creaking forward, that I recognize the “bigger picture” bullshit that I’m tired of hearing about.

But there that bullshit is: bigger picture.

Looking back to the beginning, that rocky escarpment that I found myself perched upon when I tried what I thought was the point in our relationship… I have to say that it’s been a really long road. I don’t want to sound all “fate” about this, but I honestly have to ask myself if the rocky road I took on the path of our interactions wasn’t necessary in order to get me here. I went running towards Sekhmet, fleeing from the inescapable truths that I was not “good enough” for Hetheru, but kept Hetheru around anyway.

And in all the years since I first remember Hetheru appearing to me in a dream, I can see the little twists and turns that have brought me to today.

Look to the beginning, I was told, and I looked.

I found a scared newbie Kemetic, fighting through the brushes with uncertainty, poor self-esteem, and misunderstanding. That person was the person that Hetheru chose, maybe because she knew what I would end up being like one day. Or maybe it was all some predestined bunch of bullshit. In either case, I find myself awash in “Hetheru feels” again and you know what?

I’m ready for it.

 

The Lovers.

Alternate Title: Follow Your Ib

Three days ago, I had yet another in a long line of strange dreams. It’s practically par for the course. I think about 75% of my week is filled with strange dreams that don’t seem to fit with the standard dream lexicon I’ve built for myself. Deciphering these little shits has become almost a major focus in my life. It’s like, I feel as if I could succeed mightily if I could just figure out what one of the damn dreams meant or is supposed to mean. Ha.

For the most part, I try to parse out whatever meaning I possibly can during my ride into work. My mind is still fresh enough but not hyper focused enough on something else to present me with about 40 minutes of almost down time. So, I try to figure out anything I can and that’s where most of my “ah-ha” moments occur… though I will be honest that I have had a surprising limited number of “ah-ha” moments in recent months. In either case, the drive to work is both a relaxing pastime and a spurt of frustration, but no matter how much I assure myself that I will not think about what I dreamed about the night before, I invariably end up thinking about it.

While thinking about the self-cannibalism dream and trying like hell to remember what the fuck the ouroboros is supposed to stand for (still haven’t remembered and I can’t be bothered to look to be honest), I had a vision of an anatomical heart. Damn. I don’t even want to say “vision.” It wasn’t really a vision. It felt like more than that. There was a black space, which I’ve been in or seen before, and then in the center was a giant-as-fuck anatomical heart. It was just spinning slowly, like it was a coin that was slowing down after being spun really fast. It just kept rotating around and around until I finally heard a whisper, “Follow the heart.”

Well that made so much more sense!

In rapid succession, my thoughts went something like this:

My heart?

Their heart?

The SO’s heart?

The child’s heart?

A stranger’s heart?

The heart I ate?

The fractured heart that I have been working on?

The ring on my finger that is an anatomical heart?

If you’ve been paying any attention to my religious life lately, then you know that hearts are pretty important. Most of my relationship with Sekhmet can best be summed up with a picture of an ib. It seems to be a very big part of what’s been going on between us, never mind all of the recent shenanigans. But just because it’s a large part of my practice that doesn’t necessarily mean I fully understand the point behind seeing one in a dark head space and hearing the phrase, “follow the heart.”

I was quite confused.

I forgot about it because as much as I would like some damn answers, things have happened that required my attention. I went to work. I had things to do there. And then I came home and seethed inwardly for a while. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

The Lovers card from the Mary-El Tarot deck.

The Lovers card from the Mary-El Tarot deck.

This morning, I pulled my daily card because, eh why not. I honestly don’t know why I bother anymore because nine times out of ten, it just causes more arm flailing and makes it that much harder to figure out what the fuck is happening. I was totally unprepared for what I pulled because mostly I have been getting cards like Strength and Death. This morning, I got the Lovers.

I’m not a huge fan of this card, mostly because it’s telling me that a choice that I need to make and I need to make that choice based on my heart. I liked the card even less this morning since it only made me recall that moment in the car, when I could see darkness all around and there was a giant swirling fucking anatomical heart and the whispered words, “Follow the heart.”

Maybe not quite a “clue-by-four” but kind of appropriate all things considered.

The problem is that I don’t know what I’m supposed to be listening to or even what specifically in regards to.

The Tower from the Radiant Rider-Waite deck

The Tower from the Radiant Rider-Waite deck

There is just so much going on in my life recently. I have honestly felt beset on every side. I think I spend hours upon hours at a time, wishing and hoping that I could just run away. I feel less like I’m stuck between Scylla and Charybdis and more like I’ve been crushed flat by a thousand tons of rocks, wondering if someone will come over with a fireplace bellows and push me back into shape.

I think I’m more at the Tower than at the point where I need to follow my heart.

I know that there are a ton of things that I’ve been sitting on that I should do in order to benefit both myself and my family. However, I’m actually at a moment of complete stasis. I can’t move in one direction or another. I keep weighing the consequences of each. I know what my heart is telling me – I’ve always at least been able to hear it – but the idea of actually following through frightens me more than anything else.

What I see in my heart frightens the shit out of me because there are so many unknown possibilities and I just… I feel as though I cannot take that chance.

I understand, to a degree, why the need to follow one’s heart is important. I also understand, to a degree, why some people have made the best choices in this way. But I’m too on the hedge. I need to ensure that I truly am seeing all of the options from every angle. This has been a huge problem for me for a very long time, but after 32 years, I honestly don’t know if I could possibly quit now.

But perhaps that is the point in all of this: kick my ass into gear and get me paying attention to the deep part of myself that is talking, the part that needs to be heard and listened to. And if that is the case, then maybe more than “follow the heart” would be useful here. Perhaps something that tells me how to get over the heart-crushing, body-paralyzing anxiety would be a good idea.

The World from the Wild Unknown deck

The World from the Wild Unknown deck

I think what worries me the most about all of this is the same old shtick: I know the end result or at least what the end result is supposed to be. The thing is that I just don’t know how in the fuck I’m supposed to go about it because it’s not just walking through the jungle without a map, but also how to break through my own personal failings or, maybe not failings, but like the programming I’ve been built with.

If I fail at this, it’s not just me that pays the price. I’ve always gone into things under the impression that others would pay for my mistakes. But now, it’s actually true. I have a family to consider. I have to take care of them and their needs throughout all of this. In some instances, I know full well what my heart, my ib, is telling me but I just don’t see how I can take that chance with two people who trust me the way that they do in the mix.

“But Sat, just trust in the gods! Have faith!”

The problem there is that I’ve done that. I have absolutely been there and done that; I got shot with the T-shirt cannon for fuck’s sake. And I’m sorry, but I can’t just blindly follow. I need more than just, “do the thing,” to get my ass in gear. I need a huge neon sign with flashing lights and hymns praising my beauty. I need to my smashed in the face with a piece of luggage falling from the sky before I can even consider the idea of trusting them to that level again.

I think I get the point but I just can’t get with the program on a faint glimmer of possibilities.

The Day of the Executioners of Sekhmet 2015.

May 3, 2015.

One of the things that we need to take into consideration when we start celebrating holidays, besides what in the world the holiday is about, is also how much energy and intent you can put into the holiday. I have many holidays that pop up little notifications on my Google calendar, but I only celebrate about 10% of those holidays. I have more willingness and gusto to celebrate holidays associated with Sekhmet, of course, because that is part of our pact regarding our relationship. But there are often many celebrations that I would like to take part in or at least attempt to figure out what they could be about but due to spoon shortages, I end up watching them float by.

As anyone knows after reading my last post, I am currently going through a serious dearth of spoons. I am very lucky if I can get up the energy to get up in the morning and even more lucky if I do not fall asleep before 8PM. It has been a constant struggle for months to keep myself awake long enough to eat dinner, never mind the idea of researching and/or celebrating holidays. Weekend holidays are easier, of course, because I have less stress and more time. However less stress and more time doesn’t necessarily equate to more spoons – it just means that I can think longer and harder about whether or not I have the wherewithal to celebrate something.

I will be honest – I have had a severe push to observe (for the first time) the Feast of the Beautiful Reunion. Since that is going to be a two week long production (maybe), I have been saving my spoons. But I saw this holiday pop up on my calendar a few days ago and realized that I should probably do the thing. If nothing else, I could at least ponder what it could possibly mean to me.

The issue with this holiday is that, like Sekhmet’s Procession with her Executioners, I didn’t know who the executioners were supposed to symbolize. As with that holiday which I first celebrated last year, I had to think long and hard regarding who was going to do some processing. Last year, I thought about it from a number of different angles and ended up just assuming that it was a catch-all term that could represent followers of hers, the netjeri that do her bidding, the Seven Arrows, and possibly priests from antiquity.

I decided that, this time around, I was going to make it about me. As I said in my 2014 post about that holiday:

I tend to think of myself, and the other Sekhmet devotees, as executioners. In many instances, we turn to her out of a deep-seated need for removing harmful influences in our lives. … And what I’ve come back to is that she has always, always helped me out with “executing” the more negative aspects of myself, my practice, and my past. In every instance, whether she has been publicly and obviously assisting me with it or she has been maneuvering in the background, she has assisted me with this in one way or another.

Not to mention that self-care is important. I don’t make it a top tier priority, though I recognize that I should. The thing that caught up to me though was that there are plenty of national and secular holidays that are celebrated and there are numerous people throughout the country who use those holidays with the idea that they were going to relax. Well… why not this particular holiday for me, as a child of Sekhmet, as an executioner of Sekhmet?

I took it in turns.

I smited some isfet by putting all of the paperwork away. One may not think that official paperwork should or could be equated with isfet but it is in my household. I let the paperwork sit for a good few weeks on the table before I have the stamina to go through it. If I go through it too quickly, I have a panic attack and my anxiety starts acting up. So by putting that paperwork away, I was concluding that the important bits had been addressed and that everything else could be filed away for burningfuture reference.

I then sat for a very long time engrossed in my recent binge watching of Lost.

I execrated the hell out of the dust in the living room, the crumbs on my son’s floor, the weekly detritus on the kitchen table. The SO helped out by smiting the fuck out of the dirty dishes and then execrating the grocery shopping list. I finished it all with a rousing bitch slap to the dirty laundry, putting a sizable dent in the pile.

When you couch your usual weekly chores in terms like that, it almost sounds like you’re really making a difference, you know? I mean, I don’t know if equating the dust and laundry to something execratable would really work for someone else, but by putting myself in that mindset, I was more likely to want to find the spoons in order to achieve the goal. It was like by telling myself that this was for the good of the totality of all of creation, then it meant more than just me being a lazy sack of spoonless shit who couldn’t get up long enough to put a dirty bowl in the sink. (For reference, I do actually put the dirty bowls in the sink. In fact, there are many days where I’m almost positive that I am the only one in this house who can do that, but you get the point.)

We bleed stars onto the world And weep flames upon the universe

We bleed stars onto the world
And weep flames upon the universe

After yet more binge watching, I ended up cleaning of Sekhmet’s altar. This was about her executioner (me) so I might as well celebrate myself and her at the same time by cleaning everything up. I re-arranged the plate-bowlplace of truth, made sure that the stuffed animal representative of Maurice was in snuggling distance on the couch (one day, I may talk about this in depth but today is not that day), and then went about rearranging everything to my satisfaction. Sekhmet and I shared a nice little cup of vanilla Svedka mixed in with life blooddiet Coke and a huge fucking roll… that I used to make a ham sandwich on after. I kept the star confetti because it still has a large importance personally with regard to the things I have been going through as well as my personal practice as a whole. (No, this is not me finally admitting that Nut is around for keeps.)

I spent the few days leading up to this holiday wondering what I was going to do in order to celebrate it. I spend a lot of days, actually, when it comes to my holidays attempting to determine what the best course of action will be. I will admit that I never actually know until the day is upon me, though I do tend to have some ideas.

I don’t know if I did this recreated holiday any justice, but I can say that it was relaxing.

The Constellation of Rebirth.

I feel like I live in a world surrounded by my own bewilderment. (As someone pointed out to me recently, I clearly chose a very accurate blog name.) As bewildered as I am, I am also very tired, very worn out, and above all else, very much in the middle of a full blown arm flail.

I’m just really tired of it all.

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A few months ago, I started getting a lot of hits about rebirth. Personal divination aside, it seemed like the word was haunting my every move in both my waking life and my sleeping life. I suspect this related back to the river. I kind of figured the river would have something to do with going through a sort of transformation, so it wasn’t really a huge deal all things considered.

The thing about rebirth is that, usually, it’s warranted in my experience. It’s something that we, as human beings, have a need to go through periodically. It’s not quite a reset, so to speak, but more like an evolution. Maybe it’s like shedding skin, like snakes do. We’re still technically who we were before the process began but at the end of it all, we’re just a little bit newer, a little bit different than we were at the outset.

Looking at myself, I felt it was about time to shed some skin.

I started seeing a lot of star and galactic imagery on my dash after the river fiasco, but it wasn’t wholly shocking or anything. Stars seem to be a pretty big motif on Tumblr, but the thing was that it just seemed to come on a little too strongly. Like, blogs that wouldn’t normally reblog things of that nature were reblogging things of that nature. I created a series of snarky tags to keep track of the happenings. Around the same time, I began reading My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts in depth, with highlighter for all of the interesting bits and all.

The star imagery started to pick up and then, I got to the chapters about Nut in MHMM, which seemed to kind of coincide with the star imagery slowing down. Synchronicity and a keen awareness of such things made me aware of this; believing that seeing some star pictures on a computer screen doesn’t necessarily correlate with one’s religious life prevented me from doing anything about it.

Then the dreams began.

I am very in tune with my dreams. I know what a typical dream scape, for me, happens to be. I know that this is not the case for everyone, but it’s something that I worked very hard on over the years. As a teenager, I was very interested in dream interpretation, which is partially why I created such an in depth dream lexicon. It is based on this that I know when I am dreaming and when I am Dreaming. I was definitely Dreaming.

It started with a false door, which I seemed to believe would be an excellent addition to my akhu altar. After getting sucked through the false door and having to battle zombies (I don’t fucking know, man; you tell me), I re-thought that idea and have since jettisoned it into the sun. I have to say that I think it was going through the door that started all of this.

And it makes a lot of sense, though. Rebirth and transformation aside: you have to have a starting point. And as we know from ancient Egypt, false doors were a way to maintain a link between the gods and the deceased with the living on earth. It makes sense that everything would start at a door and even more sense that the beginning of my own rebirth cycle would be the very thing that was needed to maintain the link with the Duat. It makes a lot of sense, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I got sucked into Nut’s mouth. Her face was wrought in gold and her eyes were on mine. I watched as her mouth opened up and I got swallowed into the deep maw. I don’t remember much after that except that it was dark for a while. (No chewing; no halitosis; no tongue.) I woke up wondering what the hell that was supposed to symbolize…

But learned soon enough because MHMM ended up going, hour by hour, through the Book of Night. The book seems to indicate that I was at hour 2 and this is regarding the renewal of the body. After reading about the first hour, which I wonder if that correlates to either getting thrown into the river or going through a false door (with no idea specifically how it may relate, if at all), I have to admit that all of this sounds suspiciously like an act of renewal, regeneration, transformation, and rebirth.

Knowing what the plot is about is all well and good, but it didn’t really help to explain the goal beyond, “rebirth.”

Then I ate a heart.

Khaleesi jokes aside, this dream made me realize that something was really going on and I should probably pay attention. I was in a gold room with a red, velveteen curtain and I was sitting cross legged in front of it. There was a gold plate with a bloody heart in front of me. I looked blankly ahead and put it into my mouth. I ate the entire thing.

I’ve thought about whose heart it could have been – mine, the gods, some random stranger’s, etc – a million times but still no answers. I keep coming back to the part in MHMM prior to entering the Book of Night section when the author is discussing the Ancestor Ritual. There is a section of that ritual in which a bull’s heart is provided as an act of renewal and vitality. In that part of the ritual, the provided heart is given to Heru and it is through this ritual act that the son has truly become one with his father, taking on the epithet Bull-of-His-Mother to symbolize that he has taken the place of his father in all things.

Jokingly, I decided I had clearly been given the epithet Bull of His Mother. As far as epithets go, it’s not a really bad one, but it doesn’t really explain the point behind any of this. Well, to be honest, none of it really explains what the hell is happening.

Everything began to get hazy and disconnected. Everything was all pointing to rebirth but nothing was telling me what the point in the rebirth was; I was getting really frustrated.

I had dreams about Hetheru. I dreamed about the gold room with the red curtain, only this time someone in a shiny triple atef crown was there and I was kneeling in front of them. I dreamed about Heru-Wer and Sekhmet. But all of the dreams were disjointed and I knew that they had to get added to the “this is probably actually happening even if you are denying it all” list but that didn’t mean I was happy about it.

As if not understanding my dreams wasn’t bad enough, my divination attempts kept pointing back to the rebirth and transformation theme, but nothing was clear. I felt like I couldn’t trust a damn thing that I was reading.

What frustrated me the most, though, was that I couldn’t get a bullet pointed list of what to expect or what to do. My dreams were hazy and painful – everything ended up making me feel worse inside as though I was bleeding internally and no doctor could help me fix the destruction wrought on the inside.

It was like a 100-piece puzzle that I had only 20 pieces for and none of them were lining up. As if things weren’t already hellacious enough to me, my favorite band (Fall Out Boy) came out with a new CD that I was finally able to purchase. I began getting those sort of mysterious pings deep in my heart from various songs, things that make you sit up and notice.

I began to feel less like the snake that was shedding its skin and more like the husk it was shedding. I began to feel dried out and used up. I was/am always tired and always cranky and always freaked out that I’m making everything up. I feel as if I am on the verge of a catastrophic collapse, that moment when the bridge supports fail and everything goes crashing under the disinterested hand of gravity.

I feel more in tune with snake skin, the shed remnants of a life’s totality, than I do with anyone or anything around me.

And above all, I feel so very alone.

Constellations

I can feel the constellations like wounds upon the skin, bloody and raw. (Image by Annaheim Kreiter.)

I’ve looked back over and over again. The pinpricks of light are clear to me now and I can see the outline, the shape of the constellation that I am supposed to become. I think I understand to a point what has been happening but I couldn’t be sure.

I have moments of such intense emotional backlash from all of this, even though it doesn’t seem like much to an outsider. But that’s the thing: when you are being forced to change on a fundamental level, when the gods are pushing you to points well past your usual endurance, it doesn’t matter what the method or the mode of those pushes may appear to look like to an outsider. They still hurt the person that is going through them.

And I hurt.

Kemetic Round Table: Welcome to the New Deja Vu.

I’ve been trying to remember how long I’ve been doing this shtick and you know, I can’t honestly remember when I started being mystically bewildered. I think I started all of this bullshit about 6 years ago, but the memories from so long ago are hazy. I guess this is what happens when you have so much shit going on in your life: it’s hard to remember the exact details of what was happening half a decade (or more) ago. I guess it doesn’t matter because as far as it feels, I’ve been tap dancing to the same beat for an eternity.

Lost Lake

Sometimes, it seems so clear and other times, it seems lost in a fog bank. (Image by Ben Canales.)

Things have changed so much in the intervening years, I know that much. At times, I am both amazed and horrified by how things have turned out. It’s almost as if I had this sort of set plan for what I was hoping to achieve, which was less a plan and more of a vague arm wave in a general direction, and I have veered completely away from whatever that plan was supposed to be. And still at other times, I am very much relieved that I am not that wide-eyed, naive little shit. I have developed and redefined both myself and my relationships. I have an arsenal at my disposal – something that old me would have been whining about not having – and I am grateful for it.

But there are days, where I do indeed miss being the naive little shit.

Looking back down the fucking years, I think the question more appropriate here is how hasn’t my practice changed since I started all of this because everything has changed. I mean, I actually have a practice for fuck’s sake! I started this blog with a bunch of whining and sniveling about how I wanted to be like everybody else but didn’t know how to get there. I have things that I do regularly; I have prayers that I say to myself; I have an established dictionary of referenced and not-referenced UPG; I have books that I can go to for information; I have relationships with deities for shit’s sake. Sure there have been exciting additions and some sorrowful subtractions, but at the end of the day, my practice has changed so much that to actually discuss it with any fucking semblance of brevity would probably require about 20 years and a lot of generic arm flailing.

I do still whine about not having a manual. I think about half of my posts I’m commenting about having missed out on the sale of all of the HOW TO books that must be floating out there. I mean, for real, they have to exist because there are so many other bloggers out there who seem to have their collective shit together. And that’s something that hasn’t changed either: I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. I mean I have things and stuff that I do and I guess that could qualify as “looking” as if I have my collective shit together, but honestly, I end up whining and crying about not understanding what’s happening more often than not.

So, I guess that’s a win for constantly feeling like I’m at the tip top of a roller coaster, getting ready to zoom down at a million miles an hour.

The overwhelming thing that hasn’t changed though is that Sekhmet is still here. (Why?) She’s pushed me, pulled me, destroyed me, burned me to cinders, loved me, protected me, molded me anew, killed me, brought me back to life, slit my throat, sewn up the wounds, fucked with me, put up with my bullshit, let me cry, let me whine, made me fall in love with her, forced me into uncomfortable places, et cetera. She’s turned me into a pretzel of her own devising and it sucks.

There are so many days where I’m screaming inside, crying unshed tears, and demanding to know why the fuck I’m going through this, but at the end of the day, I am glad for it all. It’s changed me so much into the person who I am today. I can remember times where I didn’t like who I was at all and now, I can honestly say that while I may not “love” myself in the ways that those stupid trippy posters tell you that you should, I can honestly say that I respect myself. And I can’t in all honesty say if that would be the case if Sekhmet wasn’t around.

I never expected anything that’s come my way since I tentatively said to my friends (of the time), “I think Sekhmet is calling and I think she has been for a very long time.” I thought that once I entered into that relationship then I was halfway to finding a solid path. I honestly believed that by finally admitting that this was a thing then I would end up with, like, some idea of what was going to come next. Or maybe I just assumed that the alpha and omega was Sekhmet. And you know, that is actually true but there’s so much more to everything I do – the relationships, the daily offerings, the whining, the initiations, the services, the ranting, etc – than just she being the beginning, middle, and the end. But now I have whole books’ worth of UPG just regarding our relationship, never mind anything else.

♥ For The Love Of Candy!!!! ♥


She gave me the candy and I got into the van. (Image by stoopidgerl.)

Honestly, if someone new were to look at this entry and wonder what it was that they could learn from me, I would honestly have to say that they shouldn’t go into this with the idea that they’ll end up having a practice that looks like someone else’s. If they do and things don’t work out the way that they expect them to, then they’re going to be disappointed with the whole experience. I went into this whole thing with a sort of panicked wide-eyed gleam and no real idea about what the hell I was doing. It was only after I entered down this road and began networking that I got the idea that I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t meet up to some invisible standard I was holding myself to which caused a lot of issues between Sekhmet and I. I laugh about it now but I have to say, holding myself to everyone else’s ideas of what a path should be like fucked with me and fucked with my relationship. So don’t do that.

And you know, it’s okay to be scared of what’s going on.

And don’t get upset if your UPG doesn’t quite match up with anyone else’s.

And don’t think that there is one true way here because we’re all individuals with individual relationships and individual preferences.

And don’t think that there’s a moment in time where you’ll be able to say, “I’ve done it; I’ve learned everything.” There will always be something new and exciting and terrifying on the horizon waiting for you.

And don’t worry that you’re doing something wrong because you don’t have a godphone or you don’t have UPG or you can’t astral or the gods don’t come down as beings of white light to give you dreams or whatever. That’s okay. Not everyone’s cut from the same cloth and so too our relationships with our gods.

And don’t hesitate to tell people that they can have fun when they’re doing the serious rituals and stuff. And don’t forget to remind yourself of that.

And don’t think that Egyptological books are the start and finish of everything.

And if you love your fucking gods, then you fucking love your gods.

And if shit comes at you from left field, you are perfectly entitled to scream and run away.

And if you’re so fucking pissed at your gods that you hate them, then by golly you fucking hate them.

And if you don’t have a strong emotion either way but this is a job to you, then you rock at that job of yours.

And like kick ass and take some fucking names.

The River: Broken Pottery.

We descend upon the darkness and my breath is robbed. Before us, there is infinite blackness. It is inky and violent, soft and tender. The aching sweetness mingled with the heart-stopping fear is too much. I can feel a part of my shattering into the night and I am lost. I was lost the moment we came here, but he knew that would be the case. Without breath, without more than an instinctual need to move, I step forward. My steps are sure though I can see little beyond the brilliant pinpricks of star dust above us. It shimmers in my eyes and lights my veins on fire. The only way to make it quiet is to step ever forward into the gentle riverine whispers before me. I must quiet the storm in my body.

Weeks ago now, I began dreaming about Osiris. I was not pleased upon waking from that first dream to find imagery of that green-faced man in my head. I complained and whined about it. This was my fault, though, if the dreams had even a modicum of truth. I had decided it would be a good idea to break into Big O’s palace with some foolish intent on finding TTR, one of the few people whom I would like to meet in the unseen. My plan backfired, of course, because I was caught breaking and entering. I spent a few days having a staring contest with Big O, which seemed to only cause me more consternation. What the fuck had dream-me even been thinking?

A few days afterward, he brought me into the bowels of his palace. We passed through a door and into a landscape that I feel I have described poorly. The starkness of that landscape causes chills up and down my body. Just remembering the black sand beach, the barren rocks, and the scrub grass in shades of charcoal, brings me back to that moment. Before the two of us was a single swath of water, quiet in the stillness of this place. While my poetic endeavors would have people believe that I willingly and quietly went forward into this moment, anyone who actually knows me will understand that I was neither.

I was actually pretty pissed and made my feelings on the matter quite clear. I chose this moment for brashness but that was mostly because of my fear. Of course, I had read about a similar scene playing out so I knew what was coming and I knew what the end result would probably be. I also knew that I could go into the water willingly or I would get tossed in with a little less ceremony, a lot more hilarity (not mine, of course), and a lot more anger and sputtering (mine, of course).

I chose to do what I had been brought there to do willingly, but that hardly means that I was pleased with the overall idea.

With probing fingers, the darkness pushes me ever forward. I feel as though there is no choice in the moment, as though my will has been robbed of me. In a matter of course, it has been, but I also know that it will always come down to this. Eternity is a long time to play this game of cat and mouse; I am too tired to keep playing. The whispers of that river call out into my soul, whipping the storms in my veins into a frenzy. I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to yell. I want to not drown again. My fear is all around me, beating at my body like a bird’s wings but its intent is nothing more than harm and horror. I relive the moments of my death, that painful frightening death, as the water sucks greedily at my toes and feet. I don’t want to die.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t die.

Sometimes breaking something, even though it seems like the worst thing in the world, can be to our benefit. It’s a matter of discovering that benefit later. (Image by Joanna Bourne.)

I went down deep and let the water quiet the wildness within my veins. It seems to poke and prod at every hidden portion of myself, not just my physical body but the metaphysical body that houses the pieces of my soul. Water can be both healing and destructive, but healing and destruction can go hand-in-hand. Though the touch of the water was gentle in a way that I can’t fully describe, the end result I have to admit is that I came out of there broken.

Broken-er?

More broken?

I went in with my ib relatively intact. It was taped up, glued up, shot to hell with the mistakes of its fixing covered in white-wash. But the truth of the matter is that it was a mess. It wasn’t anything to be proud of. The river’s focus was to point that out to me.

As I lay in that water for what felt like an eternity, I ended up realizing that it was removing bits and pieces that had been added from other portions of myself, pieces of myself that had to be removed, cleaned, and destroyed in order to heal it. The removal of those pieces left me fractured and raging. I had been trying to build a tower out of pieces that didn’t actually fit together without any instructions. And now, I was being informed that I had to start all over.

It seems rather unfair.

I crawl from that watery embrace, coughing out the destruction in spades. The fire within my veins, the storm within my soul has softened its touch; it is a tender rain upon my insides. I fall onto my face and cry for it all. The destruction that had raged within my body had been destroyed or at least quieted. I could feel the tender bits of my heart quaking as it felt for the first time in centuries. I roll over and stare up at the brilliance of diamonds in the sky, wondering if it is possible to join them now. Though death has not taken me and I am nowhere near ready to be changed into stardust and memory sparkle, I am too defeated to do more than breathe.

I’m left wondering if I had a map to all of this and I somehow left it in my other pants. Or if not a map, then maybe I could get some form of instructions on where I’m supposed to go with this progression. I’ve been informed, more than once, that Big O speaks in wing dings though. This particular moment seems to more than qualify for that. Even looking at others’ experiences with their personal rivers and looking to the bits and pieces that I know about Big O, I keep coming back to that moment when the fire in my blood stirred to a boil before the heat was lowered to a simmer. I can remember feeling it as it lessened until I was left cold, alone, and gasping for breath. Everything points to a moment of rebirth.

The cost of rebirth is pretty high and no one asked if I was willing to pay the toll. I should be a little used to this turn of events; I seem to rarely get asked if I’m willing to pay for what’s being done. The problem with rebirth is that it means a bit of you – large bits or small bits – have to die. Death is a part of living; living is a part of dying. What I always expected was that death was a little more black-and-white, even though I constantly go on about shades of gray and even though I know consciously that this perception isn’t true. I thought death was the finality, not the beginning of eternity. This was just another way to die, if only a little calmer and maybe a little more relaxing than other ways.

The thing is that even though I’ve paid parts of the debt that the process has demanded, I don’t know if I can finish the payment plan. I’m being asked to craft my ib from start to finish. The parts that were removed were for me benefit, for the good of the entirety of me. This is about bigger picture, but the bigger picture isn’t community, isn’t interpersonal deity relationships, isn’t friendships, isn’t romances, but is about me. I was important enough as I blazed a trail of fire and brimstone behind me to be stopped, to be taken aside, and to be forced to look at the fact that what I had been doing to craft a representative ib was insufficient. Now I have to build a new one from scratch, using tried and tested pieces that haven’t been destroyed by my own inability.

The thing is… these hands look awfully weak to undertake such a task.

My demise was granted yesterday, I have returned today, I have gone forth in my own shape; I am tousled…; I am disheveled, having gone forth…– excerpts from Spell 179, The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I think that if I keep telling myself what the end game is, then maybe I’ll be able to get through it. I tell myself, “I want to shine and sparkle, I want to roar with my power, and I want everyone to know who I am and not the person that they think I am supposed to be.” But I have to admit that there are some serious side effects to dying, even if it is only a little death. I haven’t quite mastered the side effects and I honestly don’t know if I care to try. I keep trying to point out why this is important, why I need to get going, and why it’s something that I need to do, but I’ll be honest: the gray cloud of my existence is kind of addicting. I’m not sure if I really want to remove myself from it at all.

But the real problem, the larger issue out of all of this is that I just don’t know how to build the ib, the soul, the person into reality and not the ephemeral dreams of smoke and mirrors. Without instructions or an idea, I don’t know if it’s even worth starting all that hard work.

Kemetic Round Table: But Why?

As a kid, I attended a Methodist church and I can remember sitting beside my mother during the [boring] sermon on more than a handful of occasions. If I wasn’t busy trying to play hang man by myself or staring up at the architecture (it was that church, to be honest, that made me appreciate Gothic architecture as that was what it was modeled after when built), I was so busy trying to figure out what was so special about the person in the pulpit that gave them the ability to shepherd my soul and my faith onto its path to redeem the inherent sinner that I, as a Methodist, clearly was.

I got that the person in question went to specialty school and had been indoctrinated in all the things that were required in order to perform rituals and services under the teachings and dogma of the Methodist church. And I understood that the role of that minister was to take my hand (so to speak) and guide me on my path in my relationship with Jesus, the Holy Ghost, and God. But I couldn’t really figure out why I needed that person over there, pulpit or not, ritual officiant or not, to guide me. I constantly had to ask myself, but why?

While sitting at the front of the church with the other acolytes, admiring the really ornate altar that I got to light and put out the candles for, I still wondered. I went to Sunday school and when I wasn’t dawdling on my millionth bathroom break back into church, I was always trying to figure out why there had to any person between me and my relationship with God. Didn’t I have the ability to pray just as well as the priest? Was there something in the induction from any ole human to priest type human that made their prayers, on my behalf, that much more clear? Or was it all just a bunch of hype?

It doesn’t matter what answers, if any, that I may have come up with. I’ll be honest, I can’t think of any damn things that I came up with to explain why the person in the pulpit, who wore the garments ascribed to our sect, had the right and the wherewithal to shepherd my soul. I kept coming back down to the fundamental question of: but why? Maybe that makes me a bit of a troublemaker or maybe I missed something in Sunday school that I should have paid attention to. Whatever the case may be, I had nothing but the ongoing ramble of but why why why why why? in my head enough times to seriously side eye the whole fucking concept.

Frankly, changing my faith from monotheistic to polytheistic hasn’t really stopped the whole, but why?

I started looking up things about the ancient Egyptian priesthood a few years ago when I got a card reading that was kind of like, “hahaha, you’re going to be a priest!” And I just about flipped my shit and sulked about it for a while. I knew a sum total of this about the priesthood in ancient Egypt: (a) they were everywhere, (b) they got up really early, (c) there was some ritual purity standards or something, and (d) they stood in for the pharaoh for everything who was the Big Cheese as far as the religion was concerned. So, realizing that if this was going to end up happening, I decided I should look a little further beyond what I knew.

And I found out a lot things about the priesthood and none of them were even remotely what I had come to believe a priest was for. I was coming at this point-of-view, of course, from the Christian faith I was raised in. I was informed that the minister was supposed to be a sort of intermediary of sorts between myself and my relationship to God. The minister officiated at really important rituals like baptism, marriage, and communion. These are things that they did for the parishioners. Again, in my limited information regarding what I had figured out over the years, it was this shepherd thing (something hearkening back to Jesus’ image of the Good Shepherd, iirc) that the priests and ministers and whatnot were supposed to do.

That was so not even the case in ancient Egypt.

The entire point in the priesthood in ancient Egypt was to serve the gods in whatever capacity that particular priest had been hired for (or bribed to get the position for). There were numerous priests within the priesthood hierarchy – not just one guy at the top of a pulpit, preaching on about whatever the case may be. The priests who maintained the temples and completed the rituals did so on behalf of the gods that the temples were for and to maintain ma’at by providing for those gods – not to shepherd the laity on their bumbling path with their faith and offer them spiritual guidance on how to proceed. While they did complete things on behalf of the laity, such as writing things, providing healing, and/or interpreting dreams, this was only if the person had paid for those services. As far as I could discern, it seemed like how the temples’ functionaries (the priests) worked with the laity was minimal.

Another thing to consider was that since the duties of the priests were twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, there were no breaks. They did not stop and take a week vacation from their job. They had four months of doing the job and then they were off the rotation to do whatever it was their personal lives required of them. But when they were in rotation, the outside world was immaterial to the duties that they had to perform on behalf of the temple and the gods. The priests I grew up with only were around for Sunday services and the Methodist specific rituals, which in my experience tended to take place on Sundays.

Even remotely looking at the ancient Egyptian priesthood with the perspective of someone born and raised within the Methodist church was hard to handle. It was like two polar opposites had crashed head-on in my brain and I honestly couldn’t even begin to reconcile it. And that was kind of when I realized that viewing the priesthood from a Christian heavy perspective was probably not a good idea.

So, I tried to view it from a modern-day Kemetic perspective and had to admit that the nagging question come back in spades: but why?

In order for a priesthood to exist in any context akin to what had been established in antiquity, there would have to be an established temple. And frankly, I haven’t joined any of the established temples because I don’t want a theocracy regarding my religion, which would need to be the case in order for it to bear any resemblance to antiquity. I don’t want someone from on high – like the people in the pulpit – to tell me what my function was. I wouldn’t want someone to give me a position, which I may not feel suited my abilities or my personal desires for what I wanted my personal relationship with my gods to look like, and have to turn it into, well, a job. That seems like such a terrible idea on so many different levels.

If I remove the idea of an established temple and all of the possible hazards and pitfalls that could occur with an established temple, I have to admit that the nagging question of but why comes up louder and louder. If there is no temple, why in the world would a priesthood be needed? I mean, after all, isn’t that what most of the solitaries are doing?

Think about it:

They’re maintaining their relationships with the gods, seeing that the gods are pleased with offerings and any rituals they feel like doing, and doing their damned best to both live in and maintain ma’at. From that perspective, it kind of looks like those of us who fall under the “solitary Kemetic” persuasion may already be what the ancient Egyptian priesthood was… without all of the in-fighting, politics, full-time work, and bribery.

If looked in that particular way, then technically, all of us are our own priests… so then what’s all the hype about?

How often do I see people going on about priesthood like it’s the top echelon of super religious achievement? I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen people just spout on and on about how great the whole idea of a priesthood totally would be if only we could do X, Y, Z. Well, I hate to break it to all the “ra ra priest” cheerleaders out there, but it’s kind of already in existence from a solitary perspective. And many of us don’t even want to look at the fucking word priest, much less, use it in any context to describe what we’re going. The word has some serious baggage; it’s a dirty word; it’s blown up and blown out of proportion; and did I mention the baggage?

To be perfectly frank, I’m kind of tired of people looking at the whole priesthood thing like it’s something that we should all strive for. Let’s not forget that the priesthood of antiquity was a hierarchy from scribes to prophets, from high priests to cooks in the kitchen. By stating that “priesthood” is the be-all, end-all, we are definitively stating that we need to create strata within our community. And by so doing, we could quite easily make it seem like there is a clique for the haves and an exclusionary circle around the have nots, which should not be the case for a religion that is as community centric as ours. Besides, we see how destructive such things can be within the wider Tumblr pagan community – the constant battle cry of “speshul snowflake” – so why the fuck are we going to invite the conflagration to our party before we really have gotten our feet under us?

I think the more important thing is focusing on the personal path that we are all walking on and how it relates to us as human beings and how it relates to the gods to whom we cultivate these relationships for. Priesthood was a many splendored pain in the ass in antiquity from what I’ve read and frankly, I don’t want to be associated with it… even though I am, for all intents and purposes, doing precisely what the ancient priests did in my position… only without the conniving and bribing of other people (I’ll totally bribe and connive with my gods though).

I truly believe that people who push this idea that priesthood should be or will be the highest point that one can aim for on their path is detrimental to the fomenting of the individual paths we all walk down. I think that it leaves a lot of people feeling inadequate, people who may be frightened of the term priest or who may look askance and distrustful of the terminology priesthood. The focus on a religion that is so widespread and predominantly made up of solitary practitioners should be less on something that requires a temple to work properly and should be more focused on boat paddling, community, and what each individual needs from both in order to establish themselves on their path.

So if the whole point in the ancient Egyptian priesthood was to do what each modern person building a personal relationship with their gods is already doing (in whatever context that particular relationship requires or ends up becoming), then I go right back to point A, which is the question, but why?

Maybe if there was a temple that had more of a “it’s okay to be laity” point-of-view and less of a “the priesthood are super awesome” mentality, I could answer that question. In the mean time, I shy away from the word even if I really am doing the job of a priest and I continue to think that at this stage, modern priesthood really just isn’t important.

Further Reading

  1. TTR’s WP Clergy Tag
  2. TTR’s Tumblr Priesthood Tag

Sekhmet-Min.

Typically, when it comes to Sekhmet, there isn’t too much discussion going on. It’s not that people don’t want to discuss her, but I think that since there doesn’t seem to be much mythology outside of the Destruction of Mankind myth, people don’t seem interested in engaging. This upsets me a bit because I have a lot of thoughts regarding Sekhmet (of course) and I want to talk about it. I have a project planned for this year about her various aspects that I’ve come into contact with, but before I get started on that, I think I need to talk about the syncretism of Sekhmet-Min.

Now, anyone who hasn’t been following me on Tumblr or seen my comments about it on my personal Facebook may not be aware of this. And that actually makes sense because it doesn’t seem as though this particular syncretism bares more than a footnote or three in the books. Another reason it’s not so common knowledge is because there appears to be a large debate within the Egyptological community with regard to whether a Sekhmet and Min syncretism even existed.

Let me give you some background before I start talking about how I see and feel regarding this.

This all started, actually, when I found this post and was like, “what the hell is this?” The Tumblr user, intaier, posted another version of this image and tagged me in it so I could see the image more clearly as the original post had cropped out something important: the phallus. I took to Google, of course, to try and figure out what was happening because I couldn’t understand the lack of second arm and I had never seen Sekhmet with a phallus before. It was through Devo and another Tumblr user that I was made aware that imagery depicted thus is usually related to Min in some way. And of course, I found multiple images on Flickr which named this image as “Sekhmet-Min.”

I was completely floored. I had never heard of this syncretism before and I wanted to know more. Google searches for “Sekhmet-Min” came up with nothing besides those Flickr accounts, though. In my off time, I began looking for “ithyphallic Sekhmet.” I found two blog posts on LJ (here and here), which seemed to indicate the images were Mut. However, I found a few books through Google that mention ithyphallic Sekhmet. I decided to leave it alone for a while so I could mull this all over.

I also looked briefly into Min and found this quote: “While earlier generations of scholars inferred from Min’s erect penis that his principal function was fertility, it has recently been argued that Min’s upraised arm and erect penis are, in fact, both manifestations of his protective function, a form of display known as ‘phallic intimidation’ (Ogdon 1985).” All very interesting but I didn’t have anything definitive. While I mulled on it, I began to recognize that it would make a certain kind of sense for Sekhmet to have been syncretized with Min. But I left it at that because I didn’t really understand why it seemed “right” to me to have this syncretism.

A few days later, intaier posted this image where she clearly designates it as Mut. I came back and was like, “No, no. This was the Sekhmet-Min we talked about a few days ago.” And since then, things have rather degenerated. I wouldn’t call it a debate or anything because it’s not actually a debate.

However, people have weighed in with their opinions that the Egyptologists know what they’re talking about so if they call the image Mut, then so be it. I came back with evidence of Egyptologists who had named the syncretism as Sekhmet-Min. Based on my brief Twitter back and forth with Tamara (of KO fame), it would seem that there is no popular consensus within the Egyptological community on the status of these ithyphallic leonine deities. I left it alone until I was tagged again in another picture of the ithyphallic leonine deity, which seemed to indicate (again) that this was a “unique” representation of Mut (based on a quote from Te Velde in Mut and Other Ancient Egyptian Goddesses that intaier provided).

By this time, I was kind of tired of the conversation. I will admit that I am still very tired of the conversation, but I feel the need to put everything in a single place.

And Egyptologists like Budge used to think this way… and look where they’ve ended up.

It feels to me that we’re getting stuck on the prospect that this ithyphallic image is Mut because a bunch of people who may be wrong (because let’s face it, there’s always the possibility of discovering something new that will force Egyptologists to reevaluate their knowledge) said so. And while I definitely tell people that those sources are pretty fucking good to have, I also don’t want us to get stuck in a particular mindset when there is still, clearly, a lot of things that we simply don’t know.

To be perfectly frank, I honestly feel like my thoughts on the subject are being completely ignored in the face of statements made by Egyptologists. I think we’re falling into some mistaken belief that what the Egyptologists say on any given matter is holy writ and that’s something that we definitely need to steer clear from, especially as it pertains to our personal relationships with the gods. “But, Sat,” someone will say, “that’s blasphemy to the historically informed!”

But is it?

How many times have either I or TTR gone off about how Budge should not be used or cited as a resource? His translations have been proved to be inaccurate; he wrote entirely through the lens of a conservative Protestantism in order to garner more funds; he ignored his German contemporaries’ advances in the field; etc. As a resource, he is persona non grata.

Egyptology has come a long way, but there are still issues within the Egyptological community. While reading the problematically titled book, Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts, Jeremy Naydler highlights many of these issues. For the most part, the author goes on and on for many, many pages about how the Egyptological community seems hell-bent on maintaining the belief that the ancient Egyptians were a “practical” people, denying any possibility of mysticism within their religious realm, in a seeming need to distance themselves as much as humanly possible from the poor pseudoscience that infiltrated Egyptological circles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

All well and good – let’s absolutely distance ourselves from malarkey. But from a Kemetic standpoint, this leaves the resources we value so highly devoid of feeling and devoid of what I would like to see: a representation of my religion as it was when it was lived and breathed in its heyday.

But let’s look at this argument as logically as possible.

Let’s start off with the two images’ locations (I’m sorry, but I cannot find the image from the Hibis Temple so I cannot, in all honesty say, how closely related the images are).

Ramsses III censing before a form of Sekhmet-Min

“Image by Hannah Pethen, via Flickr”

The first image we have is the unnamed deity in the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak. Based on my research, this image appears to have been commissioned for Ramesses IV during the New Kingdom. (Based off of this website; translation will be needed.) This would lead me to suspect that the imagery used is Mut, who rose to prominence as the consort of Amun-Re at the spiritual capital of the country, Thebes, during this time period. The fact that the image is found in a temple dedicated to Khonsu, the son of Mut and her consort, Amun-Re, would also lead anyone worth their weight to believe that this is Mut.

However, it is during this period that we see Mut absorbing and usurping aspects of well-known and well-established leonine deities, specifically in this case, Sekhmet. The syncretism makes a lot of sense from various different points of view, but to look at it based on these quotes I think will better assist us here.

The first quote discusses how it was the first name in the syncretism that provided the deity with a physical form to inhabit but it was the secondary name that indicates who the deity actually is supposed to be. The second quote discusses how the gods had limitations and, in order to breach those limitations, syncretism was necessary. Looking at these statements together with regarding to the syncretism of Sekhmet-Mut, we see that the bodily form is that of Sekhmet, I.E. a lioness, where it is the motherly aspect of Mut that provides the power.

The reason I mention this is because prior to Mut’s syncretism of Sekhmet, her bodily form was that of a human woman wearing the double crown and/or the vulture headdress. We see many images of Mut in this way, but it is only when she comes into contact with Sekhmet (and Bast, evidently, according to my research) that we see her as a lioness. This particularly syncretism seems to have been of particular importance during the time that the Khonsu temple image was commissioned…

And that leads me to suspect that it may not specifically be Sekhmet who is syncretized with Min here, but it is a sort of conglomerate Sekhmet-Mut mixed with Min. Taking the leonine features of the face mixed with the bodily form of Min, we have two deities known for protective functions (“…it has recently been argued that Min’s upraised arm and erect penis are, in fact, both manifestations of his protective function…” as quoted fully above) merged into a unified composite. If we add Mut into the mix here, it’s only to denote that she has protective features and as the mother of Khonsu… who has every right to be in a temple dedicated to her son.

But again, in looking at the image, I don’t see anything that would herald that this is Mut in any way. Just because the two had a syncretism doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that Sekhmet may have become of import within the temple precincts in her own right. Based on my understanding of syncretism as indicated by the two quotes linked to above, I have to wonder if we’re missing integral information (clearly, we are) regarding this syncretism and how Sekhmet came to play a role within the cult worship of Mut.

Now let’s look at the Hibis Temple. This temple was built in the Late Period by the Persian pharaohs. By this time, the flower of the religious institutions that we see so well in the earlier periods had reached heyday status. Based on my brief look into this temple, it was built for the purpose of honoring the Theban Triad. This would explain why the ithyphallic leonine deity is clearly designated as Mut-A’at or Mut the Great.

However, this doesn’t actually negate the possibility that this image is, as with my thoughts on the Karnak temple above, Sekhmet. As Pinch states in Egyptian Mythology: “From the New Kingdom onward, Sekhmet was mainly thought of as the aggressive aspect of greater goddesses: first of Hathor, then of Mut, and finally of Isis.” (Bolding mine.) My point being that Sekhmet had stopped, in a manner of speaking, being a goddess in her own right and was seen as merely a part of –insert goddess here–. (What a terrible idea!)

While I don’t know what functions she may have served in her own right by that point, this only seems to indicate that the leonine deities seen at both the Khonsu Temple and the Hibis Temple are, in fact, linked (heavily) to Sekhmet. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any images available online of the ithyphallic deity known as Mut-A’at, but if it bears any resemblance to the image at Karnak, then I have to assert that – as based on my arguments above regarding syncretism and how I see it – that, named otherwise or not at all, this is Sekhmet-Min.

Seeing that my opinion on the subject has been ignored and any points I may have made also have been ignored, I’m going to finish this off with a few further thoughts.

My issue with the ongoing “debate” is that it takes away from the point behind the images. Syncretism is all about inferring powers from one deity to another, a deity who does not have the abilities they require in order to complete a function. Sekhmet is a powerful and protective deity, but Min’s associations seem primarily with regard to fertility… or at least, some of his functions are about that. If we are basing this syncretism on the idea of fertility and creation, then I think it means that Sekhmet, and therefore Mut, had self-creation aspects that we need to look into.

It was this aspect that Ramesses IV was incensing and libating on the Karnak wall. It wasn’t Sekhmet by herself. It wasn’t Mut by herself. It was an ithyphallic representation of Sekhmet (and therefore, Mut, as based on the wonkiness of syncretism especially from that time period) that he was standing before. It was something about this syncretism that he felt the need to honor. Why? What is it about this particular syncretism that required that it be placed on the temple wall? Was it because he wanted to be able to self-create and was hoping that they would give him this ability? Was it just to make people, down the road, question what the fuck is happening in this scene? Was it some ancient scribe’s joke to the modern world, “haha, fuckers; good luck figuring out what this is about” and we’re all taken in by it?

These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves as devotees of Sekhmet. Why in the fuck did this representation end up on the wall? But more importantly, how does it impact us? We should stop worrying in some respects about what the scholars say and worry more about what our religion tells us. I fully plan on exploring how this impacts me and my relationship with Sekhmet (if at all) in the future and I invited everyone who has a relationship with her to do the same.