Festival of the Beautiful Reunion: Garden Edition.

Gardening is not my forté. I’ve had experiments throughout the years that have ended in catastrophic failure. The grass patch for animals to eat. The seedlings that sprouted in the middle of the planter, never popping up, and when I moved them to the top of the planter, they died. The paperwhites for Osiris from the Osiris Mysteries last year. The unknown green leafy plants in skull planters that I didn’t water for 6 months and then over watered them. I just. I think it’s safe to say that I am a garden’s or plant’s worst nightmare.

I had all manner of excuses about why I didn’t do well with gardening. I lived in a place without much sunlight. I’d do better with outside plants. I mean, I’ve said so many very reasonable excuses about why I sucked at this. But the truth is… I planted morning glories with my mom once at twelve and swore off gardening because it was dirty and bugs are outside. I liked the results but the work was gross and hard and nope. Not going to do it.

So, when Osiris pinged me last year to grow something as a sort of experiment for the Mysteries, I laughed. But this wasn’t a suggestion; it was a demand. And since it was winter, I had to try the indoor garden experiment that failed in epic fashion. (I got no blooms and they all fell over by Christmas to turn to brown tendrils sadly peering at me from my porch where I had banished the failed experiment for its failure.) He didn’t hold the failure against me, but told me to learn from the mistake.

I suppose I learned from the mistake because I took it into my head after reading about renewing the earth as part of the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion to plant some shit. But what shit? Flowers? Vegetables? My ego? There were so many options and they were all really good options but how the hell do I choose what to plant? My mother-in-law’s greenhouse chose for me, leaving the hard decision to the whimsy of fate after her plants spent two months in a greenhouse without water during quarantine (and life stuff).

I wound up with five lavender plants as she knew I have wanted lavender for years (thanks, Practical Magic). I got five columbine plants because she knew I was pretty interested in having native plants in my yard after a rabbit hole of Google brought me to garden websites advocating the planting of native plants. And then she grabbed whatever she could for vegetables and herbs: oregano, brandywine (tomatoes?), basil, citronella, peppers, cukes, zucchini, squash, and peas. I have a giant shrub in a bucket now too out front that I don’t know what it is.

My mother-in-law dropped off the planters and a giant bag of dirt, as well as some bird seed on Sunday. We traipsed around the yard to coo about how well my husband had done killing the hell out of the poison ivy everywhere last summer. (Fun fact: poison ivy can be a vine or a shrub or random little twigs popping up and we have all of them in the yard.) We also discussed the bittersweet choking the life out of one of my bog trees and found a vine of poison ivy hiding under the bittersweet. (We also weeded a giant vine of bittersweet trying to take root on our chimney.)

And then, I was alone… with the plants.

I stared at everything, planning which plants would go in which planters, but I didn’t know where to begin. Did I put dirt in all of the planters first and then put the plants in? Did I go one planter at a time? How did I properly mix the planter mix in with water to get it to the right consistency? I had so many questions and didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

This is where my husband comes in. He knows enough plant stuff, having helped his mom at school and at home often enough. He sat there watching and chatting with me while I asked seemingly silly questions before planting the cucumbers and peas first. After the first planter was done, I was muddy and dirty but kind of exhilarated because I had done all that shit. I wiped my hands off on my jeans and forged ahead with the rest of the plants.

My little victories pleased my husband as he taught me the best places to plant the plants and while I chatted up the things I had Googled in a panic, realizing that now was the time to get serious about gardening. At one point, I got mud in my hair as I was stooped over a planter, mindlessly mixing the dirt with water. (My hair is long enough to sit on if I’m not careful.) Unbeknownst to me, he was taking progress pictures and sending them to his mother as I let my thoughts roam as I mixed and planted and bothered him with my questions.

When I had become a mud-covered mess with planters filled with plants, I looked back at the handiwork. I could admit that, once I got into the swing of it, this had been a pretty calming experience. And the fact that I had dug into a bag of dirt instead of the ground meant that I didn’t come across some terrifying creature from another dimension. Er, bug.

We tried to plant the columbine into a nice partial shady spot, but the ground is hard packed there. The previous owners had tried to plant tulips and iris there only for them to fail because it was too shady. The perfect place for columbine though. Sadly, planting them in the ground requires a shovel (no, we don’t own one), so I’m thinking I’m going to put them in planters instead. And that way, the chipmunks can stop using them for their backyard parkour.

The lavender had to be planted out front as it gets the most sun everyday. The front resembles a garden experiment that isn’t horrible but clearly, the old owners just plunked the same type of plants the neighbors use in whatever place they saw fit. They also used burlap to line the ground, which proved impossible for me to break into. The husband handled the lavender planting since my weak ass couldn’t even dent the shit.

The lavender is in temporary housing. My mother-in-law have been tossing ideas at one another about how to completely redo the front space and where to move the things I want to keep. That won’t happen until this fall though when life stuff stops being so difficult for everyone. But at least we have a plan.

So far, this experiment appears to be going well. The only semi-casualty is the basil that a baby bunny thinks is the most delightful treat. I think I need to invest in a table or a planter holder of some kind for the plants in smaller planters.

While I was mixing the dirt for my planters, I thought about renewing the earth and what this could conceivably look like for me. TTR had reminded me of a Tumblr post they had made some time back about the exudations of Osiris when I asked them what they thought of when they heard the words “renewal of the earth”. After re-reading the post, it made me wonder what Hathor does to ensure this renewal.

While researching (so. much. research.) for the ritual I was to write for this, I found the following highlighted by me at some unknown past moment in Hathor Rising by Alison Roberts: “Renewal through Hathor only comes about by surrendering, letting go and moving to her rhythms.” This is borne out over and over again as her fertility and rebirth associations are oft intertwined in a sort of midwife association and as anyone who has given birth can attest, you must let go and surrender to the rhythms of the process.

It is also through the vitality of Hathor that the renewal process is begun. The world cannot survive without her vitality and vigor. Without her energy, even the gods are unable to function properly. She gives to them, as they give to her, and this reciprocity allows for the world to continue anew every day, every month, every year.

As I read and re-read that highlighted quote from Hathor Rising, a sort of YOLO state of mind came over me. I had been worried that I would mess up these rituals with foolish words and mistaken content. I was working so hard to make all of it look, well, legitimate. As if what I was writing was something that could have come straight from the temple precincts of ancient Egypt. I had written, re-written, screamed, thrown books, and written again everything before this YOLO idea came to me.

What I’ve created may not necessarily be what the priests would have said and done in AE, but I already proved with my calendar of events that this recreation process doesn’t always have to exactly replicate what was done in antiquity.

So, YOLO, y’all. YOLO.

Festival of the Beautiful Reunion 2020.

According to Barbara Watterson in The House of Horus at Edfu, the Dendera preparations for the Beautiful Reunion began two weeks before the New Moon in the third month of Summer. Ceremonies were conducted and Hathor was carried out of her temple to begin her two week journey to Edfu. Installed in her barque by the priests, she would be towed on the river and thus the Reunion begins.

In Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess by Lesley Jackson, she details a four-day journey from Dendera to Edfu. The barque of Hathor, named Mistress of Love, bids farewell to her home and sales to Edfu, making stops at three different temple precincts along the way before she meets with our Horus of Edfu at Wesetjet-Hor on the fourth day. The shortened length of the journey makes more sense since Edfu and Dendera are only a little more than 100 miles apart.

The discrepancies in timelines makes sense if you’ve read The Ancient Egyptian Daybook by Tamara Suida. She highlights the differences in timelines in her blurb on the Beautiful Reunion. For those following the Edfu calendar, the trip from Dendera to Edfu takes about 13/14 days. For those following along with the Dendera calendar, the trip takes 4 days.

I came into contact with the 4-day journey calendar from Dendera long before I found references of a longer journey in the Edfu calendar, which is why I follow a 4-day sail-a-thon. But when we are recreating and celebrating this holiday, the length of the journey matters not at all. The focus should be on the purpose of the reunion – the celebration and reunion of two lovers separated each year, the fertility of the harvests, and the sacred marriage that makes those harvests fertile – and not the length of the recreated trip down our imagined Niles.

I start preparing myself and my home for this particular festival two to four weeks out. There are a handful of long-lasting festivals that have a premier importance in my calendar and this is one of them. I always want things to go smoothly and be able to come away with a feeling of pride in a job well done. My relationship with Heru-Wer feeds into both of those feelings and I feel as if I am consistently trying to outdo myself each year I celebrate the Reunion.

But this year is a little different with everything else changing within my personal practice. This year is less about how fulfilled I feel at the end of it all or how pleased the gods are with my endeavors. While both are important, this year is about an established set of rules to follow from here until eternity, a unification of the local cultus push and the religious practice I need to incorporate more readily into it. So, to meet all of these expectations I’ve set for myself, I actually began planning everything about 6 weeks out.

A month ago, I began taking stock in my yard and what plants the previous owners had tried to grow here. Growth at the front of the house is a little more sustainable; fewer chipmunks up there and more sunlight. Growth at the back of the house is possible though more difficult as that’s where the chipmunks and rabbits live. The backyard gives off to a small forested area and a bog to the side of the house, so sunlight is harder to come by and the backyard is wetter than the front. The plants in the back have come up as best they could (attempts at tulips, iris, and hosta) but they’ve stagnated and no buds appeared.

My mother-in-law is a plant guru who speaks the language of plants. (We’re ignoring the patch of 2×3 in her backyard that refuses to grow grass no matter what.) To me, this is a mysterious magic as I’ve managed to kill all the plants people claim you can’t kill. With her help, and her greenhouse, she picked me up a fair mix of plants and vegetables so I can start the eventual garden in my yard. I have them on my kitchen table, have read the tags so I know what they are, and this weekend I intend on getting them into dirt and soil. Hopefully, I don’t kill them all on their way in because that would definitely put a damper on the fertility aspect of this holiday.

Plants have never really been my jam, though not for lack of trying. But since Osiris has pushed for plants and planting, it only seems right that I’d develop a similar association with the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion.

The rest of my preparations began this past week with my habit of compulsive list making – a tribute or curse from my mother’s side of the family. The lists start out small: dates, associations or work to be done on those dates. But they eventually grow out and get bigger and bigger until I have pages of hodgepodge notes in my crib notes notebook relative to the who, the what, the when, and the how.

And my final preparation this week is to start on the ritual writing. I hate writing them almost as much as I hate performing them. But something this year requires that touch more. Maybe it’s the unspoken belief that this year will establish further things down the road – an anchor of sorts – or perhaps it’s the overall change in my religious practice making itself felt here for the first time after 5 years of ritual-less Reunion celebrations.

No matter the reason for rituals this year, I have begun the work in earnest. This had proven difficult, far more than the list of things to purchase for the holiday or the list of plants or notes or offerings, because I am a bit of a perfectionist. (Surprising, no?) I want these rituals to be great from the get-go, something to inspire not just me but others too. It’s slow going and I need to dedicate more time to the efforts to ensure I meet my timeframe.

Barbara Watterson has a very limited chapter on the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion in her book, The House of Horus at Edfu. I remember being distinctly unhappy with the book in total (it didn’t give me as much detail on Edfu and Heru-Wer as I was hoping for), but I thought it odd that she didn’t dedicate more than a handful of pages to such an important festival. Maybe it was simply because the Ptolemaic inscriptions didn’t provide as much detail, or she wasn’t as interested in getting down what was found on the Beautiful Reunion. Whatever the case, the interesting part in her chapter on the holiday is that she ascribes it less as a celebration of fertility and sacred marriage, and more an homage to the ancient ancestors of Edfu.

The ancestors total nine in number and all were giants who died and were mummified in Edfu. My research for this holiday did show a day where Hathor and Heru-Wer were taken to the Necropolis of Edfu to pay homage to the ancestors, though not for longer than the one day. Watterson indicates that the Reunion festival was merged in a way with the Festival of Behdet (where the ancestors were libated and given offerings) as well as the Harvest Festival. According to her book, the sacred marriage aspect totaled two days of celebrations, followed by a handful related to the ancestors, and finally Harvest rites before Hathor heads back to Dendera two weeks later.

Jackson’s blurb on the Reunion, while also not as long as I could hope, lines up a little more with my personal calendar of events than Watterson’s version. The discussion in Suida’s Daybook correlates more closely with Watterson.

So, which one is the right one?

Since I compiled my calendar and holidays prior to having the access I do now to those books, I had to finagle things based on the materials I had access to at the time as well as what felt right to me. The below list for this year’s Reunion are what I have used throughout the years and will continue to use going forward:

  • Preparations to Depart Dendera (June 16th)
  • Travel and Arrival at Isrw/Renewal of the Earth (June 17th)
  • Travel and Arrival at Per Mer/ Renewal of the Earth (June 18th)
  • Travel and Arrival at Hierakonpolis/ Renewal of the Earth (?) (June 19th)
  • Travel and Arrival at Wetjeset-Hor (June 20th)
  • Celebrations for Safe Arrival (June 21st)
  • They Have Arrived in the Presence of Ra (June 22nd)
  • They Give Offerings in the Necropolis (June 23rd)
  • Marriage/ Harvest Celebrations (June 24th – July 5th)

I included the dates for my holiday timeline in case anyone doesn’t want to figure that out and wants to join in.

Can anyone else hear the ticking of a clock?

I almost always do, no matter what’s happening, as if my internal, anxiety-ridden clock must always be heard. It’s louder than usual as if to say that my time is getting infinitely shorter. It’s nerve-wracking, as it always is, but at least the clock is ticking for something other than an imaginary timeline.

Aside from two or three items that I still need to try and get my hands on, the feast ingredients for each day, the only thing truly left to me is ritual writing. A less-than-favored pastime made doubly unwelcome because everything I write looks or sounds terrible. But perhaps I can overcome that as I continue to hear the clock ticking…

Regional Calendars: The Backbone.

Recently, TTR began posting a series of articles about how to add a regional flavor to your calendar and how to bring all of that together to better help you through the lens of celebrations. This topic is near and dear to my heart since the local cultus push has been steadily increasing now that spring has sprung.

I’ve also been looking forward to it because the regional flavoring is supposed to help me in some way to better outfit my calendar throughout the year. My calendar is very busy because I was told when reworking it to add “everything that could conceivably be related to something or someone you have ties to”. I didn’t think my months would look as busy as they ended up, but they did.

After doing this, I started getting regular notifications every morning about anywhere between 2 – 6 holidays related to my gods in some form or way. Most of the holidays don’t actually interest me the way that I had once found myself interested in the handful of Sekhmet holidays throughout the year or the Beautiful Reunion. They were effectively useless.

Ra and Osiris both mentioned that this would eventually change, but I had to at least know what was available for me to celebrate before I could pare it down. While this made sense, I find myself annoyed by each daily notification and have to actively assess each one to ensure I’m not missing something of Great Import [to Me].

When TTR and I began talking about adding to calendars from a regional aspect, I was immediately on board. Ra seemed to be particularly interested as well as he seemed to intimate that this would begin the Great Re-Work of Calendar Nonsense 2020. After having reworked my calendar pretty consistently for the last 3 years (there’s always something that comes up that makes me realize it’s not right), I’m hoping this will be the last push.

Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Gathering Information

After reading the first post in the series, I was surprised by the focus on weather. When I think local cultus or local ecology, I forget about weather in its entirety. I usually focus on local flora and fauna with only a passing thought given to what the weather and its patterns entail in the region. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how important something like weather is to all of this. Weather and its patterns allow the local flora and fauna to exist in the ways that they do; without it, well, things would be drastically different around here.

Part of the other reason that I had a lazer focus on plant and wildlife is because that’s what I see every day. Since moving, it has been the growth and death and rebirth of the plants around us that have snagged my attention in a way that, while they always interested me of course, I have become far more intent on that focus. I also have a different ability after having moved to watch local wildlife; something that was harder in the middle of the city because local wildlife is very, very good about hiding in plain sight.

So, I added a few crib notes on local flora and fauna to the notebook I’ve designated as my “personal practice” notebook and moved on. (This notebook is full of a lot of shit right now that will hopefully, one day, become cohesive and make sense. That, of course, remains to be seen.) I was ready for the weather-specific post and curious to see what I would find.

 

Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Creating the Backbone

While the general layout for weather gathering was in the first post, it wasn’t until TTR had published the second post that I actually got around to getting that information together. I felt like I needed the visuals they supplied in that second post to better understand what I had already looked up a few times, confused and not quite sure what I was looking at.

I focused first on the hottest and coldest days of the year for where I live.


The hottest day is July 20th and the coldest day is January 29th around these parts. That tracks with what I’ve found throughout the year, but the item of interest I found was before the pretty little graph and the specific dates. Weather Spark adds a general timeframe for “hot season” and “cold season” and other items that I’ll get into as this post continues on. According to this website, the warm season is 3.6 months long (May to September) and the cold season is 3.4 months long (November to March), on average.

The reason I found these details interesting is because it doesn’t track with what I know to be true due to climate change. Our hotter times tend to last until close to October in recent years. Colder weather isn’t lasting as long and we’ve had unseasonably warm weather in March. While March also brought with it bitterly icy winds, the visual stimulus of cold weather (snow) was notably absent.

Something that TTR didn’t include based on their post was cloud cover. Clouds and cloudiness is a big thing where I live because of the typical weather patterns we should experience. According to the website, we have a “cloudy season” for about 7.6 months of the year with a large portion of this season taking place in winter. The cloudiest day tends to be January 3 while the opposite day is September 5. Both dates track with my own review of what I’ve come to expect from my local weather patterns.

I went through the whole damn website and compiled a list of dates that either will prove useful or I’ll jettison them off into the sun at a later date in time:

  • Hottest Day – July 20
  • Coldest Day – January 29
  • Cloudiest Day – January 3
  • Clearest Day – September 5
  • Rainiest Day – June 3 & October 3
  • Snowiest Day – January 25
  • Muggiest Day – July 29
  • Least Muggiest Day – December 13
  • Windiest Day – February 26
  • Calmest Day – August 12
  • Predominant Wind Direction – West
  • Brightest Day – June 29
  • Darkest Day – December 22
  • Growing Season – April 30 – October 11

I decided to forego the additions about spring & fall only because of how things have been going as far as both seasons due to climate change. Since I’m not sure where climate change will eventually land us, I felt it safest to, as much as I hate this, bar them entrance to any regional calendar I may make until I can figure out a good average.

And I truly hate this. I love spring and I love fall the most. They are my two very favorite seasons, however I can admit that both have been excessively short in recent years. For a few years running, May started the hot season and air conditioning units would begin to run closer to the first of May and than the first of June. September, usually a beautiful time for fall foliage, has been hotter on average than when I was a child. I’ve spent many a-September day, sweating and cranky or in a pool to cool off than I can recall being the norm from my youth.

This year, we do appear to be getting a spring because May has been cooler than it has been the last few years. Mornings, I wake up deliciously chilly with all of my windows open wide to temps in the 40s. I wear a sweater or hoody to start the day before jettisoning it around 10 or 11 in the morning. And I love it, but I also recognize that this will most likely not be the norm for a very long time.

So for now, my seasons will simply have to fall within the dynamic of winter, summer, and rainy.

Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: The Backbone

With the backbone all but created, I’m taking a break from working further on the calendar. The next steps, for me at least, require a good deal of further research since I’m still relatively new to this area. I only know the bare bones of historically significant sites, local landforms, and have only just started to source local foci that feel like they need my attention.

Ra had been the driving force in getting me to get these details together and now seems perfectly content with letting me take a break before I move onto the next section in the series. He seems to prefer that I better focus on the ritual prep for the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion, which is currently 23 days out for me.

For the hilarity, I recently pulled out the current iteration of my religious calendar and looked up some of the dates that I had come up with for this project. Each date on my religious calendar actually does correspond with an existing ancient Egyptian holiday. Some of them actually line up pretty well, I think, with those existing holiday forms, so I may keep them when I complete the reworking of the overall calendar. But then again, I might not.

I’m glad that the first portion of this calendar rework project is at least completed. I have a lot more to do besides and it sounds like this will most likely take me the entire year (much like my last calendar rework did). I’ve already at least made a small list of important festivals that have to be kept (The Osiris Mysteries, WR/Intercalary/Propitiation of Sekhmet, and the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion) and those that can go (the smaller one-offs, many of which have to do with Hathor since she had a holiday just about every day) and I’m looking forward to seeing how things look once I’ve finally gotten this project completed.

One Spark.

As a kid, I had a host of strange ideas about God and faith. I don’t rightly know where most of them came from. They certainly didn’t sound like anything mentioned at the pulpit or in Sunday school. But they were mine and I wore them secretly like a cloak around my throat that could choke me if the strings were drawn too tightly.

I believed that God was a cloud. He lived there too because that’s where Heaven was. Not in space or in another dimension, but in the soft pale blue sky of a beautiful spring day. And He, Himself, was a shapeless cloud that lived in the sky, peering down upon His creation. Sometimes I worried that dark gray clouds and slate colored thunderhead meant he was angry just like the sky looked.

Prayers could only be heard in church. You could supplement your desires with prayers at home, but He couldn’t hear them well unless we were in the walls of the church to boost the signal, I suppose. That’s why I assumed my prayers were never answered; I could only think of things when at home and never in that moment of silence during the sermon where you were supposed to pray.

It was only years later that I decided to dump my faith in God. It wasn’t really my father’s death that did it though maybe that started it all. I liked the feeling of faith even with my weird beliefs. It made me feel secure and a little less tiny.

On This Untraveled Road

A short while ago, one of the members in a group I’m in asked how everyone was handling spiritual matters during quarantine. Not many people responded in a positive light. Most seemed to be reporting issues with connection in general. I think that’s pretty valid since a pandemic is going to leave some of us asking ourselves the big questions and possibly coming up empty.

How can we connect with our gods when life as we know it has effectively been shut down? The world we live in today was not the world we knew twelve months ago. Things seemed relatively sure footed moving down the capitalist hellhole train we’ve been stuck on for years. But now, things have changed dramatically and our lives are in a continued state of upheaval from the relative comfort of our own living rooms. And there’s no clear vision of what the future will entail.

I’ve seen a lot of people worried that the pandemic is a sign or was given to us by the gods, or God. This is another understandable point-of-view though I do not ascribe to it. I think there are people who believe this train of thought who are having a hard time connecting now because it tips their previously held beliefs into a realm they were uncomfortable in exploring, or never even considered. The scales of status quo have been upset and now, everyone is scrambling.

All of this makes complete sense. Our rituals and schedules and comfort in these things has been overturned. We’re working from a different paradigm now, a foreign one in many respects, and the connections once held for the spiritual and/or religious are just as turned upside down as everything else. I can understand why everyone is having difficulties with the connection, with the ability to feel that thread or those threads with the gods.

We’re walking down a road that others once traveled, but it’s been so long since then that we have no frame of reference for ourselves. History talks about things from a wide angle lens. The zoom on peoples’ faith during previous pandemics is difficult to find, so we have no real ease to follow in the footsteps of predecessors. We’re all struggling in a way that, while we’ve all struggled with faith and connection over the years, this is probably one of the biggest upsets many have experienced in their religious or spiritual path.

I personally believe that the positive quotes and messages from my local Catholic church are the same ones people have turned to in times of crisis in the past. Daily, they post some new quote or letter to the parish about how we’ll all weather the storm together even if none of us are physically together. They are constantly trying to offer words of encouragement and comfort while simultaneously trying to build up the [possibly] shattered faith of the congregation.

One Voice is Enough

I did answer the question posed in the group and remarked that I wasn’t having any issues myself. In fact, I felt better about things on the whole and had been able to get a few blog entries going, which has not been the norm in recent years. Averaging an entry once a month to once a week? Abnormal, indeed. But the heart of my answer was that the pandemic and the subsequent quarantine have had very little bearing on my religious shenanigans.

I recognize that a large part of that is due to the local cultus push from both Osiris and Ra. These two have become my primary focus at the moment and I have never seen them in any single place, or needed to pay them homage in typical pagan fashion. Offerings, music, and time spent at an altar were never fully a part of the relationship I was forging with them both. And while I do give them offerings and music in a single place just about every single day, I know that my relationship with them both would survive without either.

I am also a creature of schedules and even working from home, I continue to follow the schedule that I created when we moved last summer. I am awake at the same time every week day, make my coffee, and provide offerings in my “spooky” room for the gods. For the established relationships with my gods, this daily offering is a necessity borne out over the years by how things have crumbled if I didn’t give them regular offerings. But for Osiris and Ra, this daily homage is just the opening salvo on a day that will encompass them in some other form or another.

I have also used this time to focus on my local cultus push. I’ve been researching like a robot, going for walks in the less-active parts of town so that I can draw on local flora to better cement the connections with Ra and Osiris. I am hopeful that the push from the two of them will eventually encompass the rest of my gods, but I’m not there yet. I’ve also been using these walks as the needed quiet time away from my new work station (in my kitchen), trying to play teacher to a sullen pre-teen (difficult in the best of times), and the constant voice of anxiety whispering in my head.

I recognize that I have been very lucky. My work is in an essential industry and remote working has always been an option (even if my boss refused). I knew that, no matter what happened, I would be able to continue to work. And while I would desperately prefer to be in an office, to better separate my already chaotic work life from my home life (I’ve found myself going to my computer to check my emails when I shouldn’t), I am glad that I can at least continue to work.

The schedule has truly helped me the most here, I think. Yes, the other things did too: the already established routine for the gods and the local cultus push from the past few months. But at the heart, I have found that as long as I stick to my schedule, I do much better with the rapid fire changes the world keeps tossing our way.

The World Can’t Drown Us Out

Things have been trying for a very long time. Those of us who have kept an eye on the status of things have long been waiting for something like this to upset the way of life in general. We’ve seen the writing on the wall and knew that shit was coming, we just didn’t know when.

I can preach and tell people not to lose faith now, of all times not now, but having been there before, I know how useless it is. I also know how useless it is to give advice or positive reinforcement in a time when you’re wondering why the fuck you’ve been throwing your energies into this path, these gods for so long. There is no one thing to be said that will make it better and sometimes, hearing advice or encouragement from others only makes it worse. So I won’t do that.

What I will say is that change is never easy. No one wants their life to change, their comfort with the way things were to change, themselves to change. It is dirty, back-breaking, fucked up work that upsets the perceived balance that was once there.

But the balance was never there.

This is the one thing we should remember through all of this. We may have been comfortable and happy with the way things were, but upheaval was always just around the corner. The sheer amount of shit that we’ve been slogging through for years was the reminder we needed that this was bound to happen, even if we wanted to pretend it wouldn’t. The warning signs were all around us, we just needed to see them even if we didn’t want to.

Have a crisis of faith; have a meltdown; have a good or shitty cry; do it up. And once you’ve finished with all of that, maybe you’ll go back to your religious or spiritual tradition with a renewed fervor or maybe you’ll say fuck it and move on. Whatever the case may be, you are the spark of your own faith and only you can light, relight, or blow it out.

Just have patience. Just remember that the shit is far from over. Just remember that there will be more lulls where religion is easy and more slogs where it gets harder. Just remember that you are the only one who can definitively say what does and doesn’t work for you.

And maybe, when all of this is over and things are moving forward again, you’ll take out your faith and see the cracks where it weathered out this storm and marvel at the little light you had with you this whole time.

Local Cultus: Neighborhood.

When I was 9, we moved to a suburb after living for most of my life close to downtown. There was a multi-tenant house before the apartment but I don’t remember it that much. What few memories I do have from my youngest years are in the apartment on the bus route that took my mom to work every day.

The neighborhood we moved to was on the edge of another neighborhood so we straddled the divide between “the good zip code” and “the so-so zip code”. We lived in a good area frankly, and most of the houses and shops were from the post-WWII building boom in that area. It was the first time we had a yard and there were trees and plants everywhere. No weeping willows though, which had been the only tree in the tiny dirt backyard of the apartment we lived in before. My first walk through the neighborhood had me feeling like we had moved to a magical place.

I can remember stopping under a tree and becoming dazzled by the way the sunlight filtered through the leaves. The feeling I had that day wasn’t so much that I was home but that I was finally discovering something meant for only me. The following year, I recreated that walk, hoping to find the magical quality that had so enchanted me that first time. It wasn’t there.

It took me a while to find the flow of that neighborhood. It was quiet until the kids came out like you expect a suburb to be but it felt tired and cranky for all of the childlike adventures the neighborhood kids went on. It was like it had been put through its paces for so long that it needed a rest. And that’s the truth; the neighborhood was filled with blue collar workers who has “paid the dues” to buy houses away from the busy city center. Nowadays, it is resting as all the people who snapped up homes there say goodbye to their children and grow older, quieter, and more housebound.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

My original forays into local cultus had me focused on local landforms. The idea felt a bit like all of the mountains and rivers and parks and fields needed attention; they needed some form of homage or tribute paid to them. The wildlife of these places, too, needed attention and affection in some way. The world in which I inhabited, an urban hellhole with animals that hardly made an appearance day or night, required no love, no attention, no tribute. It existed merely as a place to live for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t ever live close to a rural, or more suburban, flow.

Years have gone by and while I had started and stopped attempts to get in touch with my city, to pay it homage in some form, it never worked out. I had a bad attitude about it. I was trying to force things to fit in while being disgusted with my urban home. Neither of those, being disgusted or forcing things, was ever going to make it work. It was never going to happen if I didn’t let the process evolve naturally. And frankly, it wasn’t until the last year or so that it really began to develop.

I think the idea began when I really started noticing how many bunnies called my yard home. Or, it could have been the night a skunk silently waddled through my yard while my heart leapt into my throat in fear of being sprayed. I had never actually seen a skunk that wasn’t dead before then. But it may have begun when I started taking daily walks along the river that sometimes included walks in the city instead and I noticed so many little details of the yards, the houses, and little things that spoke to the history of the neighborhood I lived in.

I came to be fascinated about what happened before I even came into existence and would spend hours reading and downloading historical tidbits from bloggers, webpages, and city funded surveys. With each new thing I learned, an appreciation for the city I had called home for most of my life developed into a sort of childlike wonder at all the things that had come before to form what I see everyday all around me. It was a trip.

The more that I learned, the more I came to realize that to leave out the neighborhood in my local cultus forays wasn’t a good idea. Whether I liked it or not, I lived there and to think that ignoring its existence for some imagined “grass is greener” ideal was faulty and rude. I began to focus more and more on my neighborhood and all the ones that had come before, trying to piece together what my intuition was telling me.

The spirit of these neighborhoods may have changed dramatically through the years, but they were still there in some form. And some of them wanted the attention that I had been paying to other things. They wanted just as much to feel that breath of life blown back into them that I had been giving to others.

When I realized this, I mused and researched the idea of paying homage or tribute to your neighborhood. It didn’t seem particularly common from what I found. It was as if everyone wanted to ignore their home setting for something else. Or maybe those who had been pulled in this direction were silent on the topic, uncertain on how to speak of it. In either case, I began trying to figure out how to make this work especially in an urban setting.

The first and most important piece I found was that research was the key. In many cities, we live in areas that have been around a far bit longer than we have been alive. Researching the areas that I felt most connected to, or the area that I lived in, gave me a sort of general feeling and idea about what the neighborhoods had originally been created for. While that purpose is no longer the case for any of the neighborhoods in my city, it’s a good starting point. To know a thing is to know its history.

The second piece was to begin searching out specific areas mentioned in the research. Those pieces of the neighborhood may still exist, or they may have been torn down. But those areas were central, once, to its existence and it may still play some large part to the overall spirit of the neighborhood. I found that that is the case for only one of the neighborhoods (ish) that I lived in over the years; the rest had changed and morphed into whatever the city needed after their primary focus had been taken away.

The third was to focus on the plant and animal life that made the neighborhood home. As I mentioned above, most wildlife in the area that I had been living in hid away from human eyes. We had encroached so heavily into their territory that even many birds tended to stay away from the urban sprawl. But if you look hard enough, you’ll begin to find their habitation all around you. You just have to know what to look for.

And finally, when I felt ready, I began to explore the sense I was getting from the spirit of the neighborhood. I would close my eyes at random times of the day, take a deep breath (sometimes with a bit of smog mixed in), and try to connect with the feeling of the place around me.

I’ve done this twice now since I began realizing that I was doing myself, and my home, a disservice by ignoring it: once in a truly urban setting and again in a suburban setting. It’s worked out well so far.

The Village Within the City

After moving back up north, we found ourselves a tiny-ass apartment at the end of a quiet city street and the end of the main street through the neighborhood. It was literally on the very edge of the city; our yard was the last one in the city and the sign proclaiming entrance to the city next door was on the edge of the property. Across the river was another city, easily accessible from the 75 year old bridge that was the easiest way in and out. It was a nexus of sorts, simultaneously quiet and overlooked as well as busy and noisy.

The neighborhood proclaimed itself a village, which was technically true. It was one of the last neighborhoods to be truly settled in the city and was a village unto itself until the industrial boom of the early 1900s that was its claim to fame. A large river separated the village from the city across from it and it was on that river, towards the edge of the village, that the mills and factories were built with tenement buildings for the workers. The main street was picturesque with trees and sidewalks. The railroad had a depot in front of the mill and factory area along the river. Another railroad, still functioning, cuts the edge of the village off from the city-next-door.

The houses that line the streets are a hodgepodge. There were three-deckers for apartments, bungalows and ranches, multi-unit buildings, American foursquares, and the like. Every available space in the village had been taken up for some urban use, either commercial or residential. Victorians and Queen Annes made up smaller sections of busier roads, everyone with a postage stamp sized yard to call their own. Trees decorated the city sidewalks and offered shade for those who needed it.

For all the beauty of the river, the planning board didn’t give much thought to parks or conservation. Three parks call the village home. One is difficult to get to, another has a water feature and is used by many, and the final largest park was in talks to be sold off for a parking lot years back. The largest park is the only local home of a decent basketball court and the parking lot lies full for hours at night and on the weekends during good weather, yet another reason the city thought about selling it off since the majority of the population are Hispanic, black, and poor. The only conservation taking place are the hilly spaces on the outskirts where building more plants or mobile home parks are nearly impossible. There is nowhere for preteens and teenagers to really go to hang out.

The village lost its image after the mills and factories closed. It had a face to present to the world. It was a good face: the face of hard workers (men, women, and children) happily working in the mills for pennies on the dollar. When the factories and mills along the river dried up and closed down, the buildings were shuttered and the tenements were raised to make room for parking or commercial needs. A large swatch of cracked blacktop sits where pictures were once taken to document the child workers in the mills.

Two major businesses still call the village home, though on the very edge of the village, and one of them pollutes the air or the river with their runoff. The smoke stacks puff heavily into the morning sky, and either blanket the mobile home park or the part of the village that I once called home with chemicals. No one had raised an alarm against this business; they are after all interconnected with very big government names and who cares, really? The village was built on the idea of the factory and the mill: isn’t it grand that a single token of that heyday still stands? And besides, who cares about the poor?

Once when I was talking with an old-timer about the area, he told me a little anecdote that encapsulates this point:

“I can’t believe they built the elementary school there. There were better places to put it,” he said to me.

“Why do you say that?” I had asked, not knowing a lick of history about the area at the time. It had never interested me before.

“Well, one of the old factories turned uranium rods into slugs. And it was down the street from where the elementary school is now. You know it; the place that’s fenced off looks like it should be a parking lot? That was the dump. The solar farm is where the factory was and they dumped the uranium there. They say it’s ‘remediated’ now, but how can anyone think a school within a mile of that place is a good idea?”

I drove by that place every day on my way to or from work.

The village never rebranded itself. It didn’t seem to want to. Walking down the streets early in the morning or late at night, a desire for an identity seemed fleeting. It was as if it had had its heyday and couldn’t be bothered to come up with a new image, a new face. The councils have tried rebranding and marketing the busy little village as more than a pass-through for people on their way to work in the morning or people on their way home at night, but nothing has truly stuck.

The village often felt like it had been forgotten. As if it had once served a valuable, capitalist ideal and had never recovered from that ideal later. It was a mecca for travel but not for anyone looking to stay for long. People who drive by perhaps look at the older store fronts with picturesque windows and brightly painted signs, hoping to entice people to stay for a bit and shop. But the store front windows are mostly dusty and unused, a reminder that what had once been important isn’t any longer.

The overall feeling of this little village with a vast mix of people is tired. It is a place to go home to but little else. It only bustles on the weekends for all the people driving to somewhere else. The village often seemed to me like it had had enough. Not unlike that first neighborhood that I mentioned above, it was done with it all. Only instead of cranky, the village felt more resigned than anything else. It was as if it had seen it all and nothing could surprise it anymore.

As the village seemed to not want to interact, I respected its wishes. There were places where a hint, a whisper of a desire called to me and I paid these tiny little spaces homage with little offerings of food or pictures. These tiny little bastions of want weren’t common and on the by and large, I did my best to leave the sad, little village alone. It wanted to be left behind and progress refused to allow its wants. So the best I could do was to walk the sidewalks and wonder what things had once been like a hundred years before and whisper that I could understand how it felt.

The Bedroom Community

As some readers may remember, my husband and I finally bought a house last summer. The area we moved to is filled with an historical pretension it doesn’t have. There are only about half a dozen houses that date to between the 1750s-1850s, but most of the houses built here are trying desperately to hearken back to ye olde days.

There are a lot of houses built during the 1900s revival era: Georgian colonials, Cape Cods, Dutch colonials, and New England colonials. Some people may like to think their homes are older, but none of them were in fact built then since our little bedroom community was originally wild forest before it was turned into pastoral grazing land for the town next door. And this isn’t to say that we don’t have the standard ranch, split level, bungalows, raised ranch, or A-frames in the neighborhood because we do. However they’re more like beacons amid the historical throwback attempts of the other homes on the block.

My town was incorporated only 126 years ago, but people had moved here only starting in the mid-1700s. Most of those original houses were lost and there’s only a single one that claims to be from then. The rest of the handful of older houses are from the 1800s and every single one registered with the historical society are within walking distance of where I currently live.

This place is a bedroom community for the metro area beside it. And as I stated above, it has staked a claim on a history that was not properly recorded and so, therefore, is most likely inaccurate in many respects. But that doesn’t stop my neighbors from putting cute little decorative carriage house hardware on their garages and front doors, or the pristine green of their perfectly manicured front yards.

After the quarries dried up in the early 1900s, the city rebranded itself as a bedroom community for the metro area. It also focused heavily on conservation efforts across town, many such efforts centering on one of the hundreds of quarries that once called this place home.

Many houses in my areas have been built to conserve as much nature as possible with thick copses of trees and wildlife strategically found up and down the city streets. I have a bog and a few hundred feet of wooded area between me and the houses behind us although strengthening wind storms due to climate change have downed many of the trees back there. There are 470 acres currently devoted to conservation areas and they attract many hikers.

They built one of those rail-trails a few years back across a good portion of the town. The original train depot still exists and they’re working to conserve its legacy as the stopping point for visitors and the loading point for the stones mined from the quarries to places unknown. Nowadays it’s used so often by locals and non that I prefer to stay away from it. There’s too much going on over there.

The wildlife is everywhere, making itself felt in the hoards of geese and ducks that call the baseball fields by the tiny man-made lakes home. The birds and bees and rabbits and squirrels and chipmunks all scramble through the yards and streets on their way to finding the next delicious morsel for sustenance. The deer keep to the outskirts of town, but they’re easily found if you look hard enough. They claim there are bobcats around here, but I couldn’t say for sure. I can only assume that there may be.

The overall feeling of this community is hopeful. They saw the writing on the wall when the quarries began to close down and realized that they needed to do something to keep their home functional. They hadn’t seen it all having only had its incorporation legal for twenty years, if that, by the time the quarries began to close and knew that they had to do something to keep their home alive.

As I walk through the twilight hours down to the cemetery nearby or down the hills towards the center, the feelings that come to me are peaceful. I am still a bit in awe of all of the beauty around us with the trees and shrubs and flowers coming into bloom now. But I have always felt relaxed and at peace here (my grandparents lived here when I was a kid so we visited a bit) and that feeling has never diminished.

In Conclusion…

I know this has been a long entry and for anyone who has continued to read to this point, thank you for sticking it out.

I wanted to convey the point that while the idea of living in either an urban or suburban settlement may preclude the idea that we can find local cultus there this isn’t necessarily true. It may require more time, focusing on the research of the history of your home or just spending time outdoors with eyes closed to catch the sense of the world around you, but it is possible. And I think, on the by and large, we may be doing our homes and ourselves a disservice by not finding that spirit, that sense, that feeling of home and giving it the attention that it truly deserves.

This is fraught with issues for a variety of reasons (and I won’t get into them all). I can’t tell you how many times I left a little offering out on the crossroads beside my home in the village with semi-trailer drivers staring at me from their temporary red-light home while I started back, nonplussed. Or the amount of looks I get from old-timers in the bedroom community as I stop for a moment to soak up the way the sunlight hits the blooming flowers in their yards in awe and wonder.

But it helps to feel that connection with your home, to build upon its connection with you so that you can, in turn, build upon it as a form of foundation to branch out into other local cultus arenas.

Lent 2020: C’est Fini.

When I was a kid, I remember Lent being like every other time of the year. We went to church on Sundays but there was none of that giving things up or eating fish on Fridays. Of course, my mom had left Catholicism behind by then so that may be why we never did any of the traditional trappings of Lent.

I wonder now if my mom missed it. If there was a part of her who desperately wanted to turn back to the religion of her youth to pay homage in some form or way during one of the most common expressions of Catholic devotion. Based on comments she had made to me over the years, I doubt it. She had made her peace with leaving Catholicism and while she still reached out to the saints and said three Hail Marys before a trip, it wasn’t something she wanted back in her life.

I can understand that.

So It Begins

Every year, I have an ongoing debate with myself about whether or not I will be observing Lent. It’s not really my thing, per se, and while I desperately want to honor my ancestors in an expression they prefer, it’s asking a lot. I not only have to give things up but step up the game each year to ensure that I understand the overall point of what I’m doing. The ancestors don’t always win the argument – I didn’t actively do anything last year – but they tend to be really pushy about it until I make a decision.

This year, I figured I may as well. It wasn’t like I was doing anything worthwhile and I tend to use the forty days as a time of reflection. I never know where my thoughts are going to take me and it’s kind of nice sometimes to find a single thread woven through the season of Lent to the finish line. Other times, I feel worn out and cranky, ready to throw my hands up in frustration and irritation when it’s over.

When I agreed to observe Lent this year, the ancestors had two additional requirements for this year. I needed to find myself a rosary with a crucifix attached and a Bible. I said no but one early February day found me running errands for what they had requested. The Bible I found had a soft cover and I wound up with a St. Francis medal in addition to the rosary. They didn’t say why these things were requested; just that they were needed. I set them all up in an altar area after reading that some Catholics set up a little prayer space with their family Bible for Lent.

I gave up diet Coke for Lent. I had gotten the two requested items for my ancestors. For myself, I set up a pretty little area to hold all of these so I had a single place to practice my Hail Marys every morning for memorization. I was almost looking forward to this Lenten season. I had high hopes at any rate.

My Lenten altar space.

The Middle of the Road

Caffeine headaches are no joke. They started almost immediately and I was hating it. I tried other caffeine substitutes but wound up giving up on them eventually too. They didn’t have the same pizazz as diet Coke and they didn’t stave off the caffeine headaches very well. I remember someone telling me that one way to give caffeine up is to take a can of regular Coke and pound it down. I thought about trying this but stayed away from all sodas instead.

My diet suffered at first because I was shoving horrifying amounts of sugar down my throat to hide from the caffeine headaches. I started carefully cutting back, making sure to stick to the fruits and salad snacks I was used to. I had moderate success in that arena. But I stuck to my guns on Fridays, only eating fish for lunch and dinner. My husband and son hated it since they despise seafood; they’d eat burgers on Fridays and bitch about the seafood smell that lingered in the air each Friday night.

I practiced the Hail Mary every day after I had written down my daily Tarot card interpretation in my Tarot journal. I got really good at it and was almost able to memorize it by the second week. I’d forget the line “the Lord is with thee” or “Holy Mary, mother of God” depending on the day. Eventually it stuck. I was pretty thrilled when I got it right on the first try for the first time. My memory gets worse each year but I find it soothing that this prayer that my ancestors whispered frequently enough is now something that I, too, can say by memory.

A week and a half in, the pandemic really exploded. School was effectively canceled and while I was still in the office that first week, running things basically solo, I wondered how this would impact Lent for me. It didn’t, jokes from the husband about Lent never ending now not withstanding. I was more easily able to moderate my sugar intake. And on the days where it was warmer, I went for a walk after dinner to watch how my neighborhood reacted to the social distancing requirement and was blasted with news about what places were shutting down each day.

I wonder how the Catholics of my local parish reacted when the priest began posting videos of services on You Tube. They continued to post quotes and messages on their Facebook page – really positive and nice things that I appreciated myself – and lamented the inability to meet with the parish family during the season of Lent. I, of course, was mostly unaffected since I never intended on going to Church during Lent. That may change in the future, but not this year.

I felt a little lost when the pandemic started. I was still doing what I said I would but it was like… it felt a little like everything was slipping away even though that isn’t really true. I tossed myself into exploring others’ Lenten devotions. I was hoping to find something, anything really, which would help me to feel connected to it all still.

I found some interesting things but it was mostly selfies of Catholics from “happier” Lenten times or some positive motivational quotes. Boring. Boring. Not for me. Not what I was looking for. Not what I needed. It took me no time at all to begin obsessing over what new Lenten devotion Ms. Dirty would post, amazed at how I could just feel how she must have felt as she went through each moment. I was breathless and said to myself often: I want that; that’s where I need to go from here.

It was after one of her posts that I began writing the brunt of my post on Ra. I’m not saying her post had much to do with my reflective thoughts on him, but I could see a similarity between what she seems to be doing as part of her religious path and what I am doing as part of this newly found one. I can… I don’t want to say “see” because it’s not a vision, but I can… sense where things are going for me and part of it entails a very similar evocative practice as that espoused by Ms. Dirty.

Perhaps one day, I’ll finally get to that practice and maybe, just maybe, my posts on said practice will resonate with people.

Beyond giving things up and wanting to feel connected and desiring the ability to have an evocative practice, Lent is about alms-giving. I don’t have spare change to give out much anymore, but in years past, I would donate money to causes that spoke to me on each Friday of the Lenten season. This year, I combed my house for things to give to the Good Will once Lent was up.

I have a very large box of things and two bags of clothes to donate, but I don’t dare donate them now. I’m going have to wash everything once this quarantine business is all over so that I can give it away, knowing that I’ve ensured the items to be good and ready for a new home. I’m hoping next year that I can do likewise, but maybe with a few charity alms interspersed. I guess we’ll see.

The End

Whether I observe Lent or not, I am acutely aware of the timing if it. I always know when it will end and usually, around mid-Lent, I get the feeling it’s time to book an appointment to donate blood. I do this every year on Good Friday. It’s an homage to my grandfather who was big on donating blood. I’ve gone every Good Friday since this Lenten thing began for me to a little local church that has provided space for the local Red Cross chapter.

Except for this year.

I’m still getting the emails and sometimes the texts from the Red Cross alerting me that my blood donation is needed. But with the pandemic still in full swing, I couldn’t go. I don’t have the ability to buy or make a face mask and I couldn’t chance it. And now that the Red Cross has stopped its Blood Mobile travels this year, this means my yearly appointments will have to take place a half hour away instead of right down the street.

I told my grandfather that I was sorry I couldn’t go this year. Assured him that I would make an appointment once quarantine let’s up again. I was… devastated frankly at the idea that my one ritual of most importance [to me] could not be observed.

And in someone else’s voice he assured me that the health and wellbeing of myself and my family is far more important right now than my homage to him. I could feel his love shining to me through that message and while guilt gnaws at me still a bit, I’ve come to accept it at least.

The second ending ritual for Lent in my world is a gift to myself for seeing through the entire 40 days of Lent. Obviously, this only occurs when I’m successful and I can admit that while giving up diet Coke may sound easy, it wasn’t. I still haven’t had a single fucking sip and I’m still bitchy about it.

I usually look for something early on so I have it in my mind’s eye. A sort of carrot on a string to pull me along the next forty days. This year, I couldn’t really find anything that I thought met the bill of “a gift for not giving up”. I perused my various “I want” lists over and over again but nothing really spoke to me. I went into Lent without an image of anything in my mind and came through three quarters of the season without anything, so maybe I don’t need that dangling carrot anymore. Or maybe, I just didn’t need it this year.

I was really just messing around a few weeks after the shelter-at-home orders went out when I looked up “mourning ring” on Etsy. I like mourning jewelry, so why not? I ended up finding a replica mourning ring within the first two seconds of my search that said, “I’m your gift. And I’m going to come home to you.” And that ring, that beautiful damn ring, stayed frozen as a pretty little picture in my mind up until the evening of Good Friday when I finally bought it.

Usually, my gifts are intrinsically tied to me, but this one is definitely tied to the ancestors. It speaks to me of them and whispers their names in my ear. Looking down upon it sitting happily on my finger, I can feel the connection between us.

The mourning ring being purified by incense.

This year, Lent was a lot of things. It was short and sweet (time has no meaning really right now but my personal relationship with relativity says it was fast). It had fewer candle led whispers and rituals than I had originally planned for. It had more jokes and stories between my husband and I. It had a lot more seafood than I am used to and it had a lot less feeling of connection to anyone or anything than I usually do.

To end this entry, I’m going to retell a story the husband told me shortly after he told me that Lent will never end since the Pope closed down the Catholic churches, which means that Holy Week and Easter is canceled.

I was talking with one of the old-timers at the club and he mentioned that he was giving up the usual things for Lent. I asked him what was the worst thing he gave up and he said, without thinking about it, “potatoes. I give up drinking and smoking and gambling every year without missing any of it, but potatoes was the hardest. You don’t realize how much food is made from potatoes until you can’t eat any.” I looked at the old-timer, trying to figure out how many side dishes I ate every week that had potatoes in them and nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah I can see that.”

Send A Lifeline.

As a teenager, I would spend hours on our DSL connection surfing the web in the pre-Wikipedia days of Wiki-clicking. I found so many ridiculous websites made in garish tones about all manner of things that grabbed my attention. One such black background with red font monstrosity was about the different vampire legends from all across the globe and ancient world. They had a four line paragraph dedicated to Sekhmet.

I loved her immediately and could get behind a god made of rage and wroth because I, too, was made of rage and wroth. Sure, I could be nice and kind when I wanted to be but at the end of the day, I was a tiny ball of red-hot fury. That four-sentence paragraph spoke to me on a level that I never fully understood until many years later. From that page, a terrible idea for a horror novel evolved but it wasn’t until a good ten years later that I realized that, as gods went, Sekhmet seemed right up my alley.

It’s weird how shit works out like that.

Through the Fire

As my Kemetic New Year began in the summer of 2018, I was left to ask myself the hard questions about where I was supposed to go from here. I had spent the last few years feeling very lost and adrift, a consequence of actions that began in 2015 although the core problems date back further than that. I knew in a general way that Kemeticism was where I needed to be; I just didn’t know what it was supposed to look like for me. I had been pulled in so many directions and was wrung out from it all.

I pulled into myself, trying to get to the bottom of it. I knew that the heart of the matter was my relationship with Sekhmet. It had broken down so much by 2018 to almost be nonexistent. I never reached out to her, I never spoke to her, and she returned the favor. We ignored each other as completely and stubbornly as we both possibly could. But as much as we may have wanted to part ways by then, we couldn’t. We had forged together something bigger than ourselves that required some form of working partnership to continue.

When the idea that a new rebirth cycle was what we both needed, I balked before I agreed. I knew fairly early into my Kemetic New Year that that was the best way forward, but it wasn’t until October that I finally agreed to it. It’s a lot to ask of someone no matter what outsiders looking in may think. Reinventing the wheel may not be necessary but reinventing the self, over and over again, is and it is always difficult, painful, and exhausting. Doubly so when you are reinventing more than just yourself.

I went back to the drawing board on the rebirth cycle and found a few things to help me move it along. As the time drew ever closer, Sekhmet reminded me more and more of the Inert Ones and as I thought about it, so too did I. Maybe that quiet time, the feeling that we were like the Inert Ones, was a building up of energy that was required for the rebirth cycle. And as I looked ahead, it felt like the whole world had quieted down too as if we were all in this together.

Rebirth hurts only because some of the pieces of yourself that you thought were so integral to who you are as a person may no longer serve the purpose they once did. And those pieces need to die, to be ripped out of yourself. It hurts because other portions of yourself that you never wanted to acknowledge or think about ever again come to the fore to be reintegrated with the whole because now they serve a purpose.

The first few months were about pain, shoring up the holes left by the pieces that die completely with other bits of yourself. The wounds can’t heal without the pain. The next few months were about growth. There was pain then, too, but more like the feeling your legs get when you might be growing again. It hurts, but not so completely as the pain of tearing yourself apart to rebuild who you are. And the last few months were quiet as we shored up the energy stored from the time of growth to be reborn again. It hurts then too because the person you used to be is dead and gone and you aren’t sure who looks back at you from the mirror.

As Sekhmet and I neared the moment when the rebirth cycle would end, we distanced ourselves from one another. It wasn’t quite like how it had been before. The distance was necessary now; not forced. We needed time to figure out who we were.

To the Ends of the Earth

Over the years, Sekhmet and I had created a single line between ourselves that kept us connected. Stretched between us were a million memories and experiences that had forged us and our relationship. When Ptah began to appear to me, he quickly assumed a place within this line, turning what had merely been two people into an equilateral triangle. The connections between the three of us deepened still further with his inclusion and now, none of us can truly remember a time where he was not there.

His time spent with me as always has been couched in the imagery of the garden. No matter how many times I have spoken with him, I am always reminded of the butterfly and the bush within the garden that I dreamed of the first time he came to me. Even with his Tatenen associations in our three-person world, he will eternally be the essential spark of life.

Ptah had no stake in the Year of Rebirth project. My death benefited him in all the right ways, but he had no horse in the race. His words to me, leading up to the event were never about what needed to be done but always about how I would benefit from it in the long run. All the other gods whispered words of encouragement and sang the song of how important this was for everyone. Ptah didn’t care about that; he only cared about me and how all of this would impact me.

Ptah has no rebirth or death associations, mummiform imagery notwithstanding. His areas of expertise are many of course but at the end of the day, his primary associations in my world are with speech, craftsmanship, and the vitality or spark of life. While one could argue that any of these areas are integral to a year of death, he assured me that he had no place at my side. The demiurge wished me luck, assured me we would be together again, and bid me pleasant journeys.

Our parting felt a bit like I was tossed off the cliff, not unlike the artwork others have made of Set kicking them off a cliff face. There were no kicks forward; I went because I knew I must and needed no one to push me over. But the loss of his vitality throughout the year could have crushed me far quicker than any of the pain I suffered through during the rebirth process. He had become so essential to me and by extension to my relationship with Sekhmet that to not have him around often felt like something was missing.

I can remember thinking for a time that maybe this was what I needed to truly learn about this year: that he wasn’t as necessary to me and my relationship with Sekhmet. I came away from following that line of thoughts shaken and worried. But I could think back to the moment where he assured me most definitely that he would be back, that I was not going to leave him no matter what I may feel or think, and knew that I was only lying to myself.

The ancient Egyptians were big fans of the number three. My deity relationships also seem to be a huge fan of triads: if one deity appears, inevitably a second one shows up who is as integral as the first. That’s what happened with Sekhmet and Ptah; it reoccurred again with Heru-Wer and Hetheru. And over the Year of Rebirth, it happened a third time with Ra and then Osiris. For some reason, this gave me comfort. Ptah and Sekhmet needed me to complete the triangle.

The Wounded Heart Within

Everyone enters into something with a set of expectations. The event may not live up to them; it may exceed them; or they may be completely wrong in every respect. The Year of Rebirth met some of my expectations because I knew what I needed to do having started this before. But there were unforeseen [to me] circumstances or consequences that have happened because of this. And I am having a difficult time, for the most part, reconciling all of this together.

I knew that both Osiris and Ra would make appearances because of this. Out of every god in our pantheon’s arsenal, these two have gone through the processes of rebirth on a nightly basis. They understand all of this in a way that other gods – no matter their associations with rejuvenation or the life/death/rebirth cycle – cannot even begin to have. So there was never a surprise that they would appear. I always knew to expect them in some form or another.

What was unforeseen was the seeming need or desire to stay. They were never supposed to stay here; they were to move along and leave me to my own devices such as they are. But alas, they have more in the offing and I can admit that I am looking forward to what they have in mind. The teasing glimpses of the future they have envisioned is… something that I can’t pass up.

But they weren’t supposed to crowd out everyone else either.

Ptah and Sekhmet seem disconnected from me. The pull cord I could always follow back to them appears to be missing. I’ve gone through other means in an effort to find them and yet, they are not there. I have looked so much in the last four months that my eyes hurt. Not only because of the search but for the sorrow I can feel building at the back of my throat. I can’t find them and it hurts. It hurts more than I thought it would.

I didn’t expect any of these feelings at all. I had been so fed up with Sekhmet and our relationship, which had tainted to some extent my relationship with Ptah, that the idea of them disappearing from my life could have had me in fits of delight two years ago. Now as I continue to haunt the places where I had once expected them to be, all I can do is call out and cry in the hopes that they will come back to me.

I’m worried that they won’t and that… that is more startling than anything else.

In Conclusion…

The teasing glimpses of the future Osiris and Ra have given me are seductive. The future encompasses all arenas if I’m reading the room correctly and I am hungry for it. It feels a little bit like when those of us who suffer a cold and snow-filled winter look ahead by late January or early February for the green grass and colorful flowers of spring. It’s almost here but still out of reach and oh, oh are we all ready for it.

But I also recognize that I’m not ready for it. The part about this that I like to ignore is that I have a lot of work to do in the interim. No timelines have been given but based on what I’ve seen, we’re a few years out until we can say this has been a successful adventure. And in all these thoughts and conversations and imagery of the future, the things missing are only conspicuous by their absence.

Sekhmet and Ptah will, probably, be back one day. And when they come back, I will probably be ecstatic for their return. I suppose it’s possible that our relationships may break down again and we’re all back at the start. But I’d like to try to be filled with hope for once. A hope for the future and hope that I can follow the path that has always, always brought me back to Sekhmet and Ptah and find them there.

Oh, You Fool.

When I was a baby Kemetic, surfing the KO website for a name of a goddess I could give my attention to, I found the name of Ma’at listed there. I was immediately entranced with this goddess because she was both a being and a concept. Almost nothing of value that I had access to at the time was written about her, but I chose her to be my starting point on this path. It took me a long time to realize that she had no interest in me.

During this childlike phase, I had a dream that seemed to indicate I needed to get a tattoo in her honor. So, I had one of my local tattoo artists put her name in a cartouche on my shoulder. I also had a feather of ma’at placed above her name. Years later, I was told that I got the message wrong. It was about living in ma’at, not the goddess herself. The tattoo is permanent so it’s a reminder nowadays to be really sure I know what the fuck the gods want from me.

We all make mistakes when it comes to the messages our gods send us. I am no different.

Hell. I still get shit wrong.

The Stranger

It was mid-to-late 2018 when the song from Lord Huron would crop up in my liked song list more often than usual. When it would play on my walks, while I cleaned, driving somewhere, I could feel my heart rate pick up and a feeling of uneasiness come over me. The message was from Sekhmet; a reminder that death is waiting for us all and not to be scared when the Year of Rebirth began. It took far longer than I am willing to admit to realize that the message was never from Sekhmet. A different god was pulling the strings on this.

I was coldly furious when I realized the truth. How dare he use my relationship with her to contact me thus? How dare he use my carefully curated playlists to speak to me? How dare he come to me at all? I think TTR was amused when I admitted the truth of the matter; it took me so fucking long to figure it out. But from cold rage to acceptance I went and began creating a playlist for Osiris too, one that put the song right at the top as a reminder that I wasn’t afraid to die.

Osiris didn’t want too much from me; only my death. A benefit for all gods involved (Ra, Sekhmet, him) with me as the catalyst. He recommended that I beef up my calendar for the year of 2019 and almost threatened to see me later. Sekhmet took the first few months of rebirth; Ra the middle portion; and Osiris formed the basis of the last four months. It was a busy time, trying to ensure that all gods were reaping the benefits of the Year of Rebirth project.

When Ra’s presence began to dim out around Samhain and the clock change, Osiris geared up and began taking his place. He spoke to me at first via the ancestors since it is through him that they have any basis at all. But as Ra faded down to a pinprick of light in my life, Osiris was there in stereo to take over the reigns. As the cold of winter began sweeping through the world, it was the green-faced one who spoke the loudest out of all of them. Though speak is a euphemism; he seems to prefer intuition and dreams to actual speech.

He was gentle, but firm. I needed that after years of not engaging with him on purpose. He was never supposed to be for me, much like Ra was never supposed to be mine. My engagement with Osiris had been minimal at best. I knew enough to get by but not nearly as much as others. He didn’t seem to mind how limited my information about him was. As it stands, I know more than I give myself credit for and the thanks for that falls squarely on TTR’s shoulders.

He watched me die and I was grateful for the audience.

As the closing of the Year of Rebirth and the Year of Rites came ever closer, the world around us continued to cool. And in the frost of the mornings and the frozen air of the afternoon, he spoke of a future that encapsulated more than mere death but a continuous rebirth cycle from here until forever. We dreamed of green plants and cookies together. He said the grave was only the beginning.

Beyond the Grave

Those of us who have had associations with Osiris often see him within the paradigm of a river. I am no different. I often see him standing thigh-deep in charcoal gray waters, looking introspective as he takes in the sights. But beyond the river stands the idea that it is through Osiris that all things have come into being. No matter which portion of history attributed various identifiers to his mythos, one keeps coming back to the fact that Osiris is as much the alpha and omega as Ra is.

Years ago, I was reading MHMM and a specific passage relative to Osiris pinged loudly for me:

Next the ostracon hymn continues with an unusual evocation of Osiris as the backbone of Egypt, the ground upon which the whole of Egyptian culture is built. Upon his spine rest the houses, the temples, the monuments, all the fields and tombs, and it is proclaimed that there are no empty spaces on the god’s body…

Without this stable foundation which is provided by Osiris, it is impossible to imagine that Egyptian culture could have survived three thousand years. He is the solid base, the enduring ground upon which the whole of Egypt rested.

It is as the base of the pillar that I spied Osiris staring back at me. It was as if he always knew that I would end up in this space, looking at him with a mix of fear and worry. I got the distinct image of a house’s foundation: a thick gray square of concrete open-mouthed and yawning at the sun that passed over it every day. This imagery was the very same foundation ping that I often came across in my relationship with Ptah, and by its association, with Ptah-Tatenen.

The image of the gray foundation morphed into a gray and dusty spinal column. From each nodule of the bones, I could see flowers and wheat, corn and apple trees. I had come full-circle, it seemed; from one who sees him only in death to one who finally saw him in the cycle of life.

One of the things that TTR and I have talked about at length is that Osiris is more than simply a deity associated with death. The myth cycle that we know tends to lose the thread of his associations with rebirth, rejuvenation, and green-living because most people only remember him as the god who was murdered by his brother and his son had to hide till adulthood to fight his uncle for the right to rule. While not everyone forgets this, it’s easy to push off the green aspects of his domain because we hear people talk about The Contendings so frequently.

But as we moved forward, I saw him more and more in the world around me. The golden shimmer of winter wheat and the ornamental grasses that populated the road side. It was as if he were telling me that he had always been there, I merely had to look with opened eyes and not the closed one that I preferred.

This felt a little like a game of hide-and-seek. As the winter wrapped its chilly fingers around the world around me, I began to see him in everything. I found him in places he had no business being and shrank back from the implications of every new instance until I came to a sort of acceptance about it all.

He was here, and he was here to stay.

The Appointed Time

At the time change in November, Osiris came upon me with a dramatic flourish just as Ra was leaving. It was as if he had been waiting in the wings, waiting for this very moment, to appear to me and say that it was time for us to truly begin this journey together. He began appearing around an ancient festival that began on Halloween, a festival about Horus welcoming the Nile.

Within two weeks of Osiris coming to me and Ra leaving, the Osiris Mysteries were upon me and I began to catalogue the differences between what I had known before and what I was beginning to suspect would occur after all of this was over. Osiris asked merely for the trappings of the Osiris Mysteries; he seemed to be implying that more serious things would come later.

He claimed the winter absolutely and totally. Everything about that winter whispered his name to me. The snow upon the ground, cold and crusted over with ice. The flittering red wings of cardinals fighting over resources in the backyard. The twinkle lights of Christmas on barren shrubs and trees. The false spring that caused old-timers and farmers to whisper about climate change. The roar of winter’s breath decimating sensitive skin on cheeks and lips. Everywhere I looked, there he was. He assured me that he would never leave with promises that both frightened me and beckoned to me.

As the world entered the beginning of spring, Osiris became pushy and forceful but only in small doses. He would come upon me as if I were waiting for him and give me direction, or a reminder of something. His presence seemed to be growing dimmer, not unlike what happened with Ra the previous fall. It was as if the louder the animals in the backyard grew and the higher the plants climbed above the soil, the quieter he became. It felt a bit like he was throwing all of his energy into the push for spring, the push of new life that was just around the corner.

As I looked to the calendar to remember when things would most likely change, I found three final Osiris holidays added to my calendar at some unknown previous time. The three holidays were scheduled to take place just after the time change. They seemed to be the types of farewell that he needed to truly leave to give Ra the chance to take over again. These holidays felt a bit like a good-bye before the switch between gods could truly begin.

Go Back to Start

When I began to question what the purpose of this religious life was, I knew that things would change. I didn’t know how the questioning would cause things to change, but I knew that what I had grown with and created over the years would change in its entirety. I’ve come to accept this, although [as always] I doubt that I am truly ready for any of this.

Around Imbolc, I found myself researching plants that are most often associated with the holiday. As I had mentioned then, I found it difficult to see my gods in those commonly ascribed plants. But eventually, I did find Osiris in many places that I couldn’t find in a book. I found other gods there, too, of course, but it was the presence of Osiris that ensnared me like I was a fly caught in the web of a spider. He seemed to be speaking to me soul to soul instead of mouth to ear.

As the months go by, I’ve come to realize that I like the idea of finding gods in the world around me, which is why I often ask myself whether this is a good thing or not. I’ve thought about why this means so much to me now when nothing before seemed to mean as much. I think it’s because, as a child growing up in a Methodist church, I could never really feel like God was anywhere but inside the church that we attended. I don’t know why I couldn’t see that God in the world around me, but I couldn’t. And as I continue moving forward on this unused path ahead of me, all I can do is see my gods in everything.

I asked him once what he thought about being a local god to a place that had never known him. I had the distinct impression that he took my question seriously, but he never really gave me an answer. I didn’t exactly expect one because he doesn’t seem to like answering in that way. He seems to prefer the idea of strewing clues about on the ground for me to find as I stumble across them. As my dreams have oft shown, he seems to like the concept of making me build the puzzle on my own.

But that question bothers me more and more as the days go by. It nags me in a way that I can’t quite explain. Who am I to see foreign gods in a land that was brutally stolen from indigenous cultures? How dare I stumble upon my gods here? But are these beings even my gods? Is it possible someone else’s gods wear the face of mine to whisper sweet nothings in my ear because they want, more than anything they want, to be remembered?

I’m hoping that one day, I find the answer to these questions. And that the guilt of this ancestor of colonial brutalizers can perhaps, maybe not be fully absolved, but reconciled with.

In Conclusion…

Just before Osiris left to make way for Ra, I found myself listening to The Yawning Grave by Lord Huron over and over again. I couldn’t have said what it was about the song that hit me so palpably until Osiris came to me in a dream, singing to me as if he were the singer of the song. He hit me hard with it, as if he needed to inject a little piece of himself into me while we separated for a while.

Osiris, like Ra before him, made it crystal clear that there was no going back now and that he would return in the fall. The cycle has begun again and there is nothing I could do to stop it. I don’t really want to because, as I’ve mentioned, I am quite interested to see where all of this is going and I haven’t felt that type of interest in my religion in a long time. It’s possible I become dissatisfied with these changes, but a part of me believes this direction is exactly where I needed to go when I wrote about how unhappy I was with the way things were.

One morning, shortly after Ostara, we woke up to snow on the ground. It was a dusting really and it disappeared as quickly as it came on us. I stood outside under the awning, marveling at the beauty of pure white snow on pine needles and at the base of my favorite tree. I felt the icy, cold fingers of Osiris on my cheek as if in final parting. And I knew that while the months ahead will be hot and belong to Ra, I would be looking forward to the cooler months and shorter days of Osiris.

Stand in the Sun.

As a baby pagan, after I had gluttoned myself on all the books by all of the authors that older pagans cringe at now, I found a website that told me believing and worshiping the ancient Egyptian gods was real. Floored by what I had found, I read through the list of names of the gods over and over again. I formed their names with my lips and wondered what worshiping them might look like. And as I went through those list of names, perhaps influenced by early divine goddess rumblings or merely my own past, I swore I would never worship the male deities. They had had enough worship; I would only honor the women goddesses.

I’ve thought about that time in my life and I’ve come to the conclusion that this was a childish form of rebellion against the wrong religion. All my life, I had been indoctrinated to believe that while God has no true sex, it was He this and He that. I was tired of all the He. Even my irritable changing the He in prayers and Bible readings to She wasn’t enough. I was sick of male deities after living a lifetime suckling the teet of male deity propaganda. (Side note: churches should only use They for God now.) So, I decided the ladies was where my attention would go and that was that.

Hoo boy, has shit changed in 20 years.

A Wild God Appears

In very late 2018, shortly after Samhain, I felt the first real kick from Ra. I was distinctly uncomfortable with the attention. As anyone who may have followed me for a while knows, we don’t get on. But there he was like a towering statue out of the thick fog. I knew why of course; the 2019 Year of Rebirth project may have started off about Sekhmet but it really was about more than just she.

One thing I’ve found more and more as I go deeper down this road is the fact that hard polytheism only works so much when it comes to the NTRW. If you’re working on things for one deity, invariably what you’re doing will no doubt effect or benefit others. Sekhmet, created from Ra’s power, is as connected to the other gods as the rest of them. Dying for Sekhmet’s benefit was dying for Ra’s benefit.

He was patient and quiet, which is what I needed to get over some things. Say what we will about gods busting down doors without knocking, occasionally they seem to be able to read the room before they even get in there. So he was mostly quiet while I came to terms with the idea that he was around, he was going to stay around, and that most likely his presence would continue well past 2019.

It didn’t start to become more of a relationship until about Spring of 2019. Things started kind of piecing together for us. He asked for very few things other than attention and a few little baubles. I asked him once if this would turn into something more. He kind of snorted and said no. I had assumed originally that this relationship would turn into a shrine, an icon, altar space for prayer. But when I had asked, I got the distinct impression he found my question amusing before he told me no.

He did ask for a daily rite that I had written for him for the Year of Rites project, which I managed to finish before 2018 came to an end. While the Year of Rites project fell apart about midway through 2019, he didn’t seem too unhappy that I had stopped doing the daily rites with the words I had written. I did the physical portion of the rite and that seemed to be enough.

For a while anyway.

Once you start down the rabbit hole, you get a little lost. No matter how many times you try to back track to the start to find your way out, the labyrinth closes up behind you until the only way out is through. The way through looked weird and strange to me. Not completely at any rate, but a good bit of it was new territory. Ra merely said to keep it up; I’d know where the exit was eventually.

That Wasn’t an Exit

As 2019 came to a close, I began to register that Ra’s presence was dimming so to speak. I don’t know how to put it that will make it clearer but as October hit, he seemed to have collapsed in on himself. I assumed it was because the year was starting to come to a close and he needed strength for the actual birth of the new year. I was partially right, but not completely.

It was the week of Samhain that it all came together. The clock change was set to begin the Sunday following Halloween and I could sense that this was it. He was going to do one of those dramatic exits that the gods seem to love to do and leave me with some vague request. The request wasn’t completely vague oddly enough.

“Look beyond the trappings and you’ll find me there,” he seemed to say as his time with me grew ever shorter. I remember standing in my backyard the weekend of the time change and staring at the sky. “My time for now is over. Use this quiet to figure out the puzzle.” Not like I needed clear cut answers anyway.

That winter, as the world cooled and the snow refused to fall, I would look up at the watery light of the sun and wonder what Ra was up to. I would imagine the rays of sunlight trying so desperately to reach me in my backyard but unable to do so through the winter wind and ice cold frost. I tried to play his playlist and found it didn’t work for the way the land and world around me had changed to winter.

The trappings are encapsulated by my altar room. That was the place where I found my gods over and over again and while I have pieces that are designated for Ra in there, I had never really felt him there. He was always outside, in the land, in the air, and in the world around me. I had looked beyond the trappings and found the god in the natural world.

This isn’t strange; it’s not abnormal. I’ve long had a local cultus push for my gods, but it was Ra who solidified it in a way I hadn’t been able to do until he showed up. The physical reminders of worship and altars are for the priests; the natural world and the worship within is for everyone else.

Timing is Everything

Since Ra all but disappeared at the time change, I wondered if I could expect him back in 2020 when it changed again. I waited throughout the winter, wondering if my hunch was correct. The Tuesday prior to the time change, my calendar told me there were Ra festivities coming up (feast for three or four days in his and the Irt-Ra honor) and just after the time change, the Divine Birth of Ra lined up nicely with his return.

I looked back to see what was going on, calendar-wise, in October as I hadn’t been paying as much attention to the holiday alerts since fall is a busy holiday time for my calendar. Nothing so concrete as a “say bye to the sun” but there were a few hints that I missed back then, which will become important in another entry.

It seemed that I had figured out that my relationship with Ra was to coincide with the world around me. As spring approached and the whispers of birds and plants began to grow louder, I could feel him more and more in the air and beside me. I remember waking up one morning between the time change and Ostara whispering, “oh there you are.” And there he was.

He hasn’t given any directives since he showed up and other than a matter-of-fact hello-how-are-you, he’s been pretty quiet while I try to figure out what all of this means. It’s one thing to understand, finally, the reason and the push, but it’s quite another to turn it into reality.

I kind of feel like I’ve been stumbling along, occasionally picking up clues and messages that tell me I’m headed forward to somewhere else. After talking about this a bit with TTR, I was happy to find that I’m not the only one in this boat, but it doesn’t necessarily help anyone at all. We may all be headed in the same direction, but who really knows what it will all look like at the end of the day?

Ra, probably.

The Beginning is Now

My local cultus push has been a thing for some years now. It started in fits and spurts around 5 years ago, maybe more, and has been increasingly felt throughout the rest of my relationships with my gods. Part of this push has caused decay in some of my relationships (Sekhmet and Ptah, who I have yet to find in the world around me) and solidified others in ways I hadn’t ever expected (Heru-Wer, Hetheru, and of course Ra).

Over the winter, I read through Hathor: A Reintroduction… by Lesley Jackson. One of the quotes that I ended up posting on my Tumblr has stayed with me most often, especially now that I understand the next phase of where this relationship with Ra is supposed to go:

…but the Egyptians also detected her presence in nature; in the rustling of papyrus in the swamps, in the breeze through sycamore leaves and in places in the desert where there were conspicuous outcrops of rock

P 198, Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess by Lesley Jackson

This isn’t, by all means, the only clue-by-four that’s showed up leading me down this road, but it’s the one that stuck with me the most often. Usually it comes up when I’m sitting outside, staring up at the sun and trying to parse out the nuance of how local cultus is supposed to formulate the basis for many things going forward.

All of this, whatever this may actually end up being, is a reset in a manner of speaking. The ongoing path project has always been a bit of a disappointment for me. I’ve always felt the push in one direction and never really felt comfortable in going that way. But I’m reminded that my path is ever-evolving and has always been best summed up by the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken.

Now, the path ahead is forged with oak and grass, bees and tree frogs, hawks and owls, mayflower and staghorn sumac. There are gods within these places as there always has been; the gods of these places may be gone now or colonized into silence, but there are other gods who seem to want to be found there, gods who have followed me for most of my life in some form or another. And while I’m not sure whether I have the right to see them there since I am living on land stolen from indigenous peoples, I see them there anyway.

In Conclusion…

In February, I did a month-ahead Tarot reading for the month of March. I didn’t foresee the pandemic (sorry) since I was looking at myself. The Theme of the Month was a card called Spellwork, which we can sum up as meaning this: “create a recipe of your own choosing; gather the ingredients together to gain clarity and insight; you know exactly what you need so follow your intuition.” If that doesn’t tell me what I need to know, then what does?

Ra has made it very clear that he is here to stay and while sometimes I still feel like this is all an elaborate prank on the stupid human, sometimes I think everything will be okay. His entrance into my life has overtaken many other areas of my practice, almost like he’s clearing the slate to a point where I can actually start over. I’m a little hesitant only because I don’t want to fully sacrifice the carefully created relationships I’ve already made, but I’m also interested to see how this could play out. And I can admit that I haven’t felt interested in my religion in a very long time.

The other day, as I was taking my daily walk, the sun threw its life-giving rays between a thick scattering of white pines. The rays of the sun were clear and reflected off of a small creek that traveled through the wooded area. I managed to snap a picture of it, and it looks like there are two suns: one in the sky and one on the ground. The rays of both suns meet in the middle in a sort of new horizon. I take a lot of nature pictures, but that’s my favorite so far. I think it neatly captures my religious life and where it’s always been headed.

Lent 2020.

It was early February when I polled my office and asked them what I should give up for Lent. I’ve been out of good ideas for a long time, so I figured I would put the question up to group-think. It was practically unanimous: they chose diet Coke which makes sense. I drink a lot of it. There was one who “courteously abstained” from voting because “Lent is stupid and no one should have to give things up.” I made a polite remark about how I didn’t have much choice about this, and moved on.Diet Coke [again], it is.I suppose it could be worse; it could be something I’ve never given up before. I’ve given up diet Coke, and by that act, drinking soda entirely for forty days. I’m a pretty big bitch about it, too. Diet Coke is my afternoon caffeine intake since I dislike drinking coffee after the sun hits the zenith. (I don’t know why; just don’t.) Thus far, I’ve staved off the caffeine headache by shoving a ridiculous amount of sugar into my gullet, but at least I’m properly hydrated throughout the day for once.A few people at the office seem to think this is the start of me “getting healthy”. This of course means that I would be healthy by their standards, not my own. I know I’m not healthy by any stretch of the imagination (not including mental health in that assessment), but I also find it curious how the conversations always come back to “getting healthy”. It baffles me why they think the person who eats fruits, salad, vegetables, and maintains a calorie count of food intake somehow doesn’t have healthy eating habits, or the ability to manifest them?It merely goes to show that the people who think this is about healthier living don’t understand the purpose. I wouldn’t expect them to; they aren’t Catholic by any stretch of the imagination. And the gentleman who told me giving things up for Lent was stupid has his own preconceived beliefs and notions relative to this.Sometimes, I think it might be better to educate the masses than to politely listen to the ideas that others have about all of this, but then I think, why bother? Nothing I would say would change their point of view [probably]. It would fall on deaf ears and I would continue to have to listen to their own points of view on something that is an experience unto itself and has nothing to do with America’s fatphobia.I suppose I’m just bitter.The purpose of Lent is more than simply giving something up. We are supposed to be giving up vices; faults in ourselves that can negatively impact us. While one may not necessarily see where diet Coke can be a vice, I say that it is. It is a sort of security blanket against caffeine withdrawal the horrors of the world. Diet Coke doesn’t fail me (although it will with all the plastic that’s probably forming in my brain) the way everything else does.I knew one woman who would give up gambling and swearing every Lenten season. She would come into work on Ash Wednesday with her smudge of ashes and say that she would keep her language clean and her gambling at bay. She managed every year and she would save her gambling money and put it into her rainy day fund. She never completely gave up either vice of hers though; she needed them to get through another lackluster day just as I need diet Coke for the same.But this doesn’t really explain it all because Lent is about way more than simply giving things up. I’ve read up on it numerous times – and blogged about my findings for the last 7 fucking years – but I think it was the book I got for Christmas that helped to kind of solidify it all for me.

Remember that we are but dust and ashes, yet by God’s grace we have died in Baptism and have put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Each year we keep these Forty Days with prayer and penance and the practice of charity so that we may come to the Easter festival ready to renew once more the life-giving commitment of our Baptism.P 93, Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

Also…

May our fasting be hunger for justice;
our alms, a making of peace;
our prayer, the chant of humble and grateful hearts.P 95, Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

And finally…

The Church asks us to give ourselves to prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. The fasting that all do is together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily lenten discipline of individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities. Likewise, the giving of alms is some effort to share this world equally – not only though the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents.P 96, Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

People get hung up on the idea that something must be given up because that’s what forced down everyone’s throats. How many commercials have people seen about businesses offering fish meals on Fridays at a discount rate? I got hit with a blast of ads about it on various social media platforms as well as Hulu. How many articles have been re-posted or written anew about the giving up of things for Lent? Google gave me 110,000 news articles about the act of giving up things for Lent when I asked.But it’s also about the giving of charity; you know that very line item that most people seem to forget has a very specific and very central part to all of this? Alms-giving is as much an integral part of this as the denial of vice. We just don’t hear about that part as much because maybe it doesn’t sound as cool or as weird as the act of denying yourself something that you would really rather keep.And it also requires a focus on your religion. Many people use the time to focus on the reading of Scripture or the focus of prayer. I’ve been getting up in the mornings and trying to say a Hail Mary (I like those). I’m not familiar with the prayer and I stumble over it, but it’s an important part of the Catholic faith and I can remember my grandmother and mother saying Hail Marys when I was a kid. It seemed like a good focus.But for others, they read through the Bible. They choose maybe a book that they’re not as familiar with, or a specific theme throughout the Forty Days to focus on.At the heart of all of this, the purpose of the Forty Days is an act of rebirth, an act of renewal. People deny themselves these things and give things away in an act of public mimicry of Jesus’ 40 Days of Fasting in the Desert. At the end of it all, they are [hopefully] ready for the spiritual rebirth that will [again hopefully] occur as part of the celebrations of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.I always wonder how many people feel truly renewed at the end of Lent. It’s always been hit or miss with me.I’m not Catholic and have never been, baptized into the faith though I may have been. I was never confirmed and I don’t see myself going through that. At this point, my Catholic ancestors seem content with dragging me through the processes, directing me to educate myself on what I’m doing and why, and saying the prayers when they want. The veneration of saints has been a recent addition, but it’s here to stay. Besides, who can pass up a good prayer to Saint Anthony when your shit goes missing? (He always comes through.)I don’t go into the renewal aspect looking to renew my Baptism, or to learn more about Jesus. I always look at it from the perspective of my own chaotic attempts at religion. It’s a time of renewal – something that as a Kemetic I am keenly aware of in many ways – and I use it in an effort to do just that.I am hoping to renew my path, renew my desire to learn more outside of what I’ve already established, and maybe even renew my desire to continue forward. It can get really hard to want to be religious when everything seems like such a fucking crawl up the sheerest of mountain faces. But I’d like to renew, like to feel a bit of Zep Tepi during the Forty Days ahead. I’d like to… just remember what it felt like to be happy with what I’ve established at any rate.And hey, maybe I will get with this whole “healthy” business. I doubt it, so don’t assume I’ll succeed, but I’ve been known to surprise even me.