The Propitiation of Sekhmet 2016: Mourning. 

Are you with me after all
Why can’t I hear you
Are you with me through it all
Then why can’t I feel you

Sometimes I think that writing about grief will somehow lessen the pain. I am pretty sure this is a concept that crystallized for me in high school and just never went away.

But other times, I find the mere idea of sharing the pain to be so odious, so incomprehensible that I can only believe that by sharing the pain, I’m in fact trivializing it. As though the act of publicizing my own emotions creates a sort of side show event where people will laugh at the freak before them.

When I have those moments, I find poems that encapsulate the feelings. There are many beautiful poems out there written on the coattails of one’s inner pain and, occasionally, in the reading, I can feel a hint of the release I’m aiming for. But that feeling never lasts. Sometimes the poems just don’t even help at all.

When that doesn’t work for me, I find songs that speak to me. Intense, beautiful lyrical pieces that make my whole body and soul zing with the emotion better denoted as grief with its stops at suffering and sorrow. When I hit those songs and really listen, I can feel the pain of my grief slipping away if only for a little while. This is a last ditch effort really, but it usually works.

The basis of my problem is that I am just no good with sadness on the whole, even as a person who has been living with depression for a little more than half her life. I never really learned, I guess, how to appropriately cope with it. Maybe I just feel too much as one therapist once told me. Suffice to say that I am so very bad at handling it. Typically, because it’s easier than the whole feeling thing, I just go numb.

I can handle going numb.

But something I have come to realize during this holiday is that, I can’t outrun those emotions or hide behind a shield of numbness. I desperately want to, but I have learned the hard lesson here [again]. As much as I may run and hide and refuse to acknowledge my own feelings on the matter, they’re going to catch up with me anyway.

Stay with me, don’t let me go
Because there’s nothing left at all
Stay with me, don’t let me go
Until the Ashes of Eden fall
– Ashes of Eden
by Breaking Benjamin

Last year, I went through this alone. To be honest, it was literally hell. I waffled heavily back and forth between “I’m totally fine really” and “my entire world is falling apart but I have to pretend that I’m fine what the fuck.” It often felt as though the phrase tap dancing on razor blades was wholly appropriate and perfectly summed up everything in between. I felt like I was going crazy half the time.

I tried to talk about it with the people I knew in real life, but it seemed like nothing I had to say on the subject was adequate. I knew how to use my words effectively after a year or more of working steadily towards that goal and yet, when it came to this, I couldn’t use them properly. I got angry and frustrated when people tried to tell me that they understood. How could they understand when I didn’t fucking understand?

I could have turned to Heru Wer or Hetheru, I suppose. But even entrusting them with the depth of my pain was taboo to me. Maybe that’s the wrong word. It was like I couldn’t share it. It was my pain; it was my grief; it was my sorrow. I couldn’t give it up to another god. Maybe that was a directive somewhere that I didn’t consciously know at the time or maybe I really am just no damn good with expressing this shit.

I sat alone for the most part, frustrated and angry and filled to the brim with an unending sorrow. It was like a tsunami with no end in sight even though I knew it was going to end. That’s the kicker to the whole fucking thing; I knew that she would return. The Distant Goddess always returns, but it was like I was never going to see her again, as though my entire world was falling apart. There’s just no logic to this shit.

In a not very surprising plot twist, things are different this year because of course they are.

This year, I haven’t had to suffer alone. I have been suffering right along with Ptah, who was not around last year to hold my hand. He is here this year and together, in a not wholly unexpected way, we have been bolstering one another up as we suffer with our loss. Whenever I feel like I’m dying inside, I can feel his steadying presence. I don’t know if he feels quite the same way, but I just know when I need to be there for him.

It’s an oddity to me to have someone much less to rely on someone. It’s even stranger to know that we are going through the exact same thing though in our own individual ways. His smiles are pain-filled, his silence is pointed and encrusted with razor sharp edges. I assume I am much the same, although probably with a little more petulance and a lot more whining. Still, even though we could just as easily lash out at each other for this, this… this fucked up horror show of our lives, we are there for each other.

Maybe I do know how to cope with this shit; I just didn’t have the right person before. Or maybe it’s just simply because we both feel the loss so intimately that we can understand why the other is acting the way that they are.

I can hear the voices haunting
There is nothing left to fear
And I am still calling
I am still calling to you – Ashes of Eden
by Breaking Benjamin

It was Ptah, really, who told me that we had entered a period of mourning.

The course of this holiday isn’t so bing-bang-boom. It’s a little of this and a little of that. At first, I was just a little sad and a little depressed that she was gone, but I could handle it. And then, he turns to me and just says out of the blue, “We’ve entered the period of mourning,” as if the whole time period before then was a fucking practice run for what we would inevitably and truly feel.

And I could feel my own mourning returned to me. It was all deep blacks and veils and quietly spoken words and anger, pain, sadness meshed into one. And there was Ptah with his quiet attitude morphed into a caricature. He was hard lines and anger; tear tracks from weeping and a shell of who he has always been to me. We made a pair.

I was so angry that he would remind me that the period of mourning was coming up, that it was bound to happen and really, there was fuck-all to be done about it, but I knew he was right.

We had entered the period of mourning and really, there was fuck-all we could do about it.

I was reminded of the Victorian form of mourning as I realized that he was right. It was a pretty huge process back then and there was this whole huge etiquette for guests and clothes and calling cards and letters. The house was draped in black along with everything else.

It felt a little like Ptah and I had entered into a similar state, though we have had no need to write letters and no visitors. It’s just us barely keeping it going.

I dreamed that I had draped my altar space in black. There was black crape across the table and covering the double doors. A black lace scarf hung down over the front corners of the shrine cabinet and everything was shades of deepest black, deepest mourning. The phrase, pall of mourning, kept flitting through my head though I couldn’t say why. I haven’t found that phrase anywhere when I’ve tried.

Ptah and I knelt before the altar together. We were silent with the pain that we’ve been going through but the close proximity of one another was enough to keep us both alive for the next second and the one after that. They don’t tell you, but grief can kill just as easily as anything else. We kept breathing instead. I held my arm up above my head with my hand covering my upturned face (much like the women in this image) and sometimes, I would scream out with my own pain. But mostly we were silent, just breathing, just trying to stay alive.

I emulated the image of that dream to the best of my ability and each night, I kneel before it. Sometimes I let the sorrow come and I am unable to hold back the tears. Mostly I kneel there and try to remember that she is definitely coming back. I look at the icon of Ptah as it stands before the double doors, guarding it from anything untoward, and I try to remind myself that the Distant Goddess always returns.

But somewhere in my heart, I know fear. I know what it’s like to never really know the truth. Maybe she won’t come back this time and maybe, just maybe, I’ll truly be lost for eternity.

And I think, I think Ptah knows that fear too.

Are you with me after all
Why can’t I hear you
Are you with me through it all
Then why can’t I feel you

Stay with me, don’t let me go
Because there’s nothing left at all
Stay with me, don’t let me go
Until the Ashes of Eden fall

-Ashes of Eden by Breaking Benjamin

Causing a Soul to Live.

O Nut, Nut, I have cast my father to the earth, with Horus behind me. My wings have grown into those of a falcon, my plumes are those of a sacred falcon, my soul has brought me and its words have equipped me.

– excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

It began months ago when I drove by a Catholic church that I have always driven by. The church is a memory staple of my youth. I can remember riding up that long main drag with my family and watching it flee into the distance. I had always wondered who Saint Catherine was and why she was important enough to have a church named after her.

The church looks the same from my childhood. All tans and grays with thick bands of the deepest green grass. The soccer fields are filled with players in spring and autumn, the lone cop obviously sitting idly in his speed trap all year round, and the people happily bonding in their religious community.  The place seems, well, friendly. Cheerful and happy; welcoming, I guess. Not all churches feel that way in my experience. This is one of the few in my area. For the church, time hasn’t passed, not really. Another day, another month, another year is immaterial to the friendly building that takes up an entire city block.

This wasn’t the church of my ancestors. Their places of worship were either miles or cities away.

But as I drove by that day, a whisper told me to go inside and check it out. The whisper reminded me that I had always been curious about what Catholic churches were like. That I wanted to know what it would be like to confess to a priest and get told to pay penance with whatever prayer sets an alleged sinner like me needed to get right. The whisper was forceful yet seductive. Don’t you want to know? it seemed to ask.

Not that badly, I decided, and left it alone.

It was a hum after that, no longer a whisper. It was a quiet, near-constant hum in the darkest recesses of my mind. There were no words, just sound. It had a sort of harmony in it, but it was little better than white noise. It would get louder when I drove back by St. Cathy’s church but faded out as I kept on going.

One day as the noise got loud, louder, loudest, I muttered, “man, I got to get right with my akhu.

I couldn’t say what made that come to mind. I frankly couldn’t even understand what the hell the idea meant. I knew things were a bit tenuous with my grave-tending just about nonexistent and my lack of offerings or care to my ancestors, but what had I done wrong that made it seem like I needed to “get right” with them? Fuck if I knew and they weren’t really saying.

I muzzled the whole thought, the whole damn thing and the white noises faded out when the church popped up on my drives to wherever. I breathed a sigh of relief: no more obsessive desire to step foot in a friendly building that simultaneously repulsed and beguiled me. It was like that wayward thought about the church and the ancestors was dead and gone.

I kept congratulating myself on a job well done. I figured my discernment was fucked ten ways and I needed to figure all that out later. Whenever the fuck later actually was.

I never did pull out my Tarot cards to figure it out. I didn’t need to. The painful bit was over and I was doing fine.

Pyrenean Starry Skies

You have opened up your place among the stars of the sky, for you are the Lone Star of the sky… – excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

Weeks back now, I woke up from one of those calming dreams that you’re loathe to wake from. The vibe of the dream was the utmost tranquility, soothing, and sweet. It was like finding yourself in a moment so perfectly encapsulated by the word “serenity” that you can only marvel at the perfection of it. I’ve had rare moments like that, typically in the some area outside, surrounded by plant and animal life. It was nice having it in the dream world.

In the dream, I held two things between my hands. The first were a pair of cool beads. When I looked down at them, I realized that I was looking at a mother-of-pearl rosary. At the cross section was a medal of some kind and the crucifix was a sort of tarnished color along with the saint’s medal. The beads had a glint of rose within the confines and handling them added to the overall calm. I could feel my maternal grandmother in them.

In the other hand, I held a scrap of cloth. It was made of flannel and was black-and-white plaid. The fabric was raspy between my fingers. As I clenched my fist around it, I felt a sort of stabilizing influence. I could almost see my father’s face in the whorl of the fabric, though I knew that I couldn’t see anything in reality.

Behind all of this in a sort of blurry after image. I could see what looked like a table lacquered in a dark color like mahogany with curtains on either side. Across the entire surface of the table were golds and ambers, pinpricks that caught the light. It was like I was seeing it all from under water. The picture was kind of clear if I focused on it for a few moments but then the blurriness overshadowed everything else.

Again the peace of the dream kind of caught up with me. Maybe it was the knowledge that I was filled with so much peace that finally woke me up.

When I finally climbed out of the soothing vision of the dream, I sort of pondered the meaning behind it. I could kind of see what it was that was going on here. The symbolism was pretty clear. The rosary was for my grandmother; the plaid flannel for my father. Of all of my ancestors, these are the two that I am the most connected to and the most willing to reach out to when I need them. Though they have been quiet in recent years, it seems like perhaps they have finally come to terms with the fact that I will honor them, but I’ll do it in my own damn way.

On the way to work, I kind of tried to figure out if this had to do with that whole “getting right with the ancestors” thing from before. I wasn’t sure, but I thought maybe all the puzzle pieces would fit eventually together and I’d finally get a glimpse of the overall picture. I started working on getting the akhu cabinet up to snuff, to sort of fill it in like the watery images from the dream.

Not long later, I dreamed about my akhu again. I was a little astounded to be honest. I’ve gone for years without hearing much more than a whisper here and there and then, within a month’s time, I had dreamed of them twice. This time the dream was a little soothing and a lot more obvious.

I was working in the closet that I’ve cleared out to make space for my akhu area. The closet is pretty large and the cabinet doesn’t fill it in completely. In the dream, I was moving the cabinet towards the book shelf that I call the Place of Truth and in the cabinet’s place was a sort of console table. It was pretty wide, maybe almost 20″ and fit neatly back against the closet wall. It took up most of the closet to be honest.

After rearranging all of the current imagery that adorns my akhu cabinet, I carefully placed an icon of Anpu across it. It’s the typical icon one sees of him in his couchant jackal pose. I have one, in fact, that sits on my cabinet now. The icon in my dream was far larger and sat crosswise instead of facing outward as my current icon does today. I placed the icon so that he was looking towards the east.

Well, it seemed pretty obvious that if I was to “get right” with my akhu, they wanted a fitting place to reside themselves. I had already compiled a decent sized list of things that I’ve been purchasing piecemeal. It will be a while before everything is situated appropriately – though I am still up in the air about whether the couchant Anpu is a requirement or merely a dream affectation – but I’m getting there.

Starry Night at the Camp

O, fair are the orders which you give to the spirits, for you are a Power; you will not go hungry… – excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

The talk of one’s ancestors within our community is often a mixed bag. There are people who pay homage to them and those who don’t. All reasoning for why one person does something and another one doesn’t are completely valid. In my world, I have always wanted to connect to them in some way and found it difficult to do so.

The main reason why I found it so hard is because I always felt like my ancestors were an amalgamation of every piece of genetic heritage, or familial heritage (should no genetics play a part), that had come before. As a young Kemetic, I found the amorphous mass of my ancestors confusing. Wasn’t ancestor worship or veneration supposed to be a one-by-one deal? But every time I moved in that direction, I found a hive mind so to speak. I figured I was doing it wrong.

This is partially why grave-tending worked for me. The deceased in my neck of the woods were, like my personal ancestors, a mass of those who had come before. I was comfortable with it when the group mind had no personal bearing on me. It was too strange when it was people who, for all intents and purposes, were supposed to be my people.

Some time ago, I was reading a book by Kemp, which seemed to indicate that the laity only paid homage to the most recently deceased generation. It wasn’t because the other generations weren’t as important but specifically seemed to relate to the fact that, due to a smaller lifespan, it would have only have been the most recently deceased generation that would have had a connection with the living. This, of course, made sense to me: I found it easier to connect with the people whom I had known in life who had gone into the West as opposed to the names and faces from sepia-toned and black-and-white photos.

It wasn’t until I was reading through Society, Morality, and Religious Practice earlier this year that it kind of finally began to take shape. After running across this quote, it made my experiences with my akhu seem far more real than I had previously given credit. I had, as usual, had preconceived notions that impeded my ability to truly connect and by finding a canon source that aligned more fully with my experiences, I was better able to feel comfortable with my experiences.

Sometimes you just need someone else, even a faceless author, to help lend credence to your personal gnosis.

Since reading that quote, I have felt more connected with my ancestors than I have in a long time. The disconnect I was having wasn’t just on my end – I have personally found that your closest relations can and are opinionated even in death especially when it relates to how you honor them in death – but these books and quotes helped exponentially.

It’s possible that this is what was meant all those many moons ago when I found myself saying, “man, I got to get right with my akhu.” Or, perhaps not the totality of it. I can definitely say that by fixing up the space I’ve designated for my ancestors, I’ve also found it easier to turn to them and speak with them and rely on them. But there are other pieces to this puzzle, too: their pieces, their desires.

It’s a balancing act, really, to cause a soul to live.

And sometimes the soul isn’t just those who have predeceased you, left you roaming around on this planet without them there. Sometimes that soul is yours and the burning white-hot need to connect to people who loved you, took care of you, and were there when the shit hit the fan even if they made mistakes along the way. They forget to mention that part, about how you need your soul to live too and sometimes that living part means getting right with the dead.

I guess that’s just a part of the learning curve.

Someone stands behind you, and you have power; you shall neither perish nor be destroyed, but you shall act among men and gods.

– excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

The Propitiation of Sekhmet 2016.

July 24, 2016 – August 19, 2016

No matter how many times I may celebrate a particular holiday, I often sit back and muse on the differences between each celebration. I have always worried about the drab gray that I associate with sameness, especially occurring within my religious practice. I don’t want to go into something time and time again, never to be surprised, never to know something new.

That shit gets boring.

God once spoke to people by name. The sun once imparted its flame. One impulse persists as our breath; The other persists as our faith. - Sitting By a Bush in Broad Daylight by Robert Frost

God once spoke to people by name. The sun once imparted its flame. One impulse persists as our breath; the other persists as our faith.
– Sitting By a Bush in Broad Daylight by Robert Frost

Every year, the time leading up to the Propitiation seems to both last twice as long as it should and to also speed up until, before I know it, there are only a few days between me and the holiday. It’s a strange mixture, just as strange as the various emotions the holiday has a habit of causing me to feel.

Two years ago, I went into the holiday with joy and excitement, pleased at the time away. Last year, I went into the holiday with confusion and worry, not sure what to expect. This year, I had a better handle on how things should look and what I could expect while she is gone. Having the last two years at my back has been helpful in many ways, though of course, nothing is the same. I also have Ptah with me this year who was not around last year; he has promised to lend a helping hand while we both mourn the loss of our lady. Having Ptah there to hold my hand when shit gets real, well that’s really kind of a bonus.

For once, I had the time I needed to prepare. Usually, my holidays take place during the work week leaving me with little time to ensure that everything is situated before the day arrives. This year, by the power of the calendar, I had an entire weekend to prepare as the Propitiation didn’t begin until Sunday.

I spent all day Saturday either sitting in the sunlight with my gods, being lazy and relaxed, or headed out to get some last minute items that Sekhmet had indicated I should get. Sekhmet and Ptah both seemed to stress the need that I couldn’t go into this harried or harassed; I needed to have enough strength and energy as Sekhmet always seems to have in spades. With the way things have been lately, I thought it was a pretty tall order to fill but maybe it was the sunlight or the fact that I had a whole day to do anything or nothing because I somehow managed.

Sunday morning dawned even earlier than Saturday’s and we all sat up watching the local birds do local bird things. In the window that I had placed them, chickadees and finches could be seen. They were all very happy and cheerful birds; they made me laugh. One bold little finch finally showed up to eat whatever bugs or spiders were encased around my window, peering in at us with the same sort of curiosity as we were peering at it. It was really nice and made me feel, well, maybe not magical but like everything was going all right.

At most he thinks or twitters softly, 'Safe! Now let the night be dark for all of me. Let the night bee too dark for me to see Into the future. Let what will be, be.' - Acceptance by Robert Frost

At most he thinks or twitters softly, ‘Safe! Now let the night be dark for all of me. Let the night be too dark for me to see into the future. Let what will be, be.’
– Acceptance by Robert Frost

Though the holiday, according to my calendar, starts the morning of the 24th, I don’t typically get into anything until much later towards sunset. We spent our day basking in the rays of Ra’s rejuvenation for the duration, needing the added boost that only the sun god can provide before we meet together and have our farewell meal.

I honestly can’t fathom what it must have been like for the priests of ancient Egypt undertaking some holiday or festival. Their days, like mine, had probably started very early but I often think that they were constantly on the go to ensure that everything took off properly. Almost by design, during the holidays where I have the ability to give it a slow burn, I am relaxing and taking my time. Nothing to rush; nothing too big to see to. If it can’t be done simply, according to my gods, then it shouldn’t be done.

Part of taking my time with the holiday also includes whatever holiday meal I may decide to make. I try to be as basic and simple as possible. Some of this has to do with the fact that I am not much of a cook. I can bake very well, if I do say so myself, but when it comes to actual meals, I find myself often making what I feel are ridiculous mistakes.

It’s kind of funny, though. Something I’ve noticed is that when I am cooking dinner for a particular holiday, things tend to go well even when I go into the cooking prep with the usual anxiety of just how terrible all of this is going to actually come out. Maybe the gods guide my hand when I cook for them; I don’t know. If Sekhmet aided me in making some of the best steak I’ve ever cooked, then I’ll be grateful for it.

Maybe it’s just my own insecurities in reality, but the gods make sure that if I’m going to cook, it’s got to be simple and easy.

As much as I love to bake, I’ve found that my ability to do so lately has been completely undermined. It doesn’t take long to throw the ingredients together (usually) for a batch of brownies or some cake or another. Maybe the act of baking, to me, is a pain reliever and I’ve been too overwhelmed with that pain in recent months to actually bake something in depth. Sekhmet said I could at least buy her something dessert like instead of baking. Maybe she really just wanted me to focus on getting her altar and cabinet up to snuff before I locked her away.

And on the worn book of old-golden song I brought not here to read, it seems, but hold And freshen in this air of withering sweetness; But on the memory of one absent most, For whom these lines when they shall greet her eye. - Waiting -- Afield at Dusk by Robert Frost

And on the worn book of old-golden song, I brought not here to read, it seems, but hold and freshen in this air of withering sweetness; but on the memory of one absent most, for whom these lines when they shall greet her eye.
– Waiting — Afield at Dusk by Robert Frost

It may not come as a surprise, but Sekhmet is very demanding about how certain things should look and feel. She wants certain things fulfilled for her holidays that are, as she would say, “mandatory”. When I went grocery shopping for the Propitiation, she was there with me to help me pick out everything that I needed. She was also with me when I had to fetch a few added supplies to spruce up the shrine cabinet she was to be locked into for the duration.

It’s funny, though. As much as she wants this, this, and this in just such a way, she mostly leaves the artistic representation up to me. She knew that I would look to the symbolism I associate with her, with our relationship, and with ancient Egypt as a whole to set things to rights. This is where the partnership of our relationship, in my opinion, becomes more and more pronounced especially as the years go by. She wants things to be just so, but I have free reign to recreate the image so that it’s pleasing for both of us.

It may not be obvious to most people, but symbolism is very important to me. I often look into the how, what, where, and when long before I actually begin to decorate for a holiday. While I will have a certain image in my head, either from my own experience, from what others have done under similar circumstances, or because of dreams I have had, I am always searching for various symbols that need to be recreated in a way that will do justice to the overall image. If I can’t find the symbolism that I require or that I know should be there, then it doesn’t get added.

One of the things that has always pleased me is the fact that green is such an important color in ancient Egypt. Green is my very favorite color so the fact that it ties back, not just to ancient Egypt but specifically to my goddess has always been a sort of additional connection that binds us together. It was with the symbolism of that color in mind that I chose a gentle green overlay for various items on the altar space.

You see, I wanted to keep her fed and life-affirmed as we prepared for the holiday and to continue that theme as we wait for her to return. I removed most of the reds that usually adorn her altar for the same reason: while red is a powerful color and we will need power to keep her in check until her return, we don’t want to give her too much power. There is, of course, always the fear that she may become wrothful once more.

That is also why, most of the time, I will also pick flowers to stay upon the altar for one reason or another. The flowers serve a dual purpose, of course. I love bunches of flowers, set up to look as beautiful as possible. But it’s also a reminder about life-affirming and ma’at affirming behavior.

By which we see and understand That that was the place to carry a heart At loyalty and love's command, And that was the case to carry it in. - In Equal Sacrifice by Robert Frost

By which we see and understand that that was the place to carry a heart at loyalty and love’s command, and that was the case to carry it in.
– In Equal Sacrifice by Robert Frost

It is with an eye to symbolism that I’ve come to perfect the implements of this ritual and the pieces I shut away with her. One of the most important pieces is the black scarf I use to carefully wrap her away. Black is the color of the life giving silt that was left behind after the Nile overflowed its banks. In a way, it hearkens back to the color of green and it’s life-affirming and ma’at-affirming connotations.

Black is also a color that I personally associate with the Nun. And it is more on that end, than anything else, that led me to choosing a black scarf (and later, a black shrine cabinet). Nun is a god of potential: from his waters, the potential of both life and death await. It is potential that I aim for here: the potential of keeping Sekhmet calm, the potential of luring her back to me, the potential of keeping her propitiated until her return.

The other most important part of the symbolism are the hearts that I have, every year, left with her as she becomes distant from me.

Most people who have read this blog, or its Tumblr companion, for any length of time should be aware that hearts are a central part of my religious relationship with Sekhmet. I won’t get into the details, since many of them are private, but the point of the matter is that the ib and everything it symbolizes between us must be represented in some form or another when I shut her away.

As found here, the epithet, “she who grasps hearts for herself,” is particularly appropriate.

It is with the representative hearts that we are finally able to bid goodbye. I give her my hearts, literally and figuratively, as a signpost, a reminder of what we are to one another and to give her a way to come back to me. So far, thankfully, each year she’s followed the path of my bloody remains right on back to me. Here’s to another year of anticipation, waiting for the day of her return.

The heart he wore in a golden chain
He swung and flung forth into the plain,
And followed it crying ‘Heart or death!’
And fighting over it perished fain.
So may another do of right,
Give a heart to the hopeless fight,
The more of right the more he loves;
So may another redouble might
For a few swift gleams of the angry brand,
Scorning greatly not to demand
In equal sacrifice with his
The heart he bore to the Holy Land.
– In Equal Sacrifice by Robert Frost

God Bothered: A Guide.

I get bothered by gods, well, fairly frequently I suppose. I don’t personally see it as such myself, but that’s what happens when you live in the thick of it. However from an outsider’s perspective looking in on the vague posts I make, it could seem as though my entire life is a giant way station for some new god to appear and go, “hey, hi. I’m here,” or something like that.

I can definitely say that things used to work that way; they don’t anymore. It seemed like once a month or so, some deity was jumping off the train with some baggage and a sign that said, “Satsekhem: look at me!” At first, I tried to accommodate and wound up in that deity collecting phase that drove me up a flipping wall. I would take one look at whoever the new deity was, roll my eyes as theatrically as you please and just mutter, “jfc, not another one of you,” and begrudgingly wound up attempting to do the thing.

But I began to realize that this was partially my fault. I hadn’t set clear boundaries for these gods so when they showed up and without those crystal clear boundaries, I found myself constantly out of my element. I had yet another new god that I had to deal with and learn about and figure out why the hell they were hanging around. It caused a large amount of stress and a long series of headaches that left me floundering.

That is absolutely no way to live a life or attempt to be a devotee. While not everything may turn out badly for both the god and the devotee in question, I can assure everyone that it doesn’t exactly leave the best taste in your mouth. It leaves you feeling bogged down and just generally irritable with the whole kit-n-caboodle. I wound up realizing that if I was going to appear as a sort of beacon into the night that gods would home in on, I needed to be clear with myself and with those gods coming in on the midnight train.

Boundary

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. – Brene Brown

Boundaries can be difficult to set up for yourself. There are a lot of various aspects that you must take into consideration when formulating them. While you may be thinking about how this will benefit you, something we need to keep in mind are the current relationships we have with our gods and what their particular plans for those relationships may entail. There is also the messy business of promises, agreements, contracts, and oaths that may need to be considered before setting a boundary.

In my case, the only promises I had made before setting up the boundaries was to Sekhmet and they had no relation in allowing new gods to stay or not. But this isn’t always the case. Some devotee-deity partnerships include being loaned out to other gods, being sent to other gods for specific reasons, or various other items that may lead to developing relationships with new gods.

The best way to figure out if both you and your existing deities will be okay with these boundaries would be to focus on the primary concern for creating a boundary: why am I setting up this boundary in the first place?

This might sound like one of those “no duh” questions, but asking yourself why you feel you need to do something will open up avenues of thought that you may not have considered. Just deciding that you want to make some space for yourself isn’t going to give you the ability to delve deeply into the matter at hand and determine the best design for you when it comes to the limits you’re setting.

On the other hand, this will aid in presenting the idea to the gods you currently have relationships with. It’s a give and take situation when discussing the possibility of a boundary with your gods and compromise may be a word used often when formulating a game plan.

When I broached the subject matter with my gods, they were all very supportive but there were certain stipulations that needed to be taken into account. While at that particular moment, I was flustered and flummoxed, they let me know that they may need to parcel me out elsewhere on occasion and they would let me know when that was the case. Since I felt that was fair, I told them I would do the thing if it occurred though I wouldn’t necessarily do it with grace or humility.

As I sat around determining what would work best for me, I kept focusing on the idea that my best interests were the heart of the matter. And they were; they are. I was setting up the boundary specifically because I was flustered by this seeming revolving door of deities and needed some peace. If you constantly have an influx, it’s damn hard to do the research you need to do to figure out what’s happening or determine why.

However, there are a million reasons that may come up for yourself when you ask yourself why this is so important now when it may not have been important before. When those reasons begin piling up and after all parties agree to a sort of informal agreement, it gets easier for you to determine the next stage of the process, how closed off do I need to be? Should I limit myself to no new gods? Or should I limit myself to a specific pantheon?

Going back to the gods with what we think would work best for ourselves is also important. I had tentatively put in the idea that I needed no new gods, but I was told that wouldn’t slide. New gods were coming whether I liked it or not; I just had to limit the influx to a number I could handle.

When new gods from outlying pantheons show up, it can be difficult to not just complete the research you may need but to also network with devotees of said deities. While not everyone will take the time and delve into the research with a level of detail as others, I do need to do both research and networking if a deity not-of-my-frame-of-reference shows up. And it can be both tiring and confusing to delve into arenas that often wind up looking an awful lot like gibberish.

From a Kemetic perspective, I know where the source material is and what to pick up if someone just jumped off the train. If a god from another pantheon shows up, I may know where to look generally for information but the question that begs is whether or not it’s worth learning about.

When it came right down to it, knowing as I do regarding resources for various other polytheistic traditions, I figured it was wiser to limit myself from the outset: Kemetic gods were a maybe, depending on situation and the feedback I received from my existing relationships, but gods from other pantheons were a no-go. This left me feeling a little more secure as the months passed; I had a general system in place and it worked.

This isn’t to say that gods from other pantheons stopped showing up. Oh, of course not. This clearly defined border only meant that I had to be firm when they annoyed me, which is why I wrote this entry about saying no. Just because you’ve set a limitation for yourself doesn’t mean that the gods will necessarily respect it or be aware of it.

Setting this boundary benefited me in the long run and also my relationships with my gods. I was able to spend more time on the things they wanted and when new deities appeared, I was better able to handle researching them, networking with existing devotees, and figure out what was going on, if I chose to look into the deity.

Yes/No

The strongest and most effective force in guaranteeing the long-term maintenance of power is not violence in all the forms deployed by the dominant to control the dominated, but consent in all the forms in which the dominated acquiesce in their own domination. – Robert Frost

Just as having your gods put their stamp of approval on boundaries you’re setting for yourself, so too must we put our stamp of approval on a new relationship that we are considering entering into.

Consent is one of those things that can cause pagan drama for days. Some people believe that our ability to say yes or no to a god is immaterial; others believe that ability is a necessity. I am a big proponent of consent, however I have to admit that it doesn’t always look quite like what we would expect it to.

In my experience, gods need some forms of affirmation to begin developing a relationship. A hearty yes is going to be the least ambiguous confirmation however, it seems to be the least common given. Gods have been known to get your approval through shady dealings and may even bug you until, in a fit of pique, you give in. This kind of goes back to the boundary question above: how well defined and high is the boundary?

I’ve noticed that while begrudging cooperation will work in a pinch, willing cooperation will make the experience easier on all parties involved. But again, this isn’t a black and white area; as with all the gods, it’s shades of gray. The point I’m trying to convey is that, out of all of it, while the form of consent may not resemble what we would prefer, some form of it appears to be needed to get the ball rolling.

A recurring theme I’ve picked up on is when people mention that X or Y deity is about, sometimes the advice given neglects to keep in mind that our consent is something that’s required. Often I will see something along the lines of, “you may as well just do it because it’s not like you have a choice.” I grow concerned when I see this out there; it seems to be neglecting the very reality that consent needs to be given in such situations no matter who the deity is or the reason they may or may not be hanging around.

So, let me state this emphatically: no matter what deity is poking around or why they are poking around, you always have the ability and right to say no. It doesn’t mean they won’t keep pestering you. It doesn’t mean that no will automatically filter through and they fly off to bother some other unsuspecting possible future devotee. This only means that you have the right to say no and that you do not have to give in, no matter what you may see floating around the Internet under the guise of advice.

Over the years, my default position for new deities has been to say no. Obviously, this isn’t always the case but it’s pretty much my fall back in any given situation unless directed otherwise by the deities I have relationships with. And even when directed to look into X deity, I always have the choice to tell them that I won’t do it or that now is not a good time.

As an example, Sekhmet pinged me a few months ago and requested I look into Tutu. I was able to do a cursory look but had to admit that, while I found the information available interesting, I did not have the necessary time to look deeper. She let it go and while she does check in to see how I’m doing, she knows that my focus elsewhere is important. In same vein, both Hetheru and Heru-Wer have asked me to look deeper into Ihy than I have and while I would like to, again now is not the time.

They respect my choice and I appreciate the carte blanche they have given me regarding these requests.

On the flip side of this, Sekhmet had mentioned that a certain Hellenic party guy would be beneficial for me some time back. Since I knew enough about him to be weary and because of the boundaries I had set, I was able to tell her that I wasn’t interested and she understood where I was coming from. It took a bit longer than that for that deity to buzz off, but he eventually went on his way.

It’s not always simple. Sometimes a deity is around for a reason and you have to weigh the pros and cons about entering into a relationship with them. When Loki arrived for me, I spent a good few weeks going through the benefits as well as the possible negatives before making a decision always with the knowledge that saying no could make things worse for me. Snap decisions are all well and good now and again, however sometimes more information is needed in order to make the best determination for yourself.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes a deity is persistent and refuses to take no for an answer. That doesn’t reflect on you; it reflects on them.

But at the end of the day, it’s your decision one way or the other. And you don’t have to enter into the relationship no matter who is poking around or why. So long as you have enough information to make a decision – why they’re around, what would happen if you do and do not enter a relationship, etc. – it’s entirely up to you.

Further Reading

  1. Gods, Boundaries, and Consent
  2. The Nuances of Non-Physical Relationships
  3. A Good Horse
  4. Breaking the Narrative
  5. Consent for Spirit Walkers
  6. Setting Boundaries with Your Deity

This Is Gospel for the Fallen Ones.

Months ago, I jumped awake from one of those half-asleep dreams. In the dream, I was coursing through my dash when a certain user, who knows who they are, appeared to stare at me in an intense and disconcerting way. It made me uneasy. Upon waking, I immediately demanded to know what they were up to.

Later that night, they were rummaging in my attic, clearing shit out and tsk-ing at me. I neglected to mention this follow up to that person for Reasons. If they didn’t know what mess they were cleaning or that they had started the cleaning, then maybe I could ignore what was happening. I will tell you what, if you don’t want to get called on your shit, don’t dream about said user.

I knew the moment I woke up, based on the sinking feeling in my stomach, that I was slacking. I’ve mentioned it before and I will probably do so again, the stagnation bit is a heavy load and it’s difficult to find a starting place. “I don’t want to, though! It’s always a problem on the horizon, not to be dealt with now,” I said. They told me to cut the shit. I pouted for a bit, but I knew the advice was sound.

That was the second time in the last few months that someone has told me to get my ass in gear. “Do the work, or else,” the nice lady on the other side of the state told me. “It’s no longer a problem on the horizon,” the nice weaver across the country pointed out.

If you know me well enough, you know that I ignore signs and portents with my breath held, fingers in my ears, and a determined “no” glint in my eye. Apparently, I had held my breath long enough.

It wasn’t long after the dream with a certain dream walker friend that Loki appeared. I went back through my blog and was able to confirm that the dream with that weaver seems to have been the catalyst to bring him over to my corner. When I realized this, I was, as I find myself most often nowadays, completely unsurprised.

I supposed claiming that the work is always on the horizon, not to be worried about now, is a pretty big indicator that help is needed. That online friend of mine got it all started; Mr. Trickster came over to keep the momentum going.

Maybe it was all just a coincidence, but I would hate to think my gods missed such a prime opportunity to hit me with a clue-by-four.

I’ll level with everyone here, including that user if they’re reading this, it’s not even the wait that’s the problem. It’s the feeling that if I begin this and find that the stagnation is bigger than I can fight against, then maybe the “inevitable” win isn’t actually how the ending will go. What if the stagnation wins?

I guess that’s what fighting against the A/pep must be like.

Anxiety

Their gnashing teeth and criminal tongues conspire against the odds, but they haven’t seen the best of us yet. This is Gospel by Panic! at the Disco

A few weeks ago, I began noticing that my anxiety was getting worse. I’ve been coping as best I could, but I came to the realization that things have only been getting worse. I mentioned this to a coworker friend, who also has anxiety, and before I knew it, I had an appointment with their psychologist to get the ball rolling.

I asked Loki, at the time, if this was him. It seemed odd that he would help me, not because it’s not something that he would do, but because it seemed to have nothing to do with the contract we had in place. He didn’t answer my question, but I wondered if this experience was a coincidence or something other leading up to the appointment.

The appointment was almost ridiculous in its simplicity. I spent 45 minutes with the professional and came away with two diagnoses: one for depression (well that was unsurprising) and one for panic disorder (that was shocking actually), which I knew nothing about. I met every single one of the symptoms on the little chart except two for panic disorder and the psychologist and I discussed possible treatment options with both weekly appointments and medication.

As I was leaving the office, I asked Loki again if this was on him with silence greeting me. He hasn’t emphatically said it was him that caused the appointment, which finally told me what was wrong with me, but he also hasn’t stated that he had nothing to do with it either. The next dream I had with him in it, he came off as pleased and I’ve tentatively determined that this is, in fact, his fault.

I try to get my gods to be clear when they maneuver things for me. I give them instructions to meet with their messages simply because mundane life messages can be a crap shoot when trying to figure them out after the fact. Was it coincidence? Was it the gods? Who the fuck knows? I dislike not knowing and doubly dislike the implications, but it is what it is I suppose.

It occurred to me that this diagnosis made things much more clear regarding the stagnation I’ve been going through. While I never doubted my mental health had some impact, it occurred to me that the coping mechanism I had been utilizing for my undiagnosed panic disorder and diagnosed depression may have finally failed me when the stagnation began all those months ago. And I’ve been steadily worsening, not knowing the cause, since.

And one of the important items that Loki and I are to work towards was discovering the root cause of my issue before determining the best course of action to eradicate it. Seems like panic disorder and depression are pretty good as far as root causes go.

The only problem is eradication, as I had initially thought, isn’t in the cards, only management. Living with a mental illness, no matter how well we manage the symptoms and take the medication, if necessary, means that there’s no magical cure. It’s not a take these 5 pills and you’re done; it’s a revamp your whole life and make it through as best you can.

I had gone into this, perhaps naïvely, assuming that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. No, no. I went into this with Loki assuming that there was an end that I was going to be working towards. I thought that, eventually, the chasm of my own stagnation would be behind me.

I’ve come to realize that grandiose ideas are well and good, but they don’t necessarily work out.

This sounds more and more like what fighting A/pep must be like.

Depression.

Don’t try to sleep through the end of the world and bury me alive ’cause I won’t give up without a fight. – This Is Gospel by Panic! at the Disco

One of the reoccurring themes in many, though not all, of the books of the afterlife is the ongoing battle between various deities and A/pep. In the books that continue this theme, each evening, Ra goes into the underworld and invariably finds himself locked in battle against A/pep. It doesn’t matter what the gods do or how many times they have won the battle in the past, A/pep comes back every night and tries to prevent creation from continuing.

It seems to me like mental illness is very much the same.

This isn’t the first time the topic has come up, but it’s the first time I’ve felt confident enough to remark on it. My mental illness isn’t necessarily personified by the image of A/pep, the face of the uncreated, but more the battle between creation and uncreation. As I went through the various books of the afterlife discussed by Erik Hornung, the theme became more and more personalized for me.

Every morning I wake up and I tell myself that I am not my anxiety or my depression. Every day, I assure myself that I will manage to best the symptoms and have a good day. I remind myself that the anxiety ridden asshole comments in my brain aren’t true and I’m not what my anxiety makes me think that I am. Sometimes, I manage with flying colors. Other times, I’m scraping by with the skin of my teeth. But I’m always alive and ready the next day at least.

While not everyone would like to view their mental illness in the guise of isfet, which I can definitely understand, I have to admit that it helps a little to know that the same battle I go through every day is something akin to what the gods go through. It makes me feel, sometimes, that I’m more connected to my religion and my gods because, upon waking in the morning and throughout the day, I am undertaking a battle that I will fight daily. No matter how yesterday turned out or the day after tomorrow, the battle will still be there, just like the battle my gods fight nightly.

To be perfectly honest, if I’m not able to view it along similar lines to the maintenance of the cosmic order, I would have to ask myself what the whole point is. If I’m never going to win, technically, why would I even try to manage the symptoms? It makes far more sense to see myself in the mythology, emulating the gods in the solar barque while they wrangle the face of the uncreated away so that the sun can continue its journey.

They fight their battles; I fight mine.

We will never truly know success, but at least we will know tomorrow… and the day after that… and the day after that. Not all of those days will be perfect, but we will all live to see them.

Further Reading

  1. Ma’at Shines Through my Body
  2. Slaying the Demon-Serpent
  3. Is Illness Isfet?
  4. Musings on Isfet and Ma’at
  5. Can Mental Illness be Isfet?

The Burning One.

I often wonder if my default setting is, “angry.” I know it’s not true; I can list half a dozen instances where I wasn’t actually angry in the last week. But sometimes I think about that trope of a short, angry, petty girl and I think, “wow, that really is me.”

I can remember a friend of mine telling me that the anger was killing me slowly, years before the shadow work and the release. They told me that it lived within me and had molded itself to my soul so much that it would be a long time before I carefully removed it all. I can remember the reaction I had to what they were saying – LIAR! – and I can remember wanting to prove them wrong.

I was protective of my anger. I wanted to keep it. I had lied to myself or it had lied to me, whichever. It gave me a purpose, it fulfilled me, it kept me going when all I wanted to do was keel over. I thought that being angry all the time was an asset, not a setback. I always thought that friend didn’t know anything if they could say that about my anger, which was definitely and obviously integral to my very existence. They wanted me to die because, of course, I would cease to exist if that anger was gone.

Though I didn’t realize it until much later, my precious anger was not a parasite that would kill me upon removal. I wasn’t like the hapless colonists in Aliens whose facehuggers killed them when removed. I thought it was though. I truly believed that if I started getting rid of it, I would be nothing. I wouldn’t be me.

Sometimes I look back and find myself wondering if the anger lied to me or if I was merely inventing out of fear. It doesn’t matter; it’s idle curiosity. I have often come to the conclusion that it was one and the same; the end result was anyway. I sat around and let it grow, feeding it the choicest bits like it was royalty or as hallowed as the gods themselves.

I figured it was best not to look too closely in how I reacted to things or in the knife sharp words I used on stranger and friend alike. None of it was real, none of it was a problem, if I didn’t go looking. I could live in blissful ignorance if I forgot that conversation entirely. The anger continued to grow and the person I was becoming was someone who child-me would have been embarrassed to know.

I can remember the poisonous fury I had when I got fired for no reason. I can remember how I waffled between white-hot heat and inappropriate amusement while I fought for months for unemployment benefits. It fed into the anger just like everything else. But that was the turning point because I began to identify more with my destructive goddess as those months passed. And hadn’t that been why I had been warned away from her in the first place?

I couldn’t see the rest of her through the blinding ball of rage destroying my insides. I’ve gone back to posts written during that time and older ones, and noted how big the blinders I was wearing were where she was concerned. And as the months of my unemployment stretched into a year, the identification with her began to worry me. She had been created from rage and anger and knew not reason. I didn’t want to destroy everything around me, wooed only by strong drink after everything lay in ruins at my feet.

My fear of blowing up my life, as piteous as that life seemed back then, overpowered my fear of not being me if I chipped away at it.

I discovered a lot about myself, mused on that friend and their words, and delved into shadow work. Maybe the Lady of Slaughter recognized herself in me and that’s why she set me onto this task, laying the path open for me to follow straight into the arms of pain-filled healing. Maybe she didn’t want to see me turn out like her either.

It seems like the anger had been an underlying pathology of mine for years. I never really saw it like that before then. I knew I was wrathful, but it had never occurred to me that anger was a default setting for me for years. As I parsed through various shadow work escapades over the years, I’ve determined the cause for it: the starter pack and the subsequent additions over the years. And as each escapade nears an end, I’ve felt a little bit more of it release. I’ve felt more and more calm in my life at least.

It’s been almost peaceful.

The Forest Fire

Behold, my word is spoken: so says the god who was angry with me. Wrong is wash away, and it falls immediately. O Lords of Justice, put an end to the evil harm which is in me. – excerpt from Spell 14, The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner

The Destruction of Mankind myth has always been a myth cycle that I could relate to. I can’t recall which translated version I read first since it was so long ago, but over the years I’ve found different versions each with their own interpretation. Most of the versions I found identified Hetheru as the avenging goddess in some way, which made sense of course but never quite worked for me.

When Ed Butler wrote this piece about interpreting the myth cycle, I was pretty much sold for a variety of reasons really. But I have to admit that there was something that I could connect with even more when he stated that the creation of Sekhmet took place during a conversation between Hetheru and Ra. It made more sense to me that it was the heka laced within the conversation itself that caused my beloved goddess to be.

As the article indicates, it was the repetition of power that brought Sekhmet into being. Maybe this particular creation circles back to the magical words we find in fairy tales and folk stories. There is a key phrase or a specific word that one must say in order to bring something or someone into creation. As a more modern example, it is the word shazam that allows Billy to become Captain Marvel. There are other key phrases throughout various tales and historical anecdotes that foster the creation of something though.

In this particular case, it was sekhem and the repetition of it that caused Sekhmet to come to life. And frankly, it seems more in keeping with Ra that he would simply create another being to do his dirty work for him since he seemed rather fond of sending various gods out to destroy his enemies. The only thing here is that, maybe, with the depth of his anger at the human populace, he didn’t take the possibility of limitations into account. He seemed to be solely focused on making them pay and thus, the goddess who elicits fear in the hearts of humankind even to this day was born.

It was actually this particular interpretation that felt, in a way, as though it represented me and by extension, the anger that had made itself comfortable within. While the cause of my own rage were actions, so too was Sekhmet’s even if she was created from words. It was the humans plotting against Ra, by their deeds and words, that caused him to bring her into existence. My particular creation was a lot less grandiose, but the end result was the same: a being soaked with layer upon layer of anger.

I saw myself in her actions, too. Upon being unleashed into the world, Sekhmet slaughters the enemies of Ra. I could carefully pinpoint where I had created a facsimile thereof in my own life with my personal experiences. That point right there, I could say, was my version of hunting down and killing the bastards who dared to speak out against the rule of Ra. There was no blood soaking the ground in my particular instance, it was all metaphorical after all, but I could see the wounds I had created in those around me.

And like a shark scenting blood upon the waves, just as Sekhmet turned her unquenchable rage upon the good followers of Ra, I continued to slaughter those around me. I can see my past self, with glee and joy and laughter, bringing destruction upon those who did not deserve it. There’s a phrase about burning bridges; I didn’t just burn them, I nuked the site from orbit every time.

Sometimes I think Sekhmet had it easy. She had Ra to help bring her down from the high of her rampage. While the conversation with my friend could be viewed as such, she wasn’t around when I realized I had to do something. I had no one to do likewise with me. I wound up seeing what I was doing and was appalled by what was happening, thanks to that long ago conversation of course. I internalized my rage instead of drinking myself to sleep. Although perhaps, in a way, internalizing the anger is just the same.

Instead of lashing out, I drank of my rage deeply and let it pass over me. I let it lap at my feet and take root in other ways. But the senseless slaughter that I had been used to doing stopped. I was cognizant of my actions and my words. I patted down my rage and worked on it a little bit at a time. Just as Sekhmet had calmed, I had the semblance of calm.

I had years to go before all that rage wouldn’t impact me as much. I often wonder if it was the same for Sekhmet.

sekhmet

O Egg, O Egg, I am Horus who presides over myriads, my fiery breath is in the faces of those whose hearts would move against me. I rule from my throne, I pass time on the road which I have opened up. I am released from all evil… – excerpt from Spell 42, The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner

In the myth cycle I discussed above, we are told that after Ra has tricked Sekhmet with the laced beer, her anger recedes and seems to disappear. After this episode, Ra eventually leaves humanity behind.

While I couldn’t be sure, I have often wondered if the rage really did dissipate from her simply because she fell in a drunken stupor. From my own experiences with anger and fury, I have to wonder if that’s even possible. I suppose it could be, of course, as she is a deity who is probably better at controlling this stuff than I, but I somehow doubt it.

The sources are clear: the ancients appeased Sekhmet often so as to prevent the destruction from occurring again. They gave amulets to one another, laced their workings with heka, and provided extravagant offerings to her, ever fearful that a repeat of the myth cycle would take place. This doesn’t say to me that her rage was gone; it was just under leash for a while.

On the other side of this, I could see her priesthood promoting the belief she would rise wrathful again as a form of scare tactic. “Give us all the good treats, or else the Lady of the Slaughter could destroy everyone again.” Maybe parents used the lie to keep their children in line, just like the priests. A cosmic knife held to the throat of a fearful populace.

But no. I think she truly had to keep a lid on all that anger, no matter how much of herself it may have eaten up.

One thing I’ve always wondered was if they had a way to teach her to deal with all that bottled up rage. Did they push her towards shadow work and say “heal thyself” and then wipe their hands of it? Or did they ignore the volcano living beside them, ready to erupt at the slightest provocation, and merely tiptoed around her to prevent the inevitable? I always figured it was the latter, not the former. It makes more sense to keep the indomitable on a leash for possible future use than to fix the underlying pathology.

I know; people used me like that too.

Being angry all the time is simply exhausting. There is always that possibility that you will blow your top like Mount Vesuvius or Mount St Helens and the ensuing destruction will sweep up the innocent and the guilty in one fell swoop. I have often wondered if, after years of rumblings from the volcano she had become, if Sekhmet went on walkabout in an effort to work on her inner demons and found out who she truly was at the end of it all.

Maybe that’s why she tends to push many of us in the direction of shadow work, saying, “heal thyself.” She sees herself in many of us and knows the consequences of living like that.

I have to admit that, years later, I feel less like I’m a pending volcanic explosion puffing ash into the atmosphere and more like a dormant volcano. All the fixings for an explosion are there, but not right now. I couldn’t say if I will ever be able to fully hollow out the magma chamber my friend said is beneath my shoulder blade. Maybe Sekhmet didn’t either; maybe we’re not meant to go into this with the idea that one day we’ll be normal.

Just calm. Just dormant. Just mostly whole.

Excerpt from Spell 83 – For Being Transformed into a Phoenix

As for him who knows this pure spell, it means going out into the day after death and being transformed at will, being in the suite of Wennefer, being content with the food of Osiris, having invocation-offerings, seeing the sun; it means being hale on earth with Re and being vindicated with Osiris, and nothing evil shall have power over him. A matter a million times true.

Two Roads Diverged…

Some days, I feel like my whole life is a famous poem just splashed out on paper to read. It sits there like a flashing neon sign to me when for everyone else, it’s just a bunch of fancy words on paper. Maybe everyone feels that way sometimes; maybe I’m alone in this.

After the nice woman on the other side of the state told me to get going or else, I came home and ranted for a while. It wasn’t really the message that angered me insomuch as the parting shot, the bit that left me pale and shaking. The bit that, upon seeing me after the reading, my friend asked me if I was okay. I’ve never talked about that part; I probably won’t.

When I was calm enough, I sat down with my gods and asked them what the hell I needed to do. They were all very nice about the situation but it was still a lot to take in. They let me bitch and moan and listened while I railed on about how I was a good fucking devotee who didn’t deserve this next round of horse shit. I guess they understood why I was so angry.

I laid all my cards on the table about how I was angry and how I didn’t know what the fuck I was supposed to be doing. I told them I thought about leaving, just packing it all up and burying myself away because it was all just too damn hard. I wasn’t serious, not really, but they talked me down.

At that ledge, looking down, I realized I was overwhelmed with all of this. I was at the point of being so overloaded that I couldn’t figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing or why I was supposed to care. My gods told me that my tentative plan of taking a time out was a good one. We decided that I had until March to make a choice.

After that, they showed me two possibilities. Isn’t that always the way though? There are two doors to choose from with the frog that always tells the truth and the frog that always lies. No frogs this time, just two possibilities to choose from with a general idea of where both would lead.

I had three months to figure it all out.

Crossroads...

And sorry I could not travel both; And be one traveler, long I stood; And looked down one as far as I could – The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

I am the type of person to stick my head in the sand when things are too big. It’s actually a familial trait passed down from generation to generation. Eventually I will do something but when I get to the “I can’t actually form words” stage because there is too much going on, I get overloaded and hide.

My gods may have been kind to me because I was overwhelmed but they kept reminding me that I had a time limit. Arbitrary calendar dates are a thing for me and even though I knew I should probably look a little deeper into it, I chose not to. The partial glimpses of possibilities in December were enough.

The first path looked nice enough. It was calm and quiet with a sense of familiarity that sent shock waves through me. I looked at that possible future and saw that, while things would be dealt with efficiently and relatively quickly, things would change to a degree that I would wind up losing out on what I have established for myself thus far.

It wouldn’t go away, per se, but the dynamic would change. And that was a game changer. I could see my gods behind me, but crowded to the background.

I have worked very hard and gone through a hell of a lot of shit to get where I am today. I wasn’t saying good-bye to it, but I was, in effect, trudging up a mountain and away from my gods, my path, my life. As much as they annoy me, the possibility of that dynamic change was worrisome and confusing. I didn’t like what I saw.

The other way was more frightening. It made my heart stop with its deep, dark places eschewing light and cheer. It was filled with fear and with sorrow. There was nothing recognizable to me there. I looked at that possible future and saw an interim change in the dynamic, but at the end things would be much more manageable.

It would take longer to deal with things, though. Even with the picture drawn before me, the path was filled with unknown pitfalls and I would need to travel slowly and carefully, trudging through the slog and mud.

Knowing how hard I have worked to get to where I am, even if most people don’t recognize that hard work, I realized that while the happier seeming path would be simple, the darker seeming path was more in line with what the end game. I had to take time to look inside and figure out what was more important here.

But as my gods steadily pinged me, reminding me that we did in fact have a time limit, I was depressed for the decision process. Though they kept coming at me regularly with hits and reminders, I ignored them; that whole overwhelmed thing making its debut.

Besides, I had actually made a decision. I just hadn’t announced it yet.

Crossroads

Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. – The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

In the last few weeks, I’ve been dreaming about various modifications to myself. I think the one that took the cake was the dream where I got a tattoo of the ending stanza to the poem, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. I got the gist to a point, but I was still a little confused by the dream. (Not to mention that thinking on it over the last few days has only made me really want to get it tattooed on my forearm, just like in the dream.)

It’s actually a little amusing that the dream took that particular poem and that particular section. I’ve been saying from the get-go that my religious life, and by extension my mundane as well, oft resembles that poem. It’s not just my favorite famous poem of all time. It is me.

It’s taken a little bit of back and forth on my part to confirm what the fuck my mind was telling me, but I got it after a bit. (Still trying to decide if a tattoo is really warranted though.) I got the message; I understood what was happening finally. But of course, the emotional hits are never over with just one final nail on the coffin.

Last night, I stood between Papa Legba and Loki, looking from one to the other.

When I looked at Legba, I could see things so clearly and I wanted so much to walk beside him again. He was a rock in a time when I needed one even while he was teaching me important things. He held my hand and helped me through the worst of the bullshit after my head split further open and the Long Term was explained to me. I cried for months after his door shut on me and still sometimes cry, like I am now.

The sweet filled smell of him was there and I could see him in such a beautiful sun-filled place. Green fields and clear lit paths, birds chirping and the crossroads so clearly marked for the eye to see.

But I turned to look at Loki and the skies were gray. There were storm clouds in the distance. Everything was hard to see and I couldn’t tell what was slog and what was path. I wanted so much to turn away from this red-headed unknown in my life, contract be damned and knowing that the Old Man would get me out of it if I asked, and march the fuck away.

But three months ago, I saw what my life could and probably would look like with Papa. And I saw what my life could and probably would look like with Loki. And I decided then what I had to re-illustrate last night.

Did you know you can grieve for might-have-beens? It’s entirely possible. I wasn’t aware though maybe I should have been.

I had to finally say good-bye to someone who meant a lot to me. It’s not the first time I’ve done it, but that doesn’t make this any easier. Loki’s kindness after didn’t really help, though it distracted me at least. I will miss the might-have-beens, but I need my autocracy as it is now, not what it would become with Papa Legba and his brood. I will miss the relationship and the lessons he set before me, but what ice been working towards is more important than all that.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Came Out West to Find the Sun.

Fairly often, I find myself dealing, in some form or another, with contracts. While my job doesn’t necessarily revolve around them, they’re required in various instances for different reasons. Sometimes they’re specifically for the relationship between my company and the client while at other times, they’re between my client and another company. I don’t spend my days reviewing contracts but I do have to read through them now and then.

Some days, the contract language gets stuck in my head and I’m living off the careful wording people throw in to contracts to protect themselves. Other days, my mind sort of tunes it all out and I move on with my life.

I fucking hate contracts, man.

Since I have the contract experience through my job, I kind of knew what needed to go into the crafting of a contract between Mr. Redhead and I. I needed a period of time, the services to be completed for both parties, termination conditions, and fail safes in place to protect both of us. Intellectually, I was sure I could pull this off without any problems.

I still quailed when it came time to write it all down. Experience or not, I didn’t fully understand what the hell I was supposed to be doing with him. Oh, I mean, I got that he was around to help me, but that doesn’t actually tell me anything about the actual work being completed really.

It was almost as if the whole concept was two dimensional. I could see what the outcome was intended to be, but I couldn’t see the actual steps needed to get there. I realized that I needed help.

Hallway

You think you know someone. But mostly you just know what you want to know. – Horns by Joe Hill

When I need help, usually I will begin with an in depth Google search. I was hoping someone had written a very careful and concise tab A into slot B instruction about creating a contract with a deity. I found legal contract examples and only a small smattering of posts referencing contracts with deities. It occurred to me that I was (a) out of my depth and (b) this contract stuff was probably private between the individuals for a reason.

I turned to the Trickster Guy himself, hoping for some little bit of information. I probably should have known better. I got a lot of conflicting responses, reminders that I couldn’t actually keep loopholes out of the contract so stop freaking out about it, and told to go it alone. My gods said the same damn thing when I turned to them.

I got kind of huffy, honestly.

If one needs to create something at the behest of a deity, wouldn’t they be willing to give some sort of clue as to what the fuck needs to be included? Don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical.

The thing that I kept getting stuck on was the loophole gambit. I’m fully aware of loopholes and I have exploited them myself in my work. However, loopholes with a carrier versus loopholes with a deity are two very separate categories. Even though he told me not to get hung up on it, I was. That’s my thing; I get hung up on the details.

I talked the situation over with someone who gets this Loki business better than I do. Their advice was to sit on it, mull it over, and come back when I was calmer. Well yeah. That made total sense after my freak out. So I left it alone for a few days, fuming about all of this like the snot nosed brat that I am.

When I had more time to devote to the project, I thought about the contracts we use for our clients and the contract examples I found online. I decided I needed to be clinical about the situation. Instead of focusing on what needed to be done, I removed myself from the equation and viewed it from a distance. I took more advice on items to add in – placeholders to prevent true destruction on me and mine – and got to work.

Foundation.

It was something… the way a person’s life picked up speed, the way a life was like a bullet aimed at one final target, impossible to slow or turn aside, and like the bullet, you were ignorant of what you were going to hit, would never know anything except the rush and the impact. – Horns by Joe Hill

I spent an entire afternoon on the project, weaving back and forth between my personal knowledge of contracts and the legal templates I found online. It took me a few hours; longer than I thought it would. The whole time seemed to fly by. One minute, the sun was bright and cheery; the next minute we were on early evening and I was printing out the document so I could read it over later.

Not long before I was informed I needed to create a contract with Mr. Trickster, a fellow Kemetic on Tumblr put out a blog post about contracts. The post was good stuff and I followed that person’s advice: instead of signing the thing immediately, I sat on the terms for a week and a half, making sure I was really going to do this and that I was willing to agree to the terms.

It was a bit like reaching a foregone conclusion though. My gods had been clear: this way or no way. Loki had said the same thing and as much as I find everything suspicious where the gods are concerned, I could feel the truth inside that place where my intuition resides. It was this or nothing – a last ditch effort to make sure the tool that I am doesn’t break.

I had my gods review the contract just in case and everyone seemed okay with it. I reviewed it myself a few times and had to admit that it wasn’t half bad for my first attempt. Like a reed on the wind, I counted down the days until I was ready to sign off and get this party really started.

I chose the Ides of March as the sign date. It was a possibly poor attempt at dark humor: Caesar was told to beware the Ides and I felt similarly myself. I figured it was the best date for all parties involved.

No one complained anyway.

Since signing aboard, I have felt a little more even keel. Things feel manageable, even if they’re not specifically related to what we’re supposed to be working on. I guess it kind of feels like I’m finally standing on land after weeks at sea. The rocking of the boat is a memory, fading as I move forward.

Maybe I’ve just finally added furniture to the empty house that I am.

Promise Me a Place.

I haven’t been grave-tending in almost two and a half years. It wasn’t for lack of desire; life just managed to get in the way.

It started off for mundane reasons anyway.

Olga, the shiny 2001 behemoth that I had been tooting around in for almost 5 years, decided she was on her last legs. It seemed foolish to go on extraneous side trips to the cemeteries and graveyards that call me by name or to explore news ones far off in the cities around my home. I needed to go 20 miles to and 20 miles from work five days a week; maintaining my and my family’s standard of living was more important than my happiness at any rate.

When Olga was replaced by the slightly newer Karen and had gone to the scrap heap in the sky, it was too hot in the mornings to try. I determined that my comfort had more bearing on the situation and told myself: in the autumn, when the days are cooler. I looked forward to it.

But autumn arrived and I moped inside on Saturday mornings. For some reason, I couldn’t reconcile the job of tending graves without the slick-speaking, top hat-wearing, sunglasses-with-one-piece-of-glass old man who had grabbed me up and told me to get doin’ the good work. He was gone along with all his mates and as much as I wanted to feel the cool, calm release that comes from speaking with the dead as I clear off detritus and feed their souls, I couldn’t do it. So, I moped away my Saturdays and felt abysmal for it.

I tried to talk it up with Anup, asking him to help me figure this all out, but our relationship had boiled down to two growling beasts unable to find or unwilling to find common ground. I gave it all up and moped away Saturday after Saturday, trying to forget that part of my life. It was gone and I was better off without it.

Graveyard

To the solemn graves, near a lonely cemetery, my heart like a muffled drum is beating funeral marches. – Charles Baudelaire

My mom pointed out to me some time last year that I seemed much happier when I went grave-tending on a regular basis. It took me a while to figure iut what the fuck she was talking about. I hadn’t really considered the idea that it was a stress relief to me. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t just about the deceased calling me, but about me as well.

What I found, upon reflection, was that the experience was more than a snappy-dressed old man, telling me to get up and go explore. I found myself reviewing weeks of high stress and the image of graveyards quietly settling me down at the end of the week. I distinctly recall sitting at my desk one day and reminding myself that the bullshit I was dealing with was effluvia; it would be gone from my mind when I finally got to the cemeteries.

As much as I could admit that grave-tending was practically a necessity for me to stay sane, I kept getting caught up in what it had started off for me. It had been with the simple intention of paying homage to the man with the crass entourage that I started all of this and it morphed from there. No matter what though, he still remained st the center of it and I felt his loss more keenly when I considered going back to it.

I guess I was… grieving? I will admit to being surprised by it. I hadn’t considered my relationship with that sex-joke telling party boy to be that important where grief would play a part in our separation but there it was. I was actually grieving and I needed to keep to myself to fully process it all.

The problem was that I let the grief eat me up. I forgot that I needed to walk among the dead, touch their cool stones, read their names, and feed their souls. I forgot that it was a sacrifice of time and money, but it was also a reward for the terrible weeks that made up my work life. It wasn’t as simple as A and B; there were a few extra letters of the alphabet in there and it spelled out, your needs are important bby.

The act of mourning a loss can take as long as it needs, really, but sometimes the act of grieving works against you. It destroys you a little bit at a time and you don’t realize it until it’s too late. It takes pieces of you away from the whole and you’re left over compensating for the giant hole born of that grief.

It may sound a bit melodramatic but I think my not going to graveyards and cemeteries destroyed a fundamental part of who I was becoming, who I was meant to be. I can’t help but wonder now if part of my stagnation problem was because I had stopped going out for that stress relief each week.

Graveyard

When I am dead and buried, on my tombstone I would like to have it written, ‘I have arrived.’ Because when you feel that you have arrived, you are dead. – Yul Brynner

Shortly after the very nice lady told me that I was a house with nothing going on inside, I spent time looking at myself to see what was lacking. As I’ve remarked time and again, she wasn’t wrong; she didn’t tell me anything new. I was like a shadow of a person, or maybe more like a negative image. Everything that made me who I am was remote and distant; I was just a shell really.

During a talk with TTR about all of this, I realized that there were things I could do to get back to my roots. One of the steps was getting my tongue pierced again; I got that settled in January. Another step was cutting off my hip-length hair and keeping it at a manageable length. That was completed last month.

This month, as the warmer weather finally began appearing after the few weeks of solid winter in February, I got up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise. I drank my coffee, listening to the birds happily discussing whatever birds discuss and made plans to get back in touch with myself, get down to who I am and visit some cemeteries. I chose the closest ones to tend to, having missed them greatly.

I spent time clearing branches away from graves older than my grandparents. Some of the winter storms had dropped branches straight down into the graves below, burying them deep enough where I left them alone. I cleared back dead flowers, threw away trash, and mourned over the fallen over monuments that had tipped over since last I had been.

I felt a peace and contentment that I haven’t touched in a very long time.

I fed my dead and told them to expect more in future. They seemed cautiously optimistic, not as though they had forgotten me but like they didn’t put faith in what I was saying. It wasn’t just the fact that I had disappeared but the fact that they had all heard that line before. How many others before me had said that they would return with goodies and treats and never did?

I plan on going back and I plan on finding new local places to pay attention to. I had never stopped having the desire to tend graves; I had never said at any point that the job wasn’t for me. I just… got lost a little, maybe. Turned down the wrong cross path when I should have gone straight or something.

But I’m moving in the right direction again. I know I am; I can feel it like a zing in my joints, a pleasant weight against my torso. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. And I hope that I won’t get lost again.

Raise Hell and Turn It Up.

It’s not unheard of for me to dream of my online friends. Over the years, I’ve cultivated a very good personal community and the bonds of those friendships have twisted enough to include an occasional visit via the dreamscape in some form or another. There are some people who seem less like dream visit friends than others, of course, but on the whole, it surprises me not one wit to wake up from a dream with one of my friends in it.

Last week, a Norse friend of mine showed up to take me to a bank to discuss getting a car loan. All very odd but not overly interesting. Two days later, they showed up again, but this time, to physically pull me from a dream about work which had no clear exit. (I have become adept at pulling myself from dreams I have no interest in continuing but this one was impossible until they showed up.)

Another friend of mine mentioned that these instances could be something Other. They mentioned that a certain, very well known Norse trickster was a fan of showing up in dreams wearing the skin of their followers. A little concerning, I suppose, but I didn’t start to worry until the friend who had appeared twice in dreams mentioned they don’t dream walk.

Damn.

The icing on the cake came when Seth fucking Rogan appeared in a dream to show me condominiums to buy. At one such place, the guest book had LOKI in very ornate calligraphy across a page. When I looked at Seth, he grinned and nodded. The game was over; I had figured it out (with help) and it appeared as though Mr. Trickster had something up his sleeve.

Rain

I wanna wake up; can’t even tell if this is a dream… – Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time by Panic! at the Disco

All of the people who have commented have been remarkably nice about my ambivalence. Every single person has remarked that, as it stands, Mr. Redhead is very well and good for initiating change. This actually only causes me to actually have concerns about his appearance. I definitely need a change, what with all of the inertia, but is it truly so bad that I need the assistance of Mr. Wears-People’s-Faces-for-Funsies?

The first reading I did when I had a chance to calm down seemed to indicate that I was relying more on hope than doing to get through the situation in question. The card wasn’t wrong; it just crystallized something I had been unable to verbalize to myself. The second card in this reading remarked that the existing traditions were broken and unusable. I swore a little bit and walked away.

As additional information comes trickling in piecemeal (mostly because I have made no time, on purpose, to look deeper here), it all relates back to the stagnation, to the inertia. It pops up when I least expect it and while I haven’t thrown a tantrum at my gods yet, who have been curiously silent in all of this, it’s rapidly coming down the pike.

I can’t help but feel a little betrayed: the very traditions that they have coached me in are somehow failing? The very message of hope that they have harped at me is now causing further damage? Well, for fuck’s sake, what the hell am I supposed to do here? Apparently, pay some tiny attention to Mr. Becomes-a-Mare-And-Has-a-Foal.

I don’t even know if my complete lack of interest is due to the fact that I feel this insurmountable mountain should, in fact, be surmounted with my Kemetic background or if it’s the fact that Mr. Has-a-Wolf-for-a-Kid has been steadily tossing “helpful, friendly” vibes in my direction. Hasn’t he figured out that the nicer you are to me the more distrustful I become?

Beyond the feelings of betrayal and irritation and distrust, I have to admit that I’m a little curious. I have followed and paid enough attention to Lokeans for long enough now to know that he’s really maligned by the wider community. I don’t doubt that he would prove useful in the fulfillment of getting out of the rut. I just have to wonder what the methods would be and how deep down the rabbit hole I would find myself at the end of all this.

Bad plastic surgery

Champagne, cocaine, gasoline… And most things in between – Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time by Panic! at the Disco

I did, eventually, sit down and pull a few cards to mull over the situation. I may not jump to the task immediately, but I recognize that sometimes I need more than dreams and arm flails. Unfortunately, the readings made complete sense and induced more arm flails. At least I have a better understanding though.

The gist seems to be that, while the work I’ve slowly been doing with Ptah is sufficient to meet the expectations there are, hm, fears that it won’t be enough. Ptah is stability and silence for me. Since I have an ability to ignore the work under the existing tradition and gods who I have relationships with, it’s been decided – not by me – that I need an outside assist in order to truly be successful.

To be clear, this decision was undertaken out of love for me even though it is without my knowledge or without my direct input. One of those, “I’m only doing what is in your best interests” things without talking to the person whose best interests are being taken into consideration.

I get… the need for it. During the moments that I am being rational about the whole situation, I can even agree that what’s being said is correct and that someone to push me off the cliff is probably warranted. I can also agree that a person from outside of my home base is more likely to get results if for no other reason than I don’t want them around and will work harder to make them go away sooner. That doesn’t mean I’m thrilled by any means.

It seems as though I will need to determine a contract between us. It was made quite clear that guidelines and rules need to be determined (I am not surprised) and that the “finite timeline” needs to be built into this. My one concern is that I’m going to not think this contract through clearly and wind up accidentally stuck with Mr. I-Turned-into-a-Fly for more time than I am willing to endure. I fucking hate contracts, man.

All in all, I have more concerns regarding how all of this is to come about: loss and isolation. I didn’t ask for clarification on this (mostly because I was already upset and forgot to ask) but the idea of both loss and isolation is concerning. He was quite clear that this is what would be needed to get me through the bullshit morass I’ve been doing through. Another concern was the hint that poverty was going to cause problems.

Not a horrible start, I suppose, but not exactly thrilling either.

I keep coming back to the nice old woman who read the cards for me in December though. The description that I was a house with a solid foundation and nothing going on inside because the work hadn’t been done. And the warning that not bothering would cause things to get worse.

I know that my choices are limited and it’s my own inaction that’s brought me to be here. But damn, man, why did it have to be him?