Festival of Ptah Ritual.

This particular Festival of Ptah begins on II Peret 21 and continues for 11 days. While not every day will result in the below ritual, I have added a smaller version of said rite at the bottom for the days where a full ritual is not completed.

Full Ritual

Needed Items

  • Water
  • Candles
  • Incense
  • Image of Ma’at or feather of ma’at amulet
  • Image of ib or ib amulet
  • Image of ankh or ankh amulet
  • Water
  • Food (representations of or actual food)

Approaching the Shrine/Altar
Action: If you have a temple/bedroom that is used for your shrine/altar space and is not in a public area, you would complete this in front of your closed door. Step towards the shrine and/or altar space where you have set up for this rite. If you are so inclined, you can offer dua while stopping a few steps away from the space. (Dua is the holding out of your hands at face level, palms facing the area in question.) Say the following:

O you NTRW of this temple, who sanctify the god in his shrine:
I have made my way and I enter into your presence.
I am one of you.
Do not repulse me on the god’s path.
My feet are not impeded.
I am not turned back from this place.
I have come to offer Ma’at to the Lord of Ma’at.
I have come to you to content the Sound Eye.
I flood his offering table.
I present his offerings, this great god who blesses me so that I may endow his image with life.
I am pure.
I am purified.

Stepping Before the Shrine/Altar
Action: Take a few more steps forward and open the closed door/doors of your temple/bedroom that you use for your shrine/altar space. If you have your shrine/altar space in a public area, pretend to open two doors with your hands. Say the following:

O you ba-souls of Mennefer, if you are strong, I am strong.
If I am strong, you are strong.
If your ka-spirits are strong, my ka-spirit is strong at the head of the living.
As they are living, so shall I live.
I am pure.
I am purified.
I open your temple and I come to you.

Action: Close the door/doors of your temple room/bedroom behind you as you step into the space. If you do not have a dedicated room for this space, pretend to close the doors behind you.

Opening the Doors of the Shrine/Altar
Action: Open the doors of the shrine space. If you do not have a dedicated shrine with doors to open, you can pretend to open doors on your altar just like was done above.

The doors of the sky are open.
The doors of the earth are unlocked.
This house is open for its Master.
Let me come forth as he shall come forth.
Let me enter as he shall enter.

Presentation of Water
Action: Hold the bowl or cup of water aloft while saying the following:

Greetings to you, primordial water!
Greetings to you, great river!
Greetings to you, flood water of Nun; you, the father of the gods.
Receive the water from my hand because I am Horus, The Provider, the successor to the throne.

Water Purification
Action: Continue to hold the bowl or cup aloft still.

I give you essential water, a tide in your time.
I bring the flood waters to purify your sanctuary.
This Primordial Water purifies as in Zep Tepi!

Action: Take some water and sprinkle gently over the altar space/shrine area and the image of the god.

I bring the water of rejuvenation that flows from the Two Caverns.
I sprinkle the water, purifying your image!
I sprinkle the water, purifying your Temple from all impurity!
O water, may you remove all evil.

Action: Take some water and sprinkle in the four cardinal directions as you speak each line.

The god Ptah himself does sanctify this, his Temple to the South.
The god Ptah himself does sanctify this, his Temple to the North.
The god Ptah himself does sanctify this, his Temple to the West.
The god Ptah himself does sanctify this, his Temple to the East.
The Temple of the god Ptah is established.
It is established for millions of years.

Lighting the Candle
Action: Light the candle(s).

Come in peace, O Glorious Eye of Heru!
Be strong and renew your youth in peace.
The flame shines like Ra on the double horizon.
I am pure.
I am pure.
I am pure.
I am pure.

Offering Incense (optional)
Action: Light the incense. (If you don’t have any, you can light an oil diffuser instead or skip this part entirely.)

Take the incense.
Its essence is for you.
Its smoke permeates your shrine, bringing life!
It transforms your heart through its perfection.
I appease your body and heart.
The temple is filled with the scent of incense.
It sanctifies your throne; it purifies your ka from evil.

Address to NTRW
Action: The speech below can be accompanies by the gesture of henu.

Homage to Ptah, the Great Scribe, the Heart and Tongue of the Ennead.
I have placed myself on the floor in awe of you.
I embrace the earth before you.
I have come that I may kiss the earth before you.
O Ptah, I am your son, your servant.
I come before you to nourish you as you nourish me.

O Ptah, Lord of Justice, scribe of all, Lord of Herbage.
One who succors all men to him, you who are preeminent.
You who make the Two Lands green.
The one who has entrapped the Nine Bows.
The protector of both gods and men.
He Who is South of His Wall, Monarch of the Gods, King of the Sky.
Father of the god Nefertum, the one whose faces reduces to order all before him.
You are the one who has lifted Ma’at onto the altar of Shu.
Lord of All.

You are the one who succors from his place.
You are the one who is Lord of the shrine.
You have brought the Sacred Eye.
You have destroyed falsehood in the tribunal.
You have expelled what Ra detests from his barque.
You are exalted.

Everyone is in awe of you.
Everyone worships your goodness.
Everyone’s lives are at your hands.
When you wish and act, everyone lives.

O Ptah, you have crafted the foundations of the world.
Through your words, wisdom will take root.
Through your actions, life will grow.
Through your guidance, Ma’at will flourish.
Through your kindness, empathy will be restored.

Your light touches the heart of me.
Your kindness succors me.
Your strength fortifies me.
Your wisdom teaches me.
Your protection strengthens me.
Your joy pleases me.
Your love reassures me.

I adore you, O Lord of Justice!
O Monarch of the Gods!
Lord of All!
Lord of Jubilation!
The gods exalt in your presence.
The earth is full of gladness at your merciful face.
O, my Lord Ptah, rejoice!

Offering Ma’at
Action: Lift up an image of the feather of ma’at, an image of the goddess of ma’at, or an amulet of ma’at.

I have come to you as Djehuty, whose two hands are joined together under Ma’at.
She comes to be with you for she is everywhere.
You are provided with Ma’at.
You move in Ma’at, you live in Ma’at.
She fills your body, she rests in your head, she makes her seat upon your brow.
The breath of your body is of Ma’at, your heart does live in Ma’at.
All that you eat, all that you drink, all that you breathe is of Ma’at.
Djehuty presents Ma’at to you, his two hands are upon her body before your face.

Action: Place the image/amulet before the image of the god.

Water Libation
Action: Hold up the cup or bowl of water and pour into the offering cup/bowl.

This libation is for you, O Lord of Ma’at.
I have brought to you this offering of water that your heart may be refreshed.
I have brought to you this Eye of Heru placing this at your feet.
I present to you that which flows forth from you that your heart shall continue to beat.

Action: Place the filled cup/bowl on the altar.

Offering Food
Action: Hold up the dish of offerings.

The great offering is filled with all good things.
Tens of thousands, an infinity before it, great quantities behind it.
Hundredfold and tenfold in the midst of it.
Consisting of every good and wonderful thing.
I offer to Ptah, Lord of the Two Lands.
All life emanates from you.
All health emanates from you.
All stability emanates from you.
All good fortune emanates from you.
May offerings of every kind come forth in abundance.

Action: Place the dish of offerings on the altar.

Presentation of Ankh

Action: Present the image of the ankh to the image of the god.

Take the sign of life, Living Lord, venerable soul who makes infinity live.
You are the one who gives life to all people, who makes the living live by your work.
I give you the sign of life.
You live in thanks to it.
Health is for your body.
I make your life span long to the ends of eternity.

Action: Place the ankh before the deity.

Presentation of Ib

Action: Hold out the image or amulet of the heart to the image of the god.

Hail to you, O Ptah, Lord of Life.
I have brought to you your heart to set it in its place.
Let me draw near to you with your heart so that you may have pleasured through me.
And so that by means of me you may have power over your body.

Action: Place the ib before the deity.

Action: At this point, you can sing hymns or say prayers to the god. You can also add any form of meditation or magical working in the name of the god. Before moving on to the next portion of this, which is the start of the closing out of this ritual, blow out any candles, whisk away the offerings and libations to be reverted after the below actions are completed. If you have a shrine space, close the doors and then stand before your altar/shrine area.

Reversion of Offerings

O NTRW, your enemy withdraws from you.
Heru has turned himself to his Eye in its name of Reversion-of-Offerings.
These, your divine offering revert, they revert to your servants for life, for stability, and for joy!
O that the Eye of Heru may flourish for you eternally!

Short Form Ritual

Needed Items

  • Water
  • Food (representations of or actual food)
  • Image of Ma’at or feather of ma’at amulet
  • Image of ib or ib amulet
  • Image of ankh or ankh amulet

The doors of the sky are open.
The doors of the earth are unlocked. (Action: open shrine doors/pretend to do so.)
I give you essential water, a tide in your time. (Action: Give water offering.)
This great offering is filled with every good things.
May offerings of every kind come forth in abundance. (Action: Give food offering.)
I give you the sign of life to set it in its place. (Action: Give ankh to the god.)
I offer you Ma’at to set it in its place. (Action: Give ma’at to the god.)
I have brought to you your heart to set it in its place. (Action: Give heart to the god.)
The doors are closed. (Action: close shrine doors/pretend to do so.)
No enemy can enter this space.

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The First Hour.

The various books of the afterlife are many and varied. While their content are among the same lines, the setup and journey through the underworld varies. What one finds in the Book of Night is not necessarily what one will find in the Book of the Hidden Chamber, or Amduat. The wide range of subject matter, and even the topography of the Duat described therein, hints at the ever changing focus of the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs.

Each book follows the same general layout in that the sun god’s journey lasts for a full twelve hours as the sun god passes through the Netherworld. The Netherworld could be a whole other world or be housed within the body of Nut. The books where the sun god travels through the body of Nut correlates in some way to her body and I will make sure to address which body part we know or we suspect the hour is related to.

The move from one hour to the next heralds a passing through a gateway, most of which we have the names for. The names of these gateways tend to foreshadow what the next hour relates to on the god’s journey to renewal and rebirth. Where I know the name of the gateway, I will make sure to highlight that information.

The first hour doesn’t seem to have a gateway of its own that the god passes through from his journey of daylight into the night. Hornung references regularly to these first hours in his book as “interstitial” places; liminality reigns supreme in these hours. It is the place where the sun god breaks the barrier from one realm to the next so that he can move forward on his journey towards renewal and rebirth.

The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]

Each book of the Amduat starts with a heading except for the First Hour. This is a common theme in afterlife literature, so it may be that the ancient Egyptians didn’t want to include it as they believed that to write something was to give it permanence. Perhaps, though they didn’t feel that an introduction for the First Hour of the Amduat was a necessity as they open the book with a detailed introduction, indicating that the Amduat stresses knowledge: “it promises knowledge of netherworldly phenomena nine (which is Egyptian stands for “many, many”) times” [p33, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife].

The first hour describes an ordered list of the important beings that occur in the afterlife. The lists include both the beings that the sun god will come into contact with as well as those in his retinue. The solar barque depicted in the Amduat is overflowing with a variety of gods to help the sun god on his journey. All beings are shown to be filled with joy, except the enemies of the sun god, as they are greeted by the sun god on his nightly journey.

The goddess Ma’at is shown twice in this first hour. In both instances, she is shown standing before the solar barque. This seems to indicate that she is as integral to the solar god’s journey of renewal as the sun god himself.

In the middle register, a scene seems to represent that Ra has already succeeded on his journey through the netherworld: “the sun god is already present in his morning form of the scarab beetle; the beginning of the journey thus already alludes to its successful completion” [p35, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife].

This first hour is not a true hour of the underworld, or at least is not truly described in such terms. The sun god has yet to truly enter the netherworld, which could also be why there is no heading or gateway indicated in this hour. It is only upon entry into the second hour that the journey truly begins.

The Book of Gates

In this book of the Netherworld, the solar barque has only two gods traveling as companions with the sun god, Sia and Heka. Ma’at is not shown in any capacity during this hour. The boat’s cabin is protected by a Mehen-serpent, as though to keep the sun god safe from all the upcoming dangers.

In the Book of the Amduat, the sun god was greeted upon entry into the netherworld by a multitude of gods. In the Book of Gates, the collective dead witness his entry into the night hours and greet him.

This first hour is also not a true hour of the netherworld. No true description of the hour exists and it only serves as a sort of introduction to the eventual journey of the sun god through the netherworld.

The Book of Caverns

It is this book that focuses more on the journey of the sun god on his way to merge with Osiris. Osiris was depicted in the previous two books discussed, however his imagery almost seemed to be an anecdote or a mention in passing. Here, Ra and Osiris are almost seen as aspects of the same god as the sun god journey to the body of Osiris in his intent to merge and renew himself with Osiris.

The first hour discusses Ra’s journey specifically in its relation to care for Osiris and to send his enemies to their deaths. “Ra turns directly to Osiris and extends his hands to him. Osiris is represented in a shrine that is surrounded protectively by a serpent; those in his following are also protected by serpents inside their sarcophagi.” [p85, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife] Below this scene, the enemies of Osiris are punished in the “Place of Annihilation.” The ultimate punishment is visited upon them: Ra banishes them to non-existence.

The Book of Night

As with the first hours discussed in the Book of the Amduat and the Book of Caverns, no first hour truly exists. It is not until the sun god enters the second hour that the journey to rebirth/renewal begins. In the Book of Night, the first “hour” is associated with the arms of Nut. The sun god’s solar barque travels within her body and in order to truly enter the Netherworld housed within her, he must travel up her arms on his way to her mouth.

And that is the sum total of information regarding the first hours of the books I have some access to. The first hours are less about the journey itself and more in line with a sort of setup, or along the lines of an introduction to a novel, for the journey through the netherworld.

Further Reading

  • The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
  • My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts

A Year of Rebirth.

One of my boss’s signature questions when we’re stuck in the minutiae of our work is “what is the bigger picture?” I joke with the other employees in the office that this is her catch phrase, but it’s a good thing to ponder on when you get too lost in the details. Too often, we get so focused on the finer points that we lose sight of the high level goal of what we’re trying to achieve for the client.

On the flip side, I’ve often found myself more focused on the overarching goal of what we want to achieve that I misstep on the day-to-day. It’s easy to take yourself so far out of the particulars that you forget to focus and follow the process that you and the client have cobbled together to get to the end goal.

I got stuck in the mindset of bigger picture in 2015, focusing more on the overarching goal of a rebirth that I didn’t ask for and didn’t want. I’ve given some consideration to the idea that because I didn’t have the baby steps necessary to achieve the bigger picture that this only added to the dog-pile when I finally pulled out and let the rebirth fail. While this is by no mean’s the primary reason why it failed, it’s given me enough food for thought for what I should be working on in 2019 as I go through this again.

Bigger picture is a fine focal point, but the path through the wood isn’t a top-down view when you’re walking it. I need the signposts that I’ll be looking for as the year progresses and I continue this journey forward.

Big?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 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

In prep for the year ahead, I decided to create a map and placed little arrows on that map where sign posts could conceivably be as I move forward. I looked at the project as if I was trying to recreate the app I use on my daily commute to work. While I know the general route to get to work, the app helps me to navigate through pitfalls like traffic or construction to ensure that I get to work in a timely manner. I wanted something similar when I began trying to come up with the baby steps I need to see through this year of rebirth.

A starting point was a high level exploration of the books of the afterlife. While reading through My Heart, My Mother, I took notes on the various hours of the night that Roberts discusses at length in her book. After reviewing my notes on the various hours, I also read through whatever other books I had to hand that discussed the plethora of afterlife literature popularized in the New Kingdom. This way, I could follow the path through the night just as Ra does each evening and have a general idea of where I was headed, what I might come into contact with, and how to move on when the time comes.

After going through everything that I had written down, read through, and internalized, I decided that I would follow through on an old blogging project that never came to fruition: I would follow the nightly path of Ra through the next 12 months, correlating each month with a particular hour. While the focus will be on the Book of Night that is discussed extensively in Alison Roberts book, I have also found other items of interest from the other afterlife literature I was researching and will include that in the blogging project.

On the first of each month, I will write an historical perspective as best as I can on each individual hour with all of the information I’ve been able to learn. I will then conclude my personal rebirth-oriented exploration of the hour toward the end of the month. (For those not interested in UPG, you can ignore the second post that will go live on the last day of the month.)

This map will, hopefully, help me to continue moving forward instead of getting stuck in the peristalsis of Nut’s body as I go through this next year.

Ritual

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

Beyond all of the rebirth connotations and the Book of Night, I also recognized that my ritual game has been… non-existent. I can’t remember the last time I gave daily offerings to my gods or my ancestors. While I do honor them on holidays and the like should I get around to it, my offerings and rituals have fallen off dramatically since my failed rebirth three years ago.

I found it difficult to care about providing for them all when I often felt that I was the one doing the lion’s share of the work. Offerings are hard work; not only are their words and gestures necessary to see it through… The sheer act of taking the time out of what can often be an exhausting day to provide for them when I seemed to get next to nothing in the reciprocity game seemed to be asking for too much from me. So I stopped bothering.

But through all of my research, there is one thing that has been hammered home for me over and over again. The act of ritual is just as important as the offerings themselves. It is more than simply plopping a few things down and calling yourself done. Reciprocity is the name of the game, but in order to be a player in the game, certain standards must be met both in the realm of offerings and how those offerings are conveyed, I.E. rituals.

As part of this, I have agreed to do a daily ritual for my gods and ancestors. The purpose of this ritual is two-fold: to wake both the gods and my ancestors up each morning happily and cheerfully and to give them the libations and offerings that I am putting out for them to feed upon that day. I’m not thrilled that I will be effectively doing this 365 days (the last time I gave offerings regularly, I at least took Sundays off) but this was the deal that I agreed to when I was asked for daily rites.

The daily rite will look something like this:

Purification with water, incense, and fire
Procession of offerings
Opening the shrine bolt
Sprinkling of water over shrine/icons
Ritual words to wake up the gods and ancestors
Ritual words as offerings are provided to gods and ancestors
Offering the whole Eye of Horus
Offering the heart
Reversion of offerings
Closing of the shrine

As this will be my first real foray in doing more than the basic good morning ritual in Eternal Egypt by Richard Reidy, I’m simultaneously excited and nervous. I suppose as time goes by, I will eventually get to an established clear point where I feel, if not content with the overall work, then at least comfortable with it.

In addition, I will be partaking in both the Year of Rites and Making Ma’at 2K19 orchestrated by TTR. (Links and explanations below.)

Rebirth

Somewhere ages and ages hence: 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

The year ahead is, most likely, not for the faint of heart. I will be undergoing a deep-seated and necessary change. The overall purpose will, hopefully, be for the better. This rebirth cycle is to better myself, better my gods, and better my ancestors. All of us are putting in a concerted effort to achieve the overall goals we have set for ourselves in 2019.

There are other pushes, other irons in the fire that will hopefully make the next year a roller coaster ride of change. It should certainly be interesting, if nothing else.

Further Reading

Bull of His Mother.

In October of this year, I was handed down a directive to re-read Hathor Rising and My Heart, My Mother. It had been a while since I had been given homework – and by an unknown quarter, no less!, though I suspect I know where it came from – so I didn’t immediately balk at the request.

It was around the same time that I received this directive that I had decided that I would proceed with the cycle of rebirth that I had failed to see through 3 years ago. Considering how thought-provoking and useful I had found both books during the process three years ago, I could see the wisdom in re-reading them by the end of the year.

What I wasn’t expecting as I blew through Hathor Rising was how much of the book I had actually forgotten. There were whole chapters filled with very interesting tidbits that relate in some form to either my relationships with my primary gods or to the regeneration cycle I had agreed to undertake, which were practically brand new to me.

One of the items that I got stuck focusing on for a while as I continued my readathon was about Bull of His Mother, or Kamutef. While this is an epithet that has been associated with other deities, as I will explain further below, in the instance of Hathor Rising, the author is discussing the regenerative properties of the syncretized version of Amun as Amun-Min-Bull-of-His-Mother.

As I researched the name Kamutef further, I found that Amun-Re in the New Kingdom also utilized Kamutef, who has a small shrine space or sanctuary outside of Mut’s Asheru sacred lake at Karnak, in his name as Amenemopet to regenerate himself each year.

While the information I gleaned about Kamutef, and the syncretic Amun-Min-Bull-of-his-Mother all very interesting for what I was going to be undertaking myself, it was the actual epithet “Bull of His Mother” that stayed with me as I researched.

DSC07286 The strong Bull of his Mother

As I mentioned, I was familiar with this epithet to some extent as I had seen it in association with various Horus iterations during one or more of my previous research extravaganzas. It is through this phrase that whichever Horus we are speaking of (both the younger and the elder) assume the role of king from their father. I had also seen it, or dreamed that I had seen it, associated with Geb. (Here’s a link to a conversation about it. Trigger warning for sexual assault.)

The gist of the associations with these gods is that it is through a full assumption of their father’s role – from son to the “fecundator” of their mothers that they take on the role of king. The father and son are the agents of the rebirth cycle while the mother is a seemingly passive vessel in the undertaking. She is providing the necessary environment for the son to be reborn into the role their father has bequeathed to them.

The idea that the womb played a sort of passive role in the rebirth of the king isn’t new to me. Sekhmet plays a similar role in the Pyramid Texts, where it is her womb that allows the deceased pharaoh to be reborn into akh. It is not from her womb that they are born; merely the act of entering the womb that seems to bestow that power unto the pharaoh. (This kind of highlights, in my opinion, the idea that ancient Egyptians knew very little about the bodies of people with wombs.)

The purpose behind this assumption of the father’s role in its entirety is that it is through the mother that the son is to hope for an ever-repeating life. It is this passiveness on the part of the mother in the cycle of rebirth that, I think, is required for the son’s elevation to the role of their father. Their mother must provide a habitable environment for this ability to manifest their own rebirth cycle but she doesn’t actively take part in the act itself.

The fertility that comes through the regenerative properties of one who is a Bull of His Mother is immune to death, so to speak. The person or god in question is capable of renewing himself over and over again and in so doing, also provides the cycle of rebirth over and over again for those who have ruled before. In effect, through the assumption of this role, the deities mentioned above and subsequent human pharaohs, are able to provide ever-lasting life for not only themselves but their forebears as well.

In addition to the hints of a constant and forever sort of rebirth cycle, the incestuous relations between mother and son allowed the sons to fully appropriate the title of ruler from their fathers. It also gave them the ability to deny “linear time”; the role allowed them to change the succession of generations by writing the past and present into a single person unified person. (This concept isn’t so different from the discussions regarding mythic time.)

With the acceptance of this epithet and the role associated with it, there would be continuity without fear of facing chaos like those of the Intermediate periods with the deity or human pharaoh assuming the full role of his father. As mentioned in the entry for Kamutef in The Ancient Gods Speak: “being the father and the son possesses an unquestionable legitimacy.”

So in this way, the epithet lends credence to the legitimacy of the succession. By assuming the role of one’s father in every capacity, the new pharaoh is ensuring continuity and the ongoing rebirth cycle that all pharaohs hoped to achieve.

While this particular epithet seems to be more commonly associated with a variety of gods, there was a specific festival called the Harvest Festival that the human pharaohs would perform so that they could fulfill the role of Bull of His Mother on a country-wide scale.

In this festival, which dates back to the Middle Kingdom, the pharaoh completed a ritual that allowed them to take on this mantle to regenerate the crops of the country. He and the priests would complete a fertility ritual to ensure that the crops for the upcoming year would be abundant.

I suspect that the Bull of His Mother epithet may have in fact had more to do with the consecration of a living pharaoh’s son to take the mantle of kingship upon the death of his predecessor. Based on what I have found during my research into both this epithet and its associated deity, Kamutef, it makes sense that the “Bull of His Mother” function played a larger part than a yearly Harvest Festival.

In effect, the Bull of His Mother epithet is associated with the ability for the sons to fully consecrate themselves in the roles of their fathers. While the epithet can have negative associations (as in the case of the possible association with Geb), it seems that it is more intended as an epithet to engender the vehicle of one’s own ability to renew themselves.

texas longhorn

There can be no doubt as to why I found my exploration of the Bull of His Mother fascinating.

The next year is a year of death and rebirth. I have been asked to die for my gods and I have agreed to go through with this moment of rebirth. Not only will the rebirth cycle I am undertaking benefit myself, but it will also benefit my gods in the long-term. Reading about an epithet and its associative deity that is capable of engendering its own vehicle of rebirth seemed, well, opportune and timely.

It makes sense to me that, in order for me to induce my own rebirth that I should assume the mantle of the Bull of His Mother. This is an epithet, and a deity, associated with the very things that I must undertake. And it would be a benefit to all parties involved if I can use this Bull of His Mother epithet as a sort of blueprint to see through what I need to see through.

As I was discussing the Bull of His Mother with TTR, they mentioned that Mut could also prove useful. “Mut is said to be “the mother who became a daughter,” or “the daughter-mother who made her begetter,” expressing a power of self-creation similar to that expressed for Amun by the epithet kamutef, ‘bull of his mother’, meaning one who is his own father.” (Link.)

While this was an avenue of possibility that I hadn’t considered before, it didn’t feel quite right to me. For some reason, the idea of becoming a god who could help me move forward on my necessary quest for ever-lasting life during my own rebirth cycle just felt wrong. I’ve since come to the realization that for the regenerative properties I am looking for, I need to undertake the epithet of Bull of His Mother to see it through as opposed to becoming either Mut or Kamutef. The assumption of the epithet feels more in tune with what I need to achieve.

So here I am, or there I will be at any rate… Satsekhem-Bull of His Mother. I guess I can only wait and see how far the assumption of this mantle pushes me in the upcoming months as I willingly die for my gods.

Receive the crook of your Father and the flail of Bull-of-His-Mother. You are the seed of the Lord of Abydos. May he give strength entirely.

– p. 95, Hathor Rising

Further Reading

  1. Hathor Rising by Alison Roberts
  2. My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts
  3. The Ancient Gods Speak edited by Donald B. Redford
  4. Temples of Ancient Egypt edited by Byron E. Shafer

Lady of Rage.

Zep Tepi is the moment we all know as the First Time, or the First Occasion. It is that single perfect moment in which creation has been created. It signifies when the world is new and whole and perfect. It is that split second in time where the primeval mound has risen from the lifeless waters of the Nun to announce that the world has been made. It is perfection personified in a single yet brief period of time.

It is also an endless moment. It moves across time and space. It is always happening; it has already happened. Mythic time makes this part of the myth difficult for us to fully understand. We can connect to this concept of mythic time when we discuss the number of creation myths found in ancient Egypt (after thousand of years and varying degrees of import associated with specific cult centers, it’s bound to happen). But when we take a look at it without associating it with the cosmogonies, we can sometimes forget that Zep Tepi has already happened, is currently happening, and is going to happen.

In effect, Zep Tepi is more than just a single second in time from eons back; from before humans walked the earth and before gods ruled. It happens every day. And it will happen again and again every second of every day. And it will happen many years in the future after I am buried and have turned to dust.

But Zep Tepi goes beyond the cosmogony of ancient Egyptian creation myth. It goes beyond simply a focal point for us to dither and reinterpret as we speak with our community members. Zep Tepi happens every day, and it happens to all of us every day.

It is the moment the sun peers above the horizon. The second before you step into an important meeting about a raise with your boss. The decision before you start eating right and exercising. The time you roll away from your desk to take a break from work. The moment after you’ve taken your anti-anxiety medication and they begin to take effect. The moment you put your car into drive. The deep breath you take before you make an important phone call.

Zep Tepi happens every day in a thousand little ways.

This is not a new concept for us. We have had this discussion numerous times. In fact, I think we’ve hashed it out to the point where many Kemetics in the group spaces I haunt can all agree that Zep Tepi is an ongoing renewal on a personal and fundamental level in all of our lives. It encapsulates any number of moments in our day-to-day lives and can be as large as a sunrise or as small as taking one’s medication.

But the portion of the conversation that does tend to get glossed over is what leads up to that moment of Zep Tepi. In the examples I’ve listed above, we do not usually discuss what precedes each split second of Zep Tepi in our lives. In many instances the time before that moment of rebirth hits us is a battle unto itself. And the next second it is just like when the primordial mound raises from the watery chaos of the Nun.

There are any number of things that we may have to go through before we can achieve our personal Zep Tepi, no matter what we may consider a personal Zep Tepi. Any single person who has had to have these types of uncomfortable conversations either with themselves or other people can attest that it is not an easy process. Anyone who has had to work on themselves in some form or another can assert that the way forward was fraught with pain and suffering. There are any number of setbacks that may have or probably did occur before that moment of renewal is upon us.

The path leading us to Zep Tepi is not an easy one.

Here it comes !

O you who consume your arm, prepare a path for me, for I am Re, I have come forth from the horizon against my foe. – excerpt from Spell 11, The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

In high school, there were two distinguishing features that people used to tell the difference between my best friend and I. (We did resemble one another.) The first was that I was the shortest one in our friend group, which was true. I was tiny in comparison and there were a good 2 – 3″ between me and the next shortest person. The second was that I was an angry kind of person, which was also true. Being a short, angry ball of energy followed me out of high school and into other adventures in my life.

Both were a constant and, or so I thought, I could do nothing about either. I wore them like badges of honor. I was a little ball of rage that could make grown men cry; and wasn’t it just hilarious that I was so tiny to boot?

I’ve written about it all before, but suffice to say I was perfectly fine with it for a very long time before Sekhmet took me by the face, squeezed my cheeks together, and said, “cut the shit, and fix it.” I argued about it since this seemed like something I really didn’t want to do and I was given a caveat to the first message. “Or else.” I was never sure what the “or else” could entail, but I figured if she was telling me to fix it, and tacking on something as menacing as “or else”, then there was probably a serious problem.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me, of course.

I railed against her.

I told her that she was a hypocrite.

I whined at her.

I cried a lot.

I didn’t want to get rid of it. I wanted it to remain because it was a part of who I was, it was a part of my very identity. If I were to get rid of it, then who would I be? She should have been able to understand my point of view easily since, I felt, she was in similar circumstances. But no matter how many times I tried to get out of it, I came back to Sekhmet’s message to me: “cut the shit, and fix it. Or else.”

It took me a very long time to work on it. I knew that there was no quick fix here, but I had hoped for one.

As the years had past, the primary moment that the rage began had grown. Instead of it having been created at a single fixed moment in my life and remaining the same size it had been at that moment of its own creation, I found that it had been built up over the years by a variety of traumas until it was very large. It was exceedingly painful to work on. I couldn’t go from 0 to 100 on this. I had to take my sweet time as I slowly peeled back the layers to find the very start, the very beginning.

I had always been under the impression that rage was, well, healthy. I thought that having it was a good thing. But something that I had learned as I worked on this was that anger could be healthy; rage was not. I had to work down the ball of rage until I could manage what was left before I could finally turn to Sekhmet and say, “See what I have done? I did it.”

But I had caused another problem in the fixing. Out of fear, I wouldn’t let myself feel angry. I had spent so much time working on this part of myself that I was worried what would happen if I got angry. I kept my emotions locked up tight until I thought I would break from it all. I finally fell apart and realized that I had gone from one extreme to the other; I had gone from razor teeth and claws to a featureless void of no emotion with periodic explosions.

I had to learn hard how to express myself. I had to educate myself on what was and was not healthy. I had to let myself feel my emotions, but instead of bottling them up into a nice little pocket of rage in my chest, I had to express them in a way that would benefit myself and others. I had broken myself down to fix the problem, but I had only done part of the work to build myself back up.

After working down the traumas, working them all down until I had a functional level of anger that was healthy. Then I had to teach myself how to express these emotions in a healthy way, in a way that would benefit myself, the work that I had done, and the people around me. I’m finally at a point where I can say that while I do experience anger at a variety of things, I can finally express it in a healthy way that doesn’t involve broken things or people.

My first true moment of Zep Tepi was after all the rage had been pulled from its pocket and I could breathe again without feeling like I would melt down. My second moment was being able to express my frustrations and anger in a way that benefited myself, my life, and my goddess.

Rage

I have flown up like the primeval ones, I have become Khepri, I have grown as a plant, I have clad myself as a tortoise, I am the essence of every god… – excerpt from Spell 83, The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

After I had realized that I needed to build my house back up, I sent myself on a mission to find something that would benefit me in the long run. I had to find a part of myself that had been missing for a very long time. Another piece of me had hidden that part of myself away in a safe place for later because that piece of me had grown tired of the world, tired of the gods, tired of living.

When I finally found that part of me again, I was reminded a bit of the Book of the Celestial Cow where Ra is mentioned to have become old. As quoted from this piece by Edward Butler:

Re learns that there are humans plotting against him because the furthest limits of his realm are far removed from his living divinity. The myth offers two immediate symbols of this distance or gap between Re and his subjects. The first is Re’s elderliness and, the second, the mineral metaphors used to describe him: his bones like silver, his flesh like gold, his hair like lapis lazuli. Re is elderly, not as an absolute quality, but relative to those of his subjects who are much younger in the scale of being.

I could feel the difference between myself and this part of myself. She was elderly in the context of Ra above: she was older than myself and had seen untold things in the time when she had been active. I referred to her as ancient-me, which seems to amuse as well as irritate. I was doing my job at any rate if I could get amusement out of the seriousness of the situation.

What I found when I discovered this piece was that the hard work I had done to myself at Sekhmet’s push had not been done to this older facet. In fact, I would say that, if I had to associate her with my own path, she looked more like 2012 era me than anything else: always angry, ready to pop at the hint of even the slightest provocation.

I also saw in her the same Sekhmet I have seen over and over again throughout my dealings with her: a volcano that has been dormant for years, but that could explode at any moment. The plume of gases that was constantly being released to make room for yet more rage was a miasma. I had to work on that for her so that we could continue on to the next steps in our journey.

The rage that had fostered in her had similar earmarks to my own and similar earmarks to Sekhmet’s, but at the heart of it all, it was entirely her own. She had made of it, just as I had made of it, a core part of herself. And that core part was necrotic from the years of adding to it.

I had to condense years’ worth of shadow work in a limited amount of time so that we could clear out the heart that had gone stale, first after years of disuse and second after years of fortifying it with white-hot anger. In the working, I discovered that, much as I had found for myself, she had never figured out a healthy and proper way to convey her feelings of anger. She had bottled them up until she was ready to break from it all.

As I worked on this other piece of myself, I began to wonder if this, too, was a core issue for Sekhmet. We know her as the Lady of Rage, of fire and fury, but we often don’t ask her to tell us how she’s feeling. Based on the myth I linked to above, at no point did Ra give her the tools she would need to fix herself, much less to express herself in a healthy and constructive way.

Maybe Ra never wanted to give her those tools or maybe he never knew what they looked like because he, too, suffers from the same thing. The whys and what-fors really don’t matter.

All that I kept coming back to as I worked on that other piece of myself was that this was something that Sekhmet could benefit from, if for no other reason than because then, the dormant volcano wouldn’t constantly be spewing ash and miasma into the air. And maybe the eventual eruption would be healthier than the eventual destroy-’em-all eruption that we all fear.

Perhaps in her directives to us, to me and to other me, to the other devotees out there who have anger issues, Sekhmet is looking for the quick-fix or any fix, really, to work on her own issues. Perhaps in the push to “cut the shit, and fix it; or else” she is asking us to teach her how to turn herself into a better god, to work on her root troubles, and come out of it a little less angry, a little less fear-inducing, a little more than just a lioness ready to slaughter at the request of the god who fathered her.

I think, at the very root of it all, Sekhmet is looking for her own version of Zep Tepi. She is hoping for that single moment of cosmological perfection where the world is new, or perhaps merely the renewal that predisposes the many versions of Zep Tepi that we see and feel every day.

Just as this other part of myself both deserves and needs that Zep Tepi, so too does Sekhmet. And as much as I may be jaded by everything that I’ve seen or done, I’m going to continue to work towards that goal.

Further Reading

Home & Hearth.

Years ago when I began interacting with other pagans online, I found myself fascinated by their discussions about how they had integrated their religion into their households. I would read their words about household shrines and practices, household deities and their veneration with a feeling of such desire it could choke me sometimes with its depth.

The prospect of including one’s religion in their home life was foreign to me. My childhood was not overly religious and to my mind, including religion in the home meant asking Saint Anthony to find something lost or my mother doing her Hail Marys before a long trip. It was the little moments that meant religion had some foundation in one’s household, not an entire subdivision of a religious practice.

This isn’t to say that the little things like those described above were not enough or integrating one’s ingrained religious beliefs into day-to-day living. They were what I knew as a child and were sufficient at the time. But as I explored myself and the religion I had found, I found such a deep desire in going still further than the little things.

I found myself wanting a household shrine, dedicated specifically to the daily running of the home. I wanted a god, or many, whose specific realm was all the myriad things that make up running an entire household. I wanted what I saw in others’ practice and wanted to make it my own. I found myself longing more and more but couldn’t find what I desired from a Kemetic standpoint.

Household shrines, according to Egyptologists, were most likely in use for the ancient Egyptian laity but how important those spaces may have been is an enigma. Even knowing that it is feasible that they did in fact worship gods in their homes is good information to have, but it didn’t help me over much as I floundered my way on my path.

I kept thinking that I just wanted a space for gods whose sole purpose was, as with Hestia, to be the deity associated with hearth and home.

There were some netjeru who could fulfill the role I was seeking: Hetheru, Bes, Tawaret, and Djehuty to name a few. But I found that my attempts to lure either Hetheru or Djehuty in this way failed. Every time I considered approaching Tawaret, something pushed me off of that line of thinking. At this point, one could assume from this that I then turned to Bes and went that route.

They’d be wrong.

My relationship with Bes had always been a sort of ephemeral thing; there was no substance behind it. It was just little things here and there but nothing beyond that. It didn’t feel appropriate to reach out to him then, so I left him alone while I struggled.

I went through altar porn and blog posts. I looked into how the Romans and Greeks did it in antiquity, trying to cobble something together that would feel right. But every time I looked into what they did, I found myself staring down a dark hole that seemed to have a giant neon NOPE sign blazing down in my face. The information I was learning was interesting, but it wasn’t for me.

I got tired of wanting and tired of not finding. With the sort of stubborn headed foolishness that is my personal knack, I decided I didn’t need gods. I didn’t need to know what other people were doing. I didn’t need any of that nonsense! It obviously wasn’t what I should be focusing on anyway!

So I began moving away from gods and others’ practices. I began looking deep within and all around, trying to find something that I could cobble together so that the want would finally go away.

Adventure seeker on an empty street, just an alley creeper, light on his feet. A young fighter screaming, with no time for doubt… – I Want It All by Queen

If I was asked to describe the one prevalent thing in my practice in a single word, the first thing that would come out of my mouth would be: foundations. I hear this so often from my gods, in my daily Tarot card pulls, and from a variety of other quarters. I am constantly being reminded to go back to the basics, go back to the foundations, go back to the start so that I can either build a new base or work on fixing up the existing building blocks in place.

When I decided that I wasn’t going to force myself into what I saw others crafting for themselves in the realm of their household shrines, I thought about the ongoing message about the basics. I had to build this from the ground up and the only way to really get there was to decide what I was really looking for.

Eyeballing pictures from other peoples’ altars was all fine and well, but that didn’t a practice make. Even reading their blog posts or comments on forums didn’t really help me.

I wanted a space that was about, well, my home. I wanted it focused on the people who inhabited my home, who lived here day in and day out with the good and with the bad. I wanted a place that sort of cried out to everyone about who we are as a family and what this place is as our home.

With whispers of “foundations” in my mind, I began trying to figure out what our home was about. And you know what? That was pretty damn hard. I didn’t know who we were as a family. We’ve been living in a very small place in general agreement that this living situation is temporary. Yeah, well, temporary though it may feel, we’ve been here for eight years now.

Even with all of that, it was still difficult to figure out who we were because we’ve never really put our mark on this place. It’s only been in the last two years that we’ve finally situated ourselves where we’ve come to the determination that we may leave this place at any given moment, but in the mean time, we’ve had to put down roots… roots that we’ll cut if and when we move on.

The transitory sort of feeling to our home made it difficult to figure out what I wanted to achieve for a foundation, so I started color-coding certain portions of the year on my Place of Truth, hoping that I’d get somewhere with this home and hearth altar eventually.

It was actually out of my four-times annual change out of my Place of Truth that I was finally able to come to a certain general idea about who I am as a person. And out of that, I was able to kind of define who my family is and what our home should be like:

  1. We’re in transition.
  2. We’re nerds in every sense of the word (books, video games, random facts, etc).
  3. We’re jokesters.
  4. We prefer comfort and functionality over frills.
  5. Our home is warm (sometimes a little too warm).
  6. Our home is filled with laughter.
  7. Our home is not very well lit, but at least the walls are light-colored so that what natural light is let in, it reflects… in our eyes…
  8. Our home has its problems, but we’ll work through it.

These ideas formed the basis, or foundation, of what I wanted my household altar to look like. I started adding little bits and pieces to my Place of Truth that I felt kind of indicated who we were based on my list.

I added toys from my son and from my significant other. I put bits of crystals and doo-dads that made me think it kind of indicated who we were. With my general color scheme, I was able to tie everything together into a cohesive theme until I felt that, well, I wasn’t doing too bad for all of that.

I made sure to spend time at the space. I would light Reiki-infused candles with a specific purpose in mind, depending on what purpose I wanted to achieve. I would pull daily cards for my son or myself there that had a more general message than anything specific. But above all, I felt that this place was a more than adequate symbol for who we are and what our home is like.

It took years for it to get built up to a point where it stopped feeling like something I had cobbled together on the fly and began to feel more like something established. It began to feel like it was something with… well… a solid foundation.

I gotta get me a game plan, gotta shake you to the ground. Just give me what I know is mine. People do you hear me, just give me the sign… – I Want It All by Queen

Once I felt comfortable, I was thrown another curve ball because Bes began showing up. This was partly my fault. For years, I had assured myself that I would purchase myself a protective amulet of Bes for every day wear. Not long after the amulet came home, I began to feel him haunting my already well-laid foundation at my household altar space.

It took some back and forth before I finally was able to get a straight answer out of him. He wanted to join this realm of my life, but before he could do so, I needed to get a solid… you guessed it… foundation in place. I was not surprised by this answer in the slightest.

Once I had come to terms with this, I realized that I felt comfortable with the idea of adding him into the place. What had first seemed confusing and a little weird, now seemed like a perfectly good idea.

When I began working on my home/hearth altar space, it seemed almost like adding a god or six into the mix would be like forcing them into a niche that wasn’t made for them. But now, I realized that out of all of the building I had been doing, I had still kept a space available for a god… if one decided to show up eventually.

Or maybe I always expected him to show up one day.

I looked around and found an icon that I felt would be appropriate for my small space and inserted him into something that I had worked hard on making on my own. As I set his icon in place for the first time, it felt a little like things were finally coming together in a way that I had always dreamed of but hadn’t really ever expected.

Bes, of course, brought friends with him to add to the space. It was not that long after I had added his icon to my space that he asked me to include Wenut and Tawaret, in whatever capacity I so desired, to the mix. I very quickly found hand-made wooden pieces of hippos, snakes, and bunnies that I felt would fit the bill. He seemed pleased with my selection and I was soon welcoming those two ladies into my home. They have proven to be far more quiet than Bes, who isn’t exactly a chatty type of god.

Now the three of them haunt my home and hearth altar. Periodically, I focus on the gods that haunt this space. And periodically, I focus on the family and home that this space is supposed to symbolize.

Together, we’ve managed to build things into a functional capacity that, years back when reading other peoples’ descriptions of their home and hearth related sojourns, I could only marvel at.

I’m a man with a one track mind, so much to do in one life time… – I Want It All by Queen

Nowadays, Bes and I are focused on a very specific project that I’ve been working on for actually a couple of years. Every few days, I light one of my candles and I give offerings to the gods that inhabit my space so that I can achieve a goal that has been a very long time coming.

I can only hope that once this goal has finally been achieved that the three of them will be coming with me on the next new adventure for my home, for my hearth, and for my family.

 

You Are Not the One You Say You Are.

Years ago, I followed a number of people who were deep into astrology. Sometimes it felt like they were all speaking together in another language when they would get going on their discussions regarding charts and retrograde and returns. I had a passing fancy back then that maybe I would learn what they knew and use it somehow in my own way. That never came to pass and most likely never will, but one thing that stayed with me was the concept of the Saturn Return.

At the time I found out about it, I wondered when I could expect that to happen to me. I never looked into when mine would appear back then but I sometimes found myself wondering when it would hit, when I could expect things to disintegrate so spectacularly as those astrology people described, and how I would look coming out of the other side. I, of course, never bothered to look into when my Saturn return would occur because I didn’t want to confirm that I was already in the middle of it or that it was still some ways off. It was better not knowing.

I have since learned when my first Saturn return occurred. Before I figured it out, I often wondered for a long time after the year 2015 had slowly died as years tend to do if that year was the start or end of my Saturn return. It would have explained so much if it was.

Saturn Return

I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. If you are who you say you are then show me your face. You came out of the ocean like you came out of a dream. Your voice it sounds familiar but you are not what you seem… – The Stranger by Lord Huron

Fear and hopelessness are two words that, when paired together, they form a very distinct image. They elicit a painting of some dark gray and bleak hellscape. When these two words are mated together in this way, the words can convey a certain nuance that the words, when spoken not in tandem, tend to lack. The desolation one can feel when these words are used to describe themselves and their situation is so absolute as to be inescapable. It’s suffocating, worrisome, and above all, horrifying.

I think “fear and hopelessness” does an adequate job of explaining my mindset three years ago.

The year had started off so strong. I had worked diligently for the preceding three or so years to get to where I was. I had gone through a lot of shit both on a personal and spiritual level. I had developed new avenues of insight and networked to a point where I was mostly comfortable with the community I had crafted around myself. I had spent time moving as hard as I could, pushing things into place and reorganizing as I felt the need arose.

I had developed a strong relationship with a handful of gods who I loved and succored. I whispered their names as fervent prayers and I worshiped them truly. I cared for them in a way that I cannot convey verbally, that I cannot write. The emotional connection I had with them and they with me was often intense, often personal, and above all, it made me feel fulfilled in a way that I had never felt in all the years before and all the years since.

I had faith.

I had belief.

I had a lot of things that people talk about every day about their gods, about their spiritual lives, about their religions. I had all of those things and I could wear them like a strong, beautifully rendered blanket around my shoulders. Or a tapestry strung upon the wall, crowing to the world around me that I had love with my gods and they loved me. It protected me against the negatively and nay-saying. It made me feel safe and loved in return. It was security. It was safe.

But the thing about blind faith is that it doesn’t always sustain you. It’s not something that can always fill you the way that a good dinner can. It’s nothing that you can survive on. My blind faith, my blind love, began to fray and the warm, beautiful blanket began to erode around me. I grabbed for the pieces of it and I tried to re-weave it but I had my eyes opened when I died for the first time to be reborn into a useful vessel for my primary goddess. The death was necessary; the manner of it, in my opinion, was not.

It’s hard to get back to loving your gods when they have used you. It’s not impossible, but it can be so very hard to be the bright and shiny youth you once were after going through something as traumatic as all of that. It came to a head, all of my pent-up emotions on the topic, in 2015 because I was being asked to die all over again. I needed to be reborn yet again, not just for myself but for my god as well. I needed to die so that we could both live.

And I was so very angry that after only just dying, only just healing myself, only just coming to terms with all that the original rebirth’s changes had wrought that I was being asked to do it all over again. To be sure, the purpose has always been necessary and I have always been headed in that direction. But I needed to come to terms with what had already happened in conjunction with other changes I was going through; I wasn’t fucking ready.

It never helped that all of this chatter about death and rebirth was always, always couched in terms of Bigger Picture. We always come to this statement, this fucking phrase, and for those of us who do spirit work, we have to ask ourselves what in the ever-loving fuck is the point? Our lives are all supposed to be for this Bigger Fucking Picture but damn if it doesn’t make any fucking sense when paired with what our woo has shown us to be the reality of our gods’ current situation.

Why should I die yet again for this Bigger Picture bullshit when everything else is complete and utter shit?

I never got an answer to this question and I decided that it wasn’t necessary then.

I know this sounds petty. I know this sounds like I was having a temper tantrum. But the one thing I cannot illustrate enough is how much that first death traumatized me. I was passive in that death; I allowed it to happen without a peep, without a cry, without fighting back against it because I wasn’t ready. Even if I was unsuccessful, I often think back and castigate myself for not fighting back.

I should have fought back.

Rebirth

All your words of comfort cannot take away my doubt. I’ve decided if it kills me I’ll find out what you’re about. I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. – The Stranger by Lord Huron

It would be nice to end this entry here, to lay blame in its totality at the feet of the gods. But I, too, must admit to my culpability in what went wrong that year.

The years preceding had been dedicated to the hard work of creating an open forum community, primarily taking place on Tumblr but in other areas (WordPress, FB groups, etc.) of the web as well. The hard work had sort of paid off because we had managed to network a wider arena with more and more people joining our shared tags as time went by. It was nice… for a while.

My primary issue at this time was that there was a lot of growing pains going on for the wider community. I watched and aided as I could in these growing pains – growing pains that occur with every major group – but some of the things I saw, sitting on the sidelines, made me vastly uncomfortable. There was a growing group of voices that seemed to have negative points of view relating to spirit work, god spouses, and various other “woo” related arenas that made me distinctly uncomfortable.

The totality of 2015 for me was, well, “woo.” It had been forged with “woo” and it was supposed to end with “woo.” Spirit work was the name of the game in my world and the constant negative comments coming from wider and wider quarters left me feel disenfranchised with the community at large. I began to feel like I needed to keep my experiences to myself instead of sharing them just so I wouldn’t have to deal with any negative backlash.

You see, I was nay-saying my experiences all my own; I didn’t need to see it coming from some other quarter. I had my own issues related to all of this. How can this be happening? How can this be real? Even with outside divination, intuition, lining up “upg” from other sources, and a variety of other confirmation sources, I doubted heavily what was going on. I didn’t need another negative voice to add alongside my own.

Beyond my personal doubt regarding what was going on with my religious shenanigans and the fear of hearing my very own doubts parroted back to me, the community continued to grow and with it, more and more people with a historically informed background began to show up. The issue I found with some of these people is that they often came across as exceedingly condescending when I would get into both private and public conversations with them.

While I understand that being classically trained in various areas will give you a leg up in certain areas, this doesn’t mean that the people you are communicating with who aren’t classically trained are stupid or unread or unlearned. It just means that they’re coming at it without that background and because of this, they’re probably taking away a completely different perspective because their focus is in other arenas.

I didn’t need to be condescended to. I didn’t need to be talked down to or talked over or shouted at in public group messages because I disagreed about a variety of things. It only lent credence to my belief that I needed to effectively embody the hermit card from Tarot and isolate myself from the community at large.

So I did.

I not only distanced myself from the community at large, but I effectively cut myself off from those who didn’t make me feel like I was some sub-human waste of space with my woo and my different opinions. I compartmentalized so much that I stopped talking to even those of my friends who weren’t part of the community and wouldn’t make me feel like I was losing my mind if I revealed all the stuff that I had gone through earlier in the year.

It was just easier, I told myself. It was simpler to keep to myself and just keep trucking on with my fallow times and my worry that I was probably making up all the woo from earlier in the year. Better to hide away from the wider world than to engage and possibly be judged false.

I should have told myself to fuck off instead.

Bees

But I know what you want and why, Of all the strangers you’re the strangest that I’ve seen. I’m not afraid to die. I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. – The Stranger by Lord Huron

To be fair, the year as a whole wasn’t that bad. I had come to accept that I had woo though I did run away from it later for both of the above reasons listed. I had entered into a marriage with a god, which has been in effect for the last three years and seems to be going well. I had found out who my friends were because we’re still going strong three years later.

I could catalog the good things to counter all the pain and suffering, all of the hopelessness that had been intermixed with it. But at the heart of the matter, the year was not a good one and that was exactly why I disappeared; why I went off the radar. I had taken to heart the idea that I needed to hide, to keep to myself. I no longer trusted, no longer could engage in the reindeer games. I wasn’t safe; nothing was.

I had built up the house and failed to continue the growth I needed. Both my practice and I have become inert and we both suffer for it. After reading this post by TTR, I realized that I have a decision to make much like they realized they had.

Sometimes you have to shit or get off the pot. I’ve been on the pot for three years now so I guess it’s finally time to move on.

You are not the one you say you are
Now that I’ve seen your face, I’m haunted by the letters of your name
– The Stranger by Lord Huron

Be Faithful in Small Things…

The first two weeks of school herald a sort of liminality between good health and illness. You always assume that someone in your household is going to end up with a head cold, or worse, but you’re never quite sure who is going to be unlucky enough to finally come down with whatever illness has been foretold by the smell of back to school sales.

My son came home a week and a half after the first day of school with the obsessive need to blow his nose every five minutes. I side eyed him and muttered about keeping his germs to himself, but it was a foregone conclusion. He was sick and it was only a matter of time before I joined him.

The scratchy feeling in the back of my throat began Friday afternoon and developed into a full head cold a few hours later. As my S.O. tried not to laugh as I ripped open a box of tissues before officially buying them so I could blow my nose as soon as possible, I knew my nice relaxing weekend had gone out the window. I was officially sick.

I spent much of Saturday mumbling in melodramatic cadence about wanting someone to cut off my head at the neck. I felt awful and no matter how faithfully I followed the prescribed DayQuil/NyQuil regimen, nothing was making me feel better. As I looked over the paraphernalia of illness, I realized something key was missing.

I had gotten the tissues and the medication. I had gotten the chapstick and my pillow. I had my stuffed animal (don’t judge) and my dog. I had shows to binge watch on Netflix and a book to pick up when I got bored with all of that, but there was something missing: the chest rub.

As a kid, it was one of the first things my mother pulled out after I came down sick. I can remember her rubbing the camphor-scented grease on my chest when I was young. I remember following the same prescription when I got older. But I hadn’t thought to grab some when we were restocking on illness ware.

I got some that night and immediately applied it. I felt better of course; good enough to eat something besides Ramen. (Don’t talk to me about soup. Ramen is as close as I’ll ever get to soup.) It was probably a psychosomatic feeling of general wellness but it was exactly what I needed to stop being so melodramatic for five minutes.

And the realization that the scent of camphor could do more than the liquid medications, the box of tissues, and even my beloved Professor who has seen me through many illnesses over the years, it got me thinking about the little things.

Maybe everything really does come back down to the little things…

As polytheists, the push of advice from any quarter can typically be summed up by the necessity of doing ritual. We read the posts of those more advanced on their path about larger rituals that they undertake for some reason or another. And in the minutiae, they mention the daily rites that they undertake for their gods, their spirits, and for their ancestors: offerings and libations, dedicated moments of prayer, etc.

We are constantly being shown that it is by the very act of ritual that we will forge the relationships we seek to make. And in turn, we will grow ever further on the paths that we have chosen for ourselves along with those relationships. We will find things that work and things that don’t, but at the very foundation of it all, it is in ritual that we should begin.

We are instructed by our elders, and those of us who have been around long enough have regurgitated the advice, to start off small with daily action and then to work ourselves up to the big. It is the same advice that we give children: baby steps with a few or many stops and starts before the child is walking. This methodology is pushed out into our communities to the neophytes who join us.

But the bond is more than simply built upon ritual. Yes, it is important, but it is not the only thing necessary.

Ritual can be considered the bricks, perhaps, that we use to build up those relationships with our gods/spirits/ancestors. However, any bricklayer can assure you that bricks are only part of the whole which is necessary to create a building. Between the bricks, they lay mortar to bind the blocks together in their efforts to tease the building into the sky.

Ritual cannot be the mortar if it is already the building blocks that we are using. There must be the binding paste that we can lay between each brick, on top of each layer, to add onto our relationships with our gods/ancestors/spirits. And it is through the small things, the tiny things that may not necessarily occur to us in the moment, that we bind the bricks and mortar together.

These small things that we use as the mortar of our relationships are inherently personal. They will never look the same between one individual and another; and they shouldn’t. They should be as individual as the relationships we are building with our ancestors/gods/spirits.

And as the weeks, months, and years pass by, we may find that some of the mortar has rotted away or perhaps been chiseled down over time. It is through yet more smaller moments that you restore the edifice to where it needs to be to continue the process you began when you started to build these relationships with your ritual building blocks and your small moments mortar.

But all of these things are just as integral as the necessity of ritual because without them, you will never get beyond the first few layers before what you have built crumbles around you.

Remember the small things

Though the story I told above about being ill may have come across as a non sequitur, I can assure you it served a two-fold purpose. The first was to give you a little background before I began to discuss mortar. The second was to give you a hint as to what some of my mortar might look like.

A tub of mentholated grease may not seem like a clearly obvious bit of binding I can use to cement my ritual blocks in place, but it is. My mother instilled in me a need for the chest rub as a child, which was in turn instilled in her by her mother who has been in the west for many years. It is through the bond I have with my mother and this family connection that I take my veneration of my grandmother out of my offerings, out of my rituals, and bring it and my love for her into my daily life.

It is through this small act – and many others – that I have forged the bond beyond what is typical, beyond what is often advised, and into the realm of the workable. It is this realm – the mix between ritual and the little things – that we must push ourselves towards if we are to succeed.

And it is these little things that will cement things more firmly in place than merely through the act of ritual.

The Art of 2D Communication

Recently, my boss took myself and the other supervisors from my job on a field trip. I got to spend two eight-and-a-half hour days in an auditorium with decent acoustics so I, and my coworkers, could listen to important people in leadership positions talk about, well, leadership. The leadership conference was simultaneously boring and thought-provoking. After coming home on day 2 and being asked how it was, all I could really say was that at least I wasn’t in front of my computer all day.

There were some very interesting tidbits, but I didn’t really bother to take too many notes or pay close attention through most of it. I found much of what they discussed all but useless. Or they were things that I already knew so I promptly tuned it all out.

However there was one presenter that had a piece where they discussed, and I quote directly here, “2D Communication in a 3D World.” I found myself sitting up and actually taking an interest. That interest was not because of my job and how I work behind a computer screen every day. The first thought I had after she said that was, “the community.”

Too often, we are communicating with meat suits across the Internet separated by computer screens or tablet/cell phone screens. While this networking can be stimulating and aid us, it can also be frustrating because we live in a world where we are raised to listen to nuance and read subtle body language to determine a person’s emotions relating to a topic. They may be speaking monotonously but you can pick up by their body language or by the way they over enunciate just how they may actually feel about the topic at hand.

Pen pointed neatly above my notebook, I waited for some amazing piece of advice to resolve conflicts that may occur because of our failure to read facial and body cues. And the answer from this amazing presenter was to get up and go have a conversation with someone instead of sending that possibly confusing email.

Well, by golly gee! What wonderful advice… for people who are close enough where that’s feasible.

Since there was no great advice, no great secret ready for me to use the next time I accidentally found myself in some deep shit because of the very 2D communication problem that is very real for all of us, I had a silent fit and then wondered how I could use this. How could this complete lack of a substance from an alleged leader help me, help the community, help anyone for fuck’s sake?

Well…

One of the first pieces of advice we supervisors will give to new or established employees is to “slow down.” Too often, we have emails flying in and out of our inboxes, blowing through our work flow as quickly as possible to open us up for non-client facing work. However the desire to shoot off a quick response can cause trouble:

  1. Strategic words missing
  2. Words misspelled
  3. Run on and confusing sentences
  4. No concrete purpose or substance

Any one of these can cause a world of hurt for us, but all four taken together could potentially lead to disaster.

In an effort to prevent something horrible from happening, we tell everyone to slow down, to re-read what you’re writing, to take a moment before hitting send to make sure that everything in the email is appropriate and what you needed to say. People claim that they do this but I can tell you that the amount of times that I have gone through my employees’ emails, whispering, “what the fuck,” to my computer pays the lie to their assurances.

So the first piece of magical advice I have is: “slow down.”

As exciting and thrilling as it may be to get some word vomit out and into cyberspace, when you are working on building interpersonal relationships with strange meat suits across the world, the more important thing is to make sure that what you’re saying makes a lick of sense. From conversations about our gods to disagreements about word meanings, we all need to take the time to step back and really review what it is we’re trying to convey.

Many of us with blogs already do this, so it’s not as if it’s an impossible exercise. Most of us take the time to be clear, concise, read and re-read what we want to convey in our blog entries. Most of my entries can take a week, or more, before they’re as ready as can be to go out onto the Internet. So it’s not necessarily a difficult thing to begin to add into this step into our inter-community discussions in forums, servers, and Tumblr posts.

If we all took an extra five minutes, or even more, to re-read and think about to the list of four things above before sending out a response, we could prevent a large amount of miscommunication (or auto correct fails).

One of the second pieces of advice we give out to our staff is to have someone else read over what you’re trying to say if the need arises. In our world where our conference call recaps can span a good three pages in a Word document, we have to make sure that we are being as clear and concise about what is being done and what the next steps are for our projects. Any one of the four things listed above can cause trouble on some of our projects, but taken all together, we’re asking for trouble.

We let our staff know that if the email they’re trying to send out is long-winded or convoluted, beyond slowing down and re-reading what they’re writing, it’s always best to have someone else review the emails. I will send my more confusing emails to other staff members – both supervisors like myself or other staff in the office – to have them take a look and make sure that I’ve hit all of the salient points that need to be touched on. Not all of my staff use this either, but they’re learning more and more as I guide them on how best to communicate with our clients that I’m always willing to do a quick email review to make sure nothing gets missed.

So my next piece of magical advice would be: “beta readers.”

We all have friends in the community that we bounce ideas off of or share issues with. These are the people who you can rely on, if they’re around at the time, to review something you’re trying to get out and onto the Internet. Fan fiction writers tend to have beta readers that go through and offer feedback; why not people who are trying to work within a community entirely derived over the Internet?

When the topics at hand can be as personal or impassioned as can be, we need to take the time to find someone to read through what it is that we’re saying just to be sure that nothing gets missed. I have done this for friends’ blog entries as well as response posts when the shit has hit the fan. I have also had my friends do this for me to make sure that what I’m saying is accurate, concise, and as clear as possible. This step may delay the post going live, but sometimes waiting for that person to read through what you’ve written is more important than immediately publishing whatever comments you may have.

If we took the time to have someone review whatever it is that we want to say, it could also cut down dramatically on misunderstanding across the community.

Sometimes, I must have difficult communication with representatives, clients, and vendors that I work with on a regular basis. I am not a person who enjoys having these types of high level conversations, but occasionally we need to have difficult conversations in order to save the relationship, to ensure that the issue that occurred doesn’t happen again, or because whatever process we determined could work here didn’t in fact work and now we need to come up with a new one.

Leading up to those types of conversations, there is usually a flurry of back and forth between myself and whomever I am ultimately going to have this conversation with. And quite often, when someone thinks that their point of view is the only point of view that matters, this can lead people into a state of high dudgeon. This is when it is always best to step back before heading into that conversation.

If I walk into these types of conversations in the midst of a paroxysm of anger, I am not doing myself any favors. And I am not going to be doing anything productive with that conversation because I’m too busy assuming that what they’re telling me is wrong or a lie.

So my next piece of magical advice is: “take a break.”

When it comes to facilitating a community, especially a text-based one, I think this is probably the most important piece of advice that we can give to ourselves and to others. Tempers can snap or fray because the conversation is so close to who you are as a person or to something you deeply believe in. Arguments can stem from an emotional reaction or the reading of tone where none was meant. It is always best to step back and walk away than to give in to the temptation to either defend yourself when no defense is necessary or to think critically about what has happened and how best to respond.

If we can give ourselves even ten minutes of time to walk away from the conversation and focus on something else, you can come back to it a little bit more clearer minded. This can help you to decide how best to respond, if you even feel a response is merited at that point anyway. Taking a break can give you that extra time you need to come down and determine how best to proceed.

Communication

Unlike my job where I have the option for phone communication and in-face meetings, a purely text-based community is going to have its issues with miscommunication. No matter how often we refer to magical advice or do our best to hypothetically put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, it is going to happen; it’s inevitable when other human beings are involved.

The only magical piece of advice for when it finally does happen to you is to be able to be critical enough of the situation and yourself to think about where it went wrong. Instead of doubling down on who is right and who is wrong, figure out where you may have made mistakes when communicating and learn from those mistakes for better communication in the future.

Further Reading

  1. Boat Paddling: The Second Rule of Kemeticism

All Other Ways of Mortification are Vain…

A friend of mine posted a link last month on their Facebook that I found particularly thought provoking. The original author, whom we all know as “the Henadology guy,” has a particular way with words that will make your sluggish brain move whether you want it to or not. I definitely had no intention of falling into a pit, following thought process after thought process as they circled down the endless drain of my internal meat space. Unfortunately, one’s intent is not always the way of things.

After hours spent feeling both irritated and thoughtful, I came to a single conclusion:

Way to call a girl out like that.

Sometimes, my life is little more than an old meme come back to bite me in the ass.

The exploration of the polytheism hemisphere can often start out with almost a lackadaisical sort of defiance. Raised as many of us are nowadays in a stringent monotheism that pollutes the civic world as well as our personal lives or in a laissez-faire environment where a lack of belief can be seen as currency, the profession of belief in the many can be titillating.

We move from a world of seeming absolutes – a single deity or none at all – into a realm which offers up a platter of possibilities. Gods and nymphs, ancestors and demons, guardians and spirit: they are all there for the taking. Not all fruits of the tree are ripe, but they are all there nonetheless for people who have found the status quo of their parents’ religious lives (or lack of) stifling.

At the beginning, it is frustrating or exciting or frightening. In many instances, it is all three at the same time. As we explore religious dynamics hidden from us, we run the gamut of emotions while trying to decide what works best. We try things we shouldn’t and go down rabbit holes that lead to dead ends. But it is oft-times the act of exploration that is the most exciting of it all because we are looking outside of our cultural norms for something that may or may not be missing.

We have all looked elsewhere for answers and sometimes, those answers lay in the shadows of polytheism. Before the Internet truly took off, it was a quiet place peopled in small groups of like-minded individuals looking to find something that felt right. With the Internet surrounding us, we have found more people like us and created virtual communities so that even the misanthropes like me can occasionally feel like we belong. We have found something that feels like it could work.

But in the background, we have basic programming instilled in us that we must recover from. A tag was once used on Tumblr – maybe it still is – for those indoctrinated in their culture’s or family’s staunch monotheism to reprogram themselves from that life. It is a paradigm shift for all of us going from the one to the many, the none to the many, or the possibility of one to the many.

Some shifts are easier to make than others. Some can bounce back from that programming easily. Others find it harder to break the cycle that may in fact be generations old. I’ve always been somewhere in between, but then, I’m hardly an example to live by.

As we de-program ourselves into better devotees, we find what works and what doesn’t. We all give the same advice for new people that worked for the generation preceding them: research as much as you can, find time to introduce yourselves to the gods, develop discernment for both resources and experiences with the gods, give stuff to the gods, and don’t be a dick for fuck’s sake. With various other underpinnings based on religious preference and the like, the advice is much the same (except for maybe the dick part).

But we forget sometimes to stress how hard this will most likely be. Each relationship and path is individual even within a group dynamic. What some found easy to reprogram in themselves may be the breaking point for others. As much advice as we can give, it doesn’t usually matter to the individual burning out the cancer of a religious doctrine, or no religious doctrine, that they always found to be lacking.

We all burn through what came before, building something new out of the leftover pieces of ourselves, or we don’t. We either succeed or we don’t. And sometimes the seeming failure in assimilating ourselves into a polytheistic religion can be enough to do what we wanted all along: to laugh in the face of preconceptions that always annoyed us.

And sometimes my life is a more recent meme, busting through the door and ready to kick me in the face.

As a child, my poorly defined idea of God had metastasized into the idea of a person living in the sky. He looked down on us on Sundays because those were the days that we went to church, but he mostly went about his life doing whatever it was that he wanted to do for the rest of the week without really taking a look to see what was going on. I’m not sure where this particular idea stems from (though I could take a few guesses) but that was what I had worked out on my own.

It was with this general idea in my mind that, as a pre-teen, I decided that I wasn’t interested in appeasing this idea anymore. I didn’t want to go into a very old building (without air conditioning in the summer and not enough heat in the winter) to pray to a being who lived in the sky. A being who didn’t seem overly interested in what I had to say when I did get around to praying. In addition, I had come to finally understand the Methodist sermons and was insulted often to be told that I was a sinner and had to work hard to be saved.

It always seemed to me that if this being had my best interests at heart, in some form anyway, he should reach out to me to tell me what I needed to do to get right with him. Instead, I was being told by a man (or woman) in a pulpit that I had to work hard to be saved. The Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ weren’t sufficient in my opinion to tell me how to go about getting salvation. The whole thing annoyed me and I decided that I was kind of done with it.

The general issue I found was that I had no personalized relationship with the deity in question. I waffled often as a child between belief and disbelief. When I believed, it was a disinterested human-shaped person living in the sky who watched my life with his own disinterest. When I didn’t believe, nothing happened and we were all going to die. I suppose one could say I was a dark kid.

In any case, finding polytheism was exactly what I felt that I needed as a child. It came years later and with it, I was able to develop that personal relationship that had so eluded me as a child. Instead of being told via a book and a man or woman in a pulpit, I could go direct to the source and we could game plan together to figure out what I needed.

But the overall issue was that I needed to like… do stuff… to make this happen. Before, I had sat down in an uncomfortable wooden pew that had probably been there since the church I went to had been built and listened in barely veiled boredom to someone talk for an hour. The idea that there was some quid pro quo that needed to happen was weird, but I went into it.

And I was embarrassed.

As I cleaned off flat surfaces and purchases statues and bowls and cups, I had to like bring food to them. They needed milk or water. They wanted honey. They wanted to hear my voice. They wanted to listen to music. They wanted so many things that I was okay with doing, but there were other people in my house. They could walk in on me doing this and maybe they would make fun of me?

This was another change that I had a hard time with. I had to go about my business, doing what I did, and maybe I would get laughed at or maybe I wouldn’t. I didn’t have to worry about that when I sat with glazed over eyes in church; everyone else was just like me. But now I was entering into a realm where not everyone else is just like me. And there would no doubt be questions.

How do you answer questions that make you feel like an idiot? After going through years and years of semi-belief in a dude in the sky to no belief whatsoever to an idea that maybe reincarnation is a thing to okay so all gods are real and I’m worshiping some of them, how do you speak to what you now believe? How do you adequately explain the changes over the years to someone you care about or a complete stranger? I kept everything closeted and private out of nothing more than the possibility of being embarrassed.

This is no way to go into a new relationship with the gods, but Mr. Butler is correct.

Often, we come into this with our baggage and we find it simply more believable to go through what we think of as a mortification in a large, over-encompassing way. I’m not sure about the vanity part though that makes sense. I can say that I would be more than willing to go through with something large and dramatic than something simple and small.

I can dress it up however I want. I can make it seem like this overwrought thing is more important because it shows the level of my devotion. I can make it seem like it is more important because I need to show the gods that I am all in and the only way to do that is in big, dramatic ways. I can and would dress it up in a way that I was able to feel good about it, to agree that this was the way of it and there was no turning back.

But the smaller mortifications that encompass the profession of belief and the requirements of that belief, I.E. putting out offerings, were too difficult to even by considered. Someone might see. Someone might talk to me about it. Someone might laugh at me. How in the world could I possibly do something so small, so simple, and so less-dramatic than a near death experience especially if someone walks in on what I’m doing and demands to know what’s happening?

Well that seems like a little too much, don’t you think?

How many more times am I going to see my exact thoughts in a popular meme?

The melodrama seemingly inherent in the ecstatic moment of one’s near death experience is a fairy tale we all tell ourselves. We see these posts and comments from others, wondering how we too could have our religious lives broken down and rebuilt in a single night, a single experience, instead of asking ourselves if we cannot achieve the same thing by pouring the libations, offering the food, and playing the requested music.

It is possible to live in a state of ecstasy in the minutiae that one’s religious practice requires. The rapturous joy of those moments are as few and far between as we allow them to be, but they are there. We are too busy looking outside when we should be looking within, listening within to the emotional connection these daily sacrifices foster between the gods and ourselves.

Not everything that we do for the gods will be big, glorious sound bites fit for public consumption. Sometimes it really is as small as placing offerings at the feet of a statue, but that makes it no less important.

(The title for this entry stems from this quote by John Owen.)