December 27, 2013.
For many Kemetics, the Kemetic calendar is one of those really complicated things to create for oneself. It doesn’t, in my opinion, get any better once you’ve figured it out. There are so many holidays to choose from: just about every day can be a celebration when one attempts to choreograph their calendar with the ancient Egyptian version. While it’s nice to be able to have an impromptu party on any given day – and being able to find a reason for said party – I pretty much block out everything that happens in calendar world. I have a life and I have things to do. Since everything is set up via my Google calendar, though, I receive notifications about twelve hours out and then another notification sixty minutes before the start of the day. That way, when I wake up and check my phone, I’ll see it clear as day and right in my face.
I do this on purpose, in all honesty. If I know that a holiday is going to come up soon, then I’m going to attempt to plan for it. While I think that planning in advance is a good idea for some people, it’s definitely not a good idea for me. I have found that when I attempt to create something purposeful and full of intent, with ideas and devotional items and the whole nine, I end up failing whatever it is I’m thinking of. And that makes me feel like a bad devotee. Since I don’t need to feel bad about what I can and cannot do, I go about things pretty haphazardly. This limits how much pre-planning I can do and how much failure I can feel afterward. It also limits how many spoons I’m using to create whatever it is I’m hoping to create. Since this year has been all about learning to budget my spoons better – in preparation for future things – it seemed like overthinking what I wanted to have happen was a waste of those spoons. So, instead, I wake up and pleasantly surprised by the little pop up on my phone that says, “Hey, you have a holiday today!”
Friday morning, the notification arose that I should be celebrating something called the “Sailing of Sekhmet.” I honestly have no information on this celebration and, frankly, I can’t even remember where I found it. I’ve managed to cobble together something functional – for me – but that doesn’t mean that I have extensive notes of wherever I pull my information. In the case of this particular holiday, I strongly suspect that the information stems from a website that has gone down in the last year. Where they were able to get their information, I honestly don’t know. I never took studious notes of their resource page and now, it’s too late to do so. Whatever the case may be when it comes to where I pull my information, I pretty much just roll with it. If my calendar is telling me that there needs to be sailing going on with Sekhmet, then by golly, I’m going to go sailing with Sekhmet.
During my off moments at work, I tried to think about what the cause of this holiday was supposed to be. There are a few instances of where sailing around in a barque was part of the celebration of the ancient Egyptians. The most well-known, I think, celebration would be the Opet Festival. According to this website, the three gods of the Theban triad (Amun, Mut, and Khonsu) were placed in boats and then carried from their temple precincts to large, floating temples on the Nile. They were then sailed down the Nile to the temple precincts at Luxor where they did the things they were supposed to. Considering the fact that the Nile River is centrally located, it’s honestly not surprising that the ancient Egyptians would have had such heavy focus on boats and sailing in some of their celebrations. According to the Kemetic Orthodox website, WW Wiki, the Feast/Festival of the Beautiful Reunion had some sailing involved and so, too, did the Aset Luminous festival. All in all, again, it’s not overly surprising. But, I had to wonder what the cause behind Sekhmet sailing… somewhere… was.
I started looking into the idea that maybe Sekhmet had to travel somewhere for a specific festival and all we have are the remnants, “sailing of Sekhmet.” According to this PDF from the EES, the Nile River has migrated quite a bit in the last 250 years that they’ve been able to calculate. According to this info graphic (which is reproduced in the PDF link I’ve provided and can be zoomed in more heavily there), the city of Memphis has been in the center of at least one of the Nile migrations over the years. I’m not saying that the creation of the sailing festival was at the same time as the info graphic’s Memphis-in-the-center-of-the-Nile would have us believe, but I find it telling. Based on my cursory search, my original theory about the cause behind this festival has some validation. (Of course, and here’s the real issue – it will probably never have full validation.) Exciting about the thought that Sekhmet probably had to go sailing somewhere at some point, and this is what I have to work with, I began to wonder why she would go sailing.
Was it possible that she had to travel to go and see Ptah? The research I’ve done regarding her doesn’t really show much of a close connection between Sekhmet and Ptah, who also shared the cult center. My research on her appears to indicate that their dyad forged early in the Old Kingdom and probably had more to do with Ineb-hedj (“white walls,” another name for Memphis) being the capitol during the Old Kingdom. While I can’t deny that it’s feasible they had a close partnership, the scant evidence I’ve found based on the Old Kingdom doesn’t link the two deities as neatly or as obviously as, say, Aset and Wesir, Mut and Amun, or Geb and Nut. My feelings on the matter are pretty simple: it looks like they united because they were both strong deities and popular deities, both with major cult centers in the country’s capitol. So why else could Sekhmet have been sailing down the Nile or wherever she was heading to?
I thought perhaps that her traveling may have had to do with warfare. On top of being the destructive, fiery netjer that everyone always equates her with, she is also a fierce protective deity. One of her main roles is to protect the pharaoh against his enemies, in any way possible. (She has other roles relating to the pharaoh, including being the womb to whom the akh of the pharaoh is reborn as a star.) It’s possible that the sailing celebration had to do with her sailing down the Nile, on her way to war and to protect the good of the pharaoh, and thereby, to protect the good of the nation.
Of course, there’s also the fact that, as I pointed out above, boats were pretty important to the ancient Egyptians. It’s how they traveled; they used to travel to the Duat in them. In all honesty, it’s really not surprising that I have found a Sekhmet festival relating to boats and sailing. I’ll be honest, I doubt I’ll ever figure out why we have a sailing festival. As much as I attempt to figure out why we have some of the celebrations that we do, I’m pretty sure we’ll never know. All I can do, as a modern devotee, is to go with the flow. So, I went with the flow.
I thought about what sailing means to me. It doesn’t mean much to me, honestly. While I have a religious practice that, obviously, had a lot to do with boats and the whole act of sailing, I’ve never done it. I don’t know what it entails. I don’t think I actually know anyone who has sailed on a boat. I know people who have worked on boats, but they were mostly the fishermen who took out people to find marlin and stuff in the Gulf. Sailing, to me, is a remote concept. It’s a bunch of people renting a boat and hanging out on that boat while drinking beer, eating food, and catching fish. Maybe, just maybe, that was specifically what Sekhmet wanted the celebration I created to be about. That wasn’t in the cards, however, for what I wanted my religious holiday to be about. I decided to scale down what sailing meant to me.
I decided to build a boat. Now, I’m not really good at the whole boat building thing. Point of fact, I’m pretty sure at building anything. I don’t know how to do the origami folding thing that some people know how to do. And I knew that if I tried to do with the express purpose of not fucking up that I would, in fact, end up fucking it up. But, I had a lot of other materials at home that would fill in the boat-building gap. Point of fact, I have a six-year-old son in my house who owns a metric shit-fuck-ton of Duplo’s. He has a large assortment of the things and builds “structures” with them quite often. I decided that I could re-purpose them for a while. I’ll tell you what – it took me six or seven tries to create the boat I wanted. Since some of my son’s blocks are the name brand version and others are the cheaper kinds, they don’t always stick together. I think the whole structure fell apart a handful of times before I realized I wasn’t building my base well enough to hold.Finally, I created a good base and began building in earnest. I ended up finding a couple of pillars that came with a block set my mom had bought for my sun last year. Finding the tops to the pillars, I created a little boxed in area like those seen in classic ancient Egyptian representations of barques. My son emphatically explained that we needed steps to get up and into the boat, so I created those as well. The final addition were the little flower-like pinwheels that came with a set of blocks, as well. I figured “flowers” were pretty important, too, since they’re shown often in offering representations. Building off my belief that votive offerings are pretty damn awesome, I found three blocks that my son had lying about with images of food stuffs on them: juice, coffee, and fruit. I then placed my icon within and felt pretty damn confident that I had succeeded in creating a boat, made for sailing… at least as far as her altar is concerned.
Honestly, if we had any of those blocks with the wheels attached, I would have placed one on the bottom of the creation and attempted to “sail” across the kitchen floor.
In a final act of devotion, I created a devotional music list to listen to while I was creating my boat (and getting frustrated that it was falling apart).
Here’s a little known fact about me: I take my religion very seriously, but I also don’t think that it needs to be as serious as some people make it out to be. Yes, it’s important. Yes, it means a lot to me. Yes, I enjoy what I do. However, there’s no reason to be so dour about everything all of the time. I think that refraining from laughter and joy in a religious tradition, especially a Kemetic tradition where such things are highly celebrated in their own festivities, is pretty dumb. So, quite often, when I decide on adding music to whatever celebration I am looking to celebrate, I’m going to go wherever my whim takes me. In this particular case, I chose to go with The Lonely Island songs, I’m on a Boat (feat T-Pain), Jack Sparrow (feat Michael Bolton), YOLO (feat Adam Levine & Kendrick Lamar), Like a Boss (feat Seth Rogan), and I Just had Sex (feat Akon).
While there really isn’t anything grandiose or awe-inspiring in what I did last night, I can tell you it was fun. And besides all of that, it was also incredibly easy. I was able to take a whole hour or so out of my day to really focus on what I thought my netjer wanted from me and I feel like I provided it adequately. While many may think that what I do isn’t “as devout as” or “as pious as” others would have me be, I honestly think that spending too much time in any given thing is capable of driving a person off their rocker and to use up valuable spoons that could be utilized elsewhere. And if I’m so busy worrying about spoons or using them up in the realm of my religious tradition, then I’m not doing anything worthwhile elsewhere. In same vein, if I use them all up in my waking life, then I’m less likely to want to go through with ornate rituals that take time and planning to make manifest.
At least, in this way, I know I had fun and I know my goddess is pleased.