I’m twenty days in to this Lenten season and I have to say that I am still dreaming about diet Coke… only now it’s literally. Since I can’t have diet Coke because, like an idiot, I gave it up, I’ve been having dreams about it. They’re not every night, at least. I don’t know if I could handle it if I had to do this every night where I wake up from a dream in which I’m scheming in an effort to take a sip. I don’t know if this is what addicts of things go through when they give something up, honestly. All I do know is that at twenty days in, I’m still fucking missing the taste of diet Coke. I thought that after forty days, I could just give it up. I would be done with this addiction and could move on to other addictions in the upcoming years. But I have to admit that I don’t know I’ll be all said and done with diet Coke after this. I also have to mention that I haven’t seen a damn change in my waist line because of giving up diet Coke, so even that bonus appears lost to me here.
Obviously, that’s not the point in this post, but I find it weird that I’m dreaming about diet fucking Coke.
I’ve been thinking about baptism a lot the last week.
It’s kind of an integral part of what Lent is about so it makes sense that I would be honing in on it. As I stated in my last post about Lent, I don’t really understand the requirement of baptism. I’m sure there’s more to it than just immersing a child’s head in water around the baptismal fount or dunking one’s entire body under a body of water for the same reason. Since I didn’t understand why people did that, I started looking up what the point in baptism, according to Christian theological discussions and dogma, happened to be. According to this page, “Christ Himself ordered His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and to baptize those who accept the message of the Gospel. In His encounter with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: ‘Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the very mark of a Christian, because it brings us into new life in Christ.”
Okay, but this didn’t really track with me. I mean, I can understand the point behind it when it comes to Christian requirements, however that still didn’t make sense to me. Why would Christ want people to cover their heads in water for a couple of minutes to mark them as being one of his followers? So, I went Google searching and found this answer. However, since I wasn’t sure if this answer was specific to a single branch or if it was true in all forms of Christianity, I had to read the response aloud to TH in order to verify that this was the case. As he pointed out to me, “Why in the world would Jesus want his followers to throw down serious money to convert people? Plus, oil wasn’t easily accessible, was expensive, and not commonplace. So, why not water?” The man certainly has a point and so did that response on ask-dot-com. Okay, so now I understand why water was used and now I understood why it was the whole point.
But I still had a fundamental issue: I still stand by the belief that baptism is something that people should decide on their own. But did that really negate what I was supposed to be ruminating about regarding Lent? I didn’t think so.
I started focusing on this quote, “”The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism. Preparation for Baptism and for renewing baptismal commitment lies at the heart of the season,” as I found on this FAQ. Okay, so, what exactly is baptism? Maybe the reason why I couldn’t quite grok the issue had to do with the fact that, maybe, I didn’t understand what the hell the word actually meant. According to the dictionary, “Ecclesiastical; a ceremonial immersion in water, or application of water, as an initiatory rite or sacrament of the Christian church. Any similar ceremony or action of initiation, dedication, etc. A trying or purifying experience or initiation.” Okay, so this had to do with an initiation into the Christian religion. I was on much firmer ground here. I could understand initiatory rites and the like. Well, maybe not the specifics of the initiation into the religious tradition, but I could at least understand that baptism equates to initiation.
As my mind focused on the fact that baptism is a form of initiation, I started to understand it. I also found it very ironic that I was focusing on the act of the initiation after having gone through one not a few weeks previously. The difference here, though, is the fact that I was thinking about it in terms of Catholicism and Christianity, as a whole, versus how such an act would impact me. But the point in Lent is to renew oneself. It was a moment of rebirth for the tender flock. How they went about that is inherently personal, I would expect, but all in all, it still comes down to the fact that they are renewing their commitment to the choice of their religion.
Rebirth is a very common topic in Kemeticism, so I was on firmer ground here. I could understand the idea behind Lent as a form of renewal, rebirth, and recommitment to the overall goal. But in this particular case, what exactly am I supposed to be renewing? Papa Legba explained that I needed to be more philosophical in my approach than I was last year (which was just about giving up chocolate). And when I pointed out that I didn’t understand philosophy and had purposely ignored those humanities style classes because, you know, it sounded boring, he pointed out that I could at least be more thoughtful. I assumed that he was trying to point out that I jump whole hog into something without really looking into something a lot of times. (This isn’t always the case, but I am a Leo so it’s kind of the case sometimes.) I figured he just wanted me to be more aware of what Lent was about and that it was more than just “giving some things up.” Okay, I could handle that. But the more I’ve looked into this, the more I’ve realized that it’s more than just me needing to be thoughtful regarding what it is I’m supposed to be doing.
The facts don’t really line up here – there’s something more here.
Papa Legba tells me that I need to give up an addiction and my religious affiliations for a while. He admits that I can’t quite push all of Sekhmet out after a very grueling and painful initiatory process since I have obligations to meet in the form of my Kemetic laity articles, the rites and services I offer, and the Kemetic Round Table posts that I write. He admitted that these particular obligations would happen during Lent and that I had sworn to do them, so therefore, I had to do them. (I’ll tell you what, I seriously thought about just saying, “Fuck all of this shit,” and running away screaming but Papa Legba is really good about keeping me committed to the things I’ve committed to.) He then points out that I had to be philosophical about the point behind Lent. He also tells me that this isn’t really a sabbatical, as I’ve referred to it, but that it’s a time off to get perspective.
Okay, so what perspective do I need?
I kept coming back to baptism, though, and how it’s about initiation. But more specifically, this is a time of renewal of that initiatory rite.
Again, I was on firmer ground because Kemeticism is all about the whole rebirth process. We have a deity with a scarab on his head who rolls the sun – in the form of a giant dung ball – across the sky. The phases of the day are about the whole cyclical process, in my opinion, of birth (the initiation) and rebirth.
We start off the day as new and bright with a happy-go-lucky sun rising over the horizon. This is the form of Khepri. The sun matures into an adult to become the noontide sun. This is of the form of Re. The sun further matures into an older man, which becomes the evening sun. This is the form of Atum. Then Re goes through the Duat, slaying what beasts would get in his way, only to be reborn in the morning in his aspect as Khepri. And thus it happened over and over again, every day. Day in and day out. This cycle thing can be hearkened back to the whole point of Zep Tepi, which is in and of itself an act of renewal – the start of a new cycle.
Zep Tepi is one of those complicated, but not complicated topics that come up in Kemeticism. (Hell, this is the case with a lot of shit in Kemeticism, to be honest.) This whole thing is something that I’ve discussed once or twice before. Zep Tepi is the period of time when the gods walked upon the earth and ruled the humans that had been created. Discussions regarding Zep Tepi, in a modern context, tends to be more related to how the restart of a cycle. That moment of a restart – no matter what the restart is – hearkens back to that First Time on earth, that moment when things were, well maybe not perfect, but pure in its beginning, innocent at its start, and uncomplicated.
In a weird way, I can kind of see the actions taken during Lent to be a sort of hearkening back, in a Christian sort of way, to that Zep Tepi. The decision to commit to the tradition has been made, either by the person’s choice or through the choice of the parents during the initial baptism. And then, each following Lent is a recommitment to that choice, either of their volition or otherwise. They are bringing the cycle back, each year, to the original commitment of what their baptism meant; specifically, they are recommitting to being a part of the teaching of Christ and a part of the doctrine that He spoke to the people. Their original baptism creates that choice; the observation of the Lenten season brings them back to that moment. And just like the daily, the yearly, the momentary cycles of birth and rebirth in everyone’s lives that brings Zep Tepi into focus, so too does Lent bring Zep Tepi into focus.
But what, oh what, does this have to do with what I’m aiming to achieve this Lent season?
Well, if Lent is about recommitment, renewal, rebirth, etc. regarding the commitment the believers have made to their religion then why can’t that also be the same in my religious tradition(s)? They’re not the same as Catholicism, of course, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t use that time to do the same. I think the point that Papa Legba was trying to make was that I need to observe the point behind Lent, specifically, but I need to formulate that in a way that keeps me true to my religious path. While I was baptized into the Catholic Church and raised in the Methodist church as a child, I made a conscientious decision to convert to Kemeticism. While there was no water upon my brow when I made that decision, I committed myself to this religious tradition anyway. But sometimes, things get tiring. I get fed up. I go through phases of deep angst and bitterness. And it can’t always be bitterness and angst. Sometimes I need to be spiritually reborn, too, through whatever process may be to hand.
In this case, that means observing Lent.
And getting more thinky-thoughts regarding the point of Lent.
I see what you did there, Papa. I see that.
All this time I was thinking about Lent as a break. And that is the case, of course, because I’m studiously not paying attention to the pushes that Sekhmet has been throwing my way. (I swear to the fucking gods, she is testing to see how much resolve I have here. And let me tell you: I got me some fucking resolve.) But it’s also a moment to make a formal decision regarding my commitment. For the last few months, I’ve been not doing very well regarding my faith, my belief, and what the next stage in the process, for me, is supposed to be. I’ve had a lot of hitches in the last few months, which is mostly why I thought of Lent as a break from the intensity of everything that was going on around me. When in fact, it’s a moment to recommit myself, to renew myself.
I said to Sekhmet, “This is my path and I will do these things.”
And now I have to remember why I said that and recommit myself to that.
I hope the reason why I said that was less about wanting to be accepted and more about wanting to be spiritually connected.