When I first decided to observe Lent this year, I didn’t really think anything would change. I figured, like last year, I would go into this with the intent of giving up something really important to me (diet Coke; diet Coke; diet fucking Coke) and take a much needed break from the craziness that was my relationship with Sekhmet. And then, on top of that, I would get to spend a bunch of extra time with Papa Legba, who is always a treasure to spend time with. It was a lose-win-win, I guessed, because I was giving up something really important to me (diet Coke; diet Coke; diet fucking Coke), but it was also a win because I could take about a trillion steps back from Sekhmet. And of course, Papa Legba. I have to admit, the amount of intensity I had reserved for looking forward to taking a break from Sekhmet was unparalleled by anything save the impending birth of my son. (Let’s face it – any pregnant woman will tell you how very much they are looking forward to the fetus within finally being removed.) I went into this with certain ideas and beliefs about what I was going to get.I didn’t expect to actually take the time to discover what Lent was actually about and find ways to apply it to the religious situation I live now. What was so surprising was how easy it was to pull the basic concepts behind Lent out of the dogma related to it and utilize it in a way that better helped me to define and remind myself what my religious life is about. I found that, while there are some aspects to Lent that are intrinsically tied to the Christian background from whence it comes, there are also aspects of it that anyone can use to help them realign and reinterpret what their religious needs should be and what their religious path should look like. I wasn’t expecting the amount of introspection that I delved into in a better attempt to understand why I needed the break, what I needed the break from, and what decisions, if any, I would make when it was time to look back at things.
What I wholly didn’t expect was the fact that as much as I was taking time off from Kemeticism as a whole, and Sekhmet in specific, I found myself thinking about it all too often.
However, it wasn’t as painful as it had been before the break happened. Leading up to Lent, things got incredibly painful for me. Thinking about my religious path ended, more often than not, with me burnt out, crying, and/or overly anxious. Things had been so difficult for me with Sekhmet and the initiatory rites she had me go through that to think about them was to leave me in physical pain from the amount of bullshit I felt I was being inundated with. The intensity with which I looked forward to my break was mostly because I was at my wit’s end, I was at the breaking point. I was seriously considering just giving it all up and shoving it away from me. I couldn’t seem to handle it anymore. I spent so much time, screaming unintelligibly or crying quietly to myself that the thought of even remotely continuing was too much. I knew that if something didn’t break, I was going to.
And then, like magic or more like the turning of the calendar, there was Lent. It was coming up and Papa Legba had said, “I need you to learn about Lent and I need you to not religion, can you do that?” And here I was thinking just to myself about how much I needed to not religion and there was an opening. Papa Legba was giving me a way out, temporarily at least, of the overload of emotions I was having regarding my religious tradition. And I went running to it so very hard and so very fast that I didn’t even stop to consider the nuance, the reason, or even what consequences might occur with what he was asking me. I didn’t stop to consider how this may or may not impact my religious path when I came back to it, if I bothered to go back to it. I was so focused in the idea of taking a break so that I could analyze myself and my feelings before making a, quite possibly, big huge and horrible fucking mistake by leaving everything behind on the spur of the moment. So, I went running ahead and I said, “I will not religion and I will learn about Lent.”
Every day, I would wake up and go through the motions. I still left out offerings and I still put on my religious-related jewelry, but I made a studious effort to ignore whatever emotional upheaval I was going through. With each passing day, the upheaval and turmoil grew less and less insistent. It began to fade. Just like with a wound – it started to scar. Only the healing took a good deal longer than a simple cut on the finger or on the leg. Instead of needing a few days for the wound to knit itself back together, I needed a couple of weeks. And in that time as I distanced myself from the hurt and the pain, I found that I could think more and more clearly about what steps, if any, I was going to take once I came back from the Lenten season. I found myself able to understand better what Sekhmet’s ultimate goals were, whether I knew specifically what they were, and what she was hoping to achieve.
I was becoming far more rational with each passing day and I hardly noticed.
As time went on, I began to look into Lent, as I had promised Papa I would do. When I started reading about baptism, I was shocked at the meaning behind what baptism was. According to what I found, it’s, more or less, an initiatory rite. And hadn’t I gone through one, not that long before? I felt, a little, as though I was being trolled. However, instead of just sighing in disgust and giving up, I kept up the research and ended up turning it back around to my own religious tradition. I had gone through an initiatory rite. Instead of having water placed upon my head, I had been forced to go through a very grueling and painful process, one that my soul has been building up to for many, many lives. And there’s something to be said here about the different types of initiations that one can go through. In Christianity, it is a simple decision. In Kemeticism, or more specifically in Sekhmet’s line of work, it is a death coupled with the re-forging of one’s soul to meet the needs and desires the deity in question has in mind.
I’m not saying, specifically, that this is what can be expected always when it comes to initiatory rites with Sekhmet or even with the NTRW. I’m just saying that in this particular instance, I had to die in order to be reborn into the instrument that Sekhmet wanted me to become. Death is never a pleasant experience and this particular death was not what I wanted. I understand the necessity of it, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. I also understood and even accepted the necessity of the work I had to do in the pit at her behest, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. And I didn’t. I was helping people, in many ways of course, but the work was dirty, painful, and hard to stomach day in and day out. The initiatory rite that I went through with her was so fucking painful and so distressing, but it was a necessity.
Just like a baptism is a necessity to enter into Christianity.
When I started looking into The Scrutinies, I found that while I couldn’t celebrate it the way that the Catholics could, I could at least take the message to heart. I found myself scrutinizing myself as deeply as I possibly could and found so much broken inside. Instead of just finding doubt, anxiety, and worry, I also found shards of broken glass in the middle of my heart and in the roots of my soul. I found that amid my very core, I could traverse the wilderness within and found that everything there hurt. It was a hurt borne of angst and anger; a hurt borne of confusion and fear; it was a hurt borne of not understanding and worrying; it was a hurt borne of the shattering of whatever illusions I had carved for myself in regards to Sekhmet. Everything within was a broken, discarded horror story that left me so filled with breathless sadness that I could barely stare at myself in the mirror anymore. What I saw was someone who was insufficient and quite possibly mentally unbalanced. I found someone who I didn’t like looking to.
So, I set about picking up the pieces the best ways I knew how.
I told myself not to worry.
And when I broke those demands to stop worrying, I did everything in my power to toss myself away from those thoughts. I read heavily. I watched a lot of crap TV. I played games with the family.
I did everything I could to force myself away from all of that so that I could pick and choose what needed to be fixed and what needed to be discarded. The barren wilderness of my core was healing itself. From burnt out husk to partially green pasture in a few days. It seemed that by staying away from it all, I was doing far more work on healing myself and my broken promises. It was almost as if, by leaving it all alone, the mysterious inner workings of my soul were doing whatever the hell they needed to do in order to repair the damage. All I had to do was keep going and continue to make sure that I left that barren wilderness alone. I’ve looked back some since the moment that I walked out of my core and saw that desolation and have been shocked to find so many new things growing and even growth on older things…
With each passing day, as I would put on my heart-shaped ring, I would think about all of the things I wasn’t doing and wasn’t going to think about. With each night, as I would take my heart-shaped ring off, I saw the dark marks around my finger and sometimes, had to massage the feeling back into my finger. I was beginning to associate the heart, the ring, and the relationship with a heavy weight. And I think that the association with a heavy weight is important. By not taking it seriously, I could end up in hotter water than I’ve already been in or I could make things worse for myself. But with each day, instead of feeling angry or embittered about it, I began to feel calmer, cooler, more detached. And then as yet more time passed, I found myself feeling less detached and more intense. I was almost… looking forward to putting the heavy ring back upon my finger. I was beginning to remember why I had started all of this in the first place.
I went into Lent thinking that I was going to take time off, give up some diet Coke, see a whole ton of Papa Legba and learn about Lent.
I did take time off and it was worth it. I was able to remove myself from the emotional situation I was in and discover that I understood the nature in what was needed of me. And while I forgot, for a while, that my religion makes me happy towards the end of the initiatory rites I was going in, I remembered what it was about this religion that makes me happy. I was able to remind myself that while, yes I am in service to a god, I am also in this for me. And that includes doing the things that make me happy and make my feel worthy and remind me that I am living in ma’at. That includes reminding myself that while everything was really shitty for a while, it’s not always going to be that way. Rockiness is a natural part to any relationship, whether it is a relationship in the realm of the living, the realm of the dead, the realm of the astral, or the realm of the gods. Nothing is static and we can’t expect it to be. I needed to remember that everything changes and sometimes, it can be so hard to remember that as hard as the chaos of the initial change may be that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad change.
I did give up some diet Coke. I went the full forty days without having a single sip. I’ve been inundated with ads on Facebook and Tumblr for it. I’ve found myself surfing websites and there would be a diet Coke ad. I thought that perhaps, at the end of this, I could give up diet Coke completely. I found out that without having diet Coke around, I am more of an emotional mess than I was with it in my life. I also found that I have far less patience with work while drinking bottles of water versus diet Coke. It’s possible that the weight less I’ve experienced in the last month was due to giving up diet Coke, but I’ve also found that I am not a very good person without it in my life. It is an addiction and I understand the health risks wrapped up in that addiction. But it is my addiction and for fuck’s sake, I really like diet Coke.
I hardly saw Papa Legba at all this round. I felt his presence, occasionally, in the morning or at random times throughout the day. Sometimes, I would dream of the two of us in a garden or in the forest. He was always making something grow. He’s very good at getting things to grow, as I’ve found out. What I didn’t seem to realize until only just recently that each change in the scenery, the overall goal was the same: he was creating a garden and needed to nurture it. We talked a lot about the nature of what nurturing a garden was like and how that relates back to the nurturing one must do for themselves. He told me jokes and he told me stories. He said to me last night that it’s time for me to go back to where I belong; the lesson is over. And it was a lesson and a half. He wasn’t just giving me a way out of the really oppressive atmosphere I was in, but he was also helping me to grow, my core, my soul, and everything in between. He was busy nurturing the fledgling plants and the older plants that had been accidentally pinched out when I became so angry and so embittered.
I learned a lot about Lent. I learned about how it relates to Catholicism, but I also learned that the overall lessons for Lent can easily be turned back to focus on anyone else’s religious path. I also found out that the goals behind the Lenten season can, also, be brought to bear in any religious tradition. And it was in that lesson that, I think, I was able to really overcome the aggression, the anger, and the bitterness that I had been feeling for the six months or so before Lent started. It was because Papa Legba had asked me to learn about it that I was able to achieve introspective heights and understand, remind myself, and remember what it was I had started this whole path for.
I started on this path, all those years ago, not just because I heard the call of a goddess whose songs have been sung in my heart for hundreds of years, but also because I found a place where I belong, where I am comfortable, and where I am happy.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
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.