June 1, 2014
For the last few holidays regarding Sekhmet, I haven’t really been doing anything for them. I intended to, of course, observe every single holiday regarding her this year and haven’t really been able to keep up with it. I almost feel like my decision to be like on-the-ball with holidays was not anything that Sekhmet really cared about. And I have to admit that being all celebratory and awesome regarding holidays is something that I’ve always wanted. I mean, hello? There are holidays about things like cucumbers. And they happen whenever the fuck our calendars tell us they happen and we can recreate the celebrations however we desire. I guess anyone reading this can see that it’s the autonomy when it comes to these feasts, festivals, and processions that I like best. So, since I like them, I figured, “I will celebrate them all!” Only instead of collecting them like a Pokémon master, I’ve been forgetting, not having enough spoons, and just generally not doing what I had initially set out to do this year.
WELL ALL THAT IS GOING TO CHANGE.
This particular celebration was one of the list that Fanny had given me a few months back. I knew I wanted to celebrate it and I knew that I would, obviously, be chewing cucumbers for the festival, but that was kind of all I knew about it. Most of the information on cucumbers in ancient Egypt that I’ve attempted to find hasn’t provided me with much. There are mentions of the ancient Egyptians having eaten them – so much so that it was mentioned in the Bible (Number 11:6) – but that doesn’t exactly tell me how old this festival is or what the point behind eating cucumbers would be. Wiki doesn’t really show when cucumbers were introduced to the ancient Egyptians, though it does state that they probably came from India. In a roundabout sort of Wiki-clicking, I was able to ascertain that trade between the Indus Valley and ancient Egypt started back as far as the third millennium BCE, which would mean Second Dynasty ancient Egyptians were trading with the locals of India. So, I have to assume that this celebration goes back possibly as far as that, though there is of course no evidence.
I went looking further in an attempt to figure out what cucumbers had to do with Sekhmet. I did a Google search for both “Sekhmet” and “cucumbers” and came up with very, very little. According to this, there was a spell for regulating urination using cucumbers, “A measuring glass filled with water from the bird pond with elderberry, fibers of the asit plant, fresh milk, beer swill, flowers of the cucumber, and green dates – make into one, strain and take for four days.” (No clear source provided.) The only other result that weren’t thing I, myself, had posted somewhere was from the Kemetic Orthodox Wiki page, which indicates that cucumbers were used for fertility and fertility-related rites. I went looking through the resources I have on hand that I thought would discuss cucumbers or Sekhmet and couldn’t find anything, even from some of my flimsier resources. I decided to just go with the interpretation as given by the KO.
I had to ask myself, though, why the ancient Egyptians would eat cucumbers for fertility related issues to Sekhmet? I fully advocate that she’s a good deal more than she seems, of course. I always talk about gods having layers and whatnot; Sekhmet is no different. My thought was just that it seemed like a strange way to beseech her. “Here are some cucumbers and I’m eating them all so I can have children!” It seemed a little strange that a nation who seemed to be so in awe of her power and who were most often known for threatening and cajoling their deities to get things done. Maybe they did threaten her, though possibly not… Maybe they just figured she would really like the cucumbers they offered and do what they requested? In an effort to figuring out why in the world they would eat cucumbers to request Sekhmet fix the thing, I went to her epithet list for some answers.
There are a ton of epithets of hers that talk about terrorizing things or being so terrifying. But, there were a couple that had me nodding. “Lady of Vegetation,” “Generous One,” “She Who Slays the Limit of All She Sees,” “When You Are Kind, the Flame is Pacified,” “Lady of Ladies,” et cetera. (She has a lot of epithets.) Without knowing the contexts for each individual epithet, I have to admit that it makes a certain kind of sense to reach out to Sekhmet for this kind of thing. The thing about vegetables would explain the requirement of cucumbers. The bit about slaying limits, being kind, and being for the ladies also explains why women would beseech her when they wanted assistance with fertility. While I am sure there is more to it than all of this – perhaps she usurped a local nome deity’s celebration regarding this or this has more to do with her cross pollination with Hetheru – I was beginning to understand a little bit better as to why the ancient Egyptians would reach out to her by chewing cucumbers in order to get shit done.
But then again, why in the hell was I going to celebrate something that was specific to fertility rites?
I thought that perhaps the celebration in question could have been associated with the land and fecundity therein. According to my calendar, however, this particular festival was celebrated in the season of Shemu, which was their harvest season. So, there wasn’t really any way, I don’t think, that I could turn this around to encompass anything to do with the land within. (Unless I have plunked this celebration in the wrong month in which case, oh well, it’s fucking staying now.) So, since this is taking place during the harvest and I have to assume that they probably weren’t doing anything super rite-like to ensure an awesome planting season the next year, there is really no way around this. This is definitely related to female fertility of some sort. So, again, why the fuck was I going to celebrate something like this? I sure as shit am not interested in that kind of fertility.
What the hell did I need to “fertilize” so to speak in regards to myself that wasn’t anatomy related? And how did I hearken all of this back to a really awesome idea that Devo had given me? When I first remarked that this festival was coming up, she mentioned that she could see carving faces into the cucumbers and chomping off heads. And really, if that isn’t a really good heka idea, then what is? The thing is that this was about fertility and I didn’t want to fertilize or need to fertilize any anti-people specific heka I have had or have going on. (Besides, gingerbread man cookies are where the desecration of bodies comes about, in my opinion.) With this super awesome idea in mind, I went back to the things that I’ve felt lagging lately in my life, things that I’ve remarked periodically about needing to get more of or to aid myself in dealing with. And didn’t I just write a big blog post about self-care this weekend?
Timing, I has it.
I chose to fertilize:
Ma’at. Self-care. Spoons. Self-esteem. Joy. And happiness. I think I may have also chosen more things but those are the ones that I can clearly remembering having a bitch of a time carving into the peeled cucumber portions that I had sliced up.
And I will tell you what, it was really hard getting those words to carve in there. I took a toothpick and found that I had very difficult control in carving rounded letters into the cucumber. Of course, that meant that most of my words were really blocky and kind of fucked up looking. But I knew what it was I was trying to attempt here and trying to attain as I ate each piece. I only carved words into one of the cucumbers that I purchased. The second one, I just cut up into slices and left alone. The cucumber with the words carved within, I placed on Sekhmet’s altar for her review and blessing before eating. (I ended up eating the second cucumber without words in while I was getting the rest of my festival things going.)
While I got the flowers and the other food stuffs together, I danced around the house. I may not know what self-care really is or what I hope that my own self-care will entail and I may not have a lot of self-esteem and I might not actually be happy right now and in a depressive phase, but there is something really exciting about getting things ready for a festival. Even though it just about me and I’m not doing anything important, really, except getting some food stuffs together, it’s just… it’s kind of exhilarating but it’s also kind of really relaxing, too. I had forgotten that was what celebrations like this were supposed to be about. Lately, everything I’ve been doing have been specific to the rites and services I have going on in Sekhmet’s name, which can, after a bit, feel rather much like work. But since I wasn’t really needing to do anything for anyone besides myself, I was able to take my time and not feel this overwhelming anxiety that I’m doing things wrong or that I’m not doing things in a timely manner or that I’m forgetting something…
Feeling needed by my community is nice, but sometimes, it’s nice to not be needed by said community.
(One day, I might explain the above statement, but that day is not today.)After setting everything up on her altar space, I picked at the meal I had set before her. I decided to eat the cucumbers first because, well, I wasn’t full of cucumbers even after having eaten one already. I will tell you that two giant cucumbers, all to yourself, is a bit much and by the end, I was really having to shove them down my throat. (At least they don’t have a lot of calories.) While eating the second cucumber, I made phallic commentary on fertility rites to TH and we both had a good laugh about how maybe it was the ancient Egyptians who started having sex with phallic shaped vegetables. I finished off the meal with the fig newtons and peanut butter toast I had made for her. I kept the grapes for my morning snack this morning.
By the end of it, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Not only had I had a full meal, but I managed to incorporate the meal I had provided to Sekhmet within my daily caloric intake. While I haven’t actually been going over my daily allotment, I haven’t been keeping to fresh fruits and vegetables. Since this meal was small and because most of the items I chose for it were healthy, minus the shot of vodka (which has 68 calories all by itself). I felt like I was doing something with the self-care within the offerings I was providing her, which was kind of the point in the overall rite, in my opinion.
I went to bed feeling like I had been able to not only honor my deity, but had also been able to honor my commitment to self-care. And if maybe I fail in the future or I back slide on things, it’s okay. At this moment in time, it’s okay because I had been able to at least begin the process to fertilize the end goal.