When I began seriously thinking about Wep Ronpet, about a month before it was to begin, I thought about how I could incorporate Sekhmet into the festivities. It seemed weird to me when I was celebrating last year that she had nothing to do with it. If not for her, I wouldn’t have a calendar. And if not for her, I wouldn’t even be a Kemetic. But, I also know that the historical record shows that Sekhmet is very much absent and on purpose around the Wep Ronpet season. Historically, the intercalary days were very chaotic days. There were specific prayers and acts of heka that were seen to in order to prevent Sekhmet and her chaos-wielding netjeri from inflicting harm and suffering on the general populace. Providing people with amulets of Sekhmet was a common gift at the New Year, provided in the hope that this would be enough to keep her and her netjeri from causing harm to the wearer. Based on the historical record, it really didn’t seem like a good idea to actually incorporate Sekhmet in the festivities.
It dawned on me that, with her associations with the more chaotic days of the year, then maybe I could incorporate her sort of in the kind of way that, maybe, the ancient Egyptians would have found satisfactory: I could placate her as best I could and keep her occupied enough to prevent her harmful netjeri from being sent out and into the world. While I can’t assume, based on UPG or otherwise, that keeping Sekhmet tied up with all of the frips and frills I could think of would necessarily keep the netjeri at bay. But I can always hope that, even just a little bit, it would help. I assume that after all of these years, the netjeri have developed desires all their own, but at the very foundation of it all, they work at the behest of Sekhmet. Whether she specifically and emphatically details who should be sought out and had harm brought to them is neither here nor there. At the core of the matter, Sekhmet is their de facto brain/leader/wielder and I can only hope that by placating her with enough things and stuffs, then I would be doing the world, at large, a service.
As I kept thinking about this, I realized that it made sense, in a way, to keep her occupied prior to and including the actual day of Wep Ronpet. The point in Wep Ronpet is for the year to renew its cycle, to hearken back to that world that was Zep Tepi. So, too, would it be a renewal of Sekhmet if my thoughts on cycles and renewal merit any legitimacy. And of course, as I thought about it, her main focus upon her creation as an Eye of Re was to extinguish the life of those who had been planning against Re, which turned disastrously against Re when he unleashed her. So, in a way, it could be seen as a form of renewing her original purpose, which stumped me. I certainly didn’t want to think of all of this as renewing her decision to kill humanity. (We can do that well enough on our own, anyway.) So, how in the hell did I keep her occupied and let the renewal process happen, but not let her kill all the things?
I thought about how to prevent this by looking to other Kemetic practices that I have read about. One particular rite came to mind: Devo’s yearly rites for The Mysteries of Osiris. Each year, while she celebrates these rites, she wraps her icon of Osiris up in a blue cloth that she uses specifically for this purpose. To me, this symbolized that Osiris was “hidden” from the world. And in a manner of speaking, I would like to keep Sekhmet hidden from the world while things are getting so chaotic before the New Year celebrations begin. I decided that the symbolism – wrapping her up and keeping her “hidden” from view – was the perfect addition to keep her satiated. Since I didn’t have a cloth in mind or even something that would work, in my opinion, I had to decide on what sort of cloth and what color would be most appropriate.
I chose a simple black scarf for the purpose (and let me tell you, finding a “simple, black” scarf was a pain in the ass). I chose the color black because this, above all else, reminds me of Geb and the earth. Above all else, the main purpose isn’t really to hide her from the world, though this is part of the reason, but I want to keep her “grounded,” too. Now, I don’t mean this in the New Age context regarding meditation services, but literally grounded – as in sending her to her room without any supper coupled with the idea of keeping her in the here and now, as opposed to caught up in the New Year festivities and the chaos it can bring. Even though the color black could symbolize “resurrection from the dead and even fertility,” (source: see entry for “black”) I was aiming less for the symbolism as denoted in ancient Egypt for the color and more on personal interpretations.
But, I worried that maybe this wasn’t enough of a thing to keep her occupied. It dawned on me that maybe because I don’t have a shrine cabinet where I can lock the doors with a shrine bolt that perhaps it just wouldn’t be enough. After all, Sekhmet isn’t just the goddess who destroys humanity once, but she is also the deity that other deities quake in fear of. (She has no less than six epithets that I can find that talk about how she causes fear.) With that in mind, I thought about how else I could keep her from doing something dangerously ridiculous and making lives miserable. While driving to work one day, it dawned on me that I could metaphorically offer myself in the stead of the human race by leaving the two pieces of jewelry that I wear daily, at her request, in front of her: my heart shaped ring and the ib amulet.
I legitimately debated the merits of this action for a few days after thinking on it. It dawned on me that, perhaps, I was not making the wisest decision here. I mean, after all, I was technically telling Sekhmet that she could eat my heart and destroy it if she so desired just in the hopes that she would keep her mind intact instead of losing it. But, considering the dimensions of our relationship, I didn’t think it was something that I was risking, per se, but something that I was willing to do just in case. I honestly don’t think that she’ll take me up on the offer, though it’s possible. And if she does take me up on the offer, then I have to hope that the purpose is less about destruction and more about adding further dimensions to our existing relationship. Though I’m still leery after waffling back and forth regarding this, I feel that the ends justify the means and that the benefits outweigh the risks. I’m prepared to sacrifice myself in the name of my goddess for a hypothetical situation that may not even happen.
I guess that’s devotion for you.
With that all out of the way, I had to decide how long this was going to take place. My original thought process was that I was going to be doing this for the week of Wep Ronpet and then unwrap her the day after. I looked through my calendar to see what I was looking at as far as timeframes went. On August 2, there’s a feast day I have marked and noted as “The Feast of Sekhmet in Darkness.” This amused me and intrigued me; I had no idea what the hell this particular feast day was original for, but I found it interesting that it was to take place about a week and some change after I had hidden her away – forcing her into the dark. I decided to incorporate that feast into what I was doing and decided to push out when I would unwrap her. Looking at the rest of my calendar for the month of August, I noted “The Feast of Drunkenness” on August 20. Well, honestly, if that wasn’t the perfect day to actually unwrap her from her bindings and bring her back into the light, then I didn’t really know the definitions of coincidence and serendipity. (Seriously, I had no idea these feast days were coming up before I checked my calendar.)
At this point, I decided I should check in briefly with Sekhmet to see if this time period worked out for her and to verify that everything I had planned thus far would work out. We do, as it is, have an oracular session scheduled to conduct August 9 and I was concerned that keeping her hidden from the world in her own form of renewal would cause issues. She rejected my offer to pull the date forward for when I would pull her free from her moorings, though, and she agreed that my planning so far was looking pretty good. (Can I just mention how completely weird it is to “check in” with a deity about how you’re going to hide them from the world and they’re totally on board with the prospect? And of course, let’s just all stop and stare at that last question and think about how weird it looks.) With full steam ahead, I kept planning.
I thought about what, if anything, I would provide as offerings during this time period. I wanted, in my heart of hearts, to give her red beer as this is my interpretation of what Re provided to her during her destructive phase. However, it occurred to me that I wasn’t quite to the point where I wanted to mellow her out. I needed to keep her pleasant and calm during these five weeks (FIVE WEEKS? DID I REALLY AGREE TO FIVE WEEKS?) with her wrapped in her scarf. What I needed to do, though, was probably get her fairly liquored up on a regular basis. The point isn’t so much that I needed to overwhelm her senses with alcohol that looked like blood to keep her from going on a killing spree; I needed to distract her with as much as I could to prevent her from starting the spree. So, since I can’t stand beer (ick) and I hate tomato juice (ugh), I decided that a weekly vodka and diet Coke will suffice. On the Feast of Drunkenness, then I may make terrible faces while I revert red beer down, but not before I have to.Two nights ago, I began the preparation process. I wanted to have everything set up and ready for when I would finally sit down and actually do the thing. (The thing is the vague blog phrase of choice for this rite prior to this post. Most people on Tumblr and on FB will be familiar with this.) First steps for preparation was to clean off the altar. I cleared everything away, tossing the linen napkins I use as table cloths into the wash, and pulling out clean ones. I decided to lay down plain white ones instead of using my usual one red and one white. I was hoping to eschew colors that would incite a riot, you know? And white is symbolic of purity, which is what I’m aiming for. I may not pay much attention to those ancient ritual purity things that other devotees can and do (I don’t decry the practice, per se; it’s just not me and I’ve never been ordered to be “ritually pure” like others have) pay attention to, but I wanted to at least get a nice purified and clean space going for the next day.
I pulled out my black scarf and shook it out, brushing away any stray pieces of linen and making sure the tags had been removed. I then folded it up very carefully and left it at the foot of the table, in Sekhmet’s view. I wanted her to be reminded of what she was signing up for with this and I also wanted to have it readily available for when it’s time. I placed a white candle, covered in healing related herbs, on top. This candle is something that I had prepared last November and I felt that, besides the color itself, it was pretty fitting. Sekhmet is also known for her ability to heal and it is this particular aspect that I want to have the attention of during these weeks.
I pulled out one of the lotus-shaped plates I have, this one in white with the etching for ma’at at its center, and placed important parts within: my prayer beads, my ib amulet necklace, and the ma’at feather that Bezen made. (Shameless promotion of all things beautiful: buy these gorgeous reproduction amulets!) I put away a few of the more random thing that I leave out on Sekhmet’s altar since I want the main focus to be on Sekhmet and this five-week long rite as opposed to the pretty baubles I’ve been placing around lately. To finish everything off, I cleaned off the “benben” that I place my icon on. (Obviously, I don’t really have a benben because I would have posted pictures about it and screeched a lot about my reproduction benben. What I use to keep Sekhmet’s icon elevated is an old wrought iron candle holder. It came in a set of three and I was using the other two for similar purposes before I broke them.)
Finally, I was ready for the thing.
And nervous as all get out.
The day dawned bright and cool and I was in a shitty fucking mood the moment my eyes opened. I soon found out why when I noted that my body, ever ready for a moment of betrayal, decided that it was just that time of the month. I found this ironic and fitting. It goes to show that the body has no time for such fickle things as ritual purity. I, of course, don’t pay any attention to that jazz. But I had to wonder, while the cramps ramped up and what good mood I might have had quickly dive bombed, what would a high priestess have done in antiquity if just such a thing had occurred to her? Would she have kept her mouth shut and kept up with her duties? Or would she relinquish control of a great rite, an important rite, something that probably heralded a great precipice of religious proportions that was really fucking important…? Would she have been able to give up her duty in order to maintain ritual purity? I have to assume that, you know, the make believe woman I was wondering about probably would have. Ancient Egypt was, if nothing else, a dictatorship and if ritual purity was to be upheld, then so be it.
Still, it makes me wonder how many ancient women may have had this issue.
I did my best not to think about what I was doing, why I was doing, or how I was going to do the thing throughout my work day. Work was, of course, stressful, which really didn’t help my already piss poor mood. I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t do it because, you know, I should have probably have been in a better mood. But I reflected and realized that I couldn’t very well always let things like work and the stress surrounding it preventing me from doing things. I use that excuse a lot when it comes to things. It’s not always religious things, though some of it is. And I have to admit that I don’t like the idea of having that other part of me – the part that looks like every other working class citizen – preventing me from doing things that I enjoy – the part of my that lives, breathes, and works within their religious preferences. So, I decided that I was going to go home, shower, and then get the show on the road.
I did the shower thing and hope that I managed to get enough of the stress gunk off beforehand. I wasn’t very… successful in that.After I ate my own dinner – thinking about the Snickers commercial while I did so – I fed Sekhmet. I provided her with as large of a meal as I possibly could. Looking at it, it doesn’t look that big, but it was sufficient in my opinion. I gave her the usual green grapes and added a banana. I thought about adding bread and whatnot, but decided that I would give her cookies instead. I bought cupcakes (birthday cupcakes) for the Intercalary Days celebrations this week, but I bought red velvet cookies with buttercream frosting specifically for this particular holiday (and also because I really fucking love them). I suckered her up with some vodka and diet Coke, which I am finishing as I write this. I lit a cone of incense, made sure all of the jewelry I was going to be offering to her for the next five weeks was on the white dish I had rested the prayer beads on, and went about my business. I was trying to get ready for the thing.
I still felt very much out of sorts, though, and kind of angsty about everything that I had gone through at work. (It wasn’t even that the day was, like, bad or anything, but it was just a mixture of things and the period thing and just general nervousness about the whole thing, I think.) So, I ended up going around and driving, listening to music while I psyched myself up for the work at hand. I chose to listen to Skillet, really loudly, for a while and then switched over to Fall Out Boy. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this to anyone, but there are a few songs from their most recent album that have particular sentimental and personal value in my relationship building exercises with Sekhmet. I, of course, chose those ones to listen to while I cruised around, trying to get into the mood.
So, finally, it was time.
I got home and nervously paced the altar. I had to seriously ask myself, am I doing this? Am I really going to do another thing that has no baring, probably, on what happened in antiquity? And is this going to become a yearly thing? And am I really fucking doing this? I must be crazy. There’s no way.
So, then I did it anyway.I whisked away every ounce of food product and the dishes. (I made sure to finish the grapes and the banana is for breakfast tomorrow morning.) While I sucked down the vodka and diet Coke ambrosia, I set the black scarf up so that it was just big enough to cover my icon of Sekhmet width wise. And then, I wrapped her up. I decided I didn’t like what I was seeing and unwrapped it. I did it a second time and liked that even less. The third time around, I spoke (in my head) and said, “I bind thee from unleashing your special brand of isfet, lady. With this cloth, your powers are bound. Your netjeri are bound. You will cause no harm.” I felt very kind of like The Craft with the wording – possibly where my head went to when I started thinking/saying it – but I also felt successful.
I then bundled my heart ring, the ib amulet, and the feather of ma’at amulet into a little golden package that I wrapped with a white cord. I placed that package on the white plate where I had left my prayer beads.
And thus, I have propitiated (hopefully) the goddess.
And just as hopefully, this lasts the full five weeks.
And even more as hopefully, this works out.