Where I live, there are numerous landmarks that have always spoken to me.
The river that I live near has always been a feature of my life. Whether I noticed that it was there or not, the number of bridges – both current and those long since run down and no longer used – speaks to the importance of this landmark in our area. There are certain parks and dormant fields, farmed fields and copses of trees that all have had special meaning to me in some form or another since I was a child. There are mountains to the north that create picturesque backdrop to farming communities and major cities alike.
It is these landmarks that I look for as I drive somewhere and over the years, my gods have begun to infiltrate those landmarks.
Across the road from my home, an off-shoot of the main river in my area runs. It was once used for factories and commerce; now it flows idly past in the warmer months and partially frozen in the winter. Since I have moved to where I live now, I can count on two hands the numbers of suicides that have jumped off the bridge near my home. To me, this river serves as a reminder of death, of grief and mourning, of the souls who have departed.
Is it any wonder that when I walk by, when I stop to watch the fallen trees slowly make their way down the water fall and the crags of rocks below, that I think of Wesir?
Wesir has always had river imagery for me, a byproduct of my conversations with TTR. But too, this appearance of Wesir within a river, demanding death and rebirth, has infiltrated my own inner workings. What surprised me recently was the indication that both Ptah and Sokar have similar river imagery and associations for me: it seems that the running of the water, the babbling brooks and the roar of the water fall when the river is over full from winter run off, have all soaked into my conscious and subconscious, illustrating the connection with the deceased over and over again.
In the Old Kingdom, the pharaoh was reborn to become a star. This particular imagery has always spoken to me, as though the bright stars that they would become could formulate a new pattern in the Milky Way, a river-like monstrosity of stars in the sky. While the Milky Way was seen more as a puddle (associated with Bat, before she became syncretized with Hetheru), it seemed more like a river and more like the domain of Wesir, and by extension Ptah and Sokar, to me. The night sky; the river. They are like mirror images of each other and they all relate back to the deceased, to the gods associated with the deceased, and the realms that they oversee.
The river, to me, is not a once majestic aspect of commerce, but a haven for the dead. When I want to whisper to my akhu without traveling to their graves, I whisper to the river. I pour my heart and soul into my akhu, tumbling it into that river. In my mind, I light candles on little boats and watch them go over the falls to crash upon the rocks below.
For two years of my life, I lived beneath the shelter of the southernmost and highest peak in a nearby mountain range. When I woke in the morning, I could sit upon the back stoop and watch the sun wake the deciduous trees that made the mountain in its home. In the evening, I could be comforted in the knowledge that I would fall asleep in the snug embrace of the mountain that was once the backdrop to many of my dreams. This mountain has always spoken to me of change, of the chaos of those changes, and the wealth and starvation that those changes have wrought.
It has never been any surprise that I see Set in the rock-lined road, the cliff peak that overlooks the valley below, and the sentinel-like trees of the mountain. It was only slightly more shocking that Hetheru had joined him in that place.
Set has always been a being of change in some form or another for me. He has always been the one that has come to me when things have gone through those moments, signaling that an ending was coming but so, too, a beginning was on the horizon. Sometimes his arrival was a signal that it was time to jump off the peaks and see what came; other times, his advice heralded caution as the road was treacherous since it had been washed out ahead.
As I drove over the mountain or passed it by, I could see him running across the mountains in his strange unknown animal-headed form wreaking both havoc in dead falls and feet of snow and bringing new growth and new life. His touch culminated in the way the trees swayed in the breeze, the rich plume of colors in spring, the fiery red and gold of the autumn months, the pure white breath of Father Winter after a snow storm and the icy breath of death that came like a stranger in the night and froze the empty branches in place.
It was with surprise that I found Hetheru there, not in the form of the wild deer that I had seen on the side of the mountain road or in the shadow of the mountain down below, but in the form of the goddess who greeted those after the ultimate change of life had come upon them: the moment after death.
During the New Kingdom period and later periods, she has been depicted in her bovine shape, greeting those who have traveled to the West upon their death. It was almost with amazement and then later with a sort of obviousness that I could see her traversing the western edge of the mountain, greeting the souls who were searching for their afterlife. With her horns adorned with flowers and her big, brown eyes, I can see her softly enchanting those who have passed and entice them towards the realm their souls crave. She is a calming voice in a sea of change.
The mountain, to me, is not a place of geocaching, cross-country skiing, or hiking; it is a bastion of metamorphosis. When I worry for what new things are upon the horizon, I go to the mountain and let me fears soak into the land, letting the tree roots bring my message to Set. I murmur my grief for the departed to the trees and ask that they tell Hetheru that her role as greeter is upon her.
The backyard of my in-laws’ home has been meticulously landscaped with plants in bloom from spring through fall. There are pots filled to the brim with vegetables, terraces of various blooms, and ancestral trees and bushes that baptize the herringbone patterns of the bricked patio. Overhanging the soft scent of blooming flowers are trees of cedar, pitch pine, and maple older than the house itself.
It’s taken time for my gods to soak into this place, but I have found both Ptah and Sekhmet in this place.
For some time now, Ptah has had garden associations for me. A year or so ago, I dreamed that I was in a garden that was very clearly his, roaming through flowers of various types and blooms amid butterflies and bees. Behind me, both Sekhmet and Ptah had been playing a quiet game of Jackals and Hounds. I had spent the time resting and soaking up serenity as I do when I sit in the backyard at my in-laws’ place.
Those stolen moments in the garden, both in life and in dreams, are signal points that I need to take a time out from the constancy of the world to recharge my batteries. It is in this role that Ptah seems most adept, even considering his other associations both historical and personal. He is a quiet bulwark, a symbolic statue in the garden of such intense presence that I can only soak up the calm he emits and carry it with me on my journey.
In his triune associations with Sekhmet, she, too, has come to represent a certain calm among the storm. While our relationship has not always been smooth or easy, it has been months since our last fall out and she has come to radiate the same sort of calm that her consort has in spades.
Perhaps it was that moment in the garden dream from last year, and the subsequent dreams in the last year, or perhaps it was only the necessary change in our relationship which had been steadily gaining on me that caused this. Less has she been the demanding chaotic task master hurricane that I had once seen her as and more the eye of the storm.
The garden, to me, is less about hard work perpetrated by my mother-in-law, but a haven of peace. When I need to step back from the wildness of reality around me, I can stop at my in-law’s home and let myself down the terraced steps of mosaic stones, letting the tingle of serenity tingle through my being. When the weather is too cold and the icy chill of winter is upon us, I can close my eyes and return to those moments in the garden with Ptah and Sekhmet, watching the butterflies proliferate in their calming silence.
It has been a long road of wandering, but over time, I have found my gods in places I had never expected them.
Almost like thieves in the night, I have found my gods in the world around me, in the places that I have always felt close to or amazed by. As I drive down the main roadways of routes and highways, as I stop to admire landscaping and fields, as I drive through town after town, watching the natural world change in each new place, they have waved to me. They have found me in a world that I have inhabited since my youth, calling out to me as a reminder that they are always there, whether I see them or not.