January 9, 2016
I have been flailing a bit with regards to holidays lately. Though years into this, I am still rather stuck in the attitude of what and why and how instead of focusing on the doing. I don’t think that’s abnormal, but after a while, both the gods and the devotee get a little winded from the constant questioning.
In the years since I added this holiday to my calendar, I have focused on various aspects of it while trying to celebrate it. I have focused on Sekhmet, then on her executioners. I focused on what a procession could conceivably look like and how best to recreate it. Sometimes these attempts have felt more like a stab in the dark, hoping to hit something.
Looking back on each instance, it has felt as though something has been continuously missing. The holiday was about Sekhmet and her executioners; I paid attention to them as much as I was able and in accordance with what I hoped were her wishes. But it occurred to me this go around that the one thing I’ve glossed over every single time has been me.
Don’t get me wrong: holidays like this were less about the people. But this isn’t ancient Egypt or merely a bastion of recreating a dead religion. This is my home, my relationship with my gods, and if I’m to celebrate these things, I need to do more, in my opinion, than simply orchestrate a bastardized recreation. I need to be as integral as the main deities these holidays are supposed to be about.
S told me the week of the holiday that the stagnation bit was important to focus on. She reminded me that this next year is to be focused more on me and less on everything else. Spoon management; job prospects; relationship building with the family; etc. But in order to really crystallize all of that, I needed to do the work.
I figured she was probably on about something of importance and decided to listen.
I read a snippet about a holiday in a book that indicated Sekhmet and her executioners went on a sojourn to Letopolis. I didn’t think that the book was referring to this particular holiday (the season, I believe is different), but it did get me thinking. I thought about the traveling bit and realized there was something important here. I got the idea to “lead” a procession to “Letopolis,” also known as my self-care altar.
Popularly referred to as the Place of Truth, my self-care altar has changed dramatically since its first inception. No longer a small bowl of tidbits, it spans three book shelves, a half wall, a small cabinet, and is covered in items that hold varying shades of value to me. The primary focuses are the parts of myself that have remained throughout each transformative experience of my life… similar to the one I’ve been ignoring in my attempts to “passively surrender” to what fate has in store.
While I prepared for what was taking shape in my head, it occurred to me that symbolism has been everywhere lately. It seems to have soaked through from my dreams and has begun to run rampant in my life. Along with my life, it’s also more than simply coated my attempts to celebrate holidays, but has fully enriched it. As I grabbed items together to start the celebration, I kept thinking: Symbolism; symbolism everywhere.
I have three vases that I purchased last year that I snapped up first. They are red, green, and blue vases that I bought to represent places when I was celebrating the Feast of the Beautiful Reunion. Nowadays, these glass vases represent parts of myself with a dried rose help in the mouth of each. Just as with the Beautiful Reunion, I took the three vases to use as symbols of my own procession with Sekhmet and her executioners.
Blue symbolized the inertia of my person. I envision the stagnation or inertia as a river where I have allowed it to determine what course I head down. I placed this back near Sekhmet’s sacred space. The symbolic river bank was the start of the journey. I took the green one and placed it at the base of the bookshelf. This symbolized the “greening of the ib“, basically the sprouting forth of life-affirming, ma’at-affirming action. The red one went on the shelf beside the small cabinet. This one symbolized successful movement forward, embodying my power to break free of the stagnation.
I took seven tea lights and placed them upon the floor between the blue vase and the red vase. The symbolism was two-fold: each candle represented one of Sekhmet’s arrows but it also symbolized the seven steps I was to take to get to my self-care altar. I actually measured out seven footsteps and placed the candles at those points.
Sekhmet, the four arrow pendants that represent her arrows, and myself took the seven steps to my self-care altar to break free of my own inner demons. I moved ahead with eyes focused on my goal, thinking about how I was performing a symbolic act to force myself out of the second hour of the Duat so that I could journey on to the third and fourth. To add to the journey, we listened to Victorious by Panic! at the Disco.
After I had provided the offerings, I sat across from the book shelf and listened to the music. I closed my eyes and let myself leak out in front of my lady and her arrows, explaining why I had let things carry on for so long. It was cathartic; I had spent so much time hiding from my thoughts and feelings on the matter.
I went through a few of the key phrases in Hathor Rising as I sat. I tried to picture what it would look like to embody Ihy, to pull myself from the realm of the Inert Ones with the same force he used to be born into this world. I thought about the dream I had of him – when I had pulled my prayer beads from my dream pocket – and thought about praying.
It’s hard to beseech the gods, even if you know you should, when you’re not used to the process. It’s something I do at my wit’s end, when there is nothing but a wall at my back. I remembered the cool feeling of the beads between my fingers in that dream and the calm that followed. Maybe I was successful; maybe I wasn’t.
I felt calm at least.
S told me that this was the start of the journey. Just as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither am I to pass through the second hour I’ve been in lately. She reminded me that this will take time and the lesson of patience from last year’s Answering Words will be important here. I don’t doubt any of her advice on the matter.
She is the guiding force with her consort and my relationships with Hetheru and Heru-Wer as stabilizing influences on the journey. As I mentioned to her later, it is almost as if I am on a barque with Sekhmet in aegis form at the helm and the other three taking up strategic positions to row the boat with me at the rudder. We may not always get the rhythm right, but we at least try.
I turned to her and smiled that night. I whispered, “I’m on a boat; I’m on a boat.” She got the reference – we listen to a lot of The Lonely Island around here – and said that I wasn’t so far wrong in all that. Hopefully I don’t crash upon any rocks or become overrun by hippo.
It’s hard sometimes to think to put your own personality into ritual. And stabbing in the dark is sometimes the best way to figure out what will work or not. Seems like this did :)
I have another festival tomorrow and I’ve been given the same advice on that as well. I wonder if my attempts to give other people the chance to see a functional practice has led to me keeping myself out of celebrations though. Like I’ve been trying to keep them general because people may use what I do to model their own attempts off of. But if that’s the case then I’m doing everyone wrong because we all seem to deserve a central position in our religions…
It’s an odd line to follow, and I’ve given it thought before. I think being personal can actually show that adding yourself into practice it becomes more meaningful to you. And the more meaningful it is to you, the better benefit you’ll get spiritually. The best thing I did was read a post about that a hot minute ago. It said that we can follow the general scholarly guidelines for rituals, but that if we aren’t present somewhere in there it becomes empty and meaningless, as if our religion were outside of us instead of within. If people who are struggling read an entry like that, it could be a game changer for them.