As a baby pagan, after I had gluttoned myself on all the books by all of the authors that older pagans cringe at now, I found a website that told me believing and worshiping the ancient Egyptian gods was real. Floored by what I had found, I read through the list of names of the gods over and over again. I formed their names with my lips and wondered what worshiping them might look like. And as I went through those list of names, perhaps influenced by early divine goddess rumblings or merely my own past, I swore I would never worship the male deities. They had had enough worship; I would only honor the women goddesses.
I’ve thought about that time in my life and I’ve come to the conclusion that this was a childish form of rebellion against the wrong religion. All my life, I had been indoctrinated to believe that while God has no true sex, it was He this and He that. I was tired of all the He. Even my irritable changing the He in prayers and Bible readings to She wasn’t enough. I was sick of male deities after living a lifetime suckling the teet of male deity propaganda. (Side note: churches should only use They for God now.) So, I decided the ladies was where my attention would go and that was that.
Hoo boy, has shit changed in 20 years.
A Wild God Appears
In very late 2018, shortly after Samhain, I felt the first real kick from Ra. I was distinctly uncomfortable with the attention. As anyone who may have followed me for a while knows, we don’t get on. But there he was like a towering statue out of the thick fog. I knew why of course; the 2019 Year of Rebirth project may have started off about Sekhmet but it really was about more than just she.
One thing I’ve found more and more as I go deeper down this road is the fact that hard polytheism only works so much when it comes to the NTRW. If you’re working on things for one deity, invariably what you’re doing will no doubt effect or benefit others. Sekhmet, created from Ra’s power, is as connected to the other gods as the rest of them. Dying for Sekhmet’s benefit was dying for Ra’s benefit.
He was patient and quiet, which is what I needed to get over some things. Say what we will about gods busting down doors without knocking, occasionally they seem to be able to read the room before they even get in there. So he was mostly quiet while I came to terms with the idea that he was around, he was going to stay around, and that most likely his presence would continue well past 2019.
It didn’t start to become more of a relationship until about Spring of 2019. Things started kind of piecing together for us. He asked for very few things other than attention and a few little baubles. I asked him once if this would turn into something more. He kind of snorted and said no. I had assumed originally that this relationship would turn into a shrine, an icon, altar space for prayer. But when I had asked, I got the distinct impression he found my question amusing before he told me no.
He did ask for a daily rite that I had written for him for the Year of Rites project, which I managed to finish before 2018 came to an end. While the Year of Rites project fell apart about midway through 2019, he didn’t seem too unhappy that I had stopped doing the daily rites with the words I had written. I did the physical portion of the rite and that seemed to be enough.
For a while anyway.
Once you start down the rabbit hole, you get a little lost. No matter how many times you try to back track to the start to find your way out, the labyrinth closes up behind you until the only way out is through. The way through looked weird and strange to me. Not completely at any rate, but a good bit of it was new territory. Ra merely said to keep it up; I’d know where the exit was eventually.
That Wasn’t an Exit
As 2019 came to a close, I began to register that Ra’s presence was dimming so to speak. I don’t know how to put it that will make it clearer but as October hit, he seemed to have collapsed in on himself. I assumed it was because the year was starting to come to a close and he needed strength for the actual birth of the new year. I was partially right, but not completely.
It was the week of Samhain that it all came together. The clock change was set to begin the Sunday following Halloween and I could sense that this was it. He was going to do one of those dramatic exits that the gods seem to love to do and leave me with some vague request. The request wasn’t completely vague oddly enough.
“Look beyond the trappings and you’ll find me there,” he seemed to say as his time with me grew ever shorter. I remember standing in my backyard the weekend of the time change and staring at the sky. “My time for now is over. Use this quiet to figure out the puzzle.” Not like I needed clear cut answers anyway.
That winter, as the world cooled and the snow refused to fall, I would look up at the watery light of the sun and wonder what Ra was up to. I would imagine the rays of sunlight trying so desperately to reach me in my backyard but unable to do so through the winter wind and ice cold frost. I tried to play his playlist and found it didn’t work for the way the land and world around me had changed to winter.
The trappings are encapsulated by my altar room. That was the place where I found my gods over and over again and while I have pieces that are designated for Ra in there, I had never really felt him there. He was always outside, in the land, in the air, and in the world around me. I had looked beyond the trappings and found the god in the natural world.
This isn’t strange; it’s not abnormal. I’ve long had a local cultus push for my gods, but it was Ra who solidified it in a way I hadn’t been able to do until he showed up. The physical reminders of worship and altars are for the priests; the natural world and the worship within is for everyone else.
Timing is Everything
Since Ra all but disappeared at the time change, I wondered if I could expect him back in 2020 when it changed again. I waited throughout the winter, wondering if my hunch was correct. The Tuesday prior to the time change, my calendar told me there were Ra festivities coming up (feast for three or four days in his and the Irt-Ra honor) and just after the time change, the Divine Birth of Ra lined up nicely with his return.
I looked back to see what was going on, calendar-wise, in October as I hadn’t been paying as much attention to the holiday alerts since fall is a busy holiday time for my calendar. Nothing so concrete as a “say bye to the sun” but there were a few hints that I missed back then, which will become important in another entry.
It seemed that I had figured out that my relationship with Ra was to coincide with the world around me. As spring approached and the whispers of birds and plants began to grow louder, I could feel him more and more in the air and beside me. I remember waking up one morning between the time change and Ostara whispering, “oh there you are.” And there he was.
He hasn’t given any directives since he showed up and other than a matter-of-fact hello-how-are-you, he’s been pretty quiet while I try to figure out what all of this means. It’s one thing to understand, finally, the reason and the push, but it’s quite another to turn it into reality.
I kind of feel like I’ve been stumbling along, occasionally picking up clues and messages that tell me I’m headed forward to somewhere else. After talking about this a bit with TTR, I was happy to find that I’m not the only one in this boat, but it doesn’t necessarily help anyone at all. We may all be headed in the same direction, but who really knows what it will all look like at the end of the day?
The Beginning is Now
My local cultus push has been a thing for some years now. It started in fits and spurts around 5 years ago, maybe more, and has been increasingly felt throughout the rest of my relationships with my gods. Part of this push has caused decay in some of my relationships (Sekhmet and Ptah, who I have yet to find in the world around me) and solidified others in ways I hadn’t ever expected (Heru-Wer, Hetheru, and of course Ra).
Over the winter, I read through Hathor: A Reintroduction… by Lesley Jackson. One of the quotes that I ended up posting on my Tumblr has stayed with me most often, especially now that I understand the next phase of where this relationship with Ra is supposed to go:
…but the Egyptians also detected her presence in nature; in the rustling of papyrus in the swamps, in the breeze through sycamore leaves and in places in the desert where there were conspicuous outcrops of rock
P 198, Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess by Lesley Jackson
This isn’t, by all means, the only clue-by-four that’s showed up leading me down this road, but it’s the one that stuck with me the most often. Usually it comes up when I’m sitting outside, staring up at the sun and trying to parse out the nuance of how local cultus is supposed to formulate the basis for many things going forward.
All of this, whatever this may actually end up being, is a reset in a manner of speaking. The ongoing path project has always been a bit of a disappointment for me. I’ve always felt the push in one direction and never really felt comfortable in going that way. But I’m reminded that my path is ever-evolving and has always been best summed up by the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken.
Now, the path ahead is forged with oak and grass, bees and tree frogs, hawks and owls, mayflower and staghorn sumac. There are gods within these places as there always has been; the gods of these places may be gone now or colonized into silence, but there are other gods who seem to want to be found there, gods who have followed me for most of my life in some form or another. And while I’m not sure whether I have the right to see them there since I am living on land stolen from indigenous peoples, I see them there anyway.
In February, I did a month-ahead Tarot reading for the month of March. I didn’t foresee the pandemic (sorry) since I was looking at myself. The Theme of the Month was a card called Spellwork, which we can sum up as meaning this: “create a recipe of your own choosing; gather the ingredients together to gain clarity and insight; you know exactly what you need so follow your intuition.” If that doesn’t tell me what I need to know, then what does?
Ra has made it very clear that he is here to stay and while sometimes I still feel like this is all an elaborate prank on the stupid human, sometimes I think everything will be okay. His entrance into my life has overtaken many other areas of my practice, almost like he’s clearing the slate to a point where I can actually start over. I’m a little hesitant only because I don’t want to fully sacrifice the carefully created relationships I’ve already made, but I’m also interested to see how this could play out. And I can admit that I haven’t felt interested in my religion in a very long time.
The other day, as I was taking my daily walk, the sun threw its life-giving rays between a thick scattering of white pines. The rays of the sun were clear and reflected off of a small creek that traveled through the wooded area. I managed to snap a picture of it, and it looks like there are two suns: one in the sky and one on the ground. The rays of both suns meet in the middle in a sort of new horizon. I take a lot of nature pictures, but that’s my favorite so far. I think it neatly captures my religious life and where it’s always been headed.