The Fifth Hour.

The fourth hour was associated with elemental powers, however that power was turned inward. As the beings passing through the night hours onto their way to the next phase of their existence, they had to jump-start their own abilities or the ability of the gods to ensure a successful rebirth.

The fifth hour is an hour of dichotomies: green, or ma’at-affirming, behavior in conjunction with a reminder as to what punishments lie ahead for those who deserve them.

The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]

This hour is separated into three registers. Although they are three distinct scenes, they are connected with the middle scene formed by Osiris’ burial mound. To either side of the mound, Isis and Nephthys are depicted in the forms of birds. Within this hour, we finally come to the Nun, the primordial water of life. This is an area of opposites, an area of fire and water, desert and watered land.

The top register towards the middle, Khepri is shown coming out of Osiris’s burial mound. “He is obviously needed to help the ram-headed form of the old Sungod to adjust the rope of the otwing over the head of this cavern. It is just a fine adjustment, as there is no tension in the rope. There is a very subtle cooperation of the half renewed Sungod (the scarab) with the ram-headed old Sungod that is pulled by the deities, heading towards his renewal.” [p 69, Abt & Hornung, Knowledge of the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat.]

The middle register depicts a passage that is shown as narrow because of the head of Isis at its center. The Sungod must negotiate this narrow portion of the land of Sokar carefully. The barque is pulled forward by seven goddesses. it is here, within the body of Isis, that we are shown that she holds the elements at bay. It is through her that both water and fire, desert and primordial water are both kept apart and merged together in their aspects within the journey of rebirth.

In the lowest register, a cave is shown surrounded by both water and desert, fire and water. Within the circular indication of the cave, Osiris in his form of Sokar is shown having been merged with the Sungod in a form of a winged, multi-headed serpent. Around the cave, the double headed motif of Aker is shown.

Beneath the lowest register, the Lake of Fire is shown as waves. This is the place where sinners are punished, but the blessed dead are able to drink cool waters from this same lake. Though paradoxical in nature, this too highlights the coming together of opposites within this hour as the Sungod continues his journey forward.

The Book of Gates

Within this hour, the deceased are given space and time within this hour. Space is designated in the form of fields, with the gods showing being depicted with surveying cords, and time is depicted in the form of hieroglyphs meaning “lifetime”. In front of the solar barque, A/pep is shown imprisoned to prevent it from stopping the barque. Behind this image, the ba-souls of the deceased are shown, having been placed in the care of Sekhmet and Horus.

The Book of Caverns

This section begins with litanies that discuss the rejuvenation of the sun by Tatenen. Nut is depicted who is lifting the ram-headed sun and the solar disk in her upraised hands. She faces the three registers of this section.

The upper register shows the image of Osiris, whose hands reach out towards Ra, and four-human headed serpents. The next scene, Tatenen is lifted up by the corpses of Atum and Khepri. There are two sarcophagus following: both depict the form of Ra as a child.

The middle register shows four falcon-headed mummies, which are forms of Horus. Behind is Anubis in the form of a guardian and a coffin, which shows the scepter of Atum. This coffin with the scepter of Atum embodies the potential of creation, the potential of the sun god to create. Four more goddesses are shown towards the end of the register, anonymous and unknown.

The final register depicts the punishments meted out by “the female slaughterer carrying two stakes in her hands; two bound prisoners kneel next to her.” [p 88, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.] The next two scenes show enemies that are being punished in a large cauldron. The first cauldron holds the heads and hearts of these enemies while the second shows the bound and upside-down bodies of these enemies. “The ‘arms of the Place of Annihilation’ lift the cauldrons up out of the depths while uraei fan the flames beneath them.” [p 88, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.]

Opposite this scene, a large-scale image of Osiris is shown. He is depicted in ithyphallic form, along with his ba. A protective serpent rears up in front of him. “In the continuation of the three registers behind him, the oval containing the four ‘flesh’ hieroglyphs again refer to the corpse of Osiris, which is cared for by the light and the voice of Re, and which is at the same time addressed as his own body and his ‘decay’.” [p 88, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.] Beneath him, the goddess Tayt calls a greeting to Ra and Osiris.

The Book of Night

The fifth hour begins in the throat and breast region of Nut’s body. This area indicates that we have truly entered the “life-giving” realm on the journey through the hours of the night. This place within the body of the goddess is a transitional realm, filled with both life-affirming and chaotic elements.

At the bottom of the images of this house, we are shown bound enemies. Some of these figures are shown decapitated. They are named as “the followers of Seth,” which seems to indicate that these beings are the representations of those who have opposed the nightly process of renewal.

The living beings within this realm are shown in much better condition than those depicted in previous hours. The people are clearly depicted as living, breathing beings. They lie on their stomachs with raised heads. It is clear that within this hour, they are capable of movement and of basic life functions though they still have some ways to go before they are fully restored to themselves.

The imagery surrounding the beings within this hour also seems to suggest an association with plants. “The travelers’ newly-acquired ‘plant’ or ‘ka‘-nature is also visually suggested by the three groups of three people who are shown seated on plants to the right of them, sprouting and blooming again in this burgeoning, vivifying life realm, feeling the power of green shoots surging through their body.” [p 124, Roberts, My Heart, My Mother.]

It is within this hour that power returns to the hearts of the beings passing through the body of Nut.

Further Reading

  • The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
  • My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts

 

The Fourth Hour.

The third hour was an hour of elemental powers: either the powers of the gods and the chaos from the power that emanates from them or an internal struggle of one’s self as the soul moves forward in its attempt to be reborn. Above all else, the point in the previous hour was almost as if we need to battle ourselves or the gods themselves. No matter the outside influences or internal influences of the battle itself, the overall point was to come out the other side of it as a pure form of yourself.

The fourth hour is a mix of elemental power again, but that power is turned inwards.

The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]

The fourth hour heralds the entry into Rosetjau, or the Land of Sokar, who is upon his sand. The world has shifted from the abundant greenery and fertility of the preceding hour to a barren desert. A primordial darkness pervades the land of Rosetjau, a place filled with monsters. These beings are serpent-like with legs, wings, and several heads.

The waters of the Nun have receded and the netherworld can no longer be navigated upon the Nun. An absolute darkness precedes the solar barque within the sandy domain of this hour and the barque must be towed forward. The barque has turned itself into a double-headed serpent that pulses out a fiery breath that pierces the darkness:

This great god sails by them like this:
It is the flames from the mouth of his barque
That guide him on these mysterious ways,
without his seeing their images.

The registers of this hour are separated by a zigzag path, “full of fire from the mouth of Isis and repeatedly blocked by doors… The doors are called knife since they cut the way in several places.” [p58, Abt & Hornung, Knowledge of the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat.]

Ra, himself, no longer blazes forth with his shining light in this hour. He moves forever with diminished light, incapable of using his own light to wake those in their eternal slumber. He uses his voice, instead, to call out to those in the darkness: “Ra takes care of those who are in (this hour) with his voice without his seeing them.” [p58, Abt & Hornung, Knowledge of the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat.] The silence is absolute throughout this hour until Ra passes through, calling out orders to the beings of the Netherworld. Those who hear his voice cry out in joy when he arrives and weep at his leaving.

Within the center of this scene, the darkened eye has been injured because of the darkness of this hour and requires both Sokar and Djehuty to protect and renew it from the evil beings that inhabit the darkness of this hour. In addition to the work of these two gods, four deities holding the ankh of life out towards the Solar Eye. One of the deities depicted is that of Onuris, the god who brought the Distant Goddess back to the fold. While Ra is given life from these gods, so too are the deceased.

The Book of Gates

Two bodies of water guarded by jackals dominate the imagery of the fourth hour: the Lake of Life and the Lake of Uraei. Hornung posits that these two lakes may be variations of the Lake of Fire espied in the previous hour. As the solar barque moves forward, mummiform bodies lie before him in their journey forward to their own rebirth. As he passes, he brings about their resurrection and provisioning. Beneath the resuscitation of the mummies, Osiris lays enshrined in protective splendor, surrounded by the gods of his entourage. His son, Horus, takes care of him while the enemies of Osiris are punished in the fiery pits at the end of the hour.

The Book of Caverns

The beginning of this next section is shown again in replication of the first portion of the Duat: a solar disk and ram-headed sun god are depicted but this time, between them is an erect serpent. The name of this serpent is Great One on His Belly. As everyone rejoices at the entrance of the sun god, Ra assures promises to Osiris and his followers.

Nephthys and Isis are shown lifting the body of Osiris to initiate his resurrection. In the next scene, he is cared by his two “sons” [sic], Horus and Anubis. And in the last scene in the top register, he is depicted as the Bull of the West beside the god Horus-Mekhentienirty, the mongoose, who has taken the place of his son.

Beneath this section, the sun god is leaning on a staff and is presented with three separate forms of Osiris. In the next scene, Horus and Anubis stand protectively in front of the double corpse of Osiris and again in front of the ba of Osiris.

In the bottom most register, the enemies of Osiris are bound and standing on their heads. “Between them appear the ‘annihilators in the Place of Annihilation,’ with whom the ‘cat-formed one, from whose clutches there is no escape’ is associated as a punishing demon in the first scene.” [p87, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.] The enemies, as further punishment for their sins, cannot see or hear the sun god and that their ba-souls have been robbed from them.

The Book of Night

The Fourth Hour gateway leads us to the throat of Nut. The barque is pulled forward now by He Who Divides the Offerings and the gateway itself is called: “Sharp of knives, Mistress of the Two Lands, who destroys the enemies of the Tired Heart (an epithet of Osiris), who arouses trembling before the Sinless One, who removes wrong-doing.” The names of both the guide and the gateway seem to herald a focus more on the protection of Osiris during this hour.

The hour itself is filled with a fertile and hilly region. Trees grow abundant within this hour and the terrain is filled with vegetation that grows and flourishes. The greening of this hour seems to indicate that the solar barque has finally entered into the life-giving, or ka-realm; a place where nourishment is easily obtained. Beings live on the banks and rivers surrounding this green-filled place, nameless and weeping:

To the left of the hill-sign are groups of people called “Those of the Banks”, “Those of the Shores” and “Those of the Riverside”, who all crouch forward with disheveled hair, and hands held to their faces in the gesture of mourning. Like the people of the fields and channel at the close of the previous hour, their names suggest they inhabit a canal-landscape belonging to the inundated land. And obviously, too, this transition to a fertile realm in the fourth hour is a time of some disorder and confusion.

Beyond these beings, fish-headed beings that are nameless appear. They have their arms tied behind their back. The explanation for these beings is not clear, but the prevailing theory is that these are the enemies of Osiris, those who sided with Set during the battle between the two brothers, who are being punished for their crimes. They, too, are shown as weeping.

The bound fish-headed creatures seem to indicate that while this hour is where life can be renewed, it is a constant battle to be able to move forward on the path to rebirth. On all sides, hostile forces roam free and must be fought against. It is, perhaps, because of the enemies of Osiris that the people also are shown weeping upon the banks of the river and canal:

They weep and mourn because of the terror and confusion in their aquatic habitation caused by the struggle with Sethian creatures. And it is along these disorderly ways that each and every human, each and every divine being, must travel in order to reach the fertile nurturing regions.

In the upper register of this hour, four deities are shown.

The first is a mummiform god known as the ‘Veiled One.’ “The ‘Veiled One’ perhaps refers to the concealment of death or wounds of Osiris – only initiates were allowed to see the weariness of Osiris, who must be protected from his enemies.” [p120, Roberts, My Heart, My Mother.]

The second deity is a figure entitled Djed, ‘The One Who is Stable’. “Djed, (the Stable One) is an obvious allusion to the djed pillar and the raising of Osiris from the inertia and inactivity he has fallen into because of Seth’s wicked deeds against him.” [p120, Roberts, My Heart, My Mother.]

The final two deities are “The One-who-is-in-his-Shrine” and an enthroned goddess, “She who is Seated,” which is an obvious allusion to Aset.

Further Reading

  • The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
  • My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts

 

The Third Hour.

The second hour of the afterlife journey heralds the moment when the sun god and the journeying soul truly enter into the afterlife. The overall view from this portion of the journey highlights the inertia one can experience within the first true hour of the journey: beings in sarcophagi or mummified litter the various books of the netherworld, highlighting that passiveness within will do nothing to allow beings to move forward.

The third hour comes across as an hour filled with elemental power, as we shall see.

The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]

The flood waters of the Nun are highlighted again within this hour, now called the Water of Osiris. He is shown again and again within this hour, being seen four times in the White Crown and four more times in the Red Crown. In addition to Osiris within the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, two depictions of the Orion constellation, which was associated with him, are shown as well.

The flood waters of the Nun are a primary focus here, not merely because these waters grant the necessary moisture for crops and food to grow in the underworld. The floods from the Nun are chaotic but necessary, just as the inundation of the Nile was. It is through this hour that the old is dissolved in order to allow a renewal of the necessary fertility to feed the myriad denizens of the Netherworld.

The solar barque dominates the middle register of this hour, showing a total of four boats. Each boat shows Ra within, which “points to a fragmentation of the unity of the Sungod into four” [p49, Abt & Hornung, Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat – A Quest for Immortality]. Each boat depicts two oarsman to steer through the flood waters and a serpent for protection against the enemies of the solar deity.

While the seeming fragmenting of the solar god may seem counter-intuitive, Abt & Hornung go on to explain:

This dissociation is counterbalanced by four gods who approach the four barques from the right. Their names are Lord of water, Moor of the earth, He who sets the limits, and He who sees the limits. This points to their order-bringing function.

The overall point being that while this hour is full of chaos, it is a necessary chaos in order to fulfill the needed inundation for the underworld. To counteract this necessary chaos, to ensure that it doesn’t tip over into the realm of true isfet, four deities are brought forth to ensure that ma’at will prevail.

The Book of Gates

Mummiform beings are shown at the top of the register for this hour, however they are shown being awakened from their deaths. They grow animated within their shrine spaces. Within this register, the Lake of Fire is depicted. The Blessed Dead are able to use this Lake to equip themselves for the journey forward, however this very same Lake turn to fire for those who are damned.

The solar god is towed forward through this hour within the “barque of the earth.” He is also outfitted with clean, white clothes to symbolize his renewal. We also catch our first glimpse of A/pep, which is shown in its form of a giant serpent. This s/nake is in front of Atum, who is assisted in his need to overcome the s/nake to move forward.

The Book of Caverns

Ra passes through on his journey and is shown to enter an area where the ithyphallic body of Osiris resides beneath the god, Aker. Aker is depicted in his twinned sphinx form, being able to see both yesterday and tomorrow, while Osiris lays passively beneath him. Aker is surrounded by a myriad of gods of the Ennead. Above this depiction, the pharaoh is associated with Osiris on his journey to become one of the Blessed Dead.

Within the same area as the depiction of Aker, we come into contact with four forms of Osiris, all of whom are indicated to be “lords of the Duat.” Ra, in his form as an old man, addresses each one of them. Behind Aker, another form of Osiris is shown, this time within his sarcophagus. This form of Osiris is also shown with the eye of Ra and a ram’s head, surrounded by an ouroboros “and evidently stressing the unity of Re and Osiris; Osiris is depicted again, atop a serpent, as ‘the one who has become two’.” [p87, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife].

Beneath these forms, the enemies of the gods are shown in their punishments within the Place of Annihilation and within the primeval darkness. They are further punished when their bau are shown hanging upside down. Within the middle of these enemies, the ithyphallic form of Osiris’s corpse is again shown. He is also within the darkness as their enemies.

The Book of Night

The entrance to the Third Hour brings us to the uvula of Nut, or to the back of the mouth. The barque is guided forward by the “Bull of the Two Lands” through the gateway, which is called: “She who lights the fire, the quencher of embers, with sharp flames, quick in killing without hesitation. She from whom there is no protection. She by whom one cannot pass without harm. The one who rears up towards her lord.” It is in this hour that the deceased announces that he has become one of the Akh, having renewed himself within the previous hour.

Beings are depicted beneath the barque, in various phases of their transformations: the Awakened Ones, the Sleeping Ones, the Silent Ones, the Revived Ones, the Floating Ones, the Transfigured Ones, and the Shadows. In addition, there are beings of three who are named: Those of the Field and Those of the Channels. “Attracted towards waking and sleeping in the maternal arms, all are caught in various phases of the rebirth journey, deep in the inner recesses of the even-tide, just like Ihy” [p117, Roberts, My Heart, My Mother].


Further Reading

  • The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
  • My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts

 

The Second Hour.

The first hour of the afterlife journey heralds the moment when liminality has overtaken the sun god and the journeying soul as they move from one form of life to the next. I have personally come to view that first hour as a form of preparation, a sort of time period as brief as it may be, where one must bolster itself for the trip ahead.

The second hour begins as a journey through a named gateway and the journey in truth begins.

The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]

This hour grants us access to the underworld in truth. The area is a fertile region, watered by the primeval ocean of Nun. The area is known as Wernes in the Amduat. The solar barque is featured with four companion boats, which are filled with provisions for the journey ahead. The primary barque shows Nephthys and Isis as serpents, guarding the barque on its journey forward.

In the fourth boat, Ma’at appears as a feather supported by a god without a name. Beside the oversized feather, a moon is represented as both a lunar disc and lunar crescent. This representation of the moon is atypical of the afterlife. The moon is not usually shown as the sun is replacing the moon on its journey through the hours. The visual of the moon seems to by representative of the rejuvenation of time and of the dead.

Time is further represented with gods holding up the signs for time and season. These grouped gods are separated by a third group baring aloft knives. The gods holding the signs for time and season are ensuring that the timing of the season of the year follows the sequence it should. They are also ensuring that agricultural year of the netherworld provides for the deceased. The knife-wielding deities between protect both groups from anything that would prevent the above from happening.

This shows the cyclical nature of this hour. Ra provides for the gods and deceased of the underworld through his shining sunlight, ensuring the growth of the necessary agriculture to feed the underworld’s inhabitants. He also assigns them the plots of land they require to facilitate the growth of the produce the inhabitants need. In the same vein, the inhabitants are also providing for Ra as he roams through the hour, giving him sustenance in the fruits and vegetables they have grown in their plots of land.

The Book of Gates

The second hour for this book shows a myriad of inhabitants. Those who have spoken Ma’at and live in Ma’at have been transfigured into their forms as the Blessed Dead. Those who have not been transfigured are scolded by Atum. The four cardinal points of the earth are also represented as the “Weary Ones,” seeming to indicate that they too need regeneration.

The Book of Caverns

The guardian serpents of this area restrict access after which one is ushered towards multiple deities within sarcophagi. Further on, multiple forms of Wesir are shown, including his own sarcophagus. Beneath the many bodies of Wesir, we see bound and decapitated enemies, some of whom have had their hearts torn out and their bodies hung upside down. Ra condemns these enemies to non-existence, sending them to the Place of Annihilation.

The Book of Night

The entrance to the Second Hour brings us to Nut’s mouth and is heralded by a named Gateway. This Gateway is titled: “Lady of trembling, high of walls, pre-eminent one, Lady of destruction, who foresees aggression and repels the raging, who saves the robbed from the one who comes from afar. Lady of terror.” The guide through this gateway is known as Bull of Light.

There are nine mummiform figures within this hour, known as The Transfigured Ones, The Mummies, and The Dead. They rest upon lion beds and Sia watches over them, commanding: “Count your hearts, receive your offerings.”

Next to the mummiform figures, there are three more groups of people shown: two men with a woman in between. These beings are known as Inert Ones, Punished Ones, and Those of the Opposite Sky. They are either swimming or lying prone, stuck in various phases of the renewal process. They lie passively within this hour, allowing their lives to be surrendered to whatever fate has in store for them. Sia watches over these beings, commanding, “Measure your banks, lift up your legs.”

This hour is about nudging those who had not continued the rejuvenation process for one reason or another, and forcing them to reawaken themselves from their inert forms. They are being told that they must take command of their bodily functions rather than allow the inertia of this hour to overtake them.

The integration of the body is integral for this hour and the push is that in order to move forward, one must gradually reunite with one’s body parts to become fully rejuvenated. “Initially then, all the faculties of the body have to be renewed and the body gradually reunited with its different members. And this ‘gathering together’ serves as the secure foundation on which the whole journey ultimately rests. For it is only after their bodies have been renewed that the night travellers can proceed further in their journey”  [p116, Roberts, My Heart, My Mother].

The final note for this hour is that the recommendation is that one should embody Ihy as Ihy has experience with inertia and the Inert Ones. Ihy, the son of Hathor, endures as inert in the primal waters before being reborn as the radiant child of Hathor and Heru-Wer.

 

Further Reading

  • The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
  • My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts

The First Hour.

The various books of the afterlife are many and varied. While their content are among the same lines, the setup and journey through the underworld varies. What one finds in the Book of Night is not necessarily what one will find in the Book of the Hidden Chamber, or Amduat. The wide range of subject matter, and even the topography of the Duat described therein, hints at the ever changing focus of the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs.

Each book follows the same general layout in that the sun god’s journey lasts for a full twelve hours as the sun god passes through the Netherworld. The Netherworld could be a whole other world or be housed within the body of Nut. The books where the sun god travels through the body of Nut correlates in some way to her body and I will make sure to address which body part we know or we suspect the hour is related to.

The move from one hour to the next heralds a passing through a gateway, most of which we have the names for. The names of these gateways tend to foreshadow what the next hour relates to on the god’s journey to renewal and rebirth. Where I know the name of the gateway, I will make sure to highlight that information.

The first hour doesn’t seem to have a gateway of its own that the god passes through from his journey of daylight into the night. Hornung references regularly to these first hours in his book as “interstitial” places; liminality reigns supreme in these hours. It is the place where the sun god breaks the barrier from one realm to the next so that he can move forward on his journey towards renewal and rebirth.

The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]

Each book of the Amduat starts with a heading except for the First Hour. This is a common theme in afterlife literature, so it may be that the ancient Egyptians didn’t want to include it as they believed that to write something was to give it permanence. Perhaps, though they didn’t feel that an introduction for the First Hour of the Amduat was a necessity as they open the book with a detailed introduction, indicating that the Amduat stresses knowledge: “it promises knowledge of netherworldly phenomena nine (which is Egyptian stands for “many, many”) times” [p33, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife].

The first hour describes an ordered list of the important beings that occur in the afterlife. The lists include both the beings that the sun god will come into contact with as well as those in his retinue. The solar barque depicted in the Amduat is overflowing with a variety of gods to help the sun god on his journey. All beings are shown to be filled with joy, except the enemies of the sun god, as they are greeted by the sun god on his nightly journey.

The goddess Ma’at is shown twice in this first hour. In both instances, she is shown standing before the solar barque. This seems to indicate that she is as integral to the solar god’s journey of renewal as the sun god himself.

In the middle register, a scene seems to represent that Ra has already succeeded on his journey through the netherworld: “the sun god is already present in his morning form of the scarab beetle; the beginning of the journey thus already alludes to its successful completion” [p35, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife].

This first hour is not a true hour of the underworld, or at least is not truly described in such terms. The sun god has yet to truly enter the netherworld, which could also be why there is no heading or gateway indicated in this hour. It is only upon entry into the second hour that the journey truly begins.

The Book of Gates

In this book of the Netherworld, the solar barque has only two gods traveling as companions with the sun god, Sia and Heka. Ma’at is not shown in any capacity during this hour. The boat’s cabin is protected by a Mehen-serpent, as though to keep the sun god safe from all the upcoming dangers.

In the Book of the Amduat, the sun god was greeted upon entry into the netherworld by a multitude of gods. In the Book of Gates, the collective dead witness his entry into the night hours and greet him.

This first hour is also not a true hour of the netherworld. No true description of the hour exists and it only serves as a sort of introduction to the eventual journey of the sun god through the netherworld.

The Book of Caverns

It is this book that focuses more on the journey of the sun god on his way to merge with Osiris. Osiris was depicted in the previous two books discussed, however his imagery almost seemed to be an anecdote or a mention in passing. Here, Ra and Osiris are almost seen as aspects of the same god as the sun god journey to the body of Osiris in his intent to merge and renew himself with Osiris.

The first hour discusses Ra’s journey specifically in its relation to care for Osiris and to send his enemies to their deaths. “Ra turns directly to Osiris and extends his hands to him. Osiris is represented in a shrine that is surrounded protectively by a serpent; those in his following are also protected by serpents inside their sarcophagi.” [p85, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife] Below this scene, the enemies of Osiris are punished in the “Place of Annihilation.” The ultimate punishment is visited upon them: Ra banishes them to non-existence.

The Book of Night

As with the first hours discussed in the Book of the Amduat and the Book of Caverns, no first hour truly exists. It is not until the sun god enters the second hour that the journey to rebirth/renewal begins. In the Book of Night, the first “hour” is associated with the arms of Nut. The sun god’s solar barque travels within her body and in order to truly enter the Netherworld housed within her, he must travel up her arms on his way to her mouth.

And that is the sum total of information regarding the first hours of the books I have some access to. The first hours are less about the journey itself and more in line with a sort of setup, or along the lines of an introduction to a novel, for the journey through the netherworld.

Further Reading

  • The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
  • My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts

Grounding and Centering: A Guide.

I go through periods where I start to feel as if my skeleton is trying to jump out of my body. I’m probably not alone here. I’ve seen remarks on various blogospheres and overheard friends saying similar things, so I can at least admit that I’m not alone when I feel this way. It gets to the point, sometimes, where I am so fucking jumpy and uncomfortable in my skin that I feel very much like I’ve been mainlining caffeine for weeks and am now just rushing around on the high. Days and weeks can pass before I even recognize my own patterns enough to realize that I’m having some issues. When it finally dawns on me that I am falling into old patterns – can’t sit still, nothing sounds right when I write it, everything pisses me off, and nothing I do is seemingly good enough – I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve done something to center myself and I should probably work on that.

The thing is, when I first noticed this issue a few years ago, all of the advice I found on those self-help websites was just a load of shit.

In every do-it-yourself guide or “Seven Easy Days to Spiritual Nirvana” type book that is out there, they tell you to ground and center. They tell you to be with the trees and throw down some roots and just go to town with sending all that wonky energy into the earth. They tell you about how that’s the whole point in Mother Earth and just toss it right on down and bring in the good energy that Mother Earth is surely wanting you to have. I tried absolutely everything I could do in order to get down with some trees and send that useless energy right where it belongs. The thing is that I realized something pretty quickly: while I can visualize this all happening, I don’t want to be a fucking tree. I’m a human being with human emotions, which occasionally get so out-of-control that I end up feeling like I’m going to puke our rainbow chunks of emotional cartilage at the next person who looks at me. None of these are things that, I think, trees go through. Besides, if I wanted to be a tree or at least act like a tree, I would have probably have signed up for being a tree in my next life.

I chose to come out a human being and to be a human being, so why the hell am I going to emulate trees? Sure, they’re nice to look at it. They do really awesome things like purify air (or some shit) and they provide shade in the heat. But, I don’t want to emulate one in any context. I just want to get this energy overload out of me.

With every ounce of advice I’ve seen on websites, in books, and going around Tumblr, I’ve just kind of had to shake my head at all and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I liken myself to Finn the Human from the episode, Up a Tree, I’m ready to make my break from all of that bullshit. I don’t need a bunch of people trying to induct me into their tree-loving cult. I’ll just go right on ahead and find my own way, but of course, next comes the question: if you can’t ground and center like the people who are “in the know” tell you that you should, then what the fuck are you supposed to do?

Quite often, I think we all forget that as children, we would do things that would ground and center us. We would run around with our friends, ride bikes, climb trees, play games, and do any number of things that, upon reflection, can clearly be seen as acts bent on grounding and centering ourselves. I can’t even tell you how many times a week, when my son is running around like a wild child in somebody’s yard or just generally all over the place with the other kids, that I hear someone say to me, “He is going to sleep well tonight.” And it’s not really that he’s going to run himself down, but that he is subjecting the world and his family and his friends unto the energy build up in his little body, sending it out and into the universe to do what it will while it leaves him a fraction at a time.

To me, it seems like the people from that in-the-tree-part-of-the-tree mentality seem to think that we, as adults, can’t do that or shouldn’t do that. We have to send all of that energy into Mother Earth while we take energy in return. And I think, people, as a whole, frown on the idea of adults doing the things that children do in order to release all of that pent up energy. But honestly, I have to say that’s bollocks (both parts). If it works for a bunch of six-year-olds, playing hide-and-go-seek and shouting their fool heads off, why can’t we, as adults, do the same fucking thing but with adult-like things? Not doing that, in my opinion, doesn’t make a damn lick of sense when it did fifteen, twenty, thirty, or more years ago when we were all just children, shouting into the darkness with our friends.

When I first realized that I wasn’t going to be able or willing to follow what everyone always said “worked,” I have to admit that I flailed a bit. There is something almost comforting in the idea of being like everyone else. It means that what they do will absolutely work for you and whatever hard work one must put in to discover what works for the individual is not your problem. However, I am an individual and while I think trees are fucking nifty, I’m not going to act like one because I’m out of sorts and overly bitchy. This, of course, meant that I had to start figuring out how to get to that magical state, or really mundane state, of not-going-to-kill-bitches-today. While killing someone is probably highly therapeutic, the court system highly frowns on such practices. So for those of us – because I know that I’m not alone here – who aren’t down with the tree shenanigans, it means it’s time for some trial and error.

Some good news, though, about my having felt as if my skeleton were getting ready to go around on walkabout is that I have a list of possibilities! The bad news is that it is going to take whatever intrepid reader is interested in exploring these options some trial and error before they figure out what works best for them. Again, as much fun as it may be to be like everyone else, we are all individuals. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for anyone else reading this. But perhaps, by offering these suggestions, it will give people worried and freaking out (and possibly seconds away from ripping off peoples’ faces) something to consider before they get to the breaking point (and possibly rip off peoples’ faces).

1. Dancing

I think this is probably one of the biggest suggestions that people of the not-a-tree persuasion recommend. And I honestly have to admit that I don’t listen to this advice very often. I should, though, because there is just something about getting hot and sweaty, heart-pumping and booty-shaking that can really bring things into focus or loose them into the atmosphere to disappear on the a wave of pent-up energy. And the act of dancing doesn’t even have to be anything over-the-top, either. Sometimes, I don’t have the ability to do much actual dancing for lots of reasons: self-conscious, not enough room, stuck in a car, etc. So, sometimes, to me, releasing that pent-up, fuck-off-everything energy is as simple as tapping my feet or fingers to the beat of whatever is on the radio. Or, maybe it’s wiggling my butt while I’m sitting on the couch writing a blog entry (as I am actually doing right this moment). But sometimes, you actually need to get up and just fucking go with it, with a partner or without. Whatever the case may be, dancing should definitely top the lists of all people in the not-a-tree group of individuals.

The song, in my experience, doesn’t even really matter, either. I will dance to whatever the fuck I want to, whenever the fuck I want to. I’ve spent whole days listening to 50s classic rock and dancing the out-of-sorts a way. I’ve spent my drives home from work, overwrought from a long day of intense bullshit, listening to something like Painkiller by Three Days Grace or Desperately Wanting by Better than Ezra in an effort to get that feeling out of my bones. Right now, I’m actually obsessively listening to Timber by Pitbull feat Kesha while I wiggle this shit right the hell out of my system. Whatever the hell you choose is entirely up to you and how the fuck you get your body moving doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is that you get your ass in gear and start moving.

2. Walking/Jogging

This probably goes hand-in-hand with dancing. I think it’s one of the more popular recommendations out there for those of us who don’t belong to the part-of-the-tree group of people. As with dancing, it is the act of doing something that gives you what you need in order to release all of that fuck-shit-up energy going on with you. I spent a lot of time, for months, just walking randomly wherever the hell my feet were willing to take me. I had no particular goal in mind because it wasn’t the act of walking that was important. The important part was that I was feeling incredibly out of control with everything going on around me and I needed a form of escape. To me, becoming one with the trees doesn’t help me when I want to escape the “rah” screaming fits that I may feel deep inside. However, doing something, like dancing or walking, was exactly what I needed in order to get out from under the pressure of the energy build up.

I would spend hours walking around my neighborhood, just putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, I would listen to music as I walked and sometimes, I didn’t. It all depended on how quickly I needed to get somewhere before I felt like I was going to rip someone’s face off or break into a thousand pieces because of the overload going on. Whatever the case may be, it was the act of actually moving that helped me to focus my mind long enough to try and find a way out from underneath everything that was poking my insides and making me feel as if I was getting ready to jump out of my skin.

3. Baking

It was only when I was unemployed that I realized how much I really enjoyed baking. It’s an organized activity that requires (if you’re following a new recipe, at least) exact requirements and attention. This appeased my obsessive compulsive side. However, the act of actually mixing everything together is just a mind-numbing enough project to not really require you to pay attention it. It was a perfect mix to make both sides of my personality feel at peace. And each action – by adding an ingredient – can help to release some of the pent up aggression/out-of-sort/da-fuck-am-I-feeling that’s going on. As the process of baking goes on, I start to slip into the rhythm of it. It gives me something to focus on enough to not feel as if everything I am attempting to do is going to turn into some fucked up piece of shit, but it also gives me enough creativity to allow myself a little free reign with what I’m making. And the more you do it, the more comfortable you get with the overall process, so you’re less likely to behave like a wreck when you’re adding new things.

But each action that is required for the overall baking process can be used to release some tension in specific areas, too, which is why I think it’s such a good way to get my head back to where I need it to be (under my skin). Cracking eggs? Good for being pissed off and needing to take some anger out on something. Need to make sure butter is soft before adding it? Good for staring moodily into space while you get your head in the game. Measuring out enough flour? Good for control freaks feeling out-of-control. You see? Every aspect to baking can be used to help bring your head back under control in some context. If that’s not fucking awesome, then seriously, what the fuck is?

4. Dishes

I hate doing laundry and I hate cleaning, but I don’t actually mind doing the dishes. (Sh, no one tell my ex-husband and my ex-roommate that because, let me tell you, I put up some damn fights about washing the dishes.) During the phase that I was unemployed, it was a simple enough chore to get done early in the morning. And it was during this chore that I found that I had the ability to let my mind wander enough to figure out whatever may have been bothering me at the time. There is something about mindless actions, specifically the repetitive actions, that calms my mind enough to focus on something long enough to start to explore why I may be feeling so out-of-sorts. Occasionally, I’ll find that I have absolutely no fucking reason and it’s because, well, I’ve been so do-do-do that I’ve stopped to take time for myself. And while doing something as chore-like as the dishes might not seem like taking time out for oneself, it is in my book. My hands are busy and it’s something that I can’t really fuck up, but my mind isn’t busy and it’s able to traverse whatever little rambling road it may feel like walking down. It’s actually when I’m doing the dishes that I have some of my more intense epiphanies regarding my religious path, so I suppose it’s something akin to meditating (which isn’t something I am able to do). But it’s also the time when I am able to stop whatever the fuck wildness is going on in my life long enough to come back to myself feeling a little relieved and a lot less as if my skin is going to jump right the fuck off my bones.

And with baking, the very act of cleansing the dishes can be seen as an overall metaphor for grounding and centering. The dishes are dirty – they’re a metaphor for how cray-cray the feelings are getting. The soap and sponge are the act of meditating into the state where you can finally find your center. The rinsing off of the soap is the grounding as you send the nasty fucked up energy off into the sewer system. You see? Even though I’m not a fan of the whole part-of-the-tree cliques out there, I can still find the metaphor useful when I find something much more workable, for me.

5. Card Shuffling

It’s difficult for people, I think, in my particular individualistic ground-and-centering genre to meditate like the be-like-trees group tend to talk about it. They tend to make it seem like a very mystical experience and I get that, to a degree. However, I have found that I can’t really mediate, which may be why I have a hard time with the be-a-tree mentality. Whatever the case may be, I’ve found that many of my grounding and centering techniques are a form of meditation that allow me to let loose long enough to release the pent up energy going on inside. Part of these acts is shuffling any one of my myriad of Tarot decks. The act of actually shuffling the deck quiets my mind enough to settle on whatever it is that may be causing me to feel so out-of-control to finally get it under control.

By shuffling, I’m giving myself the quiet time that my body needs in order to get to where it should be. And the act of actually pulling the cards is me flicking the excess energy into the universe, while also seeking all of the Tarot answers that may be available to me.

This isn’t the complete list of things that I’ve found to aid me with grounding and centering. Depending on the situation, and just how overwrought I may be feeling, I may do something smaller or something more expansive than what I’ve listed here. The point being that it’s not all sitting around and trying to act like trees. Sometimes, it really is just all about getting up and fucking moving enough to unleash the turmoil going on deep inside by whatever [legal] means necessary.

Poor-As-Fuck Polytheism.

As some people may already be aware, there’s been a shit storm this weekend. I’ve been watching it from my couch in between bouts of coughing and high-grade fever. It’s been entertaining and interesting to see all the various blog posts, finger-pointing, and general comments flying back and forth. I’ve enjoyed it while I attempt to recoup as much energy as I can before heading back to work tomorrow and contending with the energy requirements of Christmas Eve and Christmas. I will admit that the original post that began this latest firestorm really did get to me. I even commented on it – not that anyone clicking on that link would know. Tess wasn’t willing to approve my comment, which is her right. It is, after all, her blog. However, I pointed out that since the original post she was referring to was actually based on a Kemetic standpoint, more specifically the god Serapis asking for some low down from someone, that her libations statement was incorrect. But, of course, it’s okay! She put a parenthetical statement that said “it can depend on context.” However, if you’re going to start making posts regarding someone’s attempts at starting a relationship with a new god, then you should probably refer to the relationship building in terms of the culture that god stems from.

It’s a novel concept, but I digress.

What came later was a lot of shit flinging from the on-high polytheists that usually end up doing this. Tess Dawson followed up her middling to fair post with a true gem in which she makes racist comments and bitches about poor people. She decided that poor people shouldn’t have “nice things.” Apparently, owning a newfangled cell phone is above and beyond the poor; having an Internet connection in your home is seriously pushing your budget; you should only buy your clothes in second hand shops; and last but not least, you can definitely pour out a few drops of wine, milk, water, etc. to the gods in question since people “living in an inner-city ghetto in a gang war zone can manage on occasion to pour out a 40 to his homies.” Ouch. That’s a lot of assumptions and broad generalizations there. It was these comments as well as her absolutely staunch believe that she knows the financial situation of every poor person who happens to be a polytheist that really got people up in arms. Of course, her posse purposely misunderstood why people were upset.

Galina waxed poetic about having been poor once and then shamed poor people into giving offerings because they can afford food. And of course, Dver kept it classy by defending Tess’s racial statements and then proceeded to bitch at a Latina for having an opinion before she and her cronies bitched out a Haitian descendant for having an opinion, as well. I think we can just slow clap this one down in the history books.

Not only did these people completely miss the point that the working poor polytheists out there were making, but they really made themselves look about as classy as a three dollar bill. What makes all of this worse is that they really and truly believe their way is the only way. Since quite clearly, it takes all manner of people to make the world go ’round, the same applies to polytheistic traditions. If Tess hadn’t made an attempt to make an “all-encompassing polytheist guide” to the polytheists out there, this probably wouldn’t have been such a huge issue. The problem with these people – and their pet pit bull, Sannion – is that you cannot speak about polytheism an “all-encompassing” anything. The only similarity between my flavor of polytheism is that we all believe there are a lot of gods – and that’s it. My practice is not their practice is not your practice is not Joe Blow’s practice is not anyone else’s practice. It is unique and personal and wholly mine just as the same applies to their practices and to yours. There is no right way; there is no wrong way. There is only a practice that is what each individual makes of it.

The real issue with these types of ignorant statements about what poor people can and cannot do or what they can and cannot afford is the fact that they just simply don’t know how fucking poor we all are. Unless they take a poll of each polytheist who professes to be poor, they’ll never know why they have nice things. Perhaps the nice things were purchased when times were easier. Perhaps the nice things were after saving hard for the item in question. Or perhaps the nice items were acquired because sometimes the “bad decisions” poor people make actually make perfect sense. Whatever the case may be, they’re only taking a single and very narrow viewpoint about what poor people should be like and ignoring the majority of what poor people are actually like.

Another thing that they are not taking into consideration is that being poor isn’t just about financial status. It isn’t just as simple as making money or not making money; being on assistance programs or not being on assistance programs. There is no neatly defined specifications of what a poor person is or is not. But every single one of us have something in common with one another. You see, the thing these people are forgetting or merely just don’t know is that being poor isn’t only about the money, but it’s also about the mentality and emotional state that goes along with it. It’s about being poor and being poor. There’s a certain mental state and emotional frazzled state that goes along with the burden of being poor and that is something that is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to fight against.

With each day, if a poor person has a job, they go out and they do the job. In those instances, if they don’t have anything that can take their mind off of their financial situation, then they’re thinking about what bills haven’t been paid and how long they have before the electric company will turn off the electricity or where the next propane gas tank payment is going to come from. If they’re lucky enough to shut that shit down at work, then they get to go home and return to that careworn and frazzled state that they left that morning. It’s harder when they’re at home to ignore all the pending crises that could be sneaking up on them because they’re at home, whether that’s with a steady roof over their head or in a shelter. And they have to face their state over and over again. With that comes guilt, horror, shame, failure feels, and a myriad of other mental and emotional pinpricks that can get under the skin deep enough and far enough to make it nearly impossible to keep from losing all hope. Dante had it right, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate,” but it’s not just about the Ninth Circle of Hell: it’s also about being part of that classification of being poor.

And with all of those dangerous and painful feelings comes the ongoing blather from the mind.

I have it pretty bad. I’ve been scraping by with my job. I actually made more money when I was unemployed. I’ve only recently been granted food stamps again because I am about a thousand dollars a month below the federal poverty level for a family of three. Let that sink in for a minute: as the only person working, I make about a grand less than the federal poverty level each month. And with the money that I do have, I have to pay all of the bills and all of the extraneous and silly items, like gas to get to work, on that income. What makes it worse is that I have a son. I have a beautiful little boy who really and truly makes me feel loved and like I can do no wrong, but in my off moments, I’m often wondering how I could have brought him into a life like this. On top of the usual terrible feelings of failing and shame, I get the added bonus of feeling like a really shitty parent because I can’t afford to get my son new clothes, I can’t afford to let him go on any school field trips, I can’t afford to give him nice things like some of his friends have. But he looks up at me with those love filled eyes and for just a moment, I know it can be okay.

I’m lucky that I have a child because sometimes, the feelings go away.

I know there are plenty of people who don’t have an out like I do. I know there are a ton of people who can’t shut their mind off at work. I know there are a ton of people who don’t have distractions handy to forget the horrible situations they’re in. So, in that regard, I’m lucky. What else makes me lucky is that I still have my faith. I may be a poor polytheist by the Piety Posse’s standards, but I know that I’m not. I know, strongly and without doubt, that what I do and how I do it is okay. It works. They’re pleased with it. And I think that if others can kind of use what I have in similar situations, then maybe, just maybe, the horror of their situations may just fade, just a little bit and for just a little while. So, let’s get to it. Here we go.

  1. Food and beverage offerings.
  2. Food is pretty expensive. I spend a lot of my time in the grocery store, hemming and hawing over what I can afford versus what I actually need. The two lists don’t usually meet down the middle. Sometimes, I can get things like vegetables in my house because the frozen vegetables go on sale. At my grocery store, last week, I was able to get those really expensive name brand, individual vegetable portions at a buck a piece. I sure as hell stocked up. But in my house, we’re big on fruits. And outside of bananas, which are pretty cheap, I end up holding back a lot when I would prefer to go wild. I would like to buy pomegranates for Sekhmet and I would like to buy grapes for Djehuty and I would love to be able to figure out how to purchase a pineapple for Papa Legba, who has been asking for some months. Instead, I look at the prices of the apples and the pears and the grapes and I usually end up with a bunch of bananas and two apples and maybe an orange if they’re on sale, too, and my son, TH, and I end up eating them. They rarely go to the gods.

    When it comes to other items to offer, I’m on even less of a good scale here. The idea of leaving bread out for even a second is anathema to me. My son is at a piss-poor nutritional phase right now. That means that bread and peanut butter are all he’s willing to eat without serious arguments. So, we go through a lot of bread and I’m not usually the one who ends up eating it. I’m not going to take away from my son’s daily routine just so that the gods can have some bread. I’m also not going to remove a piece of steak from my mouth or my son’s mouth just so the gods can have some once in a while. None of them seem particularly interested in chicken, which is one of the cheapest things I can afford right now, no matter how many times I offer it. And now that things are as hard and as expensive as they are, I don’t dare sacrifice even a hint of food to them. My survival and the survival of my family is first and foremost. Besides, if I’m suffering from malnutrition because I’m too busy loading food off of my plate to the gods’ plates, then what good am I really doing? I may look like a totally “awesomely devout” polytheist, but point of fact, I would just be emulating a bunch of selfish twatwaffles who don’t deserve the time of day. So, why bother?

    Besides, the gods don’t seem to want me to take away from myself on their behalf. It isn’t so much about sacrifice in an attempt to look more devout, but about the intent behind what you’re offering. And if you’re so worried about money and how not to waste things, then the intent isn’t going to be there. There are other ways around this, whether you eat your offerings or not.

    A while ago, I was crying to my netjeru about money. I was feeling awfully low and feeling like I wasn’t doing my duty as their devotee. I mean, my offerings were very sparse and far between. I felt like a heel for failing to give them food stuffs. I thought that I could maybe bake for them, but even scraping together the money for eggs was pretty hard. So, I was just coasting. And that’s when I remembered votive offerings. Now, Devo is probably the best known Kemetic who does this. She uses Re-Ment to provide food offerings of varying quality to her gods. Votive offerings were pretty big in ancient Egypt, so it’s historically attested. When I waltzed into the Hobby Lobby near me and saw that the dollhouse food items were on sale for less than a buck on payday, I figured that it was a sign to go ahead and do so. It’s not the quality of the dollhouse food items because, really, they’re pretty crappily made (as someone whose family did the dollhouse stuff when I was a kid – I know the difference between the “good stuff” and the “cheap stuff”). But the intent was behind what I was aiming to do.

    The really neat thing about this is that we don’t even need to buy things like dollhouse food stuffs or Re-Ment. If a polytheist is even remotely good at drawing, they could maybe draw up an offering plate of bread and butter and meat and whatever else comes into their minds. Even if they’re not, they could simply write down the names of what they wanted to offer. It would still be considered a votive offering of the items in question because the intent is still there. Yeah, sure. It’s nice having a physical reminder of what you want to offer your gods – an image of some sort – but even words are good enough. If there are polytheists who can get by on providing nothing but prayers to their gods, then I think we can get by with writing out what a full meal would look like or be comprised of in order to make ends meet.

    A lot of people end up only being able to provide beverage type items in offering to their gods. Before I managed to find the cheap ass dollhouse food, I was in that boat. While the idea of being able to give shot glasses of booze or cups of milk or maybe some juice, even, sounds like a good idea, the money problem comes up again and again. Each cup that we may leave out, even for a second, could be taking away from what we need and what our families may need. Sharing a cup of tea with the gods is one thing but if you don’t even have the money for tea bags? Well, it goes beyond sacrifice and moves into the realm of “nope.” Of course, reversion of offerings stands here along with food, but the idea of leaving it out for an untold amount of time while the gods drink up what they want kind of squicks me out. It’s one thing to leave out a glass of juice for a few minutes, but there’s something less than pleasing about drinking a cup of milk after it’s already been sitting out for five minutes. (Personal preference here, maybe?) Whatever the reason – I’m not going to remove a cup of anything from my stomach, my son’s stomach, and I’m not going to discuss it. So, what else did that leave me?

    Before the dollhouse food, I was only giving cool water to the netjeru and nothing else. I just couldn’t bring myself to sacrifice the food, so I gave them cups of water. I’m not a huge fan of water, but I also understand that conservation efforts need to be made. We can’t just assume that the resource will always be there. If there are states that can send people to jail for collecting rain water, then maybe it really is a pretty hot commodity. Whatever the reason, we need to think about conservation here while also being able to provide beverages, right? We can always re-use the water in some way, too, though. I actually end up re-using the water in my dog’s water dish every day. I give her the cups of water after the gods are “done” with it. I’ve also reused it to water plants in my home as well. However, water is free for me. It goes along with my rent. And I know that not everyone has that luxury. I used to have to pay for water in the apartment I lived in down south and there may not be a lot of landlords/landladies who are willing to throw in any bonuses in this economy. So, what to do?

    Again, we come back to votive offerings. If the above example of dollhouse foods or Re-Ment is used, then we can go ahead and have more than just a simple cup of water to give. There are wines and beers and milk and juices to provide for the gods. And in same vein, as said above, if push comes to shove and the purchase of votive offerings isn’t something that can be done, then write about it or draw it.

    What if, however, the polytheist is too poor to afford paper? Paper, like food and water, can be pretty expensive. You may not have ink to print something off and be unable to afford it. You may not have the ability to rub two pennies together so owning a pen and paper may be hard, too. What about speech? I realize I’m coming from a Kemetic viewpoint so my point-of-view regarding how powerful speech is goes beyond what other polytheists may believe. But even in ancient Egypt, the act of speaking, the words themselves, had power to them. And if you used your heka just right, you could probably just get away with speaking what you wanted to provide for the gods and they would be okay. I don’t know if the other cultures have similar views about words and the power of speech. But I bet if a polytheist inquires after the gods and how they feel about the power of speech, they may give you a good idea.

    And if they prefer the votive food offering, on paper for instance, maybe borrowing pen and paper from a friend or from a center could help. I know that when I have to go to my local food stamps office, there is paper and pens everywhere. And sometimes, I walk away with those pens. (Not on purpose, but because I stick them in my hair and then leave.) And there is scratch paper left behind from various others who have needed it to figure out their finances or needed to write down extras that the little paper applications don’t have room for. So, maybe surreptitiously taking the paper from an office like that, maybe that could go to providing the libations and offerings that you want to give to your gods. Besides, if a resource that is available to the poor is willing to leave things like that out, then maybe they really mean for you to have the things in questions like spare paper and pens. Whatever the case may be, if words aren’t sufficient, I think paper and pen can work just fine in a pinch.

  3. Non-perishable offerings.
  4. Offerings aren’t just about the food and the water, though. As much as people make a big deal about those things, they’re not the be-all, end-all. A lot of people forget that offerings, at least in antiquity, weren’t just about the pile of food that the priests or the people could provide for their gods. While the offering formula, at least of ancient Egypt, talks a big game about food, there were other things that were offered. Specifically, the formula says, “He gives invocation offerings of bread, beer, oxen, birds, alabaster, clothing, and every good and pure thing upon which a god lives.” And sometimes, it would end with something like, “Every good and pure thing that the sky gives, the earth creates, the inundation brings, on which the god lives.” This wasn’t just about the mountains of food that would be reverted to the priest, but about other items as well. So, how would someone who is poor be able to offering things to the gods as well? And what other types of things could they offer, perhaps even in lieu of food?

    If we look at relief, then we know that it wasn’t just about the food that was provided to the gods. We have images of them offering ma’at, we have images of them offering gold and semi-precious stones, we have images of the people offering every “good and pure thing” that the god may desire or need for life. Things have changed in the last thousand years, I can tell anyone who is willing to read this. What was once “good and pure” may not be so anymore. And in same vein, what once may never have been thought to be “good and pure” may be now. I’ve looked around my house and at the accrual of things that have happened in the last thirty years. I have a lot of things that can be easily and obviously changed over into one of those “good and pure” things that the gods may desire. I use them as a kind of back up or instead of when it comes to providing food to the gods.

    I have repurposed stones given to me to the gods. I have a carnelian rosette that I give to Sekhmet every day. It used to be a pendant on a necklace. I have a quartz pyramid that I bought when things were easier on me and I use that as an offering to Hetheru every day. I gave a pair of winged earrings to Aset just last week. I have books aplenty and each book can be provided as an offering to Djehuty. I have pens, too, that I keep on his altar in offer since reed pens and ink are no longer the way, but it seemed silly to prevent him from having some form of writing implement to give to him. I have Tarot cards that I’ve been given over the years and I’ve used these as offerings to them, as well. I have a huge store house of incense that I have been given or I was able to purchase in the good years. Since I use the incense so sparingly, I have a lot left for giving to them during the “big rites.”

    These are all obvious items to give to them, though, right? They all, in a way, hearken back to bits and pieces that they would have been given in antiquity. While my practice is definitely historically informed, it’s not the only bit in there. I’ve given other modern type things to the gods as well. I found a needle and thread, which I gave to Hetheru. I have a hand broom which I gave to Bes once. My laptop is an object I’ve given to Djehuty more than once. I’ve given dandelion pollen to Geb. The Ouija board mints that Devo gave me, I give on a daily basis to Aset. I give candle stubs to the gods, as well. Anup was given a huge three-wick pillar candle that I’ve owned for years and he loves the smell. My son gave me the gaudiest fucking Dachshund ornament last year for Christmas and I gave that to Anup as well. It was a joke, at first, but it’s because a real thing since then.

    All of these things are “good and pure” because they are all things that I’ve appropriated to incorporate in what I give to the gods. It’s not the object that matters. It’s not what other people that think about the object that matters. All that matters is the intent behind why I’m giving it. If I think it’s a good idea, and I don’t immediately get smacked with laughter, then it can’t be all bad. These are things that people tend to forget about. It’s easy to take something that we have been given from others or by others, things we have lying around the house and utilize them in the context of our devotions. Everyone gets hung up on the things, though, and there are other things that can be provided to the gods.

  5. Devotional acts.
  6. Being devout isn’t just about things and stuff. A lot of posts seem to focus on the things and stuffs. I get it. In a poor person’s mind, it’s the accumulation of things that makes us not poor anymore. In my house, the accumulation of stuff is just a testament to how much of a pack rat I may actually be. Things and stuff are all well and good, to an extent, but there are other ways to go ahead and show your devotion to the gods: actions. Actions speak louder than words, or so people say. I don’t know if that’s really true in this day and age where the Internet is based entirely on the words people are using. Whatever the case may be, just because we live in a world where the written word is probably far more important than it was a hundred years ago (and back then, the written word was all about conveying opinions and learning things), it doesn’t negate the fact that there are still actions that can be taken to show the devotion one has for their gods. It is through those actions that we live our lives, in some cases, and through those actions that we can live another day. Devotional acts, I think, are not really as properly discussed as they could be. And I think they should be paid more attention to because, you know, when you’re poor, the things and the stuff aren’t the entirety of a person’s practice.

    Devotional acts can take all forms. Some people give their time to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Some people donate books to their local library. Some people donate gently used clothes to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. Whatever the case may be, there are a lot of people who will go ahead and do something that is entirely dedicated to their religious practice. But when it comes to poor people, we don’t really have the time and energy, a lot, to go ahead and do that kind of a thing. And in some cases, we may not even have the items to donate, either. I can donate clothes to my local shelter because I have a kid who is constantly fucking growing like a weed and he is always in need of new clothes. But that’s the extent of what I can provide to them. But that, honestly, isn’t a devotional act to me. It’s a basic human act for me. To me, honestly, a devotional act is something that I do on a daily basis and give it with intention to my gods.

    I clean my house for Aset and Hetheru and Bes. I read a story to my son for Bes and Djehuty. I wash the dishes for Sekhmet and cook dinner for Aset. I neatly rearrange my books for Djehuty. I walk in the grass, barefoot, for Geb. I watch the clouds float by for Khonsu and Re. These are all things I would normally do in my day, but occasionally, I dedicate them in the name of the gods. It’s not only an attempt to provide them with the “good and pure” things that coincide with my living in ma’at but they are also attempts to bring my gods more fully into my life. Too often, I think, people who are in dire circumstances forget to have faith, forget to have hope. I’m one of those people. So, especially during the hard times, I will do something obvious and something that I may do on a regular basis and dedicate that action to a specific deity. That way, I can remind myself that they are there, they are in my life, that I have faith, and someday, maybe, things won’t suck so badly.

I’ll tell you what – being poor is hard. Being a poor polytheist is hard. We don’t have a ready-made group of people that we can turn to in a lot of circumstances. Some polytheists can go to the local UU and have a community that may be there to hold their hands. Some of us aren’t so lucky or aren’t capable of finding that type of community to turn to when things are rough. In many instances, the only community we have is the one we’ve forged through our Internet relationships. In cases like mine, where the only community I have is the one I have online, it can be quite painful to have people like the Piety Posse tell you how much you suck at being a devout polytheist because you’re poor and won’t “sacrifice” like they think you should. It can be really fucking hard because they’re making broad generalizations about individual circumstances that they know nothing about. But that’s the thing about them – they’re always making broad generalizations about polytheism when each polytheist’s practice is unique and individual, no matter how much cross pollination there may be.

What these kind of people really forget, though, about being poor is that it isn’t just a matter of what you can give or why you can’t give something. It’s a matter of having the ability in all instances – monetary, mental, and emotional states – that can cause a lot of poor polytheists’ problems. If your heart isn’t in it, then don’t do it. And when you’re poor, a lot of times, your heart isn’t going to be in it because you’re too busy worrying about where the money for things are going to come from or where the energy to clean your house is going to come from after working 12 hours and coming home to tend to your children. That’s fine. That doesn’t make you any less than me, or Galina, or Tess, or Dver, or Sannion, or Devo, or GLE, or Desh or any other polytheist I can think of, no matter where they stand on this particular issue. It just makes you human. It makes you human and it makes you have a religion and it means that you are going through some shitty fucking circumstances.

Maybe those circumstances will change and maybe they won’t.

But don’t let your situation make you feel bad for having the practice that you have. And certainly, don’t let anyone who thinks they have the high-and-mighty ability to pass judgment on others make you feel bad about your practice. Whatever you do and however you go about is good enough. Otherwise, the gods probably wouldn’t stick around. Of all the beings you know who should care about what your practice looks like? It’s definitely going to be the gods you work with that matter most. And if they don’t mind you cleaning out the lint trap of your dryer (if you have one) in their name, then why the fuck should anyone else care?

Saying No: A Guide.

A while back, things started to get hinky for me. These days, things are hinky more often than not, but sometimes, I pay closer attention than most. I will admit that I’ve been paying closer attention to dreams, signs, and the like. I’ve been trying to read omens in whatever aspect I could possibly find and not just the usual things. I’ve been looking at flocks of birds – and saw something of note. I’ve been looking at the shape of a cloud as it floats on by – and didn’t see a damn thing. I have been paying closer attention to the music on the radio – and sometimes get an interesting hit. In other moments, I’ve been using my Tumblr dash like a sort of mini oracle, eyeballing the amount of hairs I find in the drain in the morning, and just generally attempting to figure out where the line should be drawn between “this is a sign” and “this is a bunch of bullshit.” Dreams, though, are usually the harbingers for me. Once I start dreaming about something, I know I need to pay closer attention. So, of course, the hinky stuff started after a dream.

I dreamed about a very well noted god in the Hellenic pantheon. I’ll give anyone who I haven’t discussed this with a big clue: he likes wine. Yeah, that’s the guy. I decided to write off the dream. As a polytheist, I may not dream about gods – whether they be mine or belong to other people I know – often, but I had a glass of wine sit out all night and it was probably just a subconscious thing. Wine: dude likes wine. Okey-dokey. It was no big deal, at first. But then I dreamed again, that night, about going to his polytheistic followers who I happen to know of via Tumblr. And one of them responded as the guy himself. He wore the face of this follower whom I’ve known for some time and just laughed at me as I dream-sobbed my way onto his shoulder. When I woke up, I figured this was probably less like subconscious wine smelling and more like something I needed to pay attention to.

Besides, I’ve had dreams about those gods before and not just because I’ve worked with one once. I’ve dreamed about this particular deity a handful of times in the last year. I’ve always written it off. I’m not a Hellenic and I’m not interested. If I wanted to jump off the all Kemetic god revue I’ve been on for the last five years, I would have taken up the anassa eneri on her recommendation that I reach out to a certain handmaiden who likes pomegranates. Or, I wouldn’t have had such a really hard time connecting with a certain other female deity who gets talked about in relation to sex and love. Or, I would have politely listened to that wise Hellenic one when she showed up at work one day instead of telling her to get the hell out of my way. Or, you know, I would have been paying closer attention to a certain tap-dancing wing-footed jokester who farted around my house for months upon months. I like my box, my Kemetic box with a dash of lwa thrown in, and I want to keep it that way. So, whenever I’ve felt those Hellenics popping up, I’ve written them off. But for some reason, this time, I didn’t immediately just shut that door.

I thought about it.

I read every entry and every comment the Hellenics I know had on the guy in question. I thought about what they had to say about him. And I thought about what his entrance into my life could possibly mean. While I sat around and thought about it, I began to notice insane oddities. There was really no other word for it – he was trolling me. He would appear in conversations that had nothing to do with that guy. He would appear more obviously on my dash. Sure, I follow some of his people, but it seemed like it was getting hotter, heavier, and far more wine-soaked than usual on my dash. And then, a slew of devotees began to show up in my Tumblr recommendations. That was about the time that I began looking serious into this and then, I just stopped. I looked at what I was reading and was both intrigued and horrified. It didn’t matter what the specific reason he was coming around in my life for – although I have some ideas – but I definitely couldn’t go through with it. We have similar netjeru in the pantheon I’m connected with and you know what? I’m really pleased with my narrow-minded deity collecting. It is one thing to collect a herd of deities within a pantheon I’m comfortable within and quite another to broach outside of my safety zone.

So, I officially and politely asked him to leave.

He did.

It’s dawned on me that my experience is probably pretty miraculous to some people. There are a lot of people out there, however, who recommend that we say no and on a regular basis. Hell, I recommend saying no to the gods with whom you already have developed relationships with. It could get boring if you give in all the time! And I also recommend saying no to gods that you don’t have established relationships with. Just because they are gods doesn’t mean that we should automatically kowtow to their wants and desires. If we aren’t ready or aren’t willing to take on the task, then saying yes is going to end up making both parties miserable. The god in question will be angry and upset with you for failing and you will be angry and upset with yourself for the same reason. The point, as I’ve been talking about often enough, is the intent that we put behind whatever the hell we end up doing for the gods is the most important part. And if we just give in because we don’t think we have a way out, then they’re going to sense that. And things may not end up going so well for everyone involved so it’s always just a good idea to say, “No,” if you need to.

Let me reiterate this for those who may stumble on this blog and think that I’m an overly assertive asshat: what I did was not miraculous. I didn’t just do it because I wasn’t ready, but because I wasn’t willing to give whatever the hell he wanted me to give. Sure, I have my own personal thoughts on what all that shtick is about and his followers told me it wasn’t just what my personal holdups thought it was. I get that. Gods are multifaceted and varied, no matter what the mythologies may tend to tell us about them. But, it wasn’t for me. I don’t really care what-all he could have given me. If I can’t get what he has to offer from the netjeru in my life, or with any future additions to the always ready for more (I guess) deity collecting that I do, then I don’t think it really is necessary or needed or even remotely something I need to pay attention to.

But for those who stumble on this blog and may think, “Wow, that’s ballsy; you just asked and he left?” Let me just say that it wasn’t as simple as all that. When it comes to spirits, whether they be gods, lwa, or anything in between, nothing is clear-cut and simple.

1. No names.

Names are pretty important stuff in ancient Egypt. We don’t really pay as close attention in Kemeticism, I think, but names are still pretty damn important. By saying a being’s name, you are giving it power. Not specifically over you, but in general. If you didn’t want to give a being power, in any way, you would do your best to forget the name or you would destroy it. In the case of the gods, epithets or nicknames were often used to refer to them instead of using their names. (I forget the specific reason behind this, but I believe it was more about ritual and piety than anything else.) In any case, you say the name, you give the power; you don’t say the name, you don’t give it any more power.

In the case of gods, if you don’t bother utilizing the name in question, then you’re not providing them with anything that they can use to gain a foothold in your territory. Just because they show up once or twice in a dream doesn’t necessarily equate to them being a part of your life or becoming a part of your personal pantheon. It just means they came knocking with a smattering of possibilities before you. Whether or not you open the door is entirely up to you, of course, but if you aren’t really sure that you want to do that, then I strongly recommend referring to them – if you decide to do so at all – in nicknames. I don’t even recommend using the popular epithets that you can find on websites but nicknames you create yourself. They may not necessary associate themselves with the nickname. In my case, I chose “wine guy” or “big D.” It was alluding just enough to give devotees of his an idea as to who I was talking about, but not really enough to let him do much more than some basic trolling.

After years of being trolled, I can handle some little things.

2. Say “fuck off” a lot.

Trolling varies from deity to deity… and it can get pretty weird. Sometimes, it’s little minor things that can easily be explained away. And sometimes, it’s less likely explainable and more likely weird as hell. In either case, it should pretty much be expected that trolling will occur when a god is interested. If a god is really interested in having your attention, then they’re going to throw some shit at you so that you get the memo. Sometimes, I think that they believe we aren’t as bright as we all believe. But in all honesty, I think it has more to do with a basic belief that no god would ever be interested in us and whatever other self-esteem related deity issues we may bring to the table. Anyway.

Whatever the trolling may be is entirely up to them, but of course, it should be expected. And of course, with each new case of trolling, make sure that there is a frighteningly large eye roll at the end of it all. Make sure it is as exasperated and as irritated as you can possibly convey because, honestly, there’s nothing like consistency with these things. If you aren’t consistent in your reactions, they may believe that you aren’t really serious when you tell them no. And you have to make it very, very clear that you are not interested in what they have to offer. So, think of all the idiotic comments you’ve ever read online that have made you roll your eyes and make it ten times more theatrical when you pull on your “for fuck’s sake, are you pathetically trolling me again” eye roll.

My personal fave is “fuck off” and that is usually enough. Occasionally after being trolled that is precisely my response, although occasionally I’ll switch it up with a melodramatic eye roll. After the wisdom lady showed up with owl feathers for two solid days, I told her to fuck off. After the last time the winged-foot irritant came by, I told him to fuck off. It may sound pretty rude, but sometimes that’s all that will break through their single-minded focus when it comes to new followers. They’re more interested, in my eyes, in gaining more than they are in paying attention to what some of that more may actually prefer in the situation. So, sometimes, it means that you have to pull on your big kid underwear and tell them to go take a hike, roll your eyes like you’ve never seen something so pathetic, and tell them to “fuck off” when the simple stuff isn’t enough. And remember: above all, consistency.

3. No research.

This almost goes hand-in-hand with the no name thing, but I think it bears repeating. If you don’t do any research, then you don’t know anything about the deity in question and you’re likely to follow your first gut instinct. I didn’t pay attention to this rule. As someone who has followed this rule to the letter, unless I’ve been ordered to otherwise by my netjeru, I can attest that by looking into the deity, you’re kind of calling more attention to yourself. I think this is why the trolling got a little heavier between the wine guy and myself before I finally told him to go away. I did a little bit of research and I read everything the people who were helping me said about it. If I hadn’t bothered, I would have fallen under the rule of consistency I just outlined above. But, I didn’t so the trolling got kind of heavy for a while.

In either case, if your first instinct is to tell a deity that you aren’t interested, then there is a reason for that. And you shouldn’t second-guess yourself by giving in to the urge to learn more. If you give in to the urge to learn more, you may end up getting sucked further in and you may end up regretting it later. In either case, if you don’t know anything but your own preconceived notions about the gods, then you aren’t really going to make a good devotee. As I’m very fond of saying, the gods have layers. I know that the wine dude is more than just what I think he is – a wine-soaked frat boy’s wet dream, literally in some cases – or what I pretend him to be. (None of you get in a huff now. I know my preconceived notions are wrong.) I keep those preconceived notions because I know that the gods who they apply to don’t like them. And that’s another layer of protection and another way to get them to get out when I want them to. If I don’t know anything but the lies I tell myself, then why are they going to bother with me?

4. Ignore them.

Sometimes your basic trolling isn’t enough. Like I said above, I sometimes think they get really, really intent on the idea of having another devotee and they forget that we have free will. Whatever the case may be, sometimes trolling isn’t enough. And they’ll start assaulting you in other ways. I don’t mean that literally, although I know that’s also a possibility. If a deity is just interested in you in a simple devotee kind of way, then assaults will end up in more like the dreams and more heavy portents kind of way as opposed to anything else. (And you know, if it gets out of hand, Duskenpath needs to be your go-to here because she’ll kick ass righteous and/or teach you how to kick ass righteous.) Instead of discussing whatever ends up happening, then you need to ignore it. You need to pretend that it isn’t happening.

As Tumblr user, Draelogor happily told me, “I was told ‘inaction is action’ and it right about blew my mind. Dunno if it helps, but I’ve personally gotten a God (as well as countless entities) to back off by ignoring them and their efforts, and taking no action towards acknowledging or validating them and their efforts, or their influence over me and my life choices and actions. As disrespectful as that may have seemed to some, I had my own reasons at the times it happened, and inaction seemed to work quite well.” And that’s really very honest and good advice. If you ignore something long enough, stick your head in the sand, it’s going to go away. If you ignore the mosquito buzzing in your ear, it will go away, no matter how obnoxious it may get before the end.

Since I didn’t follow my “no research” rule about the wine dude, I ended up getting dreams and odd Tarot readings for the few days before I asked him to leave. Since I made a post about his trolling, I got still more. I was giving him more to feed off so that he could climb inside. In a tizzy, I turned to Sekhmet for advice and she just kind of looked at me and said, “You do what you want to do here. It’s not my choice.” And that’s kind of when I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to be paying any attention whatsoever to what was going on around me. So, I ignored all the telltale cups cards I was getting and just went, “Huh,” instead of ranting. I ignored the dreams of curly headed people trying to talk to me and went about my business. Ignoring a god isn’t necessarily easy but it helps.

5. Tell them to leave.

I honestly believe that the gods have short attention spans. I’ve likened them to children a few times before and I stick by that. When it comes to shiny, new things, they are definitely very much like kids. If you ignore them enough, they tend to ignore you right the hell back. And when you realize that they are ignoring you back, that’s the time to pounce. As I showed in the link when I asked him to leave, he didn’t necessarily go quietly. He had his parting shots, but I didn’t bite. The carrot of information he was tantalizing me with wasn’t enough, to me. I wasn’t willing to wager whatever it was he wanted to get whatever he thought he could leverage over me enough to say yes. I’ve become a bit of cynic when it comes to the gods, lately, but I knew that whatever he had to offer, I could find the answers elsewhere.

The thing is that I had to admit that I may not find out whatever leverage he was dangling before me. And you know what? That’s okay. If I don’t know about it, then it can’t really hurt me. And if I’m supposed to know about it, either the netjeru I have now will tell me, in their own way, or they will point me in the proper direction. Cynic or not, I don’t necessarily believe that he was lying, per se, with whatever he had to offer me. I honestly believe he did have a thing or 70 to teach my pigheaded, stubborn ass. But suffice to say, not knowing is okay for me. I have a lot on my plate, as it is, and I don’t need anything else muddying the waters.

Now, obviously, these aren’t the only ways to go ahead and say no to a new god coming into your life. There are many different ways to go about it and each are going to be as individual as the devotee in question. Whatever it is, I have to advocate highly and fully that you are consistent in each approach. If you truly are not interested, don’t waver. No matter what the god in question may be offering you in payment for your devotion, it may not necessarily be worth it. Many long-term polytheists and pagans will tell you that this shit is hard. And sometimes, it means that you have to metaphorically rip off your skin to be the devotee that the god wants you to be. Sometimes, that’s a good thing and sometimes, it’s not. In either case, if your initial gut is saying to tell them to get the fuck out of, then tell them to get the fuck out.

Related Entries

  1. The Nuances of Non-Physical Relationships by Devo.
  2. A Good Horse by Devo.
  3. Victim Shaming, YOUR Consent, and Spirit-Walking by Duskenpath.
  4. Consent for Spirit-Walkers by Duskenpath.
  5. Setting Boundaries With Your Deity by A Changing Altar.
  6. How It All Began by Rock of Eye.
  7. KRT: Gods and You by various KRT Bloggers.
  8. Mr. Sympathy by Volsung.
  9. Relationships with Deities by Laurus Drakan
  10. Reasons for Not Wanting To Work with Gods by Crooked Crown

How To Shadow Work: A Guide.

Before I left for work, I received a text from a friend of mine’s ex-girlfriend. I’ve been in not-so-constant contact with her since they broke up. She had added me on to Facebook because I bequeath my friends with free Tarot readings periodically and she kept me around for that purpose. I had never met her and never intended to. So, color me shocked when she started texting me after they broke up. I had already reached out to my friend to talk with him about things because I knew he was having a bad time of things prior to that. (We meet up periodically when I have “the feel” that he needs to talk, which usually means he winds up in my dreams on a nightly basis until I give into the urge to call him.) She reached out to me for a Tarot reading, but also because she knew that we were “birthday buddies.” Since we were born twelve hours, or less, apart, we tend to just kind of “know” things about one another that is absolutely true. Anyway, we talked until I found out she was (A) a Scorpio (and he a Leo!) and (B) she was the crazy girlfriend type.

She sent me a new text this morning about how, after two months of being broken up, she was “so sure” she was “over it.” And that she had dreamed about him the night before and now, was a “pathetic mess.” While I won’t comment on how pathetic she may or may not have been after dreaming about someone she thought she was going to marry, my advice to her was that even though she may consciously believe she had dealt with the issues of the break up, she really hadn’t. And her subconscious mind was going to continue to poke at her at random moments until she did so. I recommended some “basic shadow work” techniques to her: relive the relationship so that you can pinpoint your faults and his, as well as try to relive it as an outsider so that you can look at all events subjectively. And she was like, “I did that, but it still hurts.” I emphatically explained that she had obviously not done that since her brain was still picking at the wound, but she wouldn’t listen to what I had to say. (Ain’t that the way?) I gave up.

This got me mulling in my [few and far between] off moments at work. It came down to the fact that I was the kind of person who “knew the things” and so people would come to me for advice. But, just because I give them the advice that they actually should pay attention to that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually going to listen. It also made me realize that just because I say, “do this,” that doesn’t mean people really understand what in the world I was talking about. I can say a thing and I can say it in another way, but that still doesn’t mean that people who aren’t “woo inclined” will understand how one does this. This led me to think about how, maybe, the bits and pieces that I’ve learned from Dusken aren’t quite enough for the people I know who are not woo-inclined. Point in fact, the person I was speaking with this morning has admitted to excessive amounts of atheism. She’s highly skeptical of readings I do for the dead on her behalf, but fully believes every Tarot reading I’ve ever done. (How’s that for double standard?) Another example is a friend of mine’s daughter who needs to do some deep healing after a severe trauma. I’m almost positive my explanations of what I needed her to do were lost on the sixteen-year-old, who also has a deep skepticism and deep atheism. (Do I collect these people or something?)

How in the world do you get someone who doesn’t understand what you need to do to, well, do it?

I began pondering how else I may explain this to outsiders. It’s one thing when you can speak, pagan to pagan or polytheist to polytheist. There are certain connections that you can formulate with people of like-minded or similar spiritual paths. After using a few key words, the two of you can sit, head to head, and start working out what to do. In same vein, there are other bloggers of polytheistic or pagan persuasions who have blogged about these things before for those particular communities. If you don’t have the time or the energy to discuss it with someone new, then you pop over some links and tell them to “go for it!” However, while everyone knows my religious background isn’t exactly a secret, I’m not comfortable sharing links with people who aren’t of the same religious persuasion as me. The links of shadow work, and how to shadow work, entries tend to belong to bloggers who are, well, rather “woo” in their practice. And there’s nothing wrong with that! I fully endorse having (or not having) woo in your life. But, I’m slightly uncomfortable tossing those types of links to people who are, de facto, atheists.

So where is the middle ground here?

I started perusing through a lot of my related entries on my ex-husband. And minus the items that were woo related, I felt that it was a good jumping off point. But hadn’t I mentioned that to the girl this morning? Hadn’t I explained to her that you had to relive the whole experience? Hadn’t I said that you had to at least try to be as neutral as possible while going through it? Personally, while it takes a lot (especially in a years’ long relationship) out of you to be able to do this, it’s incredibly important to try to be impartial while going through the experiences in question. It’s not just a matter of trying to pinpoint where the other person screwed the pooch, but also where you screwed up, as well. And as far as we are concerned about ourselves, we are perfect and can do no wrong. This isn’t the case at all because, well, we’re human. So, it doesn’t matter what we say or do, but in some form or another, we may have caused some serious stress in our partner’s life, which later manifested as the endings of all endings.

The real question here isn’t a matter of whether or not you are capable of doing this, but whether or not you have the gumption to look yourself in the face and admit all your fuck-ups.

There are a lot of people who simply cannot admit that they were complicit in the downfall of a relationship. I know that, for the longest time, I couldn’t see myself as anything more than someone who had been wronged. As the years past, I began to harbor the belief that I was a victim. As evidenced by some outsiders’ comments regarding, a lot of it was victimization (at least towards the end of our relationship). But, I can look back and say, “I screwed up really bad here, here, and here,” and also tell you what I learned from having fucked that shit up. That is absolutely something that’s really damn important. But, as I said, I didn’t first start off that way. As I said, I started off seeing only the fact that I was wronged all across the board. So, how do you get to the point where you can start working on this shit and not have it eat you up inside? I don’t always think waiting around years to start the process (as I did) is a good idea, especially if you need to do the healing now (as in the case of my friend’s daughter).

While discussing this, with myself, I thought about the suggestions I had offered to my friend’s daughter. I was throwing out random suggestions on how best “to heal” and how best to start her round of shadow work. She has a lot more open doors to practice this stuff with. And I think a lot of the ideas I threw out there are pretty damn sound.

1. Write Really Bad Poetry

I thought back over the years, as a teenager, when I would always carry a notebook around with me so that I could write down whatever overly emotive poetry came to mind. Years later, I still have every single one of those notebooks and I can tell you that, while they kind of have a beat or something to them, they are pretty bad. I’m not just talking in that, “Gah, I can’t believe I wrote that,” kind of way, either. They are also bad because they discuss every messed up and screwed up thought that popped into my head at some point or another. There are poems about (TW) suicide, eating disorders, rape, and everything in between. (/TW) The items you choose to write about aren’t just to convey to people without saying, “I suffer from these things,” but it’s also a way to get the pain from those items out and into the open. Even though you may be the only person who actually reads the items and maybe you are the only person who gives a fig, but that notebook/blog/tablet app may just be the quintessential shadow work you need to get to the next step(s). I think that the reason I was able to deal with high school and all the crazy shit that went down for me back then was because of the ability to write those types of poems. Another reason, I think, why it helped so much was because it didn’t matter if I kept the prose or if I followed iambic pentameter (or whatever the fuck it was). It was just a bunch of words strung together in vaguely poetic fashion. In same vein, take that and use it to your advantage. And who cares what the fuck it sounds like so long as it makes you feel better?

2. Write Short Stories

I wrote a lot of novella length items regarding my ex-husband because I finally had the gumption to write the shadow work entries related. I also had a lot of time on my hands to write other types of short stories. While the shorts, themselves, didn’t necessarily mirror the relationship exactly, it focused on key points in the relationship that I had always wanted to make changes to. So, with the red pen of an editor, I went back through my life and red-penned the fuck out of things I had always wanted to change. There is a certain amount of power in being able to change items you want to change. And it doesn’t even have to be characters based on real people, either. If you do the fanfiction thing, then write your life experiences into a fanfic starring your favorite actor, anime character, etc. It’s not as though you need to do a monkeys writing Shakespeare thing here. You are taking an aspect of your life that has hurt you beyond repair and fixing it, just a smidge, at a time. Grammar, spelling, punctuation: nothing matters beyond what you think needs to matter because this isn’t about what others think (if you letter others read it) but about what makes you feel better.

3. Scream A Lot to Loud Music.

The reason I’m saying “to loud music” is because maybe you don’t have the ability to just scream your head off. It’s possible that you don’t have a car to run to and start screaming to. It’s also possible that you may still live with your parents and they might be very concerned over finding their child screaming for apparently no reason (especially if you haven’t told them what your trauma is). Or, maybe you just don’t feel comfortable screaming for no reason whatsoever. Whatever the reason, I recommend doing this to really loud, bass-infested music. And in so doing, you may not realize how much it makes you feel better, but it does. One of the problems, I think, that causes the traumas to fester is an inability to let out all of the pent-up emotions. Writing, to me, helps in that regard. But sometimes, those things aren’t the be-all, end-all for the needs of the trauma. So, as a teenager, I would put on some Tool (favorite band) and I would scream until I was hoarse or I would scream the lyrics. I highly recommend if that if you do decide to scream to music, you choose something that is appropriate for the mood that you are needing to create. Screaming is great on its own, but if you’re going to listen to music while doing so, then something that epitomizes either the trauma that’s caused the harm or your emotions concerning it are an excellent addition.

4. Cry A Lot [to Loud Music].

The music part on this one is pretty fucking optional. If you want to be depressed as all get out, then sure, cry to some Celine Dion over a break up (or whatever). But, really, the crying part is probably the most important aspect to this. A lot of people (like me) do this really unhealthy thing where you bottle up your emotions. It’s really not recommended by anybody and as someone who has done this for long enough, I can attest that it causes more problems in the long run. What I can say is that crying is something that we need to do. I’m not really sure on the science of it all, but we have the ability to make tears for a reason. And we have those tears during high emotional moments for a reason. So, by not letting those high emotional moments cause an ending-in-gagging crying jag, then you’re doing yourself a severe disservice. So, seriously, I think it’s something you really need to do when it comes to working on shadow work.

5. Therapy.

I’m not a fan of therapists. I’ve had quite a few in my life and I have found one that I actually trusted enough to tell everything to. I had one that told me that I feel too much – exactly what you should say to an emotional twelve-year-old – and another who made me feel like my date rape was my fault – and she was a rape counselor! So, I’m not overly thrilled with the whole idea behind going to see someone you pay to listen to you for an hour a week or however many times you actually go. However, I also know that it has helped me to have impromptu therapy sessions. I’m not just talking about the person you pay, but since you pay them and they have to listen to you, it’s kind of a bonus, but I’m also talking about the ones you have with your friends. Or, if you don’t feel like you can mention your real emotions to your friends, then that means therapy in any and all means that you think will pay off. If that means eating an entire gallon of ice cream, then you do it. If that means taking a lot hot baths, then do so. If that means losing yourself, almost literally, in a book or twelve, then do so. If that means talking to your pets, then do so. If that means talking to strangers on the Internet, then do so. If that means talking to trees, the ocean, a river, a bird, your car, to yourself, then do so. Whatever the word “therapy” means to you, then follow through with it. Just talk. Just blather. Just go on and on and on to yourself or whatever or whomever and don’t stop for anything. Let every little thing come pouring out in a complete rush and don’t stop until you’ve shot out every aspect of the pain imaginable.

While these items aren’t the entire list of things I did as a teenager to get through some pretty hellacious times in my life, they are the items that I think are the best and fastest recommendations. While not all of these items will prepare the person for the next step of reliving the past, it will definitely help in getting the pain out of you. It will also help to get the whole thing moving. By allowing the pain of the trauma to stagnate, you’re pretty much condemning yourself to that much more work for that much longer. By being able to at least partially address the trauma in minor ways, you’re preparing yourself for the next steps.

Related Posts

The Shadow Work Series by Duskenpath

Kemetic Round Table: Shrine 101.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. For all the entries relating to this particular topic, take a peek here.

In a way, one of the easiest beginner question to answer is altars. The reason being is that it comes down to have a blank space for deity-related items, in a nutshell. Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, but you could easily start off with an empty table, cabinet, or shelf and you have a functional altar. However, no one really asks about shrines. No one seems to understand that an altar =/= a shrine. Here follows a quick 101 to discuss the differences and how you can set up a shrine if you are so inclined.

What’s the difference between a shrine and an altar?
There’s a world of difference between altars and shrines, which is not made apparent to a lot of newbies running around. There are some people who will use the words interchangeably. However, I don’t recommend this. And the reason is all in the definitions of both of these words. They really are two separate items and they are for two entire separate types of worship.

They can both be categorized as a place in which something sacred goes, however, the difference stems in what happens at the location. For an altar, it is a place in “which religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to gods, ancestors, etc.” (Source.) However, a shrine is not a work station where things are to be done, but a “structure or place consecrated or devoted to some saint, holy person, or deity, as an altar, chapel, church, or temple.” (Source.) It is a realm of piety, of devotion, and of prayers.

Why would I create a shrine instead of an altar?
In some cases, someone would choose to create an altar for the netjer because the deity in question has requested it. I know of at least two Kemetics that I can think of off the top of my head who had their deities request that they create a type of shrine for them. In both cases, the god resides within that closed off sacred space 100% of the time. This, to me, shows that the relationships they have with their gods is more dedicated and more serious than some of the other relationships people can and do have with the netjeru.

In other cases, a person decides to begin building a shrine to their deities because they have a priest-like relationship with their gods. The thing about having a shrine instead of an altar means that there will be more hard work, a lot more devotion, and an exceptional amount of hard work in the actions of maintaining one. In the morphing an altar space into a type of shrine, you are accepting more responsibility with your religious practice. The only people in ancient Egypt who were granted access to shrines were the priests themselves, which is why I tend to equate the practice of having one and the work put into making it and maintaining it as a kind of entrance into a modern-day priesthood. The rules change, in my opinion, when a shrine is put together for your netjer of choice.

Personally, I only have altars around my home. I do not have a shrine to any of my gods, although I have put serious consideration into having a shrine for Sekhmet and altars for the rest. And while some of my altars are too small to actually be a devotional work place, they are still altars. I don’t do the shrine thing because I am not a priest, nor do I wish to be. And I’m not ready (and probably will never be) to do that.

How would I create a shrine?
In this, one must first look to past resources for ideas on shrines. The ancient Egyptians had an entire temple for their religious observances, but there was a particular section that the status of the gods was kept within (the shrine area) and only consecrated priests could enter its domain. As you can see from this Ptolemaic era travel shrine, they utilized a cabinet with doors. If you do a Google image search, you will find similar representations, both modern and ancient. So, your first step is to find a type of cabinet that reflects what you think your gods would both prefer and that any icons (pictures, statues, representative items) would be able to fit within. An excellent modern example is Devo’s shrine entry at Shrine Beautiful.

As shown from the above linked article of Devo’s shrine, you can see that the items she has for that shrine are exceptionally plain. The doors are opened and she gives them sustenance in the form of her votive offerings for the day. The doors are then closed and the offerings are left within the shrine until the next time she goes to visit her shrine. There is no decoration. There are no flowers. There is nothing but a very immaterial and streamlined shrine. Personally, when I look at shrine porn, the more minimalistic a shrine the better.

However, not everyone is going to enjoy minimalism when it comes to their personal sacred space to their netjer. The thing is that one must reflect on the fact that a shrine is a sacred place. A shrine is a place for offerings and for worship and, in my opinion, little else. Cluttering the area with things like rocks, pictures, and the like may prove harmful in the long run. Giving those items as offerings and removing them when you are either done or the next day when you go back to renew your offerings is one thing, but keeping extraneous items laying about all day, every day may end up taking away from the connection you are attempting to solidify with your netjer and also detract from the overall goal of sacred space.

Where should I set up a shrine?
The thing about putting a shrine together is that, if you are going to take into account the ancient Egyptian standard that we have to work from, then the shrine is going to be placed in an inner sanctum of sorts. The temple precincts for each deity were wide and varied tracts of land – a kind of city-state unto itself in later dynasties. We don’t have this option, for obvious reason, but you can easily choose a quiet, inner room to place your shrine in. In some cases, people have entire rooms dedicated to the wants and needs of their gods and their spirits (I’m thinking, specifically, in regards to the lwa here but this works for relationships with the netjer and other gods as well). You can think of opening the door to that room as the outside precincts of the temple in question and then the shrine area as the private place for your shrine.

However, if you are like me, then this may not work out so well for you because you may end up forgetting the whole “daily offering” thing.

Part of the reason why I have altars instead of shrines is, also, because I need to have them placed in a public space. This has helped me to facilitate the daily offerings that I believe I should be giving on a regular basis. As I discovered when my altars were in my inner sanctum, I’m less likely to go about and get the daily offerings because of not having the altar spaces in my face. In effect, laziness grabs hold and I end up saying, “I’ll do a double offering tomorrow,” and then that tomorrow never actually manifests and I’m six months behind on daily offerings and in a fallow time. So, for me, if I were to go the shrine route, the shrine in question would be in a public place. Point of fact, if I were to ever convert any of my altars into shrine areas, I would probably place the shrine on top of the working altars I have currently so that I can work for the gods at their sacred work stations and then also open up their shrine doors for daily offerings.

I believe that the few people whom I can think of who have shrine areas also have their shrines in public spaces. They may do this for the same reason as me or for lack of space in quieter, out-of-the-way parts of their home. No matter the personal reasoning behind where you place your shrine, it is an inherently personal decision. If it’s in a public place, then that’s where you need it to be. If you’re not a lazy as me and you have the room/ability to place them in an inner area, then that’s where you need it to be.

When will I know that I can handle a shrine?
This is, again, another personal decision for each practitioner. As I mentioned above, I know that I am not ready and probably will never be really ready to handle a shrine area. It is a very large decision to go ahead and start manifesting something like a sacred space, such as a shrine, and maintaining that sacred space. If you think you are ready to take on the duties that lie within a priesthood infrastructure, then you could quite easily be ready to create and maintain a shrine space. However, the responsibilities of a priesthood caste are incredibly large and occasionally back breaking. In my opinion, there is less time for fun and adventure (such as Roamin’ Gnome shenanigans during festivals) and more time for devotion, prayer, and introspection.

If you think you are ready to carry the mantle of the priesthood, then you are ready to attempt the building of a shrine. Just ask the netjer that you want to create the shrine to first and go from there.