May He Live After Death Like Re Every Day.

As a kid, I loved being terrified and mystified by the television show, Unsolved Mysteries. The theme music, the voice over of Robert Stack, and the 80s visuals were all exactly what a kid like me wanted to scare the ever-loving shit out of myself. And there were plenty of nights where I wondered how the fuck I was going to fall asleep after that nightmare of an episode. Maybe I was just a weird kid.

In 1993, an episode aired that caught my attention because I knew the name of the victim. The year before, she had been murdered and there was no new information about the case so they turned to the public for help. I don’t know if that episode really did help at all because it was only six months ago that the killer was finally arrested.

When I finally read the articles about the arrest, I wondered if this would be just the first in a long line of cold cases to be solved. Earlier that summer, there had been hints of another cold case that had “new developments” though nothing more had been/has been released on the subject.

I was kind of right.

Another cold case was solved in the last month, just not the one I was keeping an eye out for. I only knew about this unsolved crime because of an article done early last year where the victim’s sister was interviewed. I can remember reading that article last year and thinking, how are they going to solve that?

Well they seem to have anyway.

On March 11th, a man was arrested for the 31-year-old crime. Based on the news coverage, it sounds like the suspect has all but confessed what with his story changes and all. Again I began to wonder if the cold case with developments from last summer would get an update finally; I had been following it since I was a teenager and if there were “new developments” then it stood to reason there were new leads.

But so far nothing.

I began to wonder what it must be like for the victims who have to wait so long for justice. Could their souls really move on if that’s their belief system anyway? Or do they wait around their families and around each new police detective assigned to their case, hoping that someone will finally confess or that some clue will blow the case wide open?

What made my questions worse was the knowledge that unsolved murders are a dime a dozen according to the county’s cold case database. It’s a long and depressing list, some recent and others not so much. Some will most likely never be solved; others may still have a chance.

One of them stuck with me after reading the victim’s name. More so even than the case with developments last summer. I can’t stop thinking about it. I remembered the name whispered by the adults when I was a kid and I can’t stop thinking about him.

O Lords of Justice, put an end to the evil harm which is in me. O you companions of the God of Justice, may this god be gracious to me… – Excerpt of Spell 14 from the Book of Going Forth by Day

The murder of Danny Croteau happened a decade before I was born, but all of the adults in my family remember it. This subject matter will be difficult and I have to warn you all here for triggers for sexual abuse and the Catholic scandals. For those not willing to read about this for mental health reasons, skip down further past the second picture below to the third paragraph in that section. (In addition, I have ceremoniously desecrated the name of the priest in this post.)

One of the things that the newspapers like to highlight the most about Danny is that he was an altar boy. Most articles reference this fact either in the title or within the first paragraph. They’re hoping to drag the reader in, to illustrate that a pure-hearted innocent was murdered. They also want to remind as many people as possible the abuse of power from the priest when they begin to pepper the details into their articles.

What they’re forgetting is that Danny was more than this two-dimensional news article image. He was an altar boy – an important position according to other kids who also held the role – but he was also a kid. He was a Boy Scout and maybe, if he had lived, he would have one day become an Eagle Scout. He helped out an elderly neighbor for nothing more than milk and cookies. According to one childhood friend, he was the kind of kid who would give you the shirt off his back if you asked him with no questions on why.

He helped his parents out around the house. He did chores and maybe he complained about the doing of them, but he did what he was asked. His family was big with a total of six kids and his blue-collar worker of a father working two and three jobs at a go to make ends meet.

But beyond all of that, he would go out and play with his friends. They would play pickup games of whatever sport in the street: baseball or wiffle ball. He would go fishing at the local watering holes and talked about, maybe, one day being a priest. He wanted to go to Africa, not as a missionary, but as a scientist. He would stay out late in the dark, hanging out with his friends and doing what kids did back then.

Danny Croteau had hopes and dreams. The articles rarely remind you about the fact that he was a kid and he had his whole life ahead of him to plan out. His life was cut short and the secrets that slowly spilled out after he died would, eventually, lead to one of the biggest scandals in the state of Massachusetts.

When the local parish priest first came to St. Catherine of Sienna church, he made an impression. The older members were discomfited by this youthful priest, who introduced modern music to the choir and preached against the Vietnam War. The phrase “hippy” was sometimes thrown out and around by the elder members of the church, but they couldn’t deny that he was bringing members back to the Church in droves.

Not only was he outspoken about his political views about the illegal war, he also made himself useful. The Croteaus weren’t the only family to receive the priest’s largess. He made himself useful. He would raid the church’s freezer and bring roasts or steak. He would give them money if they needed help to float the bills. He would babysit the kids, giving the parents a break when they needed it. He was helpful and kind and everyone who were helped out by him remarked that it was a status symbol:

The priest was seen eating at so-and-so’s home the other night, they would murmur. It was a mark of favor. It was supposed to show that he was part of the community centered around the church.

All it did was give him more and more access to the victims he had chosen.

The priest, F/ather L/avigne, had had rumors swirling around his name since before he even entered the seminary. He had been in trouble as a youth for “immoral acts” with children. But the Catholic Church didn’t care or never learned of it. They failed the people who F/ather L/avigne would later victimize.

Danny’s secret was the same secret children at the priest’s previous parish kept to themselves. It was the same secret that other kids in Danny’s church kept quiet. F/ather L/avigne had a predilection for little boys. He would coax them with alcohol and Playboys. He would watch them change into their altar boy smocks. He took them camping and had sleepovers both at the rectory and at his parents’ home in the city next door.

Danny’s secret, most likely, led to his murder, but we’ll frankly never know.

On the evening of April 14th, the day before the fishing season was to open, Danny never came home for dinner. It was a Friday night and his parents weren’t worried. Friday nights meant that the Croteau kids could eat whatever they wanted for supper and could stay out late. When Danny still failed to come home after dark, his parents went looking for him but he didn’t turn up at any of his local haunts. No one could confirm when they last saw him.

So they did the next logical thing: they turned to the police to file a missing person’s report. Unfortunately, Danny had to be missing for 12 hours in order for the report to be filed. By the time the official report was entered at 2:11AM, it was too late for Danny.

On the morning of April 15th, a fisherman showed up at a local spot that’s no longer in use. A guard rail has been put up in the name of safety and there’s no easy parking for locals anymore to fish along the Chicopee River. Back then, you could pull right up to the river and stay as long as you wanted. You just had to be careful of the trash leftover from local teenagers using the area as a party space or lover’s lane the night before.

The fisherman found Danny Croteau lying face down in the river about five feet from the river bank. He called it in and the local police, followed by the state police, were on the scene very quickly. They could see impressions from tire tracks, one of which appeared to have been made in the mud by a car getting out of there pretty quickly.

The mud had been kicked up and it was clear that a struggle had happened. Danny Croteau had fought hard for his life, fighting back against his killer with everything he had. By all accounts, Danny was a big kid and he probably tried to use his size to his advantage. But in the end, Danny lost the battle when his killer picked up a rock and killed him. The cops took impressions and found the murder weapon, which had both Danny’s blood and someone else’s on it. They thought it would be an easy case to solve.

The autopsy revealed that Danny was legally drunk at the time of his murder. It wasn’t the first time the 13-year-old had been either. Two weeks before his murder, after a sleepover at F/ather L/avigne’s family home, he came home feeling ill and was sick a few times. His older brother had a similar experience after spending the evening sleeping over at the priest’s family home, but the priest assured the Croteaus their son got into his parents’ liquor cabinet without permission.

The Croteaus never went to identify the body, F/ather L/avigne offering to do that for them. He said that they shouldn’t see him that way. Maybe he really did want to keep them from having the image of their son like that. He also talked them into a closed casket, again citing that they needed to remember their son as he was and not how he had died.

This was just the first of many instances where F/ather L/avigne seemed to do things that would zoom him to the top of the suspect pool. He was found at the murder scene the very next day and when he was interviewed, he asked questions that all true crime readers and police detectives note to be suspicious. They’re the type of questions the murderers ask to check to see how the investigation is going.

But this was Massachusetts and even though the police suspected the priest, there was no way a Catholic priest could do this. Catholicism was the top religion in the state and is still the religion du jour according to the Pew Foundation. They had to tread carefully. Not only was the local DA a Catholic, but no one could believe that a priest would do something so heinous.

F/ather L/avigne lied during his interview, claiming that he hadn’t seen Danny since the sleepover where the child had come home seemingly hung over. A witness came forward to say that Danny had been at their home a week or so before his death and made a call to “his father” to pick them up. It was F/ather L/avigne’s car that came to pick up Danny, not his father.

After the funeral for Danny, presided over by the very man police were beginning to suspect in the homicide, F/ather L/avigne told Danny’s parents he couldn’t be seen with them anymore. Carl remembers being bewildered by the call, which came seemingly out of the blue. They didn’t know that he was a prime suspect or that he had abused their son. All they knew at that point was that the very priest who had helped them over and over again was now claiming he couldn’t help them during the worst moment of their lives.

F/ather L/avigne, with the backing of the Catholic Church, was brought in to pass a polygraph test. He couldn’t have done the horrible deed, of course, if he passed and that would put the whispers floating around the city to rest. For all intents and purposes, it sounds very much like he failed the first test. The newspapers claim it was inconclusive. Two further tests were completed at the backing of the Church and he passed.

F/ather L/avigne was transferred to another local church, St. Mary’s, amid the swirling rumors about his hand in Danny’s death. Most of the kids who had been abused by F/ather L/avigne could believe that he would do it. The priest, apparently, had an explosive temper and they, of course, all secretly knew why the priest would want to do such a thing. The police heard the claims and felt that the motive was not only damning but obvious.

Local opinion is that the police didn’t handle the case well. They seemed to tiptoe around the Catholic Church. This is true, by all accounts. While the police seemed to believe that, along with the local D.A., he had committed this crime, there wasn’t enough evidence to seek an indictment. The Croteaus were not only informed of the abuse their son had suffered, but some of their other sons confirmed they had also been abused. With that, they filed criminal complaints against their priest. But the D.A. said that there was no way they could convict a Catholic priest for the murder…

In the early 90s, when I first heard family members speak about the case, there was new heat on the case. In 1991, F/ather L/avigne was arraigned on charges of sexual abuse of a minor. His congregation was floored by the reports. Men and women and children all picked sides: those who believed the priest could do something so horrific and those who did not. The scandal threatened to destroy parishes – and in fact the parish where the abuse claim stemmed from did in fact break in half – and the first Catholic abuse scandal was born.

I won’t detail the long list of names that came forward, courageous people who spoke out against the priest. I’ll leave this link to the Bishop Accountability page for anyone who wants to explore it.

Suffice to say that the priest who was supposed to finally get his comeuppance for the abuse he had perpetrated, and the murder 20 years before, against the innocent never came. He pleaded guilty, but never spent a day in jail for it. He was never to serve as a priest again, but the Catholic Church paid him every month. He wasn’t defrocked, just retired.

The Croteaus were hopeful that this would do it; they would finally get the justice that their son deserved. The case was reopened by the new D.A. at the time now that victims of F/ather L/avigne’s were coming out of the wood work. They came out in droves, suing the Catholic Church and the priest himself, for the horrors they had suffered at his hands in long-suffering silence.

DNA testing was still in its infancy back then, but evidence collected at the scene was sent to a lab. Blood typing had confirmed that Danny’s blood type and another, Type B, was on the murder weapon and some of that blood was on a piece of rope found at the scene. The lab cleared F/ather L/avigne’s blood from the murder weapon, but couldn’t conclusively do so on the rope found at the scene. It wasn’t enough evidence for the case to go to trial as the D.A. believed they didn’t have enough evidence beyond a “reasonable doubt.” The case went cold again.

In the early 2000s, after I had moved out of state, the case came back under the lime light again. Litigation had been filed by a local lawyer to release the gag order on the documentation surrounding the sex abuse and murder investigation against F/ather L/avigne. The lawyer needed it to determine if the Diocese was complicit for the lawsuits that would eventually be filed. A judge ordered the documentation released to the public even though the D.A. fought hard against it. He claimed it would do more damage than good.

Maybe the D.A. just didn’t want to try or care anymore. After his failure in the early 90s, maybe he couldn’t face another failure or people claiming he had done nothing after claiming he would do something.

But maybe this was all that he needed to try, once again, to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that F/ather L/avigne was guilty of murder. DNA testing had come a long way since the early 90s, something the D.A. acknowledged.

He sent the evidence in for testing one more time and the testing failed to link F/ather L/avigne to the crime. Thirty-two years after becoming the only suspect in the murder (as all other suspects had been ruled out concretely), hope for justice finally died.

Around the same time, a local priest began to refuse to give the tithes from his parish church to the Catholic Diocese until they defrocked the sexual abuser in their midst and stopped paying for L/avigne’s retirement. He was threatened by the Diocese but his parishioners agreed with him. Others joined in the fight, but it was Father James Scahill who pushed and pushed. He won his fight and L/avigne was defrocked.

That was the only justice the Croteaus would ever know.

… I shall be aware in my heart, I shall have power in my heart, I shall have power to do whatever I desire… – Excerpt from Spell 26 from the Book of Going Forth by Day

I can remember an aunt of mine saying emphatically, “that priest did it; he killed that boy!” I was at her house and I came into the conversation too late to make sense of it. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It haunted me for a while because I couldn’t fathom – as many who viewed the abuse scandals of the early 2000s against the Catholic Church – that someone would do something like that to one of their parishioners.

She mentioned other names – kids she knew who had been abused by the priest. But it was the murder charge she levied against the priest that stuck in my memory. I didn’t understand it all until I saw Danny Croteau’s name on the cold case database for the county. It was the only time I would hear about it before I began digging into the case myself.

I visited the graves of the Croteaus some weeks back. Danny’s been joined by other family members, including his father. He’s no longer alone at least. The bench pictured above was the only thing I was comfortable photographing while I was there, paying my respects to a family who had survived the most horrific thing that I can imagine a family going through. All reports show that, even at the height of it all, the Croteaus never lost their faith.

As I stood before the stone bench on a cold Sunday morning, I tried to understand what it must have been like, not only for the family but for Danny too. His life had been cut short tragically and brutally. Thinking about it in terms of my own son, I am frozen by the intensity of my own feelings on the matter; I can’t describe the feeling at all. I can’t imagine how the family managed to survive at all.

As I thought about Danny the last few weeks while writing this entry and visiting his grave, I wondered about his soul. Was he resting in the arms of God? Or was he watching his family, waiting for them to join him before he went to wherever it is his soul has gone to? Was he angry that justice would never be served and that the likely murderer still lives?

I can’t answer these questions; maybe I’ll never know the answers but maybe one day I will.

All I can do is honor the boy’s memory and remember him. I can remember him as the wild child who hitchhiked where he wanted to go and wrestled at the YMCA. I can remember him as the prankster who stopped before running off that fateful April 14th evening to help his mom bring a rug inside and setting it back in its place.

I can think that maybe he’s a little at peace, even though justice will have to wait until the alleged murderer has to face his Maker whenever that will be. At least he’s back with his father now and maybe, I think, he probably did wind up in the arms of God. His mother always figured he had become an angel and if he did become one, maybe he’s the angel who watches out for those who need protection the most.

I am the soul of the souls of the eternal gods, my body is everlasting, I am he who is on high, Lord of Tatjebu, I am young in my city, I am boyish in the field, and such is my name, for my name will not perish. – Excerpt from Spell 85 from the Book of Going Forth By Day

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Lent 2018: C’est Fini.

I don’t ever really know what to expect when I observe Lent. I know what I would like to see happen and I know what I would not prefer to happen, but I’ve learned that expectations should be left out of it. In my experience if you go in with even a modicum of expectation, they’ll be fire bombed from orbit. It’s always better to not have them.

I’ve also discovered that, as the Lenten season progresses, I find myself feeling more and more helpless and hopeless. I always start off with some slight hope that my observance will be pleasing – to the gods, to the ancestors, to God, whomever really – but by the end of it all, I feel very much as if I’ve been marooned in the desert with nary a drop to hydrate myself with. It’s simultaneously frustrating and the whole purpose.

Forty whole days of sacrifice is hard. The point is reinforced over and over again through strategic points in those forty days. I’ve often wondered if the reinforcement of that point is something everyone goes through or of it’s something I, myself, go through because of my mental illness. The mind is always tricky and the constant belief that I have failed can be overwhelming.

In every instance, I have to remind myself that I signed up for this. I may not have had my eyes fully opened the first time this happened, and to be fair things were drastically different for me back then, but the constancy of my mind telling me that I’ve fucked it all up is even more draining than I can convey.

I often wonder if Catholics go through the same thing. I don’t have any I can really ask; all the ones I know intimately have long since lasped from that faith. I don’t think that they do to be honest. They have the ability to reach out to a deity who is not mine and feel the comfort therein.

I’ve thought about that too. Beyond asking the ancestors for some succor, what if I were to reach out to that amorphous deity or His son? In every instance, I am always reminded about why I turned away from the monotheism of my youth. I turned away from monotheism on purpose and while I’ve discussed some of those reasons here, not all of them have come up. I can say that the idea of reaching out to a deity who is not my own especially after my many years’ journey since I left is not a viable option.

Thus the hopelessness and helplessness.

It is, to be sure, why I always want to stop observing. But the ancestors are clear: if I am to have my way with venerating them, then compromise is part of that plan. And thus this compromise.

May we have communion with God in the secret of our hearts, and find Him to be to us as a little sanctuary. – Charles Spurgeon

This year, I gave up two remote concepts as opposed to anything realistic. When my mother finally asked me what I had given up, she sounded disappointed in my answer. My coworkers (who have always found it interesting evidently to ask what sacrifice I have planned for Lent) also seemed particularly disappointed in my response. This only made me realize how much outsiders always seem to view Lent as a physical sacrifice of X, Y, and Z thing. They never think of it really as bettering yourself.

But that was the point I was hoping to achieve. I had found my failings in the last few months after Advent and knew that I needed to step back from the obvious and move more towards the ambiguous. I needed things that while expressed in physical representations were more nebulous and vague than what I had done in the past. Besides after last year’s destruction, I felt I was owed, I guess, a little break from those types of things.

Sloth and gluttony are both part and parcel with my depression. Recently, a conversation with my son (who has a tenuous grasp on mental illness at 10 though he is starting to get it) pointed out that he thought my inability to do much after work was a direct result of laziness. I realized then that that was exactly what I thought too. I wasn’t taking into consideration my own limitations due to my mental illness. After a whole day of being on the go from the moment I wake up, I was more than entitled to take time out to rest.

The problem is, as many people know, the work/life mix that seemed easily found years before is no longer viable. But with all the other concerns that come along with working a 9 to 5 that doesn’t fulfill and doesn’t pay enough to make ends meet, the work/life mix is difficult to achieve. Even with the knowledge that I am very much like most people in my very same circumstances, I did at least try to move beyond sloth and gluttony as much as I was capable.

The end result was less that I was capable of doing more but the realization that there are two other people in this house who consistently do less. After twenty days and an impending burn out, I made it clear to both of them that I needed help not simply because of mental illness but also because my job takes up most of my energy all day, every day. I need help and oddly enough, the call was answered.

Upon thinking about this, I thought back to The Empress card from the ancestors. They had reminded me that I needed to take care of myself too no matter what end game I was hoping to achieve. Self-care isn’t my strong suit in any way to be honest. But I needed to both better myself while simultaneously taking care of myself.

I think they were hoping I would speak out and ask for help.

I did so a few times these past forty days, not just at home but elsewhere too. I had found my limitations and knew that no matter how hard I would prefer to be able to move past them, those limitations were the end game for me. It was either, help me please, or continue to suffer in silence and run headlong towards the inevitable break down.

I can’t say for sure but I would assume that finding your limitations and being vocal in your inability to get past them is a step in the path to bettering yourself. The ancestors, anyway, seemed pleased with it.

While the hopelessness and helplessness of the previous month or more hasn’t completely faded from me, I am hoping that it will continue to lessen as time goes by. I would like to assume that this is a turning point; a moment in time where I remember that human beings, myself included, are not perfect and are not robots. Sometimes we need others to step in and help out.

It is the resurrection that makes Good Friday good. – Ravi Zacharias

I can always see the end coming when I make my yearly appointment to donate blood. This has been something that I have been doing for years, as long time readers of this blog can attest, and it has always seemed very fitting for me to continue the trend though the connotation has much changed.

Originally this was a devotional act. It made sense to me that Sekhmet would like it if I, as her devotee, would donate blood in her name. People who read this often were horrified at the prospect, focusing wholly on her destructive aspect and the blood soaked pre-world where she vamped her way through scores of hapless human beings at Re’s say so.

They always seemed to be forgetting entirely her healing prospect. And to be sure, donating blood is an act of healing. Not only can the blood be used for someone who needs whole blood, but it could also be used in various trials that require whole blood for the testing. Previously, in my experience, people were too focused on the word “blood” and not what the donation is used for. And since the health organizations are horrifically discriminatory against the lgbtq+ community at large, I often go to try to make up for an entire swath of the population who can’t donate due to that discrimination.

The funny thing is that blood donation as slowly morphed to a devotional act for Sekhmet to an act of remembrance for my ancestors.

A little known fact is that my mother used to donate blood before she started on medications that leave her out of the running. An even lesser known fact is that my maternal grandfather did the same thing. It seems appropriate that I continue the family tradition. I even brought my son this time so he could watch and start to think about whether this is something he would do when he’s old enough.

The sacrifice of some blood on Good Friday is a fitting ending to the season of Lent.

Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life. – Janine di Giovanni

In my final homage to both the ancestors and Lent, I spent time with them this morning. I sat in reflection of what the past 40 days were like and gave a very heartfelt thanks that things were easier this year than last year. The specter of my last Lent had stayed with me for about half the forty days before I was finally able to release it.

I asked the ancestors as I always do what I could expect now that I’ve come through this most recent season. They slammed me with The Magician. This card heralds the start of The Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana and speaks to the beginning of the path ahead. While standard Rider-Waite iconographic interpretation discusses the fusion of the spiritual and mundane as well as hints at the use of all four alchemical elements present in Tarot, the deck I use for my ancestors is a little different.

The imagery of the Antique Anatomy Tarot is a little less obvious than the standard Rider-Waite imagery. The alchemical symbols for earth, air, fire, and water are present along with the symbol for Mercury, associated with The Magician card. But that is where the similarity ends. There is no overt symbolism related to the fusion of both the spiritual and mundane… except that there is. It’s just a little more intuitive than other decks.

As I sat there, focused on the metaphor of The Fool’s opening salvo for the journey ahead, I couldn’t help but wonder what more could be coming my way. A fusion of mundanity and spirituality has been something that I think many of us hope for but often fall flat of the mark that we set for ourselves.

The ancestors whisper of trust and care, of love and progression. They murmur of intuition and dreams, reminding me that a meat bag like I can achieve what I want most. I guess we’ll have to see.

Lent 2018.

The Lenten season decided to sneak up on me this year. One moment, it was the New Year and a decision about observing Lent was weeks ago; the next moment, it was only in a few days and I had to decide whether or not I could face it again. After last year’s fiasco, the ancestors couldn’t really blame me for being leery of the prospect.

The funny thing is that, even with how awful things were last year, once I was able to look back and take stock, I could in fact see how it worked to better develop my relationship with them. I spent more time with them during Lent and I found myself relying on their advice more heavily than I would typically. On that end, we could say it was a bit of a success.

And as always, I really don’t want to disappoint them. They aren’t able to take part in these little rituals anymore. It’s for them that I say an occasional Hail Mary or Our Father. It’s for them that I pay homage to saints and have begun adding certain saints’ feast days to my celebratory calendar. It is with my ancestors in mind and the knowledge that through me, they can reconnect with their physical representations of faith that I do these things.

So, as much as I definitely wanted to say, “oh no, I think not,” this year, I knew that I wouldn’t. No matter how awful things were last year, I could remind myself that the the point in the season is about deprivation, about preparation, and about reflection. I spent a good deal of my time last year doing all of those things and at the end of the day, even with the awful fallout, I can say that it definitely wrought change even if I didn’t really expect it to.

With that reminder in mind, I thought about what I wanted to give up. I have a habit of choosing really big things and then getting angry with myself for not following through or forgetting or just generally not going a full 40 days of deprivation.

I think, in all the times I’ve observed, I’ve been successful exactly one time. On the flip side, I can say that last year was a success in and of itself, just not in the way I had expected.

I’ve decided to get down to brass tacks this year though. I’ve decided to tackle two of the Seven Deadly Sins: sloth and gluttony.

sloth

Thou seest how sloth wastes the sluggish body, as water is corrupted unless it moves. – Ovid

One of my major failings – and I have many – is sloth.

I spend my entire work week having to complete things in very specific and predefined timelines. If I don’t meet the expectation that we have given the client for whatever item I am working on, then our value/add goes down in their eyes. And of course, I hear about it from the Big Boss.

So all day, every day, I am working with the knowledge that I have a finite period of time to see to whatever it is that I am seeing to.

Almost in response to this constant pounding nag that I have only so much time to do something, I tend to put off everything else in my life. I have to send out mail? Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow. I have to flip my bookshelves because they’re bending again? Meh, I’m not in the mood so I’ll get it tomorrow. There’s a sink full of dishes and no bowls left? You know what, I’ll just get to it tomorrow.

The problem is that tomorrow never shows up because by then, the task has become insurmountable. Instead of dealing with things when it’s time to deal with them or when I realize it needs to be done, I continue to push it off in the hopes that either someone else will do it for me or I can nag someone else into doing it for me (with limited success).

When no one bothers to step up to the plate to do it, I end up doing it anyway and am disgruntled by how much harder I’ve made the task for myself. And yet, I continue to do this.

Tomorrow is a day that never comes and the cycle flourishes.

The best part is that I know what will happen when I tell myself I’ll deal with it later, but I don’t bother to stop putting myself in this untenable position over and over again.

I have a variety of reasons why this is a thing. If it’s because the chore in question is related to Big Adulting Stuff, the reason is quite simply that I am too anxious to do the Big Adulting Stuff. So, it’s better to ignore it (wrong – as I know) than to actually do it. If it’s the smaller things, then the only reason is because I’m exhausted and I frankly don’t want to have to deal with it.

As tired or anxious as I may be that doesn’t mean life doesn’t keep happening.

So, in an effort to continuing in this vein for yet another year, I’ve decided to take into consideration the fact that what happens when I get home from work tends to mean that I am not going to do whatever needs to be done.

During dinner, I get sucked into Internet or TV. And then I’ll read because I don’t want to deal with the things waiting for me. And then I’ll write if I have time or continue to binge watch whatever I was binge watching earlier that week. I have a lot of things that drag my attention away from where it needs to be, so I’ve decided to limit that.

Television off. Phone on vibrate unless I’m using it to listen to music. Books and laptop are not allowed out until 7:30. That gives me an hour and a half to deal with whatever thing I’ve been putting off that needs to stop being put off.

Gluttony

Gluttony and idleness are two of life’s great joys, but they are not honourable. – Julie Burchill

Another major failing of mine is a form of gluttony.

When I think of the word gluttony, the image those most often comes to mind is a Roman banquet of epic proportions replete with periodic stops at the vomitorium to make room for the next course. I can absolutely and confidently say that I am not like that – in fact, I’ve been losing weight fairly steadily since I flipped my diet last year prior to my gallbladder surgery.

But, I do have a tendency of eating out more than my budget can handle. And I have a tendency of blowing my monthly budget out of the water with idiot mistakes… like going out to eat more often than I should. To me, not following the strict budgeting I’ve put into place for myself in an effort to achieve a Big Adult Goal this year is a part of gluttony.

In a way, gluttony ties back to my slothful tendencies. As I was thinking on these two things to give up, it occurred to me that, very easily, the two go hand-in-hand. While I may not consciously push off cooking dinner, I always have a host of canned responses as to why I don’t bother. The phrasing of those reasons tends to be me highlighting how tired I am because of work and how I’m just so hungry right this second that I need to get something immediately instead of waiting.

I’m lying to myself every time I do this and I know that I am. Every Tuesday, or thereabouts, the kid and I make dinner together. (Usually tacos.) It doesn’t take me that long to get that dinner finished and every Tuesday, I come home “starving” and desiring to just dip into a bag of Cheetos or make something quick that I can eat that much sooner.

But because this important to my son, and to the S.O. when he comes home to leftovers, I know that the canned responses are, in fact, bullshit. It’s a carefully coordinated and class act, but it’s all bullshit for as far as the eye can see.

So, I will be saying good-bye, generally anyway, to junk food and fast food. Going out to dinner for a pre-planned [and therefore budgeted] meal with the S.O. or my son is one thing, but going out three nights a week because I don’t feel like taking the half hour it may take me to cook dinner is ridiculous.

And this way, hopefully, I’ll be able to, you know, stick to that budget that’s been crying at me every month when I look at my bank statements. That way, I can ensure that on top of giving up, I can continue to give back to the community and various causes as I was doing last year even if it’s just a few bucks here and there.

And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. – Luke 9:23

After my last fast food hurrah with my son yesterday, I took the time to clean and rearrange the ancestors’ place of veneration. I sang songs and made sure that I had everything set up with all the appropriate symbolism that goes into my relationship with them on a daily basis.

I sat down with the ancestors briefly (since I had to help out with the annual Valentine’s Day hoopla for the kid’s school) and asked them what sort of advice they had for me going into this. I reminded them about the concerns I had going into last year’s Lenten season and that, to be honest, I didn’t really have the same concerns but that they were there nonetheless. I pulled The Empress card in response.

Among other things, The Empress is about nurturing and creativity. These were two things that I failed to do for myself last year. Instead of nurturing myself and pushing myself forward, I was too busy beating myself up for every perceived mistake. Instead of going into the season with creativity and excitement, I went into it with a heavy heart and just about set myself up to fail.

As always, I don’t know what the next 40 days will bring, but it certainly will be interesting. Hopefully, when things get a little tight or I start getting down on myself, I can reflect back on The Empress and remind myself that success in something like this is measured less by the tangible and more by the feeling left behind.

Stasis.

Dust coats the flat surfaces of my altars. In passing, I can see the fingerprints and smudges from passersby. I keep asking myself if I should clean it; I don’t have an answer.

The battery candles pop on at the same time every night. I think about the batteries and ask myself if I should shut them off; I don’t have an answer.

The sun rises and it sets, the moon follows suit. I used to think there was some poetry in all of it and maybe a hint of the divine. I ask myself if it even matters anymore; I don’t have an answer.

Tomorrow is the first day of a brand new year. I keep asking myself if this means I should pay more attention to my gods; I don’t have an answer.

When the year was a little over half over, I was ready to write it off. I was tired of fighting back in July and wanted to stop having to try. Right then, when I wrote that entry and hit the post button, I knew what I could look forward to for the next five months: more bullshit, more disappointment, more fighting.

Why bother? I asked myself. I never came up with a good answer to the question. I would mull on it periodically, asking myself why I was bothering anymore. I stuttered on some answer, trying to jump start the next step, maybe rekindle a hint of hope. But I honestly couldn’t answer such a simple fucking question.

All of the little goals and the big ones I had hoped to achieve never got close enough. I knew back in July that what I had been looking to do for 2017 wasn’t going to happen as one thing after another went to shit. I blamed myself, cried furtively about it, and buried whatever new failure had reared its head behind a progressively growing wall of internalized nihilism.

For a while, I blamed the state of the world. Why bother when the world is crashing down and this is what we have to offer the next generation. Arguments and missile strikes and war and toxicity and climate change and “p.c. culture” and every other new fucking thing that’s hit us.

Hope is easy when there are rays of it everywhere or at least, visibly seen. Rays of hope are hard when the fucking shit is constantly hitting the fucking fan and there’s no pause between this round and the next.

How many Tumblr “please reblog and call your senator” posts did I scroll by? How many spot on fucking tweets did I see retweeted thousands of times and screen shot on FB with still the same fucking shit happening the next day and the day after? How many hatch marks could we cross off in the win column compared with the hundreds in the lose? It got to be too much. The daily worldwide overload was just as bad as the daily personal overload.

I think it was in October when I realized that I had given up. I woke up and did the bare minimum to get through the day. I had no plans beyond the day I had just started or just gotten through. I made little goals and maybe I’d meet them. Sometimes I did; mostly I didn’t. I shrugged off the feeling of futility and kept trucking on because forward, even slowly, was the only direction to go.

That’s when I stopped blaming the world and started blaming the gods. My theory about why the blame should be laid at their feet makes sense even if only to me: they’re not gods of the here and now. No matter how much political or personal heka I toss out there, they’re not from this time and place as much as devotees may try. Their finite resources are for the important bits – maybe like their own survival – and fuck everything else.

Well, maybe not quite like that.

Maybe they feel sorry about it. Maybe they just really can’t because shit is so fucked outside in the world and inside me personally that ma’at flew the coop long ago and there’s no more balance left to achieve. I frankly don’t know, but I’m strangely okay with it.

It’s possible this theory just sounds like doubt, lack of belief, lack of faith. The funny thing is that I don’t disbelieve in the gods. I’ve had too much shit happen to me because of them to suddenly turn atheist. This pet theory of mine… well, it just makes sense. But I can see why it may sound a little crackpot.

A couple months ago, I bought a wooden icon of Saint Anthony of Padua. It was a joke really. I had been looking for Saint Francis because of a story my mom had told me months before. I didnt like the Saint Francis icon the shop had and landed myself onto Saint Anthony.

I knew him of course. My mom invoked him, out of all the saints, the most when I was a kid because something she needed was always missing. It’s actually so ingrained in me to ask Saint Anthony for help when something is lost that it’s out of my mouth before I consciously think of it.

It didn’t occur to me until recently that maybe I always liked Papa Legba was because I had already felt comfort in the classic Catholic imagery he wears as a guise.

And then, I dreamed about Ezili Dantor in her Black Madonna imagery. I can remember the deep darkness of her face flashing against the white of her eyes and the gold imagery surrounding her like a halo. The child in her lap was happy.

I found it frightening and comforting to dream of a foreign religion, something I had set aside in an effort to further pursue a religion that hasn’t made me happy in so long. My Hougan friend said it was probably time for another reading, just like I did two years ago to see what this was about. I wasn’t thrilled with the advice – my last reading was kind of painful – but it makes sense.

I hadn’t really made much of a decision since the chat. Kind of yes, kind of no. I waffled because that’s what I do when I have to make a decision and make appointments.

Today, when I pulled the Skull of Flowers from the Halloween Oracle, I remembered the decision I hadn’t bothered to make. I thought about the changes that have happened for my Hougan friend since he went that route and all the stasis I’ve been sitting in.

What harm’s a reading anyway? Maybe Someone can finally tell me how to rekindle hope.

Chief of the Shambles. 

For the last few months, I’ve been doing nothing but fighting. I’ve been clawing up out of the muck and mire. I have been catching bits of sunlight glinting before my eyes and then, I slide back down in the mud hole. Sometimes it encases me like a body suit and sometimes it’s just a little dirt.

These past four months have been hellacious in comparison to the previous year, year plus.

The previous eighteen months weren’t a cake walk by any means, but it was still … well, easier. It was more like… a well worn groove that I had created by pacing. I could just keep following it. But at some point in the last four months I lost that well worn thread and I can’t find my way back to it any more.

As a kid, my childhood best friend and I would spend hours in the little pool behind her house. We would drift and be mermaids, but a lot of times we would work on creating the most powerful whirlpool we could and then work to break it. No matter how many times we went round and round that pool, we could always break that whirlpool in a matter of minutes.

The last four months have been a little like that whirlpool except that I haven’t been able to break the current. I’m stuck inside that swirl and I can’t find a way out. If I just lie very, very still then I can float along the surface and let it take me wherever it wants me to go. Sometimes, I still fight it because isn’t that what humans are supposed to do? But mostly I just don’t bother.

I know; I know. It’s just depression. I can find a doctor and go back on the anti-depressants that worked the best. I could easily find a solution, but even just finding a doctor is a fight. After over a year of fighting with the state about whether or not I actually had health coverage and then trying to find doctors in network that are actually accepting new patients…

It’s just yet another nail on the coffin.

I’m tired of fighting.

I spoke those words aloud to myself a few days ago and then just kind of stopped. I was a little shocked when they came out of my mouth. It was like a reflex of some sort, though nothing that I could think of really caused the reflex in the first place. I remember looking around as I voiced the sentence out loud again. I don’t know what I was looking for, but whatever it was supposed to be wasn’t there.

After I announced to the empty house that I was so tired of fighting, oddly enough my first thoughts were about Sekhmet. I wasn’t even concerned about what it might mean about my state of mind. I just immediately jumped to thinking about her.

I thought, wow, what a failure of a Sekhmet kid you turned out to be. She hasn’t said anything about it to me though she’s shown up in dreams since then. I have gotten the impression that she doesn’t think I’m a failure, it’s all just my own spin on the situation. But I still can’t quite get it out of my head that, unlike every other fucking Sekhmet kid out there, I’m ready to just fucking give up.

I mean, of all the ancient Egyptian gods to want to emulate, to claim a connection to, I chose the one god who is the most well known for going in fighting. She’s the one everyone turns to when it comes to fighting back, to standing up, for survival of the fittest, and for strength. She is the one that everyone turns to and says, “this is the deity who is going to teach me how to stand with spine straight.”

How many posts have we all seen about people turning to her in their time of need? They reach out when the tide is high and drowning is on the horizon. They turn to emulate her when they need to stand steadfast against the systemic -isms prevalent in this world of ours. They claw at the shit heap that life has thrown their way, spewing the blood and guts of their personal war into the universe.

She is what everyone hopes to one day be.

But here I am, a child of hers, and all I keep thinking is, “I’m just so tired of fighting. I want to stop now.”

Chains

O you who take away hearts and accuse hearts, who re-create a man’s heart in respect of what he has done, he is forgetful of himself through what you have done. – excerpt from Spell 27, The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner

With Wep-Ronpet nearly upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Distant Goddess myth. I am most likely not alone in this since this myth heralds the inundation and the renewal of the year itself. It’s just that time of the year for Kemetics, I guess.

There are numerous variations of this myth out there. Some of them are little more than allusions, breaths of a myth cycle that have since been lost to us (the Anhur/Menhyt version). Others tend to more prominence and are more often discussed: the cycle indicating that Tefnut was the Wandering Eye with Shu sent out to lure her home or the cycle where Hetheru is the Wandering Eye and Djehuty is forced to cajole her back to her father.

It should truly come as no surprise that I’ve chosen to align the Wandering Goddess myth within the confluence of the Hetheru/Sekhmet dynamic I’ve created for myself over the years.

According to my findings, it is after the goddess flees into the wilderness that the Destruction of Mankind myth takes place at some later date in time. My research seems to show that Re is not yet well established as the premier ruler over the world when the Eye takes off in anger.

Based on the Hetheru/Sekhmet dynamic I mentioned above, the idea that the Wandering Goddess myth takes place before the Destruction of Mankind never made much sense to me.

While most likely the reason I find it difficult to see the timeline in that way is because I’ve lost something in the translations I’ve read, there’s no telling if that really is the case. I will readily admit that it’s also possible that I prefer my own carefully crafted narrative when it comes to my two goddesses. Whatever the case may be, I’ve found a different timeline that sits better in my mind.

In my head, it always made much more sense that after Re tricked Sekhmet into drinking the red beer that she grew upset with her father and the world he had set her mindlessly upon. In the midst of the emotional upheaval that his trick most likely caused, she chose to flee into the wilderness.

Maybe she just needed time away for perspective or to race off the remains of her bloodlust. Whatever the case, she needed to get away.

Upon her leaving, she was still angry but knew that any acts upon the people he had chosen over her could end badly for her. After all, Re had clearly proved that he could outwit her. Maybe she realized that she wasn’t up for the task of trying to take him on. Or perhaps it wasn’t that she just simply couldn’t handle the idea of a full fledged battle against her father.

Perhaps it was necessary for her to rest after having gone balls to the wall against the world Re had created. After all, she was mid-bloodlust before he forced her to stop. Having the wool pulled over your eyes by the very being that called you into being as a manifestation of its own rage has to be something that throws you for a loop.

As I’ve theorized before, it seems to me that rage is most likely not an emotion that you can just drink away no matter how much booze you ingest.

chained

He himself has power over his members, his heart obeys him, for he is your lord and you are in his body, you shall not turn aside. – excerpt from Spell 27, The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner

How often has something happened that forced us to acknowledge a need to get away from it all? It’s not so much running away or giving up, but a need to take some time so that you can sort out all the minutiae that’s gone into whatever it is that’s upset you in the first place.

As I pondered the mythic narrative I’ve felt more and more comfortable with over the years, I’ve often seen Sekhmet’s version of the Wandering Eye myth much like we would see a mental health day. In her case, of course, it took much longer than a simple day and another god had to talk her into returning eventually, which didn’t exactly go well the first few times. But eventually, she returns.

As I thought about how sick I am of fighting, I wondered if that’s what Sekhmet was aiming for when she ran off. I mean, it makes a lot of sense in my opinion. She went from pure rage to being forced to stop with no available outlet for where the anger was supposed to go. I know that we’re just supposed to believe that all that white hot fire went away with a number of jars of red beer. But it makes more sense that she took off for parts unknown to get her head screwed on straight.

It wasn’t that she gave up necessarily; she stopped fighting.

That certainly sounds pretty familiar to me. After so many months of trying to keep my head above the surface or being shown tantalizing glimpses of the hopes and dreams I have that don’t seem to be able to come to fruition no matter how many times I’ve tried, no longer fighting seems like a pretty decent option. It leaves you open and available to pick up and start fighting again at some future point, but it also gives you the time you need to take stock and figure out what the fuck is going on.

I came out the other side of that sentence, “I’m tired of fighting,” thinking that I was just a terrible Sekhmet kid, that I was doing everything to prove that I was all around a very terrible devotee. But maybe I’m just following her myth cycle a little. I’m going from a need to fight and keep my head above the waves to just letting the damn ocean current take me further out to see. I’ll figure out how to get to shore eventually… probably.

O Lion, I am a weneb-flower; the shambles of the god is what I abhor and my heart shall not be taken from me… – Spell 28, The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner

I Have Driven Off A / Pep.

This past week, I had a part of my body removed because it stopped functioning properly. I tell people we removed my gallbladder because I’ve been beating it up for the last 18 years and we needed to permanently part ways, which is true. I told my gods I was sorry and I didn’t mean to and couldn’t they fix it so I could keep all parts of my body for the afterlife?

It was a very confusing time leading up to the surgery.

To be fair, it was a very confusing time leading up to the diagnosis.

Confusion

O you who emerge from the waters, who escape from the flood and climb on the stern of your bark, may you indeed climb on the stern of your bark, may you be more hale that you were yesterday. – part of Spell 101 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I don’t know why I let it get as bad as it did. The first few times I had a gallstones attack, the pain wasn’t bad enough to drive me to the ER at 1 in the morning. Google-fu pretty much told me what was happening to me (gallstones) so I cut back on fatty foods to the best of my fatty food loving ability and the attacks were minimal. I had one or two in a 6-month period that first year and swore I’d deal with it next time.

But I just kept putting it off (sometimes with valid reasons and other times with probably not quite so valid ones).

Three years is a long time to deal with an  undiagnosed health issue. But I kept assuring myself that waking up my family in the middle of the night because of the pain that would eventually clear up was not worth it. My body and I were on an uneasy keel, but I was managing pretty well.

My gallbladder had other ideas of course. Maybe it got sick of my shit or maybe three years was too long. After a meal that was not very high in fat content, the pain was bad enough to force me to the ER where the doc said, “oh it’s definitely gallstones. There’s an awful lot in there; how long has this been going on?”

It was kind of nice to get the confirmation of what I already knew, but now I had to deal with it. I read up on different ways to contend with it and found non-surgical alternatives. However they all weren’t permanent solutions; the stones always came back.

I decided to ignore the implication that I would, by necessity, have a part of my body permanently removed. The fear of the surgery itself weighed too heavily on my mind, but I was also completely freaked out by the loss of that body part. I could lie and say just losing a piece of yourself was what was freaking me out, but to be frank, it was trying to figure out how this could impact me in the afterlife that was causing my issues.

It had never occurred to me before I faced this that I had always just assumed I would be fully intact upon my death. But now I had to face the music: my poor nutritional choices had brought me to the point where being fully intact upon my death was no longer an option.

a town of memory loss

Seth … will say to him with magic power: “Get back at the sharp knife which is in my hand! I stand before you, navigating aright and seeing afar. Cover your face, for I ferry across; get back because of me…” – part of Spell 108 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

The month of June was completely overwhelming as I faced the news that I needed my gallbladder out. My liver function became less efficient and the doctors were highly concerned because my gallbladder had also begun to harden after 3 years of attacks that I hadn’t dealt with. I found myself crying a lot as I tried to think past my own fears of what was to come.

One night, I cried in the shower, begging the gods to enact a miraculous cure. I knew they couldn’t do such a thing but I was still angry when I woke up with the dull ache around my liver and gallbladder as I had been off and on since the second trip to the ER. I had known the only way to deal with this was removal but the terror that I wouldn’t go to the afterlife because I was missing a piece of me held on and squeezed at me.

That sounds almost ridiculous, I suppose. “I’m terrified of surgery because my beliefs tell me I need all of my body to get to the afterlife.” I don’t want to say that this was a crisis of faith because it wasn’t. It was more like failed attempts to correlate a belief system from early human civilization with the modern era.

This is probably quite common for those of us attempting to create an historically informed practice from an ancient religion. For the most part, I’ve moved beyond these issues and have modernized my beliefs and practices where I needed to. But sometimes, apparently, something comes up that tosses you into a tailspin.

The thing that finally got me over this particular hump was something a coworker of mine said when I mentioned how much the notion was freaking me out. “Maybe they’ll put it in a biohazard jar so you can bury it.” It was said in jest and made me laugh, which was the overall point at the time. And somehow, hearing that set me a bit at ease as far as loss of organs went.

It occurred to me that I was probably being ridiculous. As I came at the fear from another angle, I had to remind myself that people in ancient Egypt probably also lost body parts and may not have been able to keep them for whatever reason. I most likely wasn’t going to be barred from the afterlife because an organ had stopped working properly and needed to be removed before causing me any serious harm.

When I was able to see it from that angle, I felt better. I was still a little weirded out by the whole thing since, aside from canines that didn’t come in correctly, I had never had to have anything removed before. But at least I could turn my anxiety away from what my soul would uncover upon death and focus heartily on my fear of the surgery itself.

Surgery

…expel my evil, grip hold of my falsehood, and I will have no guilt in respect of you. Grant that I may open up the tomb, that I may enter in Rosetjau, and that I may pass by the secret portals of the West. – part of Spell 126 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I knew fear as an intimate companion the days leading up to the surgery. I would hear that phrase from Christian burials, “and yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” and I would sit in a haze of terror. I would shake with it and I would hold onto my apotropaic amulet and let fear race through my veins.

I broke down minutes before the surgery, whispering in my mind, I don’t want this; I don’t want to be here. Please let this be a nightmare. But it was reality and forward I went. The SO squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead, but I was still terrified of what was going to happen to me.

The removal of the organ; the death like sleep doctors were going to control while I was out; the unknown pain and recovery of what was to come after. All of it coalesced into a sort of miniature battle where I wasn’t really sure if I would survive as intact as I hoped to be.

This sounds ridiculous but it felt a bit like a battle against that entropy snake we all battle against as Kemetics. It felt like I was going into battle against an unknown and unseen enemy and I could either survive another day or I could die in the attempt. I didn’t step into the battle with courage like you’d expect from a true warrior but with tears on my lashes and a team of ladies in blue injecting something into my IV.

Split seconds before I passed out, I was staring at the ceiling and thinking that this was a bit like being drunk without all the terrible consequences. The grating in the ceiling above me did a full 180 spin and I can remember thinking, it’s like bed spin without the nausea, and then I was waking up in a green room with nurses everywhere.

I’ve felt very fragile since the surgery. It’s kind of made me realize that our bodies can easily break. I mean, I knew this in a sort of abstract way – I had a fractured elbow a few years back and I’ve fractured my ankle before – but it’s like the point had to be made real again. I feel very much like I could break completely, maybe next time it will be in half.

I’m recovering though, no matter how dark my thoughts or how fragile I feel.

The pain is weird; it comes and goes. Sometimes I feel like I could just recover on my own and then the next time I go to get up for something, I have to call for help because I can barely even think of the idea of getting up without someone helping me to my feet. I overdid it yesterday with all my trying to do this on my own and I’m suffering for it now.

My body feels a little foreign because of the pain, a little like it was someone else’s and now I’m trying to make it fit. No. No, it’s honestly like I put on a different skin suit after the surgery sometimes and now I have to figure out all the motor control again.

No. No… maybe a better description would be like being reborn…

I am reborn, I see, I behold, I will be yonder, I am raised up on my side, I make a decree, I hate sleep, I detest limpness, and I who was in Nedit stand up. – part of Spell 174 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

 Pacify.

I’m being stalked by the ritual card from the Amethyst Oracle. I mean, I’m pretty much okay with this. After introducing themselves to me as a deck that was going to be a little odd but definitely capable of dragging my ass, I decided I could live with that. So far, so good anyway.

This past week, the card flopped out at me and then showed up in a legitimate reading. I immediately went to my calendar and notes that Friday was the Day of Pacifying Sekhmet. I had no doubt I was going to do something. I just had to figure out how I was going to pacify her.

I mean, a lot of people tend to think of physical restraints when it comes to pacification. Maybe that’s a byproduct of the colonialism mindset most people in the western world are raised in. I don’t know, but I can say that the mere idea of restraining Sekhmet left me completely uncomfortable.

No way could I, a simple human, subdue such a dangerous and ferocious creature. And I don’t believe that the ancient Egyptians would have gone that route either. They feared her alongside revering her; no one would have been fortified enough to even consider such an idea much less going through with it.

According to the dictionary, the definition of the word is:

  1. to bring or restore to a state of peace or tranquillity; quiet; calm:

    to pacify an angry man.

  2. to appease:

    to pacify one’s appetite.

  3. to reduce to a state of submission, especially by military force; subdue.

All right, so appeasing sounded like something plausible. I could do that. Probably.

It wasn’t really that I was going to take her on, but more cajole her. I wanted to lure her to me, to ameliorate the rage that no doubt still simmers beneath her skin, but without having to force the issue. In effect, I needed to seduce her… but with what? How does one seduce a god, so to speak, in an effort to pacify the wrath that created her?

I have some experience here since I do something similar towards the end of her Propitiation each year. But there was a subtle difference. During the Propitiation, I am luring my distant goddess back to me. She tends to be fiery and energetic upon her return. This time, I was luring her in the hopes of keeping her calm and pacified.

I knew I needed to seduce her with ma’at-affirming things. As I have mentioned previously, the ancient Egyptians utilized green to symbolize Sekhmet in a ma’at-affirming frame of mind. In that post, I described that this was also a form of appeasement, a way to show that the Lady of the Flood could be appeased and pacified.

During the Propitiation, I am most often using words to draw her back. It isn’t so different from the Wandering Goddess myth where Djehuty or Shu talk her into returning to the fold. I could have used nothing but words, but the green-faced Sekhmet iconography that I needed to create seemed to say that more than mere word play was needed.

My first step was to find foods that I felt would be most appropriate in the act of pacification.

I knew immediately that I was going to use cucumbers. They’re associated with her and I absolutely love them. (I eat one a day typically.) In their associations with her, it seems more that those who would eat them were doing so for a fertility aspect.

While we often hear people tell of the mercurial and fiery aspects of Sekhmet, her ability to protect, maintain, and live in ma’at has more than just these connotations. In my point of view, it is the coolness (as in temperature) of a cucumber along with the gentle taste of these green veggies that help her to remain calm in the face of her own destructive nature.

But I wanted to give her a full meal, a sort of smorgasbord of deliciousness bent entirely on enticement.

Grapes were another given. I have always had a soft spot for the little orbs so long as they’re green. The red ones taste odd to me. Suffice to say merely that I absolutely love green grapes and as Sard pointed out in their post about colors in ancient Egypt, the color green was associated with ma’at-affirming behavior, just like the cucumbers.

Another reasoning behind grapes is because they are expensive for someone on such a tight budget. A banquet fit for a goddess should include items that are a little beyond the norm and as much as I love green grapes, my budget can typically ill afford them. Sometimes, the gods should get a little more than the usual fair.

For the main course, I chose tilapia because of this epithet of Sekhmet. I couldn’t say definitively if eating tilapia was a taboo or not since food taboos are a hot mess of a topic in relation to ancient Egyptian religious food proscriptions. But I figured that if she didn’t really want me to go that route, she would have made herself clear. Since the fish was on sale, I concluded it was a go.

As with every banquet/meal/food time that I have with my gods, I chose chocolate (totally within ma’at and you can fight me if you say otherwise) and also included some organic kettle corn, which is my latest food obsession, and diet Coke. (Hard stop on anyone interested in disabusing me of my diet Coke loving life.)

I felt, well, moderately successful. I mean, as I placed everything together in front of her partially open shrine, I felt like this was a good meal to lure a goddess. It’s possible that I was just overwhelmed with a feeling of my own peace and contentment but I’d like to think some of those feelings were hers.

The thing about this though is that living in ma’at is far more than just a good meal and some beneficent feelings. If it was that easy, we wouldn’t have as many arguments about what exactly it entails (and everyone would most likely be doing it). Living and maintaining ma’at includes actions as well as words, as well as food, as well as good feelings. It’s all tied together and somehow, I had to figure out how to go beyond.

I had to stop and think really hard about what exactly ma’at entails to me. I wound up breaking it down into two component parts: the public stuff that everyone sees me posting or discussing and the private stuff that is not available for public consumption.

The private stuff was easy to pull up and get in front of her. While I won’t go into the details of what it all is, I can tell you that those items are aspects of my personal devotion to her. We may not always get along or spend quality time together, but there are time honored traditions within our relationship which are specifically associated with various items.

I placed those items within the shrine for her with the intent of showing her my “green” living as it relates to our relationship.

The next bit was a little harder. I had to find physical reminders of daily actions that are, in my head, associated with living in ma’at. It’s one thing to say that X, Y, and Z thing are part of your ma’at-affirming lifestyle; it’s quite another finding physical reminders of those things.

The pieces I chose included items relating to my family, my ancestor veneration, self-care, and my faith. I carefully chose what I did in an effort to personify both myself and the belief that I live in ma’at everyday.

Afterwards, I sat in quiet reflection with her. Just as I felt after the meal we shared, I had the distinct impression that she was appeased, pleased with both my efforts at conducting a ritual for her and my attempts to show what my life-affirming propitiation was like.

Maybe, even if for just a few short hours, she was happy.

Ritual.

Recently, I purchased a gorgeous new oracle deck. This isn’t really surprising news or shouldn’t be. I’m a deck collector and I can’t say no when a deck has eye catching artwork and an exquisite use of color.

I have to say that I truly love the Amethyst Oracle with every fiber of my being. It has been one of the best choices I have made for a new deck in a long time. Beyond how much my heart pitter patters whenever I have that deck in my hand, it’s also helping me a lot through a particularly trying time. One of the regular bits of advice it gives me is Ritual.

This has been something that I have been particularly slacking on for the last two years. When your entire world has stagnated and turned gray, it is particularly difficult to give a tin shit about rituals or holidays. Even though I still give daily offerings, in themselves a form of ritual, it’s so ingrained a thing for me to do that it’s more like background noise than an actual ritual. 

This oracle has thrown this card at me so often that I’ve found myself searching my calendar for ritual type things to complete just to get a new card now and again. There are a number of things coming up this month, particularly the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion, and while I knew I would be celebrating that, it occurred to me that I should get my feet wet with a few smaller things before then. 

Last week, I did a very small celebration for the Day of the Executioners of Sekhmet. This week was the less than descriptive Purifying of Sekhmet. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do but it was going to be something at least.

I tried to remember why I had this on my calendar, hoping to knock loose some idea about what this day was supposed to achieve. I mean, sure the name is pretty clear about the root to the day, but I was thinking along the lines of how in the hell do I purify her? And am I even qualified to anymore?

The last time I spent any time with my gods, Sekhmet included, was during her Propitiation last year. I haven’t felt a desire or need to really do anything heartfelt or expressive. With my days tied up trying like hell just to get through and survive for another 24 hours, the truth is that my relationships with any of my gods is a fairly low priority. With that in mind, I had to ask if I was really the person to do this.

She hadn’t thrown any wrenches in the works. Each new and low impact idea I came up with just kind of unfolded before me. I was in and out of the grocery store in 20 minutes and within budget. I found most other supplies I had in mind tossed behind other junk in my cabinet of religious shit. Even getting the flowers evenly trimmed down for the perfect vase that I had been sure had been tossed out months ago seemed to go smoothly.

Maybe it was the deck spirit or maybe it was Sekhmet or maybe coincidence. It didn’t seem to matter why things were going well just that they were.

As usual, I tried to soak myself in as much symbolism as I could. Sometimes I’m incredibly successful and other times, only moderately so. I looked into creating a sort of quick meal that was generally healthy as well as choosing some foods that have garnered a “purifying persona” according to the magazines.

And then I thought beyond that.

Both incense and flame (candle) are considered purifying in various capacities. So too can colors and scents (aside from incense). I found two leftover ocean scented tealights from last year that I added to the mix since going to the ocean as a kid, for my family, was like a purifying ritual to get away from the drag of the city. The flowers I chose were predominantly yellow and white, colors of life and purity.

I think I did well.

After the simple formalities were out of the way, especially the reversion of offerings, I got a little more serious. 

Most rituals for me tend to be quick affairs. I don’t have the energy or time typically to spend hours in ritual, focusing on whatever needs to be focused on. That doesn’t mean that I am bad at this or that anyone who does likewise is either. It just means that I have a life beyond religion and gods that barges in usually when I’m in the midst of something important. So it was easier for me to just simplify everything down as much as possible.

This meant that I could feel like I had made the time and maybe even felt successful in the attempt while simultaneously making it harder for me to think beyond a 15 minute timeframe. I had more time though this round so I knew I had to go a little further out of my comfort zone.

I ran through a long winded and time consuming ritual. While the ritual has specific aspects and actions described within, I decided to focus instead on myself and my relationship with Sekhmet. After months of ignoring the giant elephant in the room, I was going to face the seeming desert between us head on.

I’d like to say that something clicked and things are already starting to get better. I would like to say that an Arrow came up from the Duat and told me where we go from here. I’d like to say that I did more than get over emotional. I would like to tell you all that the words I wrote in Her journal were received and acknowledged. I would love to believe that everything is back to normal now.

But sometimes relationships are hard. And miracles don’t tend to be the trend. 

I do feel as though I was able to convey my point appropriately. And I think that perhaps I took a right step. I couldn’t say for sure, but maybe this was the right direction.

Lent 2017: See What’s Behind.

I have a planning mind, I guess. It’s a trait from my mother. We all plan things in various ways. We make lists for all types of necessities: shopping, next steps, goals, packing, etc. I can remember watching my mom make lists and my grandmother’s lists on the kitchen table when I was a kid. I have never figured out if it was simply a learned behavior or just a requirement stemming from genetics.

I walked into Lent a little half-assed. I knew I was going to do it some weeks before it began. The ancestors were hammering me so. I couldn’t have said no even if I wanted to (and oh, I honestly did want to) and so, I went forth with a half-assed plan:

  • No meat dinner on Fridays
  • Quitting smoking
  • Donations to worthy causes

It wasn’t a huge list but the ancestors agreed it was a good idea. They backed my play and when I asked them what I could expect they turned sorrowful, almost regretful. They said I would know despair but that it was for the best in all ways. They told me not to worry – they told someone with anxiety to trust and follow the road ahead no matter where it went.

It was a large and bitter pill to swallow.

It choked on the way down.

biTteRNeSS bEfoRE bREakFASt

Maybe I’m foolish, maybe I’m blind… – Human by Bone ‘n’ Rag Man

It started as innocuous as could be. The hardship was there, but as I looked over it each morning, I found the mountain ahead not quite insurmountable. It was perhaps a little difficult to climb, maybe the path wasn’t always so very clear but, I was fairly certain I could do it.

To be fair, it’s easy to look back at a time of darkness and make it lighter. To prevent myself from doing that, I kept careful notes each morning. And yes, it was hard and annoying. And yes, I whined a lot. And yes, I grew quite wrothful. But going through my notes, it looks a bit like it maybe wasn’t as bad as all of that to a degree.

It’s the mind that gets you.

I’m out of the forest of depression and anxiety now. They’re both still there but not to the nth degree that they were. The gray, finger-like branches of depression and the thunderous cloud bursts of anxiety have faded. I’m grateful for all of that.

They mentioned trust; the told me sorrow.

They reminded me in little ways that this was all for the best:

  • The SO telling me that Lent is about bettering oneself and what is quitting an addiction if not bettering oneself?
  • The son telling me that I was doing so well.
  • My mother buying me a mid-Lenten hurrah gift to show me how proud she was of me.
  • My boss buying me a 12-pack of diet Coke to succor me through the hard days ahead.

There were many little things that popped up to remind me that the road ahead, while tumultuous and obviously sorrowful at some point, it was all for the best. So long as I continued to trust in what was coming, then I could move forward perhaps not quite with alacrity but at least forward. 

I was reminded as I moved along of all those conversations I had had in the last 2 years with gods and fellow polytheists about trusting in the path, the journey, the gods. Those conversations tended to be about a sort of blind faith and I fought against those pieces of advice every time.

The ancestors laughed when I mentioned this to them. They told me that I was trusting them now. How different could it be from trusting the gods?

They had me there.

Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Take a look in the mirror and what do you see? – Human by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

Lent was less a time of introspection, of sacrifice, of bettering myself than a steady nosedive into a fiery oblivion. I could recognize that many of my actions were self destructive but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. Even when I assured myself that I would not fall prey to my own foolishness, it seemed as if I had to go through with it anyway.

The ancestors shushed my qualms and told me to keep going.

I burned my bridges with alacrity, destroying everything in my path.

During one such moment, I was yet again reminded of Sekhmet and the Destruction of Mankind. While I burned and destroyed, leaving decay and chaos in my wake, she did too. When I felt closer to her than I had in over a year, she came to me to succor me as a mother to a child. Her presence was calming and the rage within subsided.

By then, though, I had fucked myself ten ways to Sunday.

It was 30 days in and upon realizing that everything was a disaster, I gave up Lent. I didn’t give to another charity. I ate meat that Friday and had picked up smoking that very morning. The reasons are immaterial to this blog or entry and I won’t go into them. But when the haze of rage finally cleared, I saw the destruction I had wrought and I truly knew despair.

The ancestors were right.

I was, of course, angry with myself but I was also angry with them. They reminded me about trust. They told me that it was dismal now but things were going to get better. I figured they were lying to me, trying to keep me around before I dismantled their altar and kicked them all out.

Maybe it’s human nature to want to believe. Or maybe the idea that I would be getting rid of one of the few things in my life that I had come to rely on stayed my hand. They reminded me to trust, to believe, and I did.

where would we be without friends

Some people got the real problems. Some people out of luck. – Human by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

Just before Palm Sunday, the dismal abyss of my life began to light up again. The ancestors were coy and cheerful when I checked in, but they assured me that I was headed in the right direction. They also assured me that they had my best interests in mind. The overall theme of that conversation was less about trust and more about belief; they’d get me through.

So the sun came out and shined upon me. My anxiety and depression had already receded to moderately manageable levels when I had started smoking again. It fell back further, hiding from the light that was shining down upon me.

Things are better now. The spiral into the dark chasms that was the first 30 days of Lent became an uphill climb out of darkness the last 10 days. Everything is far from perfect, but it’s much better now.

Immediately after seemingly to fail, I asked the ancestors if they were disappointed in me. I was a little disappointed in myself, less because I had failed and more because so many people had assured me they were so proud of me. I had disappointed them all and assumed my ancestors would feel the same.

They laughed at me when I asked. They told me that this road I had traveled for Lent wasn’t about the goals I had made for myself but had been more about my ability to trust in them. I had proved over and over again throughout Lent that I trusted what they were telling me and acted upon those words. They were sorry for the hell I went through but advised it was the only way to kick my ass into gear.

And they were/are right.

I needed The Tower to happen in order to meet Death.

I needed destruction and death on all sides in order to be resurrected.

Them akhu be damn tricksy, but I trust them finally. I believe them when they tell me not to worry about X thing but to instead focus on B. We’re all in this together with concrete and symbiotic goals that we need to meet to fulfill a dream. They’re needs are intertwined with mine and I realize that they can be trusted to get me through.

Thus endeth the lesson.

The next one, well… I can say it’s a bitter pill to swallow too. But perhaps not quite so bitter as this last one.

Lent 2017: Heart with a Gaping Hole

I’m just at the halfway mark and I would love to say that things have changed so very much. I want to say that I’m upbeat and positive, that the mood swings have gone, and that I am floating on a natural high of my own ability. I want to tell everyone that I feel better, healthier and ready to get active again.

But I can’t say any of that. The ancestors promised me despair; Lent has more than delivered.

Depression

Dark twisted fantasy turned to reality; kissing death and losing my breath. – Bones – MS MR

I don’t necessarily feel like a monster anymore, which could be a good thing. Maybe monster is too strong of a word.

Every day tends to have at least one single moment where I am ready to break down and say fuck it, fuck this, I just can’t do it. There is just that given moment in a given day – sometimes more than one and sometimes just the one – that leaves me questioning why I chose this course of action in the first place.

People always remind me then to look to my reasons. They tell me to remind myself with the reasons behind this choice to keep myself on track. To be honest, I can’t actually remember what those reasons were anymore. I stop and ask myself why the hell I’m doing this and I honestly can’t remember.

I always come back with an ambivalent response. There is always a “but…” in there somewhere. I didn’t really want to quit. The ancestors didn’t give a shit what I fore-went during this season. And I could have found something else if I tried hard enough.

But here I am, ambivalence and all, on day 20.

The least expected thing to start cropping up was the depression. I knew that I used this addiction to aid me through my anxiety and that it helped me to cope with all of that. I had figured that part out pretty quickly. It just honestly never occurred to me that I had been using it for my depression as well. I don’t know why I never thought of it.

My depression is usually small, pretty manageable. It’s the anxiety that causes the most trouble.

I’m high functioning so most people don’t realize that I do have mental health issues. The first time I mentioned my anxiety to a coworker at work, they stared at me in shock. I haven’t ever mentioned the depression; I can imagine that I don’t fit into my coworkers’ ideas about what a depressed individual looks or acts like.

My depression is something that sits there on my back like a gray monster. Sometimes it is big enough to smother me, much like it is now; other times it is just a small annoying weight back there. It started to grow around day 13 or so, maybe day 12. It seems to have grown as much as it was going to. I don’t think it’ll get any worse at any rate.

To be honest, I was kind of hoping it would stop of its own accord and start to shrink back down again.

It hasn’t.

It most likely won’t.

health

Lost in the pages of self made cages; life slips away and the ghosts come to play; these are hard times – Bones by MS MR

I’ve noticed that I don’t have a lot of patience anymore. I scream a lot more in the car and while everyone always said that I drove like an asshole before, I definitely do now. I yell a lot at people who can’ t hear me yelling: neighbors, my son, the dog, something that happened last year. I’m angrier than I was before.

Sometimes I can trace out what makes me so angry, what specifically about the quitting that has made me angry enough to overreact to what is happening. Invariably, I am always overreacting. I shouldn’t be so upset that the neighbor put the broken plastic chair on the side of the road; it doesn’t affect me. I shouldn’t be so upset at the car that’s inching forward to merge into the next lane; they’re over there and it doesn’t impact me.

I haven’t noticed any difference in my breathing or the aches in my chest. Everyone always says, with almost a badge of honor, it’s the coughing that let’s you know when you’re over a hump. I haven’t tried to clear out my lungs since I quit. I think I’ve had two coughing fits and nothing that came up with any substance. My chest hurts every day; sometimes it’s a panic attack and sometimes it’s this.

It actually annoys me sometimes because I can’t always tell the difference between the panic attack and my chest just hurting. Sometimes, it’s a muscle ache; sometimes it’s more than that. The ghost pains move around my chest, up near my arm pits one moment and then down near my diaphragm the next. It annoys me every time I stop, every time I am mindful of my body. Somewhere in my chest, it always hurts.

I can’t breathe through my nose still. I suppose I could just assume that I have allergies and that’s why I’m living with a perpetually clogged nose. I think that’s a lot of bullshit. I think my nostrils are probably just fine; they just haven’t caught the memo yet.

At the end of the day, I don’t feel healthier or better.

I kind of assumed I would. I mean, when you give up something that you have been doing for 15 years multiple times a day, aren’t you supposed to just suddenly feel better about, I don’t know, yourself, life? Something? I don’t feel better. I still feel as gross as before, but of course that could just be the depression talking.

I speak every day to the ancestors about all of this. Without fail, I jot a few words down to form a small string of sentences in the morning. I tell them how bleak I feel; what my dreams are filled with and how it relates to how fucking irritating this shit is; how annoyed I am with myself and my surroundings; and what the fuck was I fucking thinking.

Sometimes they respond in whatever way they feel is necessary. Sometimes, they don’t at all but I kind of feel them a little bit. Personally, I think they’re still cheering me on even if I don’t hear it. I guess I’m okay with that.

I just wish the depression would quit already.

laughter

Dig up her bones but leave the soul alone; let her find a way to a better place. – Bones by MS MR

I did notice that while I’m more aggressive and bitchy still, I’m able to laugh more. I don’t know if that makes any sense? It’s like everything is funnier or brighter sometimes and it just makes me laugh for no apparent reason.

I spent hours on the couch with the significant other last week just laughing at stupid shit. None of it was particularly funny, but it all kind of streamed together into a long drawn out laugh. I had a similar experience with my son; it was definitely funny. He made that face he makes that gives me a case of the giggles, only this time it was a paroxysm of barking laughter.

I was thinking just the other day that, honestly, as horrible and annoying and as bitchy as I am about all of this, I haven’t really had to exert willpower during those times when I want to break down. I don’t even really distract myself during those moments. I just ride it through. Sometimes I’ll breathe through it, but mostly I just let it ride.

It hits, it overwhelms, it’s gone.

I guess I’m doing okay. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t gotten into a car crash when I was driving like an asshole. I’ve caused a lot of mayhem in other ways. I don’t know if I’m working through those parts or if I’m just going to let it ride, just like the cravings.

I figure one day I will be safe to be around again.