Bull of His Mother.

In October of this year, I was handed down a directive to re-read Hathor Rising and My Heart, My Mother. It had been a while since I had been given homework – and by an unknown quarter, no less!, though I suspect I know where it came from – so I didn’t immediately balk at the request.

It was around the same time that I received this directive that I had decided that I would proceed with the cycle of rebirth that I had failed to see through 3 years ago. Considering how thought-provoking and useful I had found both books during the process three years ago, I could see the wisdom in re-reading them by the end of the year.

What I wasn’t expecting as I blew through Hathor Rising was how much of the book I had actually forgotten. There were whole chapters filled with very interesting tidbits that relate in some form to either my relationships with my primary gods or to the regeneration cycle I had agreed to undertake, which were practically brand new to me.

One of the items that I got stuck focusing on for a while as I continued my readathon was about Bull of His Mother, or Kamutef. While this is an epithet that has been associated with other deities, as I will explain further below, in the instance of Hathor Rising, the author is discussing the regenerative properties of the syncretized version of Amun as Amun-Min-Bull-of-His-Mother.

As I researched the name Kamutef further, I found that Amun-Re in the New Kingdom also utilized Kamutef, who has a small shrine space or sanctuary outside of Mut’s Asheru sacred lake at Karnak, in his name as Amenemopet to regenerate himself each year.

While the information I gleaned about Kamutef, and the syncretic Amun-Min-Bull-of-his-Mother all very interesting for what I was going to be undertaking myself, it was the actual epithet “Bull of His Mother” that stayed with me as I researched.

DSC07286 The strong Bull of his Mother

As I mentioned, I was familiar with this epithet to some extent as I had seen it in association with various Horus iterations during one or more of my previous research extravaganzas. It is through this phrase that whichever Horus we are speaking of (both the younger and the elder) assume the role of king from their father. I had also seen it, or dreamed that I had seen it, associated with Geb. (Here’s a link to a conversation about it. Trigger warning for sexual assault.)

The gist of the associations with these gods is that it is through a full assumption of their father’s role – from son to the “fecundator” of their mothers that they take on the role of king. The father and son are the agents of the rebirth cycle while the mother is a seemingly passive vessel in the undertaking. She is providing the necessary environment for the son to be reborn into the role their father has bequeathed to them.

The idea that the womb played a sort of passive role in the rebirth of the king isn’t new to me. Sekhmet plays a similar role in the Pyramid Texts, where it is her womb that allows the deceased pharaoh to be reborn into akh. It is not from her womb that they are born; merely the act of entering the womb that seems to bestow that power unto the pharaoh. (This kind of highlights, in my opinion, the idea that ancient Egyptians knew very little about the bodies of people with wombs.)

The purpose behind this assumption of the father’s role in its entirety is that it is through the mother that the son is to hope for an ever-repeating life. It is this passiveness on the part of the mother in the cycle of rebirth that, I think, is required for the son’s elevation to the role of their father. Their mother must provide a habitable environment for this ability to manifest their own rebirth cycle but she doesn’t actively take part in the act itself.

The fertility that comes through the regenerative properties of one who is a Bull of His Mother is immune to death, so to speak. The person or god in question is capable of renewing himself over and over again and in so doing, also provides the cycle of rebirth over and over again for those who have ruled before. In effect, through the assumption of this role, the deities mentioned above and subsequent human pharaohs, are able to provide ever-lasting life for not only themselves but their forebears as well.

In addition to the hints of a constant and forever sort of rebirth cycle, the incestuous relations between mother and son allowed the sons to fully appropriate the title of ruler from their fathers. It also gave them the ability to deny “linear time”; the role allowed them to change the succession of generations by writing the past and present into a single person unified person. (This concept isn’t so different from the discussions regarding mythic time.)

With the acceptance of this epithet and the role associated with it, there would be continuity without fear of facing chaos like those of the Intermediate periods with the deity or human pharaoh assuming the full role of his father. As mentioned in the entry for Kamutef in The Ancient Gods Speak: “being the father and the son possesses an unquestionable legitimacy.”

So in this way, the epithet lends credence to the legitimacy of the succession. By assuming the role of one’s father in every capacity, the new pharaoh is ensuring continuity and the ongoing rebirth cycle that all pharaohs hoped to achieve.

While this particular epithet seems to be more commonly associated with a variety of gods, there was a specific festival called the Harvest Festival that the human pharaohs would perform so that they could fulfill the role of Bull of His Mother on a country-wide scale.

In this festival, which dates back to the Middle Kingdom, the pharaoh completed a ritual that allowed them to take on this mantle to regenerate the crops of the country. He and the priests would complete a fertility ritual to ensure that the crops for the upcoming year would be abundant.

I suspect that the Bull of His Mother epithet may have in fact had more to do with the consecration of a living pharaoh’s son to take the mantle of kingship upon the death of his predecessor. Based on what I have found during my research into both this epithet and its associated deity, Kamutef, it makes sense that the “Bull of His Mother” function played a larger part than a yearly Harvest Festival.

In effect, the Bull of His Mother epithet is associated with the ability for the sons to fully consecrate themselves in the roles of their fathers. While the epithet can have negative associations (as in the case of the possible association with Geb), it seems that it is more intended as an epithet to engender the vehicle of one’s own ability to renew themselves.

texas longhorn

There can be no doubt as to why I found my exploration of the Bull of His Mother fascinating.

The next year is a year of death and rebirth. I have been asked to die for my gods and I have agreed to go through with this moment of rebirth. Not only will the rebirth cycle I am undertaking benefit myself, but it will also benefit my gods in the long-term. Reading about an epithet and its associative deity that is capable of engendering its own vehicle of rebirth seemed, well, opportune and timely.

It makes sense to me that, in order for me to induce my own rebirth that I should assume the mantle of the Bull of His Mother. This is an epithet, and a deity, associated with the very things that I must undertake. And it would be a benefit to all parties involved if I can use this Bull of His Mother epithet as a sort of blueprint to see through what I need to see through.

As I was discussing the Bull of His Mother with TTR, they mentioned that Mut could also prove useful. “Mut is said to be “the mother who became a daughter,” or “the daughter-mother who made her begetter,” expressing a power of self-creation similar to that expressed for Amun by the epithet kamutef, ‘bull of his mother’, meaning one who is his own father.” (Link.)

While this was an avenue of possibility that I hadn’t considered before, it didn’t feel quite right to me. For some reason, the idea of becoming a god who could help me move forward on my necessary quest for ever-lasting life during my own rebirth cycle just felt wrong. I’ve since come to the realization that for the regenerative properties I am looking for, I need to undertake the epithet of Bull of His Mother to see it through as opposed to becoming either Mut or Kamutef. The assumption of the epithet feels more in tune with what I need to achieve.

So here I am, or there I will be at any rate… Satsekhem-Bull of His Mother. I guess I can only wait and see how far the assumption of this mantle pushes me in the upcoming months as I willingly die for my gods.

Receive the crook of your Father and the flail of Bull-of-His-Mother. You are the seed of the Lord of Abydos. May he give strength entirely.

– p. 95, Hathor Rising

Further Reading

  1. Hathor Rising by Alison Roberts
  2. My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts
  3. The Ancient Gods Speak edited by Donald B. Redford
  4. Temples of Ancient Egypt edited by Byron E. Shafer
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Home & Hearth.

Years ago when I began interacting with other pagans online, I found myself fascinated by their discussions about how they had integrated their religion into their households. I would read their words about household shrines and practices, household deities and their veneration with a feeling of such desire it could choke me sometimes with its depth.

The prospect of including one’s religion in their home life was foreign to me. My childhood was not overly religious and to my mind, including religion in the home meant asking Saint Anthony to find something lost or my mother doing her Hail Marys before a long trip. It was the little moments that meant religion had some foundation in one’s household, not an entire subdivision of a religious practice.

This isn’t to say that the little things like those described above were not enough or integrating one’s ingrained religious beliefs into day-to-day living. They were what I knew as a child and were sufficient at the time. But as I explored myself and the religion I had found, I found such a deep desire in going still further than the little things.

I found myself wanting a household shrine, dedicated specifically to the daily running of the home. I wanted a god, or many, whose specific realm was all the myriad things that make up running an entire household. I wanted what I saw in others’ practice and wanted to make it my own. I found myself longing more and more but couldn’t find what I desired from a Kemetic standpoint.

Household shrines, according to Egyptologists, were most likely in use for the ancient Egyptian laity but how important those spaces may have been is an enigma. Even knowing that it is feasible that they did in fact worship gods in their homes is good information to have, but it didn’t help me over much as I floundered my way on my path.

I kept thinking that I just wanted a space for gods whose sole purpose was, as with Hestia, to be the deity associated with hearth and home.

There were some netjeru who could fulfill the role I was seeking: Hetheru, Bes, Tawaret, and Djehuty to name a few. But I found that my attempts to lure either Hetheru or Djehuty in this way failed. Every time I considered approaching Tawaret, something pushed me off of that line of thinking. At this point, one could assume from this that I then turned to Bes and went that route.

They’d be wrong.

My relationship with Bes had always been a sort of ephemeral thing; there was no substance behind it. It was just little things here and there but nothing beyond that. It didn’t feel appropriate to reach out to him then, so I left him alone while I struggled.

I went through altar porn and blog posts. I looked into how the Romans and Greeks did it in antiquity, trying to cobble something together that would feel right. But every time I looked into what they did, I found myself staring down a dark hole that seemed to have a giant neon NOPE sign blazing down in my face. The information I was learning was interesting, but it wasn’t for me.

I got tired of wanting and tired of not finding. With the sort of stubborn headed foolishness that is my personal knack, I decided I didn’t need gods. I didn’t need to know what other people were doing. I didn’t need any of that nonsense! It obviously wasn’t what I should be focusing on anyway!

So I began moving away from gods and others’ practices. I began looking deep within and all around, trying to find something that I could cobble together so that the want would finally go away.

Adventure seeker on an empty street, just an alley creeper, light on his feet. A young fighter screaming, with no time for doubt… – I Want It All by Queen

If I was asked to describe the one prevalent thing in my practice in a single word, the first thing that would come out of my mouth would be: foundations. I hear this so often from my gods, in my daily Tarot card pulls, and from a variety of other quarters. I am constantly being reminded to go back to the basics, go back to the foundations, go back to the start so that I can either build a new base or work on fixing up the existing building blocks in place.

When I decided that I wasn’t going to force myself into what I saw others crafting for themselves in the realm of their household shrines, I thought about the ongoing message about the basics. I had to build this from the ground up and the only way to really get there was to decide what I was really looking for.

Eyeballing pictures from other peoples’ altars was all fine and well, but that didn’t a practice make. Even reading their blog posts or comments on forums didn’t really help me.

I wanted a space that was about, well, my home. I wanted it focused on the people who inhabited my home, who lived here day in and day out with the good and with the bad. I wanted a place that sort of cried out to everyone about who we are as a family and what this place is as our home.

With whispers of “foundations” in my mind, I began trying to figure out what our home was about. And you know what? That was pretty damn hard. I didn’t know who we were as a family. We’ve been living in a very small place in general agreement that this living situation is temporary. Yeah, well, temporary though it may feel, we’ve been here for eight years now.

Even with all of that, it was still difficult to figure out who we were because we’ve never really put our mark on this place. It’s only been in the last two years that we’ve finally situated ourselves where we’ve come to the determination that we may leave this place at any given moment, but in the mean time, we’ve had to put down roots… roots that we’ll cut if and when we move on.

The transitory sort of feeling to our home made it difficult to figure out what I wanted to achieve for a foundation, so I started color-coding certain portions of the year on my Place of Truth, hoping that I’d get somewhere with this home and hearth altar eventually.

It was actually out of my four-times annual change out of my Place of Truth that I was finally able to come to a certain general idea about who I am as a person. And out of that, I was able to kind of define who my family is and what our home should be like:

  1. We’re in transition.
  2. We’re nerds in every sense of the word (books, video games, random facts, etc).
  3. We’re jokesters.
  4. We prefer comfort and functionality over frills.
  5. Our home is warm (sometimes a little too warm).
  6. Our home is filled with laughter.
  7. Our home is not very well lit, but at least the walls are light-colored so that what natural light is let in, it reflects… in our eyes…
  8. Our home has its problems, but we’ll work through it.

These ideas formed the basis, or foundation, of what I wanted my household altar to look like. I started adding little bits and pieces to my Place of Truth that I felt kind of indicated who we were based on my list.

I added toys from my son and from my significant other. I put bits of crystals and doo-dads that made me think it kind of indicated who we were. With my general color scheme, I was able to tie everything together into a cohesive theme until I felt that, well, I wasn’t doing too bad for all of that.

I made sure to spend time at the space. I would light Reiki-infused candles with a specific purpose in mind, depending on what purpose I wanted to achieve. I would pull daily cards for my son or myself there that had a more general message than anything specific. But above all, I felt that this place was a more than adequate symbol for who we are and what our home is like.

It took years for it to get built up to a point where it stopped feeling like something I had cobbled together on the fly and began to feel more like something established. It began to feel like it was something with… well… a solid foundation.

I gotta get me a game plan, gotta shake you to the ground. Just give me what I know is mine. People do you hear me, just give me the sign… – I Want It All by Queen

Once I felt comfortable, I was thrown another curve ball because Bes began showing up. This was partly my fault. For years, I had assured myself that I would purchase myself a protective amulet of Bes for every day wear. Not long after the amulet came home, I began to feel him haunting my already well-laid foundation at my household altar space.

It took some back and forth before I finally was able to get a straight answer out of him. He wanted to join this realm of my life, but before he could do so, I needed to get a solid… you guessed it… foundation in place. I was not surprised by this answer in the slightest.

Once I had come to terms with this, I realized that I felt comfortable with the idea of adding him into the place. What had first seemed confusing and a little weird, now seemed like a perfectly good idea.

When I began working on my home/hearth altar space, it seemed almost like adding a god or six into the mix would be like forcing them into a niche that wasn’t made for them. But now, I realized that out of all of the building I had been doing, I had still kept a space available for a god… if one decided to show up eventually.

Or maybe I always expected him to show up one day.

I looked around and found an icon that I felt would be appropriate for my small space and inserted him into something that I had worked hard on making on my own. As I set his icon in place for the first time, it felt a little like things were finally coming together in a way that I had always dreamed of but hadn’t really ever expected.

Bes, of course, brought friends with him to add to the space. It was not that long after I had added his icon to my space that he asked me to include Wenut and Tawaret, in whatever capacity I so desired, to the mix. I very quickly found hand-made wooden pieces of hippos, snakes, and bunnies that I felt would fit the bill. He seemed pleased with my selection and I was soon welcoming those two ladies into my home. They have proven to be far more quiet than Bes, who isn’t exactly a chatty type of god.

Now the three of them haunt my home and hearth altar. Periodically, I focus on the gods that haunt this space. And periodically, I focus on the family and home that this space is supposed to symbolize.

Together, we’ve managed to build things into a functional capacity that, years back when reading other peoples’ descriptions of their home and hearth related sojourns, I could only marvel at.

I’m a man with a one track mind, so much to do in one life time… – I Want It All by Queen

Nowadays, Bes and I are focused on a very specific project that I’ve been working on for actually a couple of years. Every few days, I light one of my candles and I give offerings to the gods that inhabit my space so that I can achieve a goal that has been a very long time coming.

I can only hope that once this goal has finally been achieved that the three of them will be coming with me on the next new adventure for my home, for my hearth, and for my family.

 

You Are Not the One You Say You Are.

Years ago, I followed a number of people who were deep into astrology. Sometimes it felt like they were all speaking together in another language when they would get going on their discussions regarding charts and retrograde and returns. I had a passing fancy back then that maybe I would learn what they knew and use it somehow in my own way. That never came to pass and most likely never will, but one thing that stayed with me was the concept of the Saturn Return.

At the time I found out about it, I wondered when I could expect that to happen to me. I never looked into when mine would appear back then but I sometimes found myself wondering when it would hit, when I could expect things to disintegrate so spectacularly as those astrology people described, and how I would look coming out of the other side. I, of course, never bothered to look into when my Saturn return would occur because I didn’t want to confirm that I was already in the middle of it or that it was still some ways off. It was better not knowing.

I have since learned when my first Saturn return occurred. Before I figured it out, I often wondered for a long time after the year 2015 had slowly died as years tend to do if that year was the start or end of my Saturn return. It would have explained so much if it was.

Saturn Return

I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. If you are who you say you are then show me your face. You came out of the ocean like you came out of a dream. Your voice it sounds familiar but you are not what you seem… – The Stranger by Lord Huron

Fear and hopelessness are two words that, when paired together, they form a very distinct image. They elicit a painting of some dark gray and bleak hellscape. When these two words are mated together in this way, the words can convey a certain nuance that the words, when spoken not in tandem, tend to lack. The desolation one can feel when these words are used to describe themselves and their situation is so absolute as to be inescapable. It’s suffocating, worrisome, and above all, horrifying.

I think “fear and hopelessness” does an adequate job of explaining my mindset three years ago.

The year had started off so strong. I had worked diligently for the preceding three or so years to get to where I was. I had gone through a lot of shit both on a personal and spiritual level. I had developed new avenues of insight and networked to a point where I was mostly comfortable with the community I had crafted around myself. I had spent time moving as hard as I could, pushing things into place and reorganizing as I felt the need arose.

I had developed a strong relationship with a handful of gods who I loved and succored. I whispered their names as fervent prayers and I worshiped them truly. I cared for them in a way that I cannot convey verbally, that I cannot write. The emotional connection I had with them and they with me was often intense, often personal, and above all, it made me feel fulfilled in a way that I had never felt in all the years before and all the years since.

I had faith.

I had belief.

I had a lot of things that people talk about every day about their gods, about their spiritual lives, about their religions. I had all of those things and I could wear them like a strong, beautifully rendered blanket around my shoulders. Or a tapestry strung upon the wall, crowing to the world around me that I had love with my gods and they loved me. It protected me against the negatively and nay-saying. It made me feel safe and loved in return. It was security. It was safe.

But the thing about blind faith is that it doesn’t always sustain you. It’s not something that can always fill you the way that a good dinner can. It’s nothing that you can survive on. My blind faith, my blind love, began to fray and the warm, beautiful blanket began to erode around me. I grabbed for the pieces of it and I tried to re-weave it but I had my eyes opened when I died for the first time to be reborn into a useful vessel for my primary goddess. The death was necessary; the manner of it, in my opinion, was not.

It’s hard to get back to loving your gods when they have used you. It’s not impossible, but it can be so very hard to be the bright and shiny youth you once were after going through something as traumatic as all of that. It came to a head, all of my pent-up emotions on the topic, in 2015 because I was being asked to die all over again. I needed to be reborn yet again, not just for myself but for my god as well. I needed to die so that we could both live.

And I was so very angry that after only just dying, only just healing myself, only just coming to terms with all that the original rebirth’s changes had wrought that I was being asked to do it all over again. To be sure, the purpose has always been necessary and I have always been headed in that direction. But I needed to come to terms with what had already happened in conjunction with other changes I was going through; I wasn’t fucking ready.

It never helped that all of this chatter about death and rebirth was always, always couched in terms of Bigger Picture. We always come to this statement, this fucking phrase, and for those of us who do spirit work, we have to ask ourselves what in the ever-loving fuck is the point? Our lives are all supposed to be for this Bigger Fucking Picture but damn if it doesn’t make any fucking sense when paired with what our woo has shown us to be the reality of our gods’ current situation.

Why should I die yet again for this Bigger Picture bullshit when everything else is complete and utter shit?

I never got an answer to this question and I decided that it wasn’t necessary then.

I know this sounds petty. I know this sounds like I was having a temper tantrum. But the one thing I cannot illustrate enough is how much that first death traumatized me. I was passive in that death; I allowed it to happen without a peep, without a cry, without fighting back against it because I wasn’t ready. Even if I was unsuccessful, I often think back and castigate myself for not fighting back.

I should have fought back.

Rebirth

All your words of comfort cannot take away my doubt. I’ve decided if it kills me I’ll find out what you’re about. I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. – The Stranger by Lord Huron

It would be nice to end this entry here, to lay blame in its totality at the feet of the gods. But I, too, must admit to my culpability in what went wrong that year.

The years preceding had been dedicated to the hard work of creating an open forum community, primarily taking place on Tumblr but in other areas (WordPress, FB groups, etc.) of the web as well. The hard work had sort of paid off because we had managed to network a wider arena with more and more people joining our shared tags as time went by. It was nice… for a while.

My primary issue at this time was that there was a lot of growing pains going on for the wider community. I watched and aided as I could in these growing pains – growing pains that occur with every major group – but some of the things I saw, sitting on the sidelines, made me vastly uncomfortable. There was a growing group of voices that seemed to have negative points of view relating to spirit work, god spouses, and various other “woo” related arenas that made me distinctly uncomfortable.

The totality of 2015 for me was, well, “woo.” It had been forged with “woo” and it was supposed to end with “woo.” Spirit work was the name of the game in my world and the constant negative comments coming from wider and wider quarters left me feel disenfranchised with the community at large. I began to feel like I needed to keep my experiences to myself instead of sharing them just so I wouldn’t have to deal with any negative backlash.

You see, I was nay-saying my experiences all my own; I didn’t need to see it coming from some other quarter. I had my own issues related to all of this. How can this be happening? How can this be real? Even with outside divination, intuition, lining up “upg” from other sources, and a variety of other confirmation sources, I doubted heavily what was going on. I didn’t need another negative voice to add alongside my own.

Beyond my personal doubt regarding what was going on with my religious shenanigans and the fear of hearing my very own doubts parroted back to me, the community continued to grow and with it, more and more people with a historically informed background began to show up. The issue I found with some of these people is that they often came across as exceedingly condescending when I would get into both private and public conversations with them.

While I understand that being classically trained in various areas will give you a leg up in certain areas, this doesn’t mean that the people you are communicating with who aren’t classically trained are stupid or unread or unlearned. It just means that they’re coming at it without that background and because of this, they’re probably taking away a completely different perspective because their focus is in other arenas.

I didn’t need to be condescended to. I didn’t need to be talked down to or talked over or shouted at in public group messages because I disagreed about a variety of things. It only lent credence to my belief that I needed to effectively embody the hermit card from Tarot and isolate myself from the community at large.

So I did.

I not only distanced myself from the community at large, but I effectively cut myself off from those who didn’t make me feel like I was some sub-human waste of space with my woo and my different opinions. I compartmentalized so much that I stopped talking to even those of my friends who weren’t part of the community and wouldn’t make me feel like I was losing my mind if I revealed all the stuff that I had gone through earlier in the year.

It was just easier, I told myself. It was simpler to keep to myself and just keep trucking on with my fallow times and my worry that I was probably making up all the woo from earlier in the year. Better to hide away from the wider world than to engage and possibly be judged false.

I should have told myself to fuck off instead.

Bees

But I know what you want and why, Of all the strangers you’re the strangest that I’ve seen. I’m not afraid to die. I can’t trust anyone or anything these days. – The Stranger by Lord Huron

To be fair, the year as a whole wasn’t that bad. I had come to accept that I had woo though I did run away from it later for both of the above reasons listed. I had entered into a marriage with a god, which has been in effect for the last three years and seems to be going well. I had found out who my friends were because we’re still going strong three years later.

I could catalog the good things to counter all the pain and suffering, all of the hopelessness that had been intermixed with it. But at the heart of the matter, the year was not a good one and that was exactly why I disappeared; why I went off the radar. I had taken to heart the idea that I needed to hide, to keep to myself. I no longer trusted, no longer could engage in the reindeer games. I wasn’t safe; nothing was.

I had built up the house and failed to continue the growth I needed. Both my practice and I have become inert and we both suffer for it. After reading this post by TTR, I realized that I have a decision to make much like they realized they had.

Sometimes you have to shit or get off the pot. I’ve been on the pot for three years now so I guess it’s finally time to move on.

You are not the one you say you are
Now that I’ve seen your face, I’m haunted by the letters of your name
– The Stranger by Lord Huron

Be Faithful in Small Things…

The first two weeks of school herald a sort of liminality between good health and illness. You always assume that someone in your household is going to end up with a head cold, or worse, but you’re never quite sure who is going to be unlucky enough to finally come down with whatever illness has been foretold by the smell of back to school sales.

My son came home a week and a half after the first day of school with the obsessive need to blow his nose every five minutes. I side eyed him and muttered about keeping his germs to himself, but it was a foregone conclusion. He was sick and it was only a matter of time before I joined him.

The scratchy feeling in the back of my throat began Friday afternoon and developed into a full head cold a few hours later. As my S.O. tried not to laugh as I ripped open a box of tissues before officially buying them so I could blow my nose as soon as possible, I knew my nice relaxing weekend had gone out the window. I was officially sick.

I spent much of Saturday mumbling in melodramatic cadence about wanting someone to cut off my head at the neck. I felt awful and no matter how faithfully I followed the prescribed DayQuil/NyQuil regimen, nothing was making me feel better. As I looked over the paraphernalia of illness, I realized something key was missing.

I had gotten the tissues and the medication. I had gotten the chapstick and my pillow. I had my stuffed animal (don’t judge) and my dog. I had shows to binge watch on Netflix and a book to pick up when I got bored with all of that, but there was something missing: the chest rub.

As a kid, it was one of the first things my mother pulled out after I came down sick. I can remember her rubbing the camphor-scented grease on my chest when I was young. I remember following the same prescription when I got older. But I hadn’t thought to grab some when we were restocking on illness ware.

I got some that night and immediately applied it. I felt better of course; good enough to eat something besides Ramen. (Don’t talk to me about soup. Ramen is as close as I’ll ever get to soup.) It was probably a psychosomatic feeling of general wellness but it was exactly what I needed to stop being so melodramatic for five minutes.

And the realization that the scent of camphor could do more than the liquid medications, the box of tissues, and even my beloved Professor who has seen me through many illnesses over the years, it got me thinking about the little things.

Maybe everything really does come back down to the little things…

As polytheists, the push of advice from any quarter can typically be summed up by the necessity of doing ritual. We read the posts of those more advanced on their path about larger rituals that they undertake for some reason or another. And in the minutiae, they mention the daily rites that they undertake for their gods, their spirits, and for their ancestors: offerings and libations, dedicated moments of prayer, etc.

We are constantly being shown that it is by the very act of ritual that we will forge the relationships we seek to make. And in turn, we will grow ever further on the paths that we have chosen for ourselves along with those relationships. We will find things that work and things that don’t, but at the very foundation of it all, it is in ritual that we should begin.

We are instructed by our elders, and those of us who have been around long enough have regurgitated the advice, to start off small with daily action and then to work ourselves up to the big. It is the same advice that we give children: baby steps with a few or many stops and starts before the child is walking. This methodology is pushed out into our communities to the neophytes who join us.

But the bond is more than simply built upon ritual. Yes, it is important, but it is not the only thing necessary.

Ritual can be considered the bricks, perhaps, that we use to build up those relationships with our gods/spirits/ancestors. However, any bricklayer can assure you that bricks are only part of the whole which is necessary to create a building. Between the bricks, they lay mortar to bind the blocks together in their efforts to tease the building into the sky.

Ritual cannot be the mortar if it is already the building blocks that we are using. There must be the binding paste that we can lay between each brick, on top of each layer, to add onto our relationships with our gods/ancestors/spirits. And it is through the small things, the tiny things that may not necessarily occur to us in the moment, that we bind the bricks and mortar together.

These small things that we use as the mortar of our relationships are inherently personal. They will never look the same between one individual and another; and they shouldn’t. They should be as individual as the relationships we are building with our ancestors/gods/spirits.

And as the weeks, months, and years pass by, we may find that some of the mortar has rotted away or perhaps been chiseled down over time. It is through yet more smaller moments that you restore the edifice to where it needs to be to continue the process you began when you started to build these relationships with your ritual building blocks and your small moments mortar.

But all of these things are just as integral as the necessity of ritual because without them, you will never get beyond the first few layers before what you have built crumbles around you.

Remember the small things

Though the story I told above about being ill may have come across as a non sequitur, I can assure you it served a two-fold purpose. The first was to give you a little background before I began to discuss mortar. The second was to give you a hint as to what some of my mortar might look like.

A tub of mentholated grease may not seem like a clearly obvious bit of binding I can use to cement my ritual blocks in place, but it is. My mother instilled in me a need for the chest rub as a child, which was in turn instilled in her by her mother who has been in the west for many years. It is through the bond I have with my mother and this family connection that I take my veneration of my grandmother out of my offerings, out of my rituals, and bring it and my love for her into my daily life.

It is through this small act – and many others – that I have forged the bond beyond what is typical, beyond what is often advised, and into the realm of the workable. It is this realm – the mix between ritual and the little things – that we must push ourselves towards if we are to succeed.

And it is these little things that will cement things more firmly in place than merely through the act of ritual.

All Other Ways of Mortification are Vain…

A friend of mine posted a link last month on their Facebook that I found particularly thought provoking. The original author, whom we all know as “the Henadology guy,” has a particular way with words that will make your sluggish brain move whether you want it to or not. I definitely had no intention of falling into a pit, following thought process after thought process as they circled down the endless drain of my internal meat space. Unfortunately, one’s intent is not always the way of things.

After hours spent feeling both irritated and thoughtful, I came to a single conclusion:

Way to call a girl out like that.

Sometimes, my life is little more than an old meme come back to bite me in the ass.

The exploration of the polytheism hemisphere can often start out with almost a lackadaisical sort of defiance. Raised as many of us are nowadays in a stringent monotheism that pollutes the civic world as well as our personal lives or in a laissez-faire environment where a lack of belief can be seen as currency, the profession of belief in the many can be titillating.

We move from a world of seeming absolutes – a single deity or none at all – into a realm which offers up a platter of possibilities. Gods and nymphs, ancestors and demons, guardians and spirit: they are all there for the taking. Not all fruits of the tree are ripe, but they are all there nonetheless for people who have found the status quo of their parents’ religious lives (or lack of) stifling.

At the beginning, it is frustrating or exciting or frightening. In many instances, it is all three at the same time. As we explore religious dynamics hidden from us, we run the gamut of emotions while trying to decide what works best. We try things we shouldn’t and go down rabbit holes that lead to dead ends. But it is oft-times the act of exploration that is the most exciting of it all because we are looking outside of our cultural norms for something that may or may not be missing.

We have all looked elsewhere for answers and sometimes, those answers lay in the shadows of polytheism. Before the Internet truly took off, it was a quiet place peopled in small groups of like-minded individuals looking to find something that felt right. With the Internet surrounding us, we have found more people like us and created virtual communities so that even the misanthropes like me can occasionally feel like we belong. We have found something that feels like it could work.

But in the background, we have basic programming instilled in us that we must recover from. A tag was once used on Tumblr – maybe it still is – for those indoctrinated in their culture’s or family’s staunch monotheism to reprogram themselves from that life. It is a paradigm shift for all of us going from the one to the many, the none to the many, or the possibility of one to the many.

Some shifts are easier to make than others. Some can bounce back from that programming easily. Others find it harder to break the cycle that may in fact be generations old. I’ve always been somewhere in between, but then, I’m hardly an example to live by.

As we de-program ourselves into better devotees, we find what works and what doesn’t. We all give the same advice for new people that worked for the generation preceding them: research as much as you can, find time to introduce yourselves to the gods, develop discernment for both resources and experiences with the gods, give stuff to the gods, and don’t be a dick for fuck’s sake. With various other underpinnings based on religious preference and the like, the advice is much the same (except for maybe the dick part).

But we forget sometimes to stress how hard this will most likely be. Each relationship and path is individual even within a group dynamic. What some found easy to reprogram in themselves may be the breaking point for others. As much advice as we can give, it doesn’t usually matter to the individual burning out the cancer of a religious doctrine, or no religious doctrine, that they always found to be lacking.

We all burn through what came before, building something new out of the leftover pieces of ourselves, or we don’t. We either succeed or we don’t. And sometimes the seeming failure in assimilating ourselves into a polytheistic religion can be enough to do what we wanted all along: to laugh in the face of preconceptions that always annoyed us.

And sometimes my life is a more recent meme, busting through the door and ready to kick me in the face.

As a child, my poorly defined idea of God had metastasized into the idea of a person living in the sky. He looked down on us on Sundays because those were the days that we went to church, but he mostly went about his life doing whatever it was that he wanted to do for the rest of the week without really taking a look to see what was going on. I’m not sure where this particular idea stems from (though I could take a few guesses) but that was what I had worked out on my own.

It was with this general idea in my mind that, as a pre-teen, I decided that I wasn’t interested in appeasing this idea anymore. I didn’t want to go into a very old building (without air conditioning in the summer and not enough heat in the winter) to pray to a being who lived in the sky. A being who didn’t seem overly interested in what I had to say when I did get around to praying. In addition, I had come to finally understand the Methodist sermons and was insulted often to be told that I was a sinner and had to work hard to be saved.

It always seemed to me that if this being had my best interests at heart, in some form anyway, he should reach out to me to tell me what I needed to do to get right with him. Instead, I was being told by a man (or woman) in a pulpit that I had to work hard to be saved. The Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ weren’t sufficient in my opinion to tell me how to go about getting salvation. The whole thing annoyed me and I decided that I was kind of done with it.

The general issue I found was that I had no personalized relationship with the deity in question. I waffled often as a child between belief and disbelief. When I believed, it was a disinterested human-shaped person living in the sky who watched my life with his own disinterest. When I didn’t believe, nothing happened and we were all going to die. I suppose one could say I was a dark kid.

In any case, finding polytheism was exactly what I felt that I needed as a child. It came years later and with it, I was able to develop that personal relationship that had so eluded me as a child. Instead of being told via a book and a man or woman in a pulpit, I could go direct to the source and we could game plan together to figure out what I needed.

But the overall issue was that I needed to like… do stuff… to make this happen. Before, I had sat down in an uncomfortable wooden pew that had probably been there since the church I went to had been built and listened in barely veiled boredom to someone talk for an hour. The idea that there was some quid pro quo that needed to happen was weird, but I went into it.

And I was embarrassed.

As I cleaned off flat surfaces and purchases statues and bowls and cups, I had to like bring food to them. They needed milk or water. They wanted honey. They wanted to hear my voice. They wanted to listen to music. They wanted so many things that I was okay with doing, but there were other people in my house. They could walk in on me doing this and maybe they would make fun of me?

This was another change that I had a hard time with. I had to go about my business, doing what I did, and maybe I would get laughed at or maybe I wouldn’t. I didn’t have to worry about that when I sat with glazed over eyes in church; everyone else was just like me. But now I was entering into a realm where not everyone else is just like me. And there would no doubt be questions.

How do you answer questions that make you feel like an idiot? After going through years and years of semi-belief in a dude in the sky to no belief whatsoever to an idea that maybe reincarnation is a thing to okay so all gods are real and I’m worshiping some of them, how do you speak to what you now believe? How do you adequately explain the changes over the years to someone you care about or a complete stranger? I kept everything closeted and private out of nothing more than the possibility of being embarrassed.

This is no way to go into a new relationship with the gods, but Mr. Butler is correct.

Often, we come into this with our baggage and we find it simply more believable to go through what we think of as a mortification in a large, over-encompassing way. I’m not sure about the vanity part though that makes sense. I can say that I would be more than willing to go through with something large and dramatic than something simple and small.

I can dress it up however I want. I can make it seem like this overwrought thing is more important because it shows the level of my devotion. I can make it seem like it is more important because I need to show the gods that I am all in and the only way to do that is in big, dramatic ways. I can and would dress it up in a way that I was able to feel good about it, to agree that this was the way of it and there was no turning back.

But the smaller mortifications that encompass the profession of belief and the requirements of that belief, I.E. putting out offerings, were too difficult to even by considered. Someone might see. Someone might talk to me about it. Someone might laugh at me. How in the world could I possibly do something so small, so simple, and so less-dramatic than a near death experience especially if someone walks in on what I’m doing and demands to know what’s happening?

Well that seems like a little too much, don’t you think?

How many more times am I going to see my exact thoughts in a popular meme?

The melodrama seemingly inherent in the ecstatic moment of one’s near death experience is a fairy tale we all tell ourselves. We see these posts and comments from others, wondering how we too could have our religious lives broken down and rebuilt in a single night, a single experience, instead of asking ourselves if we cannot achieve the same thing by pouring the libations, offering the food, and playing the requested music.

It is possible to live in a state of ecstasy in the minutiae that one’s religious practice requires. The rapturous joy of those moments are as few and far between as we allow them to be, but they are there. We are too busy looking outside when we should be looking within, listening within to the emotional connection these daily sacrifices foster between the gods and ourselves.

Not everything that we do for the gods will be big, glorious sound bites fit for public consumption. Sometimes it really is as small as placing offerings at the feet of a statue, but that makes it no less important.

(The title for this entry stems from this quote by John Owen.)

The Brightest Things.

Before I fall asleep, I tend to take some time to think on my gods. I have always done this as that twilight period before sleep tends to be the quietest moment in my life. Though I can see my gods in my daily life, embodied by actions and words or in the world around me, it is then that I feel closest to them.

When I ponder the Lady of the Red Linen, I can quite often envision her. Sometimes her consort is behind her, stalwart as always, a benben upon which to build, but mostly it is just her and I together in solitude.

Sometimes I use this time to speak on things I am uncomfortable to say aloud and sometimes I use it to merely be in her august presence. Always there is awe and joy, sometimes heartbreak and anger. But I am always amazed by her, no matter how upset I may be.

wheat

It was just the beginning. I think that I was meant to be next to you, to you. On this planet spinning… – Back to Earth by Steve Aoki feat Fall Out Boy

Months ago, I began thinking of her less as a deity and more in her association with various flora and fauna. She is still real to me, as real as her icon and the ba that may inhabit it, but I have begun to see her elsewhere and this changed the nature of our quiet moments before I would fall asleep.

I could see my home and its mountain peaks in the distance, the wild fields where wild turkey and egrets hide. I could see the deer and raccoons, the deciduous trees and blooming bushes. I was home with her and in her while simultaneously being home where I physically live.

When I began seeing her in things around me, I turned to her epithet list in an attempt to rationalize what I was doing or thought I was doing. It seemed… wrong, in a way, to see her around me when she had a home that she truly had helped to make manifest. This is not her home: no sands, no stone built temples, no spine of Osiris to tread upon as the very foundation of the nation.

There were beings here long before my gods came. We would be impudent to ignore them, to forget about them. The Natives who once made my area their home were pushed out and mostly moved west from what I have learned, but this was their place first. And this place embodied their spirits, their gods; never mine.

I was worried that by seeing her here with me (and my other gods) that I was muscling out those who were here first. I was concerned that I was moving into an appropriative no-man’s land where everyone loses. There are no tribes near to me to ask these questions of and I haven’t really figured out who to turn to for help. I mean, shouldn’t someone who has learned extensively about cultural appropriation know the answer to this already?

(The answer is no. If I don’t ask then I don’t know. And if there is a Native American who may read this post and be able to comment in some form or another, I would appreciate it.)

She always understood the fear and anxiety. Maybe that’s because the Lady of the Flame who appears at night before sleep is nothing more than a mental construct. Or maybe it really is because she just gets it. I don’t know and it probably doesn’t really matter.

She told me to look to the stars because no one owns them.

She said to look to the horizon and find her there.

Of course, I found her.

Over the Horizon

This is a crooked path. I think that I was meant to be next to you, to you. We can never come back. – Back to Earth by Steve Aoki feat Fall Out Boy

Beyond terrorizing the populace with her very existence, there were aspects of Sekhmet that were far more affable when compared to the destroyer deity wielding chaotic spirits for later. Some of those aspects hint to a deity who seemed to love just as deeply as human beings. And other aspects seem more remote, as distant as the goddess once was after Ra intervened on humanity’s behalf. But each different area seems to, as always, offer tantalizing hints of the multifaceted goddess that Sekhmet can be and is to this day.

When she told me to look to the stars for her, it was easy to see her in the constellations. While the stories of the constellations we all know today stem from the Greeks, I could still feel her in them to some degree.

The constellation Leo has always been a favorite of mine for many years. My zodiac is a Leo so of course it is special to me. And it was never a surprise to see my Leonine goddess there. Based on my research, it does appear that the ancient Egyptians were aware of this constellation and ascribed some significance to it. While I haven’t been able to delve too deeply in what I’ve found, it would appear that the Leo constellation held some importance to the ancient Egyptians.

And of course, we can’t forget the meteor shower associated with the constellation Leo.

While the Leo constellation makes sense, I admit that I could see her in the constellation of Orion too. Though this constellation is associated with Osiris and known by the name Sah in the realm of ancient Egypt, I could see her in the stars both as the protective womb who aids in the rebirth of Pharaoh as well as in the fierce warrior pose often associated with Orion.

I looked beyond constellations and outward further, searching planets and moons, asteroids and other celestial objects. I could see her, in a way, associated with comets and, of course, meteor showers.

As I looked into deepest space, I kept finding her here and there.

It was like she was speaking, but on a cosmic level.

I looked closer to home, at the horizon, where the earth meets the sky and found her. It felt a little like she was hiding, shy and stand-offish until I narrowed in on her like a lioness on the hunt. Sekhmet doesn’t appear to have much in the way of liminal associations and the horizon – that in between space signifying where Nut and Geb seem to merge – is nothing if not liminal. However, even without an apparent association, I was able to find it.

In the PT, as I stated above, it is the womb of Sekhmet that grants the pharaoh the ability to be reborn into a star upon its passing. This was my primary focus, of course, as I found liminal hints and teasers in my continued relationship building with her. It is this threshold of creation that she is best known for and would appear to be some of the oldest, written commentary on her.

Perhaps it was her association with the sun and its being reborn every morning, just as the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom were, that caused her intermingling with the horizon and the doorway found there. Or perhaps there are other items that I have yet to discover.

It doesn’t matter.

I found her there anyway.

Path to the stars

And you know I’ve found the dust to be resilient. And we’re the dirtiest of the dirt. Every time we fall to pieces, we build something new out of the hurt. – Back to Earth by Steve Aoki feat Fall Out Boy

As I listened to her, I reviewed her epithet lists in an effort to find some correlation that worked, that helped me to see what I was finding. I knew that there was some association with both the night sky and horizons, but I couldn’t remember quite clearly everything that I had found in my random forays across epithet lists.

I found an abundance of epithets that fit in nicely with what I was finding. As a small example:

The Horizon of Ra
She Who is in The Sky
Lady of the Horizon
Lady of Heaven
The Eastern Sky
The Southern Pillar of the Sky
She Who Opens the Doors of Heaven

It was an incredible relief, truly, to find that what I had seen and found wasn’t something entirely made up. This only seemed to reinforce my ongoing belief that nature, as a whole, was far more important than many modern-day Kemetics may give it credit. (Though, to be fair, I can understand the unease that such discussions can cause since, as I stated above, it sometimes feels incredibly wrong or weird to see my gods here in a land that was never theirs.) And gave further credence to my push to include local cultus, in some aspect, in our practices.

We’ve all seen snippets here and there that would suggest that nature was a matter of import, but the more and more that I delve into epithet lists coupled with quotes here and there, it seemed as though the gods did more than simply exist: they were one with nature in a way that I would not be able to adequately express. Again, it makes me wonder just how much local cultus, as it would have been understood in an ancient Egyptian context, was a part of the overall religion and the personal relationships that people crafted with the netjeru.

There was also a certain level of comfort in the knowledge that I had found my goddess where she told me to seek her. As any devotee of the gods can attest, there is always a certain level of doubt when it comes to communication. The idea that, even before I had found substantive proof of her associations within both the realm of the sky and the realm of horizons, she had given me concrete instructions is, of course, seductive.

Maybe this is what “winning” feels like.

All in all, in my fear to muscle out spirits and gods who had come long before, my goddess assured me that I could find her elsewhere if I only looked.

To be clear, I still see her in the area around me. I don’t think I will ever be able to look at the fiery leaves of a maple tree and not see her. Or drive by the reeds and cat tails that seem to proliferate along the sides of the highway without seeing her there.

But I can look up and see her in the night sky or at the thick, dark edge between sky and earth and know that she is there too.

Semblance of Life.

Change is a cacophony.

It is ten different music scores playing all at once and just slightly off-key and/or off-tempo. It is the pounding of a waterfall with a motorcade of motorcycles and every high-pitched dog barking at the same time. It is a garage band practicing some new song while you’re passively aggressively playing Alice Cooper at top volume while trying to carry on a conversation. It is a category 4 hurricane wailing into the world with freight train cheerleaders leading the way.

Change is neither easy nor quiet. It is loud and boisterous and oh, so very painful.

It is tumultuous and wild.

The thing about change is that you know that it’s all flaming towers and being kicked over the cliff. But they forget to mention how painfully, how headache-inducingly loud it can be. And when you’re sitting in the midst of the maelstrom, trying so hard to concentrate for five measly seconds because otherwise you could probably end up dying or worse, and you just simply can’t because it’s all so fucking loud.

I don’t know why no one ever thought to mention this before. I think, maybe, it would have been nice to know before now. I think I could have appreciated the head’s up even if only after the fact.

But even in the middle of the screaming, screeching, horrendous noise, the worst is yet to come. It’s the loud wail of silence that follows the cacophony of change that should cause the most concern. It’s when it all goes quiet that you have to wonder what the fuck is coming next.

Changes

“Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym.” – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

I can’t feel my gods.

I haven’t said anything before now because I didn’t want to listen to the unwarranted advice that would head my way. I don’t want advice. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what anyone would be willing to say. Sometimes, I just need to stew in the juices, sit in the thick of it for a while.

And I didn’t want to see what sort of pseudo discourse that would probably wind up getting shut down because of misunderstandings or miscommunications. I’m tired of seeing a subject that looks to be interesting getting shut down because of people looking inside from the outside and not fucking getting what they’re reading. I don’t have the patience for this to get shut down anyway.

But to be the most truthful, to be the most honest… If I didn’t write it down or say anything to anyone then I could say it wasn’t real. At the heart of all this, I’m a coward first and foremost.

I’ve always just been able to feel my gods. I can’t even really describe it, oddly enough. I just stretch internally and there they are: sun and fire is Sekhmet; soft things and dew covered grass is Hetheru; wide blue sky and gentle breezes is Heru-Wer. There are others that are there when I stretch out but those are the three I look for most and…

They’re just not there.

I can remember the last time I felt them, each of them. They were like pieces of jewel in my hands, in my heart. I could touch them practically and they were just there. It was a comfort, like wearing your favorite pair of sweat pants and T-shirt on a cool fall day. I could feel them and everything was all right.

And then one day, I woke up and they were gone.

Sometimes when I look to see if they’ve returned and I find that place empty, I get angry. Like how the fuck dare they disappear? How in the hell do they think this sort of behavior is okay? What sort of bullshit is this, damn it all, and how dare they?! 

And other times when I look and find that they are just definitely not there, I get sad. What did I do wrong? How could I have dropped so very low in their estimations that they would do this? How can I possibly right the terrible wrong that I have clearly done?

But most times, I don’t feel anything. It’s just another coat of gray on the dull gray box that my inertia lives in, breathes in, grows in, devours in. It’s just another knot in the noose that my stagnation ties around me. It’s yet another bundle of wood upon my own funeral pyre.

“It was to be expected,” I tell myself as I wait another month, another hour, another second for the wavering half-light that’s supposed to see me out of this fucking shit show that I’ve been in for almost two years.

“But how did I get here?” I always ask in that drab grayness. No one is there to answer, just the echo of my own words whispered back to me.

one more show down... lost count of how many more to go.... :-)

“It knew about the darkness that comes on the land when rotation hides the land from the sun, and about the darkness of the human soul.” – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

I was angry a few days ago. I screamed and hollered and gibbered and whined. I demanded that they show up, that they stop fucking around for two little minutes and just tell me anything instead of this fucking grayness, this silence and horror. No one answered; I didn’t figure they would.

I don’t know. I guess I just figured that if I vented how I felt, then maybe shit would be easier or I’d feel better. I’d get like a game plan or something and you know, shit would like flow. But like the river that’s dammed up, it all just got stagnant and nasty and nobody said a word.

Loki keeps popping up; I get it. Oh boy, howdy, I fucking get it. Do the work. Stop self sabotaging. Get out there and do it all. Yeah, yeah. I hear you.

But I have to ask if he, or they, hear me. Don’t they know how scared I am? Don’t they know that I spend most days in a haze of my own insecurities, shaking and worried? Don’t they know that sometimes I need someone to hold my hand and not to push me into the conflagration at my feet?

The hooting and hollering of the years before last were so loud. I can remember the dizziness that the sounds caused and I can remember wondering how much worse it could possibly get, asking when it would all just fucking quiet down and stop for five fucking minutes.

Famous last words, I guess.

The Propitiation of Sekhmet 2016: Mourning. 

Are you with me after all
Why can’t I hear you
Are you with me through it all
Then why can’t I feel you

Sometimes I think that writing about grief will somehow lessen the pain. I am pretty sure this is a concept that crystallized for me in high school and just never went away.

But other times, I find the mere idea of sharing the pain to be so odious, so incomprehensible that I can only believe that by sharing the pain, I’m in fact trivializing it. As though the act of publicizing my own emotions creates a sort of side show event where people will laugh at the freak before them.

When I have those moments, I find poems that encapsulate the feelings. There are many beautiful poems out there written on the coattails of one’s inner pain and, occasionally, in the reading, I can feel a hint of the release I’m aiming for. But that feeling never lasts. Sometimes the poems just don’t even help at all.

When that doesn’t work for me, I find songs that speak to me. Intense, beautiful lyrical pieces that make my whole body and soul zing with the emotion better denoted as grief with its stops at suffering and sorrow. When I hit those songs and really listen, I can feel the pain of my grief slipping away if only for a little while. This is a last ditch effort really, but it usually works.

The basis of my problem is that I am just no good with sadness on the whole, even as a person who has been living with depression for a little more than half her life. I never really learned, I guess, how to appropriately cope with it. Maybe I just feel too much as one therapist once told me. Suffice to say that I am so very bad at handling it. Typically, because it’s easier than the whole feeling thing, I just go numb.

I can handle going numb.

But something I have come to realize during this holiday is that, I can’t outrun those emotions or hide behind a shield of numbness. I desperately want to, but I have learned the hard lesson here [again]. As much as I may run and hide and refuse to acknowledge my own feelings on the matter, they’re going to catch up with me anyway.

Stay with me, don’t let me go
Because there’s nothing left at all
Stay with me, don’t let me go
Until the Ashes of Eden fall
– Ashes of Eden
by Breaking Benjamin

Last year, I went through this alone. To be honest, it was literally hell. I waffled heavily back and forth between “I’m totally fine really” and “my entire world is falling apart but I have to pretend that I’m fine what the fuck.” It often felt as though the phrase tap dancing on razor blades was wholly appropriate and perfectly summed up everything in between. I felt like I was going crazy half the time.

I tried to talk about it with the people I knew in real life, but it seemed like nothing I had to say on the subject was adequate. I knew how to use my words effectively after a year or more of working steadily towards that goal and yet, when it came to this, I couldn’t use them properly. I got angry and frustrated when people tried to tell me that they understood. How could they understand when I didn’t fucking understand?

I could have turned to Heru Wer or Hetheru, I suppose. But even entrusting them with the depth of my pain was taboo to me. Maybe that’s the wrong word. It was like I couldn’t share it. It was my pain; it was my grief; it was my sorrow. I couldn’t give it up to another god. Maybe that was a directive somewhere that I didn’t consciously know at the time or maybe I really am just no damn good with expressing this shit.

I sat alone for the most part, frustrated and angry and filled to the brim with an unending sorrow. It was like a tsunami with no end in sight even though I knew it was going to end. That’s the kicker to the whole fucking thing; I knew that she would return. The Distant Goddess always returns, but it was like I was never going to see her again, as though my entire world was falling apart. There’s just no logic to this shit.

In a not very surprising plot twist, things are different this year because of course they are.

This year, I haven’t had to suffer alone. I have been suffering right along with Ptah, who was not around last year to hold my hand. He is here this year and together, in a not wholly unexpected way, we have been bolstering one another up as we suffer with our loss. Whenever I feel like I’m dying inside, I can feel his steadying presence. I don’t know if he feels quite the same way, but I just know when I need to be there for him.

It’s an oddity to me to have someone much less to rely on someone. It’s even stranger to know that we are going through the exact same thing though in our own individual ways. His smiles are pain-filled, his silence is pointed and encrusted with razor sharp edges. I assume I am much the same, although probably with a little more petulance and a lot more whining. Still, even though we could just as easily lash out at each other for this, this… this fucked up horror show of our lives, we are there for each other.

Maybe I do know how to cope with this shit; I just didn’t have the right person before. Or maybe it’s just simply because we both feel the loss so intimately that we can understand why the other is acting the way that they are.

I can hear the voices haunting
There is nothing left to fear
And I am still calling
I am still calling to you – Ashes of Eden
by Breaking Benjamin

It was Ptah, really, who told me that we had entered a period of mourning.

The course of this holiday isn’t so bing-bang-boom. It’s a little of this and a little of that. At first, I was just a little sad and a little depressed that she was gone, but I could handle it. And then, he turns to me and just says out of the blue, “We’ve entered the period of mourning,” as if the whole time period before then was a fucking practice run for what we would inevitably and truly feel.

And I could feel my own mourning returned to me. It was all deep blacks and veils and quietly spoken words and anger, pain, sadness meshed into one. And there was Ptah with his quiet attitude morphed into a caricature. He was hard lines and anger; tear tracks from weeping and a shell of who he has always been to me. We made a pair.

I was so angry that he would remind me that the period of mourning was coming up, that it was bound to happen and really, there was fuck-all to be done about it, but I knew he was right.

We had entered the period of mourning and really, there was fuck-all we could do about it.

I was reminded of the Victorian form of mourning as I realized that he was right. It was a pretty huge process back then and there was this whole huge etiquette for guests and clothes and calling cards and letters. The house was draped in black along with everything else.

It felt a little like Ptah and I had entered into a similar state, though we have had no need to write letters and no visitors. It’s just us barely keeping it going.

I dreamed that I had draped my altar space in black. There was black crape across the table and covering the double doors. A black lace scarf hung down over the front corners of the shrine cabinet and everything was shades of deepest black, deepest mourning. The phrase, pall of mourning, kept flitting through my head though I couldn’t say why. I haven’t found that phrase anywhere when I’ve tried.

Ptah and I knelt before the altar together. We were silent with the pain that we’ve been going through but the close proximity of one another was enough to keep us both alive for the next second and the one after that. They don’t tell you, but grief can kill just as easily as anything else. We kept breathing instead. I held my arm up above my head with my hand covering my upturned face (much like the women in this image) and sometimes, I would scream out with my own pain. But mostly we were silent, just breathing, just trying to stay alive.

I emulated the image of that dream to the best of my ability and each night, I kneel before it. Sometimes I let the sorrow come and I am unable to hold back the tears. Mostly I kneel there and try to remember that she is definitely coming back. I look at the icon of Ptah as it stands before the double doors, guarding it from anything untoward, and I try to remind myself that the Distant Goddess always returns.

But somewhere in my heart, I know fear. I know what it’s like to never really know the truth. Maybe she won’t come back this time and maybe, just maybe, I’ll truly be lost for eternity.

And I think, I think Ptah knows that fear too.

Are you with me after all
Why can’t I hear you
Are you with me through it all
Then why can’t I feel you

Stay with me, don’t let me go
Because there’s nothing left at all
Stay with me, don’t let me go
Until the Ashes of Eden fall

-Ashes of Eden by Breaking Benjamin

The Propitiation of Sekhmet 2016.

July 24, 2016 – August 19, 2016

No matter how many times I may celebrate a particular holiday, I often sit back and muse on the differences between each celebration. I have always worried about the drab gray that I associate with sameness, especially occurring within my religious practice. I don’t want to go into something time and time again, never to be surprised, never to know something new.

That shit gets boring.

God once spoke to people by name. The sun once imparted its flame. One impulse persists as our breath; The other persists as our faith. - Sitting By a Bush in Broad Daylight by Robert Frost

God once spoke to people by name. The sun once imparted its flame. One impulse persists as our breath; the other persists as our faith.
– Sitting By a Bush in Broad Daylight by Robert Frost

Every year, the time leading up to the Propitiation seems to both last twice as long as it should and to also speed up until, before I know it, there are only a few days between me and the holiday. It’s a strange mixture, just as strange as the various emotions the holiday has a habit of causing me to feel.

Two years ago, I went into the holiday with joy and excitement, pleased at the time away. Last year, I went into the holiday with confusion and worry, not sure what to expect. This year, I had a better handle on how things should look and what I could expect while she is gone. Having the last two years at my back has been helpful in many ways, though of course, nothing is the same. I also have Ptah with me this year who was not around last year; he has promised to lend a helping hand while we both mourn the loss of our lady. Having Ptah there to hold my hand when shit gets real, well that’s really kind of a bonus.

For once, I had the time I needed to prepare. Usually, my holidays take place during the work week leaving me with little time to ensure that everything is situated before the day arrives. This year, by the power of the calendar, I had an entire weekend to prepare as the Propitiation didn’t begin until Sunday.

I spent all day Saturday either sitting in the sunlight with my gods, being lazy and relaxed, or headed out to get some last minute items that Sekhmet had indicated I should get. Sekhmet and Ptah both seemed to stress the need that I couldn’t go into this harried or harassed; I needed to have enough strength and energy as Sekhmet always seems to have in spades. With the way things have been lately, I thought it was a pretty tall order to fill but maybe it was the sunlight or the fact that I had a whole day to do anything or nothing because I somehow managed.

Sunday morning dawned even earlier than Saturday’s and we all sat up watching the local birds do local bird things. In the window that I had placed them, chickadees and finches could be seen. They were all very happy and cheerful birds; they made me laugh. One bold little finch finally showed up to eat whatever bugs or spiders were encased around my window, peering in at us with the same sort of curiosity as we were peering at it. It was really nice and made me feel, well, maybe not magical but like everything was going all right.

At most he thinks or twitters softly, 'Safe! Now let the night be dark for all of me. Let the night bee too dark for me to see Into the future. Let what will be, be.' - Acceptance by Robert Frost

At most he thinks or twitters softly, ‘Safe! Now let the night be dark for all of me. Let the night be too dark for me to see into the future. Let what will be, be.’
– Acceptance by Robert Frost

Though the holiday, according to my calendar, starts the morning of the 24th, I don’t typically get into anything until much later towards sunset. We spent our day basking in the rays of Ra’s rejuvenation for the duration, needing the added boost that only the sun god can provide before we meet together and have our farewell meal.

I honestly can’t fathom what it must have been like for the priests of ancient Egypt undertaking some holiday or festival. Their days, like mine, had probably started very early but I often think that they were constantly on the go to ensure that everything took off properly. Almost by design, during the holidays where I have the ability to give it a slow burn, I am relaxing and taking my time. Nothing to rush; nothing too big to see to. If it can’t be done simply, according to my gods, then it shouldn’t be done.

Part of taking my time with the holiday also includes whatever holiday meal I may decide to make. I try to be as basic and simple as possible. Some of this has to do with the fact that I am not much of a cook. I can bake very well, if I do say so myself, but when it comes to actual meals, I find myself often making what I feel are ridiculous mistakes.

It’s kind of funny, though. Something I’ve noticed is that when I am cooking dinner for a particular holiday, things tend to go well even when I go into the cooking prep with the usual anxiety of just how terrible all of this is going to actually come out. Maybe the gods guide my hand when I cook for them; I don’t know. If Sekhmet aided me in making some of the best steak I’ve ever cooked, then I’ll be grateful for it.

Maybe it’s just my own insecurities in reality, but the gods make sure that if I’m going to cook, it’s got to be simple and easy.

As much as I love to bake, I’ve found that my ability to do so lately has been completely undermined. It doesn’t take long to throw the ingredients together (usually) for a batch of brownies or some cake or another. Maybe the act of baking, to me, is a pain reliever and I’ve been too overwhelmed with that pain in recent months to actually bake something in depth. Sekhmet said I could at least buy her something dessert like instead of baking. Maybe she really just wanted me to focus on getting her altar and cabinet up to snuff before I locked her away.

And on the worn book of old-golden song I brought not here to read, it seems, but hold And freshen in this air of withering sweetness; But on the memory of one absent most, For whom these lines when they shall greet her eye. - Waiting -- Afield at Dusk by Robert Frost

And on the worn book of old-golden song, I brought not here to read, it seems, but hold and freshen in this air of withering sweetness; but on the memory of one absent most, for whom these lines when they shall greet her eye.
– Waiting — Afield at Dusk by Robert Frost

It may not come as a surprise, but Sekhmet is very demanding about how certain things should look and feel. She wants certain things fulfilled for her holidays that are, as she would say, “mandatory”. When I went grocery shopping for the Propitiation, she was there with me to help me pick out everything that I needed. She was also with me when I had to fetch a few added supplies to spruce up the shrine cabinet she was to be locked into for the duration.

It’s funny, though. As much as she wants this, this, and this in just such a way, she mostly leaves the artistic representation up to me. She knew that I would look to the symbolism I associate with her, with our relationship, and with ancient Egypt as a whole to set things to rights. This is where the partnership of our relationship, in my opinion, becomes more and more pronounced especially as the years go by. She wants things to be just so, but I have free reign to recreate the image so that it’s pleasing for both of us.

It may not be obvious to most people, but symbolism is very important to me. I often look into the how, what, where, and when long before I actually begin to decorate for a holiday. While I will have a certain image in my head, either from my own experience, from what others have done under similar circumstances, or because of dreams I have had, I am always searching for various symbols that need to be recreated in a way that will do justice to the overall image. If I can’t find the symbolism that I require or that I know should be there, then it doesn’t get added.

One of the things that has always pleased me is the fact that green is such an important color in ancient Egypt. Green is my very favorite color so the fact that it ties back, not just to ancient Egypt but specifically to my goddess has always been a sort of additional connection that binds us together. It was with the symbolism of that color in mind that I chose a gentle green overlay for various items on the altar space.

You see, I wanted to keep her fed and life-affirmed as we prepared for the holiday and to continue that theme as we wait for her to return. I removed most of the reds that usually adorn her altar for the same reason: while red is a powerful color and we will need power to keep her in check until her return, we don’t want to give her too much power. There is, of course, always the fear that she may become wrothful once more.

That is also why, most of the time, I will also pick flowers to stay upon the altar for one reason or another. The flowers serve a dual purpose, of course. I love bunches of flowers, set up to look as beautiful as possible. But it’s also a reminder about life-affirming and ma’at affirming behavior.

By which we see and understand That that was the place to carry a heart At loyalty and love's command, And that was the case to carry it in. - In Equal Sacrifice by Robert Frost

By which we see and understand that that was the place to carry a heart at loyalty and love’s command, and that was the case to carry it in.
– In Equal Sacrifice by Robert Frost

It is with an eye to symbolism that I’ve come to perfect the implements of this ritual and the pieces I shut away with her. One of the most important pieces is the black scarf I use to carefully wrap her away. Black is the color of the life giving silt that was left behind after the Nile overflowed its banks. In a way, it hearkens back to the color of green and it’s life-affirming and ma’at-affirming connotations.

Black is also a color that I personally associate with the Nun. And it is more on that end, than anything else, that led me to choosing a black scarf (and later, a black shrine cabinet). Nun is a god of potential: from his waters, the potential of both life and death await. It is potential that I aim for here: the potential of keeping Sekhmet calm, the potential of luring her back to me, the potential of keeping her propitiated until her return.

The other most important part of the symbolism are the hearts that I have, every year, left with her as she becomes distant from me.

Most people who have read this blog, or its Tumblr companion, for any length of time should be aware that hearts are a central part of my religious relationship with Sekhmet. I won’t get into the details, since many of them are private, but the point of the matter is that the ib and everything it symbolizes between us must be represented in some form or another when I shut her away.

As found here, the epithet, “she who grasps hearts for herself,” is particularly appropriate.

It is with the representative hearts that we are finally able to bid goodbye. I give her my hearts, literally and figuratively, as a signpost, a reminder of what we are to one another and to give her a way to come back to me. So far, thankfully, each year she’s followed the path of my bloody remains right on back to me. Here’s to another year of anticipation, waiting for the day of her return.

The heart he wore in a golden chain
He swung and flung forth into the plain,
And followed it crying ‘Heart or death!’
And fighting over it perished fain.
So may another do of right,
Give a heart to the hopeless fight,
The more of right the more he loves;
So may another redouble might
For a few swift gleams of the angry brand,
Scorning greatly not to demand
In equal sacrifice with his
The heart he bore to the Holy Land.
– In Equal Sacrifice by Robert Frost

God Bothered: A Guide.

I get bothered by gods, well, fairly frequently I suppose. I don’t personally see it as such myself, but that’s what happens when you live in the thick of it. However from an outsider’s perspective looking in on the vague posts I make, it could seem as though my entire life is a giant way station for some new god to appear and go, “hey, hi. I’m here,” or something like that.

I can definitely say that things used to work that way; they don’t anymore. It seemed like once a month or so, some deity was jumping off the train with some baggage and a sign that said, “Satsekhem: look at me!” At first, I tried to accommodate and wound up in that deity collecting phase that drove me up a flipping wall. I would take one look at whoever the new deity was, roll my eyes as theatrically as you please and just mutter, “jfc, not another one of you,” and begrudgingly wound up attempting to do the thing.

But I began to realize that this was partially my fault. I hadn’t set clear boundaries for these gods so when they showed up and without those crystal clear boundaries, I found myself constantly out of my element. I had yet another new god that I had to deal with and learn about and figure out why the hell they were hanging around. It caused a large amount of stress and a long series of headaches that left me floundering.

That is absolutely no way to live a life or attempt to be a devotee. While not everything may turn out badly for both the god and the devotee in question, I can assure everyone that it doesn’t exactly leave the best taste in your mouth. It leaves you feeling bogged down and just generally irritable with the whole kit-n-caboodle. I wound up realizing that if I was going to appear as a sort of beacon into the night that gods would home in on, I needed to be clear with myself and with those gods coming in on the midnight train.

Boundary

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. – Brene Brown

Boundaries can be difficult to set up for yourself. There are a lot of various aspects that you must take into consideration when formulating them. While you may be thinking about how this will benefit you, something we need to keep in mind are the current relationships we have with our gods and what their particular plans for those relationships may entail. There is also the messy business of promises, agreements, contracts, and oaths that may need to be considered before setting a boundary.

In my case, the only promises I had made before setting up the boundaries was to Sekhmet and they had no relation in allowing new gods to stay or not. But this isn’t always the case. Some devotee-deity partnerships include being loaned out to other gods, being sent to other gods for specific reasons, or various other items that may lead to developing relationships with new gods.

The best way to figure out if both you and your existing deities will be okay with these boundaries would be to focus on the primary concern for creating a boundary: why am I setting up this boundary in the first place?

This might sound like one of those “no duh” questions, but asking yourself why you feel you need to do something will open up avenues of thought that you may not have considered. Just deciding that you want to make some space for yourself isn’t going to give you the ability to delve deeply into the matter at hand and determine the best design for you when it comes to the limits you’re setting.

On the other hand, this will aid in presenting the idea to the gods you currently have relationships with. It’s a give and take situation when discussing the possibility of a boundary with your gods and compromise may be a word used often when formulating a game plan.

When I broached the subject matter with my gods, they were all very supportive but there were certain stipulations that needed to be taken into account. While at that particular moment, I was flustered and flummoxed, they let me know that they may need to parcel me out elsewhere on occasion and they would let me know when that was the case. Since I felt that was fair, I told them I would do the thing if it occurred though I wouldn’t necessarily do it with grace or humility.

As I sat around determining what would work best for me, I kept focusing on the idea that my best interests were the heart of the matter. And they were; they are. I was setting up the boundary specifically because I was flustered by this seeming revolving door of deities and needed some peace. If you constantly have an influx, it’s damn hard to do the research you need to do to figure out what’s happening or determine why.

However, there are a million reasons that may come up for yourself when you ask yourself why this is so important now when it may not have been important before. When those reasons begin piling up and after all parties agree to a sort of informal agreement, it gets easier for you to determine the next stage of the process, how closed off do I need to be? Should I limit myself to no new gods? Or should I limit myself to a specific pantheon?

Going back to the gods with what we think would work best for ourselves is also important. I had tentatively put in the idea that I needed no new gods, but I was told that wouldn’t slide. New gods were coming whether I liked it or not; I just had to limit the influx to a number I could handle.

When new gods from outlying pantheons show up, it can be difficult to not just complete the research you may need but to also network with devotees of said deities. While not everyone will take the time and delve into the research with a level of detail as others, I do need to do both research and networking if a deity not-of-my-frame-of-reference shows up. And it can be both tiring and confusing to delve into arenas that often wind up looking an awful lot like gibberish.

From a Kemetic perspective, I know where the source material is and what to pick up if someone just jumped off the train. If a god from another pantheon shows up, I may know where to look generally for information but the question that begs is whether or not it’s worth learning about.

When it came right down to it, knowing as I do regarding resources for various other polytheistic traditions, I figured it was wiser to limit myself from the outset: Kemetic gods were a maybe, depending on situation and the feedback I received from my existing relationships, but gods from other pantheons were a no-go. This left me feeling a little more secure as the months passed; I had a general system in place and it worked.

This isn’t to say that gods from other pantheons stopped showing up. Oh, of course not. This clearly defined border only meant that I had to be firm when they annoyed me, which is why I wrote this entry about saying no. Just because you’ve set a limitation for yourself doesn’t mean that the gods will necessarily respect it or be aware of it.

Setting this boundary benefited me in the long run and also my relationships with my gods. I was able to spend more time on the things they wanted and when new deities appeared, I was better able to handle researching them, networking with existing devotees, and figure out what was going on, if I chose to look into the deity.

Yes/No

The strongest and most effective force in guaranteeing the long-term maintenance of power is not violence in all the forms deployed by the dominant to control the dominated, but consent in all the forms in which the dominated acquiesce in their own domination. – Robert Frost

Just as having your gods put their stamp of approval on boundaries you’re setting for yourself, so too must we put our stamp of approval on a new relationship that we are considering entering into.

Consent is one of those things that can cause pagan drama for days. Some people believe that our ability to say yes or no to a god is immaterial; others believe that ability is a necessity. I am a big proponent of consent, however I have to admit that it doesn’t always look quite like what we would expect it to.

In my experience, gods need some forms of affirmation to begin developing a relationship. A hearty yes is going to be the least ambiguous confirmation however, it seems to be the least common given. Gods have been known to get your approval through shady dealings and may even bug you until, in a fit of pique, you give in. This kind of goes back to the boundary question above: how well defined and high is the boundary?

I’ve noticed that while begrudging cooperation will work in a pinch, willing cooperation will make the experience easier on all parties involved. But again, this isn’t a black and white area; as with all the gods, it’s shades of gray. The point I’m trying to convey is that, out of all of it, while the form of consent may not resemble what we would prefer, some form of it appears to be needed to get the ball rolling.

A recurring theme I’ve picked up on is when people mention that X or Y deity is about, sometimes the advice given neglects to keep in mind that our consent is something that’s required. Often I will see something along the lines of, “you may as well just do it because it’s not like you have a choice.” I grow concerned when I see this out there; it seems to be neglecting the very reality that consent needs to be given in such situations no matter who the deity is or the reason they may or may not be hanging around.

So, let me state this emphatically: no matter what deity is poking around or why they are poking around, you always have the ability and right to say no. It doesn’t mean they won’t keep pestering you. It doesn’t mean that no will automatically filter through and they fly off to bother some other unsuspecting possible future devotee. This only means that you have the right to say no and that you do not have to give in, no matter what you may see floating around the Internet under the guise of advice.

Over the years, my default position for new deities has been to say no. Obviously, this isn’t always the case but it’s pretty much my fall back in any given situation unless directed otherwise by the deities I have relationships with. And even when directed to look into X deity, I always have the choice to tell them that I won’t do it or that now is not a good time.

As an example, Sekhmet pinged me a few months ago and requested I look into Tutu. I was able to do a cursory look but had to admit that, while I found the information available interesting, I did not have the necessary time to look deeper. She let it go and while she does check in to see how I’m doing, she knows that my focus elsewhere is important. In same vein, both Hetheru and Heru-Wer have asked me to look deeper into Ihy than I have and while I would like to, again now is not the time.

They respect my choice and I appreciate the carte blanche they have given me regarding these requests.

On the flip side of this, Sekhmet had mentioned that a certain Hellenic party guy would be beneficial for me some time back. Since I knew enough about him to be weary and because of the boundaries I had set, I was able to tell her that I wasn’t interested and she understood where I was coming from. It took a bit longer than that for that deity to buzz off, but he eventually went on his way.

It’s not always simple. Sometimes a deity is around for a reason and you have to weigh the pros and cons about entering into a relationship with them. When Loki arrived for me, I spent a good few weeks going through the benefits as well as the possible negatives before making a decision always with the knowledge that saying no could make things worse for me. Snap decisions are all well and good now and again, however sometimes more information is needed in order to make the best determination for yourself.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes a deity is persistent and refuses to take no for an answer. That doesn’t reflect on you; it reflects on them.

But at the end of the day, it’s your decision one way or the other. And you don’t have to enter into the relationship no matter who is poking around or why. So long as you have enough information to make a decision – why they’re around, what would happen if you do and do not enter a relationship, etc. – it’s entirely up to you.

Further Reading

  1. Gods, Boundaries, and Consent
  2. The Nuances of Non-Physical Relationships
  3. A Good Horse
  4. Breaking the Narrative
  5. Consent for Spirit Walkers
  6. Setting Boundaries with Your Deity