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.

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I Think About Righteousness and I Live By It.

The phrase stranger danger was coined back in the 60s, but it was something that continued to be used well into my childhood in the 80s. There were cartoon things schools would show kids to make them all aware that strangers could be a danger to you so be wary of them. I don’t remember ever being shown the cartoon or hearing my mom say the phrase, but I learned about stranger danger in other ways.

As a very young child, I lived in a neighborhood that had cheap rents and not a good reputation. I only lived there for maybe 3 years but it cemented the sentiment behind stranger danger to me. If we kids wanted to play outside, multiple adults accompanied us “just in case”. We weren’t sure what “just in case” really was, but they were there “just in case.”

Riding our bikes down the street or in the shared parking lot between my building and the next meant that there should be at least one adult for every child. That didn’t always work out for reasons, but usually there were plenty of adult eyes on us as we played outside.

When we moved to suburbia, the stranger danger mentality followed. We rode our bikes in roving gangs of children, we were to be inside by the time the streetlights came on, and my mom had us in an after school program when babysitters were no longer available to keep us so that we would be safe. We didn’t stay home alone for long when I was young and we made sure doors were locked, that we didn’t answer the door if our mom wasn’t home, and we stayed in the relative safety of our neighborhood when we hung out with our friends.

As a teen, I was a loner and stayed home more often than I had as a kid. My nights home alone were filled with music, books, and writing. I had friends and sometimes we would go out in semblance to the roving gangs of kids on bicycles from my childhood. Only now we had friends who drove where we wanted to go and there were usually at least 5 – 7 of us at a go. We were safer in groups as a kid and we were safer as teenagers because nothing horrible could happen to us.

Stranger danger shaped my childhood in weird ways. But the overall sentiment, no matter how safe we tried to be, did not always work out in everyone’s favor.

It is I who cause Osiris to be a spirit, and I have made content those who are in his suite. I desire that they grant fear of me and create response of me among those who are in their midst for I am lifted aloft on my standard, on my thrown, and on my alloted seat. – Spell 85 from The Book of Going Forth By Day

The disappearance and murder of Molly Anne Bish probably should have rocked my entire world when it hit the presses. Molly was my age and she had probably been taught the same things about stranger danger as I had. Maybe she watched the cartoons in school when I didn’t. In any case, she probably had a general awareness of her surroundings at all times, locked the doors when her parents weren’t at home, and did all the good things people and organizations tell you to do so that you won’t go missing or wind up dead.

But even with all of that, Molly still disappeared from her job as a lifeguard at a local lake. Her mother had been dropping her off each day and paid close attention to Molly’s surroundings before bidding good-bye and “I love you” to her daughter. The day before Molly’s disappearance, her mother noticed a suspicious looking white vehicle with a strange man in the parking lot with her, but she ignored it instead of calling it in.

The next day, June 27, 2000, Molly went missing and her mother remembered that strange car and the strange man sitting in it the day before. She was last seen by her mother wearing a blue bathing suit. At least her mother got to say good-bye, something that doesn’t happen often in these types of cases, even if she didn’t know it was the final good-bye.

For three hours on that day of June 27th, families came and went with their kids to enjoy the cool water on such a beautiful day. They all noticed that the lifeguard was missing, but no one thought to ask themselves why the lifeguard had left their water and bag of things out in the opening – which included their lifeguard whistle – and why the first aid kit was left open by the lifeguard post. Someone even took it upon themselves to pull the whistle out of Molly’s bag and use it as they played fill-in for the missing Molly Bish.

The police were finally contacted and immediately began trying to find Molly. There was no usual story about being a runaway; it was clear that Molly had not left her post willingly. What teenage girl would leave her things behind? A search was immediately organized, purported to be one of the most extensive and expensive searches in Massachusetts history.

They came up empty.

The police cordoned off the lake and turned it into the crime scene it was, but the detectives admitted that the evidence they collected was contaminated. The woman who had taken Molly’s whistle had trampled some of her things. Someone put the first aid kit away. There was evidence taken from the lake, but too many had come through and trampled it for the evidence to be the solid lead the police needed to find out what had happened to Molly.

As usual, the police looked at Molly’s family and friends, hoping to find a jump start on the case there. The police looked into her father’s job – he was a parole officer – wondering if this disappearance was linked to a disgruntled convict under her father’s thumb. But it seemed that her father was well-liked.

There were some thoughts that maybe she had taken off: a friend of hers had been injured badly and there was fear that she wasn’t going to make it. But everyone knew that Molly wouldn’t have left without telling someone. Or if she had left at all, she would have made the journey with other friends and not on her own. They kept coming back to the bag of things she had left behind with this theory too. Why would she have left her things at the lake even if she had gone off to visit with one of her friends?

The one thing that the police and Molly’s mother kept coming back to was the white car with the strange man from the day before. Other locals had seen the vehicle too in various places around the lake: in the parking lot, down the street, and in a campground that was reachable through a path in the woods from the lake. But no one seemed to know who it was who had been driving that white sedan. Flyers asking people if they knew who it was to call in to the tip line went up.

Tips came in, but nothing concrete surfaced.

In late fall of 2002, a local hunter was walking through the woods about 5 miles from Molly’s parents place when they saw something blue in the distance. The something blue looked like a bathing suit. That man didn’t investigate what he was seeing for whatever reason, but when he shared this story with a friend of his almost half a year later, his friend put two-and-two together and notified police.

The police found Molly after an intensive search. Her body had been strewn about the area known as Whiskey Hill due to predation. No cause of death could be determined. All they knew was that a happy, healthy 16-year-old girl had gone missing and her body found three years later, almost to the day, with no understanding as to what had happened in between.

Since the discovery of Molly’s body, no less than four people have been interviewed as persons of interest. In each case, the family is given a modicum of hope only to have those hopes dashed.

It seems like every other year there is talk of some new lead in the case. Two years ago, twenty-six pieces of evidence were submitted for enhanced DNA analysis to a lab in Texas. The police on the case were quoted a year later as saying that there is “cause for optimism based on some of the things we’ve tested.” Last year, detectives began searching the woods where Molly was found after a tip about a buried car – possibly the suspicious white car her mother saw the day prior – in the area. They took ground penetrating radar in the hopes of finding the car, but no new updates have entered the local headlines since last year.

Molly’s family continues to fight, pushing however they can for justice for her. Her sister said that she will keep fighting, a sentiment echoed by Molly’s mother repeatedly over the years. They won’t give up, or give in. They’ve hired private investigators to aid the police in their investigations.

In addition to the above, Molly’s mother and family have humanized her in a way that not many victims with cold cases are able to do. The fact that Molly disappeared and was murdered only 18 years ago gives the case a more humane persona than Danny Croteau’s news articles ever conveyed. The articles are less sensational, more to the point. Molly was a human being and we were able to learn about who Molly actually was versus what the newspapers would like us to believe.

I don’t think Molly was any different than any other 16-year-old girl. She wrote a letter once to a local mother who had lost her daughter in much the same way that Molly’s mother would lose her. She belonged to clubs and had a boyfriend. She had worries and concerns; she had plans and a future. Molly probably could have been one of my friends if we had gone to the same schools.

The only difference between her and I is merely a matter of circumstance. I came home in June 2000 if I went out at all; she never did.

I am Nun, and the doers of wrong cannot hard me. I am the eldest of the primeval gods, the soul of the souls of the eternal gods; my body is everlasting, my shape is eternity, Lord of Years, Ruler of Everlasting. – Spell 85 of the Book of Going Forth by Day

The word justice is a word that seems to have lost a lot of meaning. We hear it thrown around on true crime shows and fast paced drama TV shows. It’s in many headlines nowadays and all over the internet. It is justice that people speak of in situations like Molly’s where, for so long, we have wondered what happened and when someone will face charges.

But it isn’t necessarily justice that the family or those of us who have been heartbroken by the circumstances of this case that we’re looking for. The desire is to have the person responsible for this crime held accountable for their misdeeds and to pay for what they took away from the family when they took Molly from the life she had been cultivating for herself.

It’s been a little over 18 years and the family still holds out hope. They appear in the news about once a year, not always related to the possibility of new evidence or the re-hashing of old evidence. But they continue to spread a message of hope that one day, they will know what happened to their daughter and the person responsible will be held accountable.

We know it’s possible; the murder of a local teacher was solved just last fall and earlier this year, another murder case from the other half of the state was possible. With the changes in technology, it is absolutely feasible that the person who did this will one day be brought up on charges. But that day has been a long time coming and those who have held their breath, waiting for it to finally come, are still waiting.

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

May He Live After Death Like Re Every Day.

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

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

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

I was kind of right.

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

Well they seem to have anyway.

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

But so far nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was the only justice the Croteaus would ever know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lent 2018: C’est Fini.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus the hopelessness and helplessness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advent 2017.

It smells like warmth in my home.

I kept Advent this year, an undertaking requested by the ancestors last year when it was too late to honor it. In the keeping of that promise to them, I discovered the smell of warmth.

It was home cooking at first. Gingerbread with its ginger and cinnamon undertone. French meat pie with its hint of sage and overdose of clove. Cinnamon buns and vanilla icing and birthday cake. It filled my home like the candles’ light and I pondered the meaning of it all.

Intellectually it was obvious. I’m keeping a calendar in colored candles. The first two purple, the third pink (for hope my mind shrieks out), the fourth purple. The four Sundays before Christmas, before the next week began, I was keeping the calendar for the season of peace, for the birth of a child of a deity who has never been my own.

My mother reminded me of my childhood and our Advent calendar in the explanation of what Advent was. She reminded me of the little bear my little brother and I would click in place on the sewn image of a house. He was looking for Christmas and the build up was infectious for two young kids, thrilled at the prospect of presents and colored lights and good home cooking. We would fight every morning about who would move Little Bear. I always cheated and did it before he got up in the morning.

“Where is Christmas?” Little Bear would ask and search his house from top to bottom with our help. No, not in the bathroom; not in the attic. He’d pass by the living room with his family and it’s Christmas tree in his search. The rational part of my mind would always ask, “why the fuck doesn’t he ask his parents?”

It didn’t matter what rationale there was even as I got older. Christmas was the calendar my mom hand made when I was still too young yo remember and we counted down the days from December 1st to December 25th. After he had found Christmas, I wondered what he did in his spare time before the new year began.

As I lit my final candle, I was reminded of the day after Christmas looking at the bear Advent calendar. What does one do when the build up is over and the time you’ve been counting down to is finally here? Where do you go from here when it’s all finally over?

The candles burned low, burned out, and I got stuck on what comes after. You plan up to the moment in question, but it’s not often that you think beyond what you’ve been planning for. What do you do after the final candle is lit, has burned itself down to a stump, and the final Sunday has happened?

For my ancestors, they would have gone to Mass if they were from the Catholic side. I can remember whispers about Midnight Mass from my mom’s family when I was a kid. I don’t know what that means really but that’s what they would do.

My Methodist family would have done something like the Boars Head Festival. Or maybe they would eschew the Methodists’ dislike of drink and have a few in celebration of the season. Either way, they would have been loud and boisterous and shrieking with laughter. 

For me, it’s an inexorable progression to leaving out presents and filling the stockings. Peppered in the holiday tradition of being up too late for my baby schedule. In the midst of all that, there’s the peace the season claims to be part of the season while I sneak away from my family to take a few minutes’ time out for myself.

Beyond today, beyond tomorrow, I don’t know what the calendar will bring. It’s all messed up and whatever hope I normally have going into a new year was burned out of me months ago. There’s just the steady, heavy, finite progression forward with the whisper of my Ancestors in my ears.

They tell me to take it easy, to stop blasting forward always looking for what’s next? They tell me that Advent isn’t just the keeping of time, of four Sundays with color coded candles, but it is also a time of reflection, of the peace spewing down from white doves’ lips on tapestries in my neighbors’ yards.

It is more than just being reminded that another week has come and gone. It is more than simply the need to keep a countdown in place for what we all know is coming. It is more, more, more they whimper at me and I listen.

My house smells of my childhood now.

I can remember the bread my mom would leave out on the steam heaters, the smell of yeast perfuming the air. I can remember the brownies she would make and the smell of meatloaf. Cinnamon wasn’t a huge part of my childhood in food, but my mother would leave out cinnamon sticks and make crafts peppered with that smell every year.

It smells like warmth. 

Some Would Sing and Some Would Scream.

I’ve been purposely quiet lately. The whole last month – last three months really – have been a sort of nightmare that Americans woke up to the day after the election. There is so much going on everywhere that it’s enough to send anyone into a spiral of darkness and depression, myself included.

Every single day, I wake up at 6am and spend a half hour looking through the news reports I missed out on while sleeping. I comb the various social media platforms I am on and reblog, share, and retweet the things that I find need to be shared. I spend much of my breaks at work or periods throughout the weekend doing the same thing. It’s honestly one of the few things that make the darkness a little more bearable.

It also tires me out. I mean, there really is only so much of these horrifying things you can take before you want to hide in a pillow fort for a few days. Life continues though, no matter how scary the real world has become and no matter how your mental illness reacts to it.

I still have to go to work and pay the bills. I still have to get groceries, do laundry, help my kid doing homework, and clean the old homestead. I still have to have the same arguments about fruits and vegetables with my son. I still have to feel miserable when shit starts flying at work. I still have my life to lead amid the nightmare fuel the world has seemingly become.

Sometimes it’s a wonder any of us can get up and greet a new day.

Fleur de Lis - Lily Style

You soon find you have few choices… I learned the voices died with me. – Arsonist’s Lullabye by Hozier

During all of this, there has been some beacons of light in the darkness. I have turned to comfort from my ancestors. Some of the reason that I have turned to them is because of that old whispering commentary telling me to get right with my ancestors. But that’s not the whole of it.

I know enough about them to know that there were members who fought for freedom in some form or another. I figure they’ll understand all this stuff we’re going through now. My grandfather and his brother joined up during WWII, the time frame that seems to most mirror what we are going through today. I know they probably get it.

I don’t actually know what caused them both to join the air force. I couldn’t say if it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the atrocities committed by the Axis powers, or just a need to be a patriot. My grandfather once told my mother, after learning that I did not vote in the first election that I could have, that he was disappointed because the fight for that freedom to vote was something he had done or something like that. So maybe it was just the need to fight for freedoms.

I don’t know what, if anything, they had to say about the Japanese internment camps. I don’t know what they thought or felt about any of that and I will most likely never know. I have a romanticized dream that both my grandfather and great uncle thought it was just awful. Maybe the rose colored glasses will be ripped from my eyes one day or maybe not. I of course prefer my possibly false characterization.

Whatever their reasoning, I have turned to them, and my akhu as a whole, more and more often. Multiple times a week, I find myself talking to them, thinking about what they would say to me during this trying time if they were alive. Perhaps nothing; perhaps something. It is a comfort to me.

And that is predominantly why I’ve been so quiet.

The Keys to Bokeh

All you have is your fire… And the place you need to reach – Don’t you ever tame your demons. But always keep ’em on a leash. – Arsonist’s Lullabye by Hozier

One would think that in such dark times, I would turn to my two warrior gods. They would be two whom understand fighting against a sea of swirling isfet, and to be sure, the world certainly seems full of that right now.

But I have found myself unable to do so. Whenever I think of it, I talk myself out of it. Things aren’t so bad for you. Let them focus on those who are in danger, those who truly need advice from two warriors during this trying time. I need comfort and wisdom too, of course, but in my mind, not as much as others.

I can feel them both like distant statues seen in the distance. The image is hazy even when squinting. If I were to move closer, I would no doubt have the image resolve itself. But I can’t seem to make myself move closer.

As I spend more time with my ancestors, I have found that they like being in the limelight less and less often. It seems very much to me that they lived quiet lives and want to continue that practice even in death. They have often asked me to be silent, to keep details back.

I have half a dozen drafts of posts that will never see the light of day simply because they have asked me to keep it quiet.

And to be fair, I often agree because the idea of going full on ancestor veneration under public scrutiny is disturbing to me. A little of that is because it feels lile breeching a previously unknown boundary.

But too it is also the idea that this world of akhu can get a little lonely.

Often it feels like a lonely little island with not so many other people discussing the subject. Since my ancestor veneration looks more like a cross with Kemeticism and Catholicism,  and an occasional pinch of Methodism, it seems like keeping it all to myself makes the most sense from all perspectives.

Lantern on snow

I knew that something would always rule me… I knew the scent was mine alone. – Arsonist’s Lullabye by Hozier

The akhu have filled a sort of empty niche, willingly placing themselves at my disposal. Maybe this is the road I need to be on while I “get right with them.” I guess I’ll  find out eventually.

Causing a Soul to Live.

O Nut, Nut, I have cast my father to the earth, with Horus behind me. My wings have grown into those of a falcon, my plumes are those of a sacred falcon, my soul has brought me and its words have equipped me.

– excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

It began months ago when I drove by a Catholic church that I have always driven by. The church is a memory staple of my youth. I can remember riding up that long main drag with my family and watching it flee into the distance. I had always wondered who Saint Catherine was and why she was important enough to have a church named after her.

The church looks the same from my childhood. All tans and grays with thick bands of the deepest green grass. The soccer fields are filled with players in spring and autumn, the lone cop obviously sitting idly in his speed trap all year round, and the people happily bonding in their religious community.  The place seems, well, friendly. Cheerful and happy; welcoming, I guess. Not all churches feel that way in my experience. This is one of the few in my area. For the church, time hasn’t passed, not really. Another day, another month, another year is immaterial to the friendly building that takes up an entire city block.

This wasn’t the church of my ancestors. Their places of worship were either miles or cities away.

But as I drove by that day, a whisper told me to go inside and check it out. The whisper reminded me that I had always been curious about what Catholic churches were like. That I wanted to know what it would be like to confess to a priest and get told to pay penance with whatever prayer sets an alleged sinner like me needed to get right. The whisper was forceful yet seductive. Don’t you want to know? it seemed to ask.

Not that badly, I decided, and left it alone.

It was a hum after that, no longer a whisper. It was a quiet, near-constant hum in the darkest recesses of my mind. There were no words, just sound. It had a sort of harmony in it, but it was little better than white noise. It would get louder when I drove back by St. Cathy’s church but faded out as I kept on going.

One day as the noise got loud, louder, loudest, I muttered, “man, I got to get right with my akhu.

I couldn’t say what made that come to mind. I frankly couldn’t even understand what the hell the idea meant. I knew things were a bit tenuous with my grave-tending just about nonexistent and my lack of offerings or care to my ancestors, but what had I done wrong that made it seem like I needed to “get right” with them? Fuck if I knew and they weren’t really saying.

I muzzled the whole thought, the whole damn thing and the white noises faded out when the church popped up on my drives to wherever. I breathed a sigh of relief: no more obsessive desire to step foot in a friendly building that simultaneously repulsed and beguiled me. It was like that wayward thought about the church and the ancestors was dead and gone.

I kept congratulating myself on a job well done. I figured my discernment was fucked ten ways and I needed to figure all that out later. Whenever the fuck later actually was.

I never did pull out my Tarot cards to figure it out. I didn’t need to. The painful bit was over and I was doing fine.

Pyrenean Starry Skies

You have opened up your place among the stars of the sky, for you are the Lone Star of the sky… – excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

Weeks back now, I woke up from one of those calming dreams that you’re loathe to wake from. The vibe of the dream was the utmost tranquility, soothing, and sweet. It was like finding yourself in a moment so perfectly encapsulated by the word “serenity” that you can only marvel at the perfection of it. I’ve had rare moments like that, typically in the some area outside, surrounded by plant and animal life. It was nice having it in the dream world.

In the dream, I held two things between my hands. The first were a pair of cool beads. When I looked down at them, I realized that I was looking at a mother-of-pearl rosary. At the cross section was a medal of some kind and the crucifix was a sort of tarnished color along with the saint’s medal. The beads had a glint of rose within the confines and handling them added to the overall calm. I could feel my maternal grandmother in them.

In the other hand, I held a scrap of cloth. It was made of flannel and was black-and-white plaid. The fabric was raspy between my fingers. As I clenched my fist around it, I felt a sort of stabilizing influence. I could almost see my father’s face in the whorl of the fabric, though I knew that I couldn’t see anything in reality.

Behind all of this in a sort of blurry after image. I could see what looked like a table lacquered in a dark color like mahogany with curtains on either side. Across the entire surface of the table were golds and ambers, pinpricks that caught the light. It was like I was seeing it all from under water. The picture was kind of clear if I focused on it for a few moments but then the blurriness overshadowed everything else.

Again the peace of the dream kind of caught up with me. Maybe it was the knowledge that I was filled with so much peace that finally woke me up.

When I finally climbed out of the soothing vision of the dream, I sort of pondered the meaning behind it. I could kind of see what it was that was going on here. The symbolism was pretty clear. The rosary was for my grandmother; the plaid flannel for my father. Of all of my ancestors, these are the two that I am the most connected to and the most willing to reach out to when I need them. Though they have been quiet in recent years, it seems like perhaps they have finally come to terms with the fact that I will honor them, but I’ll do it in my own damn way.

On the way to work, I kind of tried to figure out if this had to do with that whole “getting right with the ancestors” thing from before. I wasn’t sure, but I thought maybe all the puzzle pieces would fit eventually together and I’d finally get a glimpse of the overall picture. I started working on getting the akhu cabinet up to snuff, to sort of fill it in like the watery images from the dream.

Not long later, I dreamed about my akhu again. I was a little astounded to be honest. I’ve gone for years without hearing much more than a whisper here and there and then, within a month’s time, I had dreamed of them twice. This time the dream was a little soothing and a lot more obvious.

I was working in the closet that I’ve cleared out to make space for my akhu area. The closet is pretty large and the cabinet doesn’t fill it in completely. In the dream, I was moving the cabinet towards the book shelf that I call the Place of Truth and in the cabinet’s place was a sort of console table. It was pretty wide, maybe almost 20″ and fit neatly back against the closet wall. It took up most of the closet to be honest.

After rearranging all of the current imagery that adorns my akhu cabinet, I carefully placed an icon of Anpu across it. It’s the typical icon one sees of him in his couchant jackal pose. I have one, in fact, that sits on my cabinet now. The icon in my dream was far larger and sat crosswise instead of facing outward as my current icon does today. I placed the icon so that he was looking towards the east.

Well, it seemed pretty obvious that if I was to “get right” with my akhu, they wanted a fitting place to reside themselves. I had already compiled a decent sized list of things that I’ve been purchasing piecemeal. It will be a while before everything is situated appropriately – though I am still up in the air about whether the couchant Anpu is a requirement or merely a dream affectation – but I’m getting there.

Starry Night at the Camp

O, fair are the orders which you give to the spirits, for you are a Power; you will not go hungry… – excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

The talk of one’s ancestors within our community is often a mixed bag. There are people who pay homage to them and those who don’t. All reasoning for why one person does something and another one doesn’t are completely valid. In my world, I have always wanted to connect to them in some way and found it difficult to do so.

The main reason why I found it so hard is because I always felt like my ancestors were an amalgamation of every piece of genetic heritage, or familial heritage (should no genetics play a part), that had come before. As a young Kemetic, I found the amorphous mass of my ancestors confusing. Wasn’t ancestor worship or veneration supposed to be a one-by-one deal? But every time I moved in that direction, I found a hive mind so to speak. I figured I was doing it wrong.

This is partially why grave-tending worked for me. The deceased in my neck of the woods were, like my personal ancestors, a mass of those who had come before. I was comfortable with it when the group mind had no personal bearing on me. It was too strange when it was people who, for all intents and purposes, were supposed to be my people.

Some time ago, I was reading a book by Kemp, which seemed to indicate that the laity only paid homage to the most recently deceased generation. It wasn’t because the other generations weren’t as important but specifically seemed to relate to the fact that, due to a smaller lifespan, it would have only have been the most recently deceased generation that would have had a connection with the living. This, of course, made sense to me: I found it easier to connect with the people whom I had known in life who had gone into the West as opposed to the names and faces from sepia-toned and black-and-white photos.

It wasn’t until I was reading through Society, Morality, and Religious Practice earlier this year that it kind of finally began to take shape. After running across this quote, it made my experiences with my akhu seem far more real than I had previously given credit. I had, as usual, had preconceived notions that impeded my ability to truly connect and by finding a canon source that aligned more fully with my experiences, I was better able to feel comfortable with my experiences.

Sometimes you just need someone else, even a faceless author, to help lend credence to your personal gnosis.

Since reading that quote, I have felt more connected with my ancestors than I have in a long time. The disconnect I was having wasn’t just on my end – I have personally found that your closest relations can and are opinionated even in death especially when it relates to how you honor them in death – but these books and quotes helped exponentially.

It’s possible that this is what was meant all those many moons ago when I found myself saying, “man, I got to get right with my akhu.” Or, perhaps not the totality of it. I can definitely say that by fixing up the space I’ve designated for my ancestors, I’ve also found it easier to turn to them and speak with them and rely on them. But there are other pieces to this puzzle, too: their pieces, their desires.

It’s a balancing act, really, to cause a soul to live.

And sometimes the soul isn’t just those who have predeceased you, left you roaming around on this planet without them there. Sometimes that soul is yours and the burning white-hot need to connect to people who loved you, took care of you, and were there when the shit hit the fan even if they made mistakes along the way. They forget to mention that part, about how you need your soul to live too and sometimes that living part means getting right with the dead.

I guess that’s just a part of the learning curve.

Someone stands behind you, and you have power; you shall neither perish nor be destroyed, but you shall act among men and gods.

– excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

The March of Time.

Every year, my mind starts hyper focusing on various dates coming up. In July or August, I’ll note that one of those dates is fast approaching: October 13. It will sit there at the forefront of my mind as I go through my calendar for one reason or another. Sometimes, I’ll scroll over to October and take a look, then I’ll move on. But as each month passes, the date starts building up in the back of my mind, overtaking my present thoughts for a moment, until I’m soaked with the knowledge that it is coming.

This all culminates in September. About a month out from October 13, I putter around a bit and let the knowledge soak through that, like all things regarding time, it is going to come upon me whether I want it to or not. Sometimes, I want to get the day over and done with. Sometimes, I just want the calendar to sit still for a minute while I get my bearings as it inexorably marches on towards the month of October. Once October hits, the pending doom in my chest lessens and some years, I’m able to forget about it. Other years, I’m not.

This is one of those days that will always kind of sit with me.

You know how after a few years of living, you have a few scars that seem irrevocably tied to dates and times? Maybe it’s the way the leaves look in the early spring or maybe it’s a particular date on a calendar, eternally circled in the back of your mind. Whatever the case may be, there will always be parts of yourself left behind at strategic stopping points throughout the year. Sometimes, maybe, you can reconcile yourself to the loss and maybe other times you can’t.

I think October 13 is one of those days that I’ll always just have a love-hate relationship with.

Death is a Bridge - teleidoscope 06

sometimes the loss of you is like an ache
other times, i hate you for it

Twenty-five years ago, my father died.

I remember listening to his death. I was seven. I can remember it. I’m grateful that my memories have faded. I can recall getting zings and pings, overwhelming emotional trauma that I couldn’t process as a child and only processed years after my mom stopped sending us to our child psychologist to deal with the trauma of losing a parent at such a young age. I can remember sometimes sitting, paralyzed with it, playing that night out like a faded movie on the theater screen in my head.

I’m older now and I think I’ve managed to handle most of it okay. I mean, I don’t get paralyzed with it anymore. The memory has faded enough where the grasp it held over me is not so tight. I’m able to breathe through it. And as I stated above, sometimes I even forget the date. My world is mired in dates but sometimes I can divorce myself enough from the battlefield embedded in October 13 that I can get by enough without feeling it in my bones.

Today was one of those days. I was fine for a while. I had work to do and errands to run and I was doing fine. I was perfectly okay until I turned the radio on after work this evening. As the sun played peekaboo with the gray clouds rolling through, lighting fire to the leaves that have changed color, the radio station I happened to turn on played Father of Mine by Everclear. This is a song that I have purposely eschewed as much as I love Everclear since high school. Consider it a trigger, I guess; I just can’t stand it anymore.

It hurts.

So as the pain of the day faded and I began to focus on the errands I had to run, the opening chords began to play and I just kind of got stuck for a while. I could feel it like shades of gray. It was kind of this shimmery background image as I drove and I kept my eyes covered with my dark glasses, trying to just breathe for a few minutes while I tried to drive through the 5 o’clock traffic.

Sometimes, I forget that it hurts still. And other times, it doesn’t hurt at all.

Father of Mine by Everclear

Tell me where have you been
You know I just closed my eyes
My whole world disappeared

I had the idea to do something when I got home. Since I had errands to run anyway, I just added a couple of other items to go with the flow. I didn’t know what kind of flowers to buy. I normally get him roses, but nothing looked good. I finally found a harvest looking bunch of flowers, but I couldn’t settle on which bunch looked the best. I finally made my son tell me which one he liked best and inevitably chose a different bouquet.

I putzed around the in the kitchen after cutting down the flowers, trying to figure out what I could offer. I’ve never gotten the impression that my father liked the Kemetic trappings. I can understand the point-of-view, but I’m not going to trim back just because he has an issue. It wouldn’t really be an issue if… well, I don’t need to finish that sentence probably. I’m trying not to be angry today, even if I probably still have the wherewithal to be.

I stood in my kitchen, feeling lost and a little weird. I couldn’t figure out what I needed to do. How did I akhu? Didn’t I have an idea or three about all of this? I had gone grave-tending across three different cities for years and I had done a spread or six before now. Why was it so hard? Was it just because of my dad? Yes, of course. Nothing seemed appropriate. I wanted perfection and all I got was a few fixings, hoping that I could get through the rest of my night.

As I tried to figure out what would work out best, I felt like I had lost something I never knew I had: I don’t know him. I never really got the chance to know him. I was seven when he died. The things I’ve heard aren’t all stellar. In fact, there are some things that I don’t know how to process at all so I leave them at the back corner of my mind like little shit balls waiting to fuck me up another day. The rest of the things I know I could probably count on one hand: he liked Moxie (my mother says it tastes like Listerine) and he had a thing for spinach.

Well, he got bread and a chocolate cupcake and some diet Coke. Sure, I could have given him beer, but since he was an alcoholic, I’m pretty stubborn about not providing him with alcohol. If he wants to imbibe, he can go elsewhere.

I don’t have any pictures of my dad, not really. I have 2 on my laptop. I have 1 in real life that’s wrapped in 5 layers of bubble wrap in a box in the closet. It’s cracked and the picture is stuck to the glass. I always kind of thought I’d like to be buried with it. That’s it for pictures of my dad and they’re pictures with people. He wasn’t the kind of guy who got his picture taken; he liked to be on the other side of the camera… kind of like me.

sadness

at the end of the day i always miss you
no matter how angry i have become

Today I remembered that my dad died.

I remembered that the sum total of my knowledge could fill a thimble. I remembered that he made bad choices and paid for them. I remembered how small and concave he got towards the end. I remembered playing in the hall of the veteran’s hospital once and the walls were mint green.

I remembered that he killed a bee in the very back of the station wagon, pulling over on the side of the road to do so. I remembered that he and I stayed up all night watching My Little Pony movies because that’s what I wanted to do. I remembered the time my mom let me watch him sleep with his eyes open. Gods, that was so weird.

Today, it hurt.

Tomorrow, it probably won’t.

I don’t know about next year.

Kemetic Round Table: The Afterlife

Coming face-to-face with your own mortality can be hard to handle. I know this myself; just recently, I sat down with a life insurance salesperson and talked numbers. The whole experience was terrifying and not just because I was being forced to put a price on what the hell my life should pay out for should something happen to me. But it was also terrifying because I had to answer questions like, “what will your family do if something unexpected happens to you?” It really puts into perspective that quote by Benjamin Franklin: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

A need to bury the dead goes back pretty far in history. Scientists have reported that Homo neanderthalensis practiced burial culture. Undisputed burial customs for Homo sapiens go back at least 100,000 years. The experts seem to say that the fact that the ancient bipeds of our past buried their dead means that they had a concern for the dead, which is partially why grave goods were a thing, too. I don’t know about all of that, but I can kind of understand, especially in connection with my own recent reminder about my own mortality, why people would feel a need to provide creature comforts to the dead.

When I was an atheist, I was pretty sure the whole point in religion was so that people had something firm to believe in for that moment when they absolutely had to come to grips with the fact that, at the end of it all, they were going to die. That moment of facing your own mortality can really sneak up on you and punch you in the face with a tin can, in case you weren’t aware. So, I understood it all from that perspective. People needed something bigger to focus on in the hopes that there was something that happened after The Moment, not just for themselves but for all the people who had gone on before them. I got it, but back then, it just wasn’t for me.

It’s almost ironic now that the religion I’ve turned to and practice has a firm, strong basis in afterlife mythos and beliefs. It’s almost like I needed to go the complete polar opposite of how it was when I was an atheist. From the unsettling desire to want more as an atheist – thus the disturbing tenacious need to cling to something like reincarnation – to the full-blooded beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. I guess, one might say, I don’t really do anything half-assed.

Afterlife

Afterlife by Cristiano Pelagracci

The ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for over three thousand years. In that time, the beliefs in the afterlife changed and morphed. What we’re often taught in school is a bastardization of the rich beliefs. Teachers can’t even begin to touch the whole of it – three thousand years of belief on a specific subject in a single class? Hell, people go to college for the stuff and they can’t possibly learn the whole of it. I’m going to try and be as succinct as possible here, but I’ll admit that I have a thing for rambling about stuff and tangents may happen.

The ancient Egyptian beliefs in the afterlife get their start pretty early. Most Egyptologists will tell you that it stems from some high roller accidentally finding a body that naturally mummified in the dry climate of the desert after a burial. Maybe – I mean, who really knows? Jackals, specifically, are known to have scavenged around the necropoles that arose out of a need to bury the dead. Experts will tell you that this is why Anup has a jackal head. Maybe – again, who actually knows?

The point being that the reason why the ancient Egyptians went with what they did for their afterlife beliefs is never going to be known. We’ll have suppositions and theories, of course, because that’s kind of what we do. But we’ll never officially know what it was that made them go, “yeah, man. Let’s mummify this guy in some salt and then have a big jackal-faced guy stand guard while we do that!” For all we know, they got the idea because someone had a dream once and it just kind of stuck.

The earliest burials were conducted with who knows how much ceremony – they have one thing in common though, the people were buried with a single pot. We don’t know what the pot was for although popular theories tend to hold that this was a holding vase for food. During later Pre-Dynastic times, the people continued to be buried with a single vase or pot, but the burials grew. Bodies were arranged to face either east or west and in either a crouched or fetal position. The grave goods grew more elaborate with painted imagery on the pots and personal items, such as weapons for men and cosmetic palettes for women, joined the originally very limited burial customs.

The difference between the poor and the rich began to gain momentum even so far back as then. It wasn’t until the Early Dynastic period, though, when people began to have brick-lined tombs. Of course, these tombs lasted until modern Egyptologists could excavate them while those of the poor are lost to us. We have a million different little clues – many of which make no sense to us now – about how the rich and royals were buried. Chances are the beliefs held across the board and a desire to be taken care of after death was just as important as it was for those who could afford a better tomb.

The ancient Egyptian beliefs in the afterlife during the Old Kingdom culminated in the Pyramid Texts and the royal necropoles that litter the landscape: Saqqara, Abusir, Dahshur and Giza being the most well-known. The zenith in all of this belief was the protection and resurrection of the pharaoh to ascend into the heavens. The Duat, as we’ve come to know it, wasn’t fully developed by this point. It was the transcendence from human to star that the pharaoh was aiming for. I often wonder if the lay people wanted to become a star, too, but because of the whole poor be poor and rich be rich thing the ancient Egyptians had going on, they were barred from the practice.

The belief in the afterlife morphed throughout the First Intermediate period. I suspect that the fragmentation of the country and the different factions that arose are the reason why the more common people were allowed access to an afterlife. Since it had become clear with the collapse of the Old Kingdom, anyone who was powerful enough and edgy enough could make a name for themselves. The world of the ancient Egyptians had been built upon the principle that the pharaoh was a god on earth. But the people had to admit that it was possible to fell a good and the politico-religious world that they had crafted.

The Coffin Texts began to show up around the First Intermediate Period. They began as an offshoot of the Pyramid Texts. The difference being that everyday wants and desires were added to the lists, which seems to reflect the commoners were using them as well. The afterlife was no longer a royal monopoly, but open to anyone who had enough wealth to secure a good artist and a coffin.

It is during the Middle Kingdom that the Book of Two Ways gets its beginnings. This book starts to give the geographical details regarding the Duat. This original book insinuated that the Duat was made up of seven gates (which would later be changed to twelve during the New Kingdom) with each gate being guarded by a serpent and two deities. To name each correctly was to allow the deceased passage through to the next gate. The “two ways” seems to indicate that there were two ways to pass through the Duat on the deceased’s way to Rosetjau and the home of Wesir: one by land and one by sea.

This theme is fully explored throughout the New Kingdom. It is from the New Kingdom that we are mostly taught about the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians’ afterlife. This is where you hear about the Book of the Dead, the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, and the Amduat. As long as the person had enough money to pass on to a scribe, they would be guaranteed the correct spells and incantations to pass through the Duat. Only now, instead of just leading towards the abode of Wesir, we have the Field of Offerings, the Field of Reeds, and of course, the ever present judgment chamber where the heart is weighed against the feather of truth.

But all of this is about the soul, to be honest. It was the soul that was important here. The body was going to end up being taken care of by priests with offerings in abundance and temples, or it wasn’t. The body was going to end up, inevitably, forgotten in the sands of time. The body part was pretty fucking important but it wasn’t necessary so long as the memory withstood and there were adequate representations of the deceased for them to inhabit. How they buried the dead tells a lot about them, but it’s the fracturing of the soul after death that is the most important.

The soul fragmented itself after death into eight parts: the body (khat), the mummy (sah), the heart (ib), the name (ren), the ka (ka), the ba (ba), the shadow (shut), and the akh (akh/akhu). Each part was fundamental to the greater good of the resurrection: the body, or a close approximation, was needed in order to perform the magical rites of mummification. It was these two fundamentals that were the first steps which led the deceased on the roller coaster that would lead them through the Duat and into their resurrection.

The ib was the essence of the life of the deceased. It was considered to be the power house for the mind and the seat of one’s emotions. The ib was necessary so that the records of all of the good deeds and bad deeds that the deceased had committed could be written in the Hall of Records and the gods could weigh it against the feather of Ma’at.

The ren was the part that needed to be spoken in order to keep the memory alive. To write one’s name in stone was to give it permanence, which is why the ancient Egyptians would hack out names for those that were deemed in need of punishment.

The ka was the part that seems to have been most like the soul as we know it today. It came into being at the birth of a person and it was the ka that required nourishment. The ka according to the ancient Egyptians was immortal. This is the part of the person that I tend to associate with my belief in reincarnation, but that’s UPG of course.

We don’t know what the point in the shut was, honestly. It could partake of nourishment. It was also needed to pass through the Duat and there were dangers specific only to the shadow.

The ba is most often associated with the personality of the deceased. The ba returned to the body every evening in order to continue the deceased’s existence in the afterlife. The ba required nourishment in the forms of food, drink, and sexual energy.

The akh is the part of the person that transcended and became one with the sky. The akh is not as tied to the rest of the sum total of a human being. It tended to leave the rest behind and quest for immortality by becoming a star.

All of the literature we read about how the ancient Egyptians buried their dead is only part of the whole. The tombs, the books, the texts – it’s all about where the soul was going to go and how it needed to get there. I think that we forget that the whole of it isn’t simply about how expensively and how lavishly they could bury their dead, but that the things left behind were needed in order to ensure the total composite parts of the soul were taken care of.

Personally, I think that’s kind of bad ass. They spent all this money and left a million different types of grave goods, but it wasn’t really about the here and now. It was about whether or not they were remembered and whether or not they would get to live some more in the afterlife. I think, as a modern American, I can understand that. Don’t we have enough of our own monuments all for the very same purpose? We only do it on a smaller scale.

Giza Pyramids shortly after Sunset

Giza Pyramids by More Altitude

As I mentioned above, I believe in reincarnation. I won’t bore people with the details, but honestly, how the ancient Egyptians believe things happened and how I believe things happen don’t actually work against each other. I believe that it’s the ka that is reincarnated in life after life. I’m not alone; I’m not the only Kemetic out there with this belief. We all have our own reasons for it, but it works for us. Just because the ancient Egyptian culture had a rich belief system when it came to life after death… it doesn’t really mean it’s going to negate what we, ourselves, believe. Sometimes, it just adds to it.

Personally, I don’t really think that Duat functions the way it used to. From my excursions over there (UPG, of course), it seems more like a store house or a stopping place. The belief in the place stopped thousands of years ago and I strongly suspect that’s wreaked some havoc. I don’t know if the gates are still all there, although from what I’ve found, there are certain places that do still exist. I know from other spirit workers that they’ve gone to specific places over there, as well. But to be perfectly frank, I don’t think the Duat is set up the way it once was. It’s possibly the landscape has changed, yet again, due to the disbelief or the falling out of belief. But it’s also possible that the energy the netjeru needed to maintain the landscape dissipated when they fell out of favor.

And we can’t really discount others’ beliefs. Many Kemetics who have attempted to honor their ancestors based on the ancient Egyptian belief system of akhu veneration have met with fierce resistance. I, myself, am one of those people. So, perhaps it isn’t simply that the Duat doesn’t function that way anymore but that the soul transfiguration output machine has closed up shop since the last believer has long since died. Maybe with our belief we’re rekindling it a little bit at a time, but mostly, I think, it’s just a place the netjeru go to escape the ravages of time, space, and humanity.

Maybe that’s why reincarnation among many Kemetics seems to be a thing. Or perhaps the ancients got it partially wrong in the first place. As I said above, we’ll never really know the truth. We can only move forward with our own beliefs and hopes and dreams and fear of our own impending mortality. All the more power to those of us who, at least, don’t go towards it with an ever-pressing fear but more with the eye of yet a new adventure eternally on the horizon.

Further Reading

  1. Body and Soul @ Reshafim
  2. Funerary Practices @ Reshafim
  3. What is a Soul? by Satsekhem
  4. Funerary Practices by Satsekhem
  5. Funereal Liturgy by Satsekhem
  6. The Akhu category by Satsekhem

Festival of Wag 2014.

There are days where I realize how much I enjoy festivals that have no relation on my gods. Don’t get me wrong; I like celebrating for my gods and on behalf of my gods. I kind of, though I will deny this later, enjoy where things are headed and the deep fulfillment I get when I create a service to the gods and know, deep inside, that I have done them proud. But it’s also that fulfillment that can leave me feeling tired and shaky afterward; I always feel as though I am on display.

Considering my relationship with my akhu and how deeply I’ve connected with them on so many levels, I have to admit that I don’t feel as though I will be judged wrongly for making a mistake or for being so simple with what it is I intend to do. I hate the fact that, quite often, I’m debating on how ornate my celebrations should be for my gods. But when I saw the notification that the Festival of Wag was this past weekend, I knew that I wouldn’t have to pull something both ornate and shiny out of my butt. I could just do what I do best – grave tend – and everything would be okay.

The thing is that grave-tending was something I started because of my relationship with Bawon. Since the lwa have disappeared, I’ve worried a bit about how to proceed with things regarding my ancestors and the veneration I’ve taken under Bawon’s direction. I knew, of course, that things would change when I realized the lwa had disappeared. I just didn’t know what aspects of that service to Bawon that I would be able or need to continue.

I’ve mentioned before that Anup has been less than pleased with me because my relationship with my akhu began not at his behest but at someone else’s. And in so making his displeasure known, he’s made it incredibly difficult for me to come to terms with what parts of the services I rendered are okay to keep and what parts are not.

But I have to admit: I really enjoy grave-tending. Graveyards are quiet and relaxing to me. I am, again, not on display and all that matters is who or what I am doing in that moment, who I speak with, what I leave, and whether or not I can leave that graveyard knowing that I have done a job well. Besides, I haven’t visited my family’s graves in months and months. I haven’t been maintaining the grave-tending since the lwa left after Lent this year and the idea of going to graves with so few spoons in the last few months has been, well, it hasn’t been a good idea.

I figured if I could pass off the on-call cell phone (because, you know, of course I was on-call this week), then I would go grave-tending.

…I passed off the on-call cell phone Friday night and knew that I had to go tending.

Since the Feast of Wag is a two-day festival, I had enough time to get the things done that I wanted to get done without feeling pressed for time. I have a lot of family members who are buried locally and while I had hoped that I would be able to hit some of the graveyards that have been left untended and forgotten, I knew that my direct ancestors were the main focus here. So, with my son in tow, I went to three cemeteries and was able to connect with the most recently deceased.

We went to the veteran’s cemetery first since there are three people there: my maternal grandmother and my significant other’s two grandfathers. I took pictures of my son with the headstones and beside the wall plaque for his father’s paternal grandfather. I also made sure to let them know that I would be having a little celebration the next night and they were all welcome to join, if they so desired. I couldn’t tell you if they took my invitation to heart; I was off and running to the next cemetery before I had really managed to process my invite.

I’ve mentioned before that I find it harder to connect with the more recently deceased. This is still an issue for me and I still heartily believe it’s a matter of religious disconnect. Whatever the case may be, I had no hope that my grandmother would show up, but I somehow thought that my significant other’s maternal grandfather may show up; he kind of enjoyed parties.

The next cemetery had four graves to visit. I found my [step] grandparents on my father’s side; my [step] great-grandparents, my great uncle and his wife, as well as my [step] great-great grandparents. They all seemed a little overgrown, though, so my son and I spent time playing in the dirt, clearing back as much of the overgrown grass as we could. I also stopped at some maternal relatives’ gravesides who I happened upon accidentally (I know they’re related to me since the last name is rare and I recalled their names on my mother’s genealogical project). Everyone was given an invitation to the feast I was thinking up on their behalf.

I find it easier to connect with this side of the family even though my father has made it clear he is displeased with all of this “hullabaloo.” I think part of the reason why I felt a better reception at my invitation for these relatives is because, outside of myself and one aunt, no one really pays them any heed. It was by accident that I found my great-uncle and his wife and by accident that I found my long-dead great-great grandparents. (Interesting side note: I discovered that my great-grandfather and my great-uncle died the same year, which is really very intriguing especially since no one knew or seems to know anything about either of them.)

The last grave I visited was my father’s. My son and I spent some time there and we cleared back the grass since it was beginning to overtake his grave again. Honestly, if I don’t go to my father’s grave on a regular basis, just like with his family members in the Catholic cemetery, it starts to seriously get out of hand. I find this hilarious since my mom swears up and down that it was years before any grass would willingly grow on his grave. Again, I extended the invitation; received absolutely no positive or negative feelings regarding it; and took my son home.

The first day was pretty damn relaxing, in all honesty. I didn’t feel pushed and prodded to get it done. I didn’t feel like I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t feel like I was going to fuck anything up. I was doing something that I did regularly though so maybe that’s why. Whatever the case may be, I felt like I was really living a dead religion.

The next day, I decided that I had absolutely no need to go over the top with foods. I have a very limited income, anyway, and while I had wanted to make something special for them – I was thinking about the French meat pie recipe – I knew that, financially, I couldn’t. Besides, French meat pie is all well and good but because I don’t make my own pie dough, I would have had to buy that as well as buying ground lamb, which can be pretty pricey in and of itself. So, I decided to just do something really easy and simple.

I think the dancing skeletons really brought out the color in Anup's eyes.

I think the dancing skeletons really brought out the color in Anup’s eyes.

I gave to them a large bunch of grapes, bread, and cool water. I created a small space on my blue cabinet, which I decorated with the lamp and a small statue of Anup. I added two more candles and lit incense for everyone. They probably didn’t show and it probably wasn’t enough by the standards they were used to when they were alive…

…but I often have to remind myself that it is the intent behind what I am doing, not what it is that I am doing.

Hopefully, they felt my intent to honor them and their memories.