What Is the Wealth of my Akhu?

Recently, I started receiving the othala rune on my daily pull. I have an app on my phone that I use for a daily Tarot and a daily rune. I find it interesting how the two separate types of divination can correlate with one another. Of course, I could also just be putting too much thought into this every morning. But, lately, no matter what Tarot card I receive (and they are all different), I just keep pulling the othala rune. Normally, I can zoom in on the meaning behind it easily with a quick run down of my internal components. Almost always, it tends to remind me that I need to pay closer attention to hearth and home. While I am trying, desperately, to get better at that whole thing, I still fail. So, it usually comes up periodically to remind me that I have a hearth, I have a home, I have a family, and I should probably pay more attention to them.

Thing is, this time around, I’m not feeling that.

Since I am a diviner via Tarot and oracle decks, I will admit to knowing next to nothing about runes. I added the app to my Tablet, on a whim, because I was interested in branching out my divination techniques. In all this time, I haven’t really learned much from them. However, if I get stumped on what the rune is trying to signify, I go to a host of websites to get others’ interpretations of the rune in question. I will do Google search after Google search, troll the appropriate tag on Tumblr, and integrate what I read with what I’m seeing on my app. In every instance regarding the othala rune, I’ve found a key term that keeps popping up and resonating within my subconscious/soul/something-or-other: the wealth of the ancestors, ancestral connections. In other words, it seems to be signifying something to do with my akhu, but what specific is it trying to tell me?

What’s bothering me even more is that I’m noticing a serious coincidence regarding the pulling of this rune. Whenever it shows up, I almost always have dreamt about Sweet Pea, which means that it has been coming up a lot for me recently. After my 70 days of mourning with the loss of my Sweet Pea, I began to dream heavily about her. Sometimes, I knew that I was actually going to the astral to see her, as well. But on a regular basis, I keep going either to dreams to see her and spend time with her, or I end up going to the astral and traveling with her as my stalwart companion. This is, partially, why I’m pretty sure the rune pull has to do with akhu, as Sweet Pea is a part of my akhu. However, I honestly can’t figure out what one has to do with the other. What does Sweet Pea being a part of my akhu and the dreams/shenans I have of her have to do with this rune? What particular ancestral wealth am I supposed to look to?

Without pulling my Sweet Pea into this, I’ve attempted to look for what type of wealth I could expect from my [genetic] ancestors. I’ve combed back through my memory to attempt to figure out what aspects of them that I have within myself. And I have to admit that I have a lot of aspects from my maternal akhu that have made up who I am today. I have Leo’s legs; I have a passion for history; I am named for a branch of the family; I misquote French sayings; I have the same nose that’s gone back generations. I have a lot of bits and pieces of myself that are aspects taken from the genetic inheritance of my akhu. But honestly, as much as I can see all the items I say, do, and have that bring honor to my akhu, I don’t think this is quite what the rune or my shenanigans with Sweet Pea are about.

So what is it?

What key piece to this damned puzzle am I missing?

And where the hell is my manual when I fucking need it?

Akhu Veneration 101.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that there aren’t a lot of 101 or guides out there for people looking to venerate some akhu. It’s difficult to try to emulate the rich worship going on in ancient Egypt in modern times – no tombs, no pyramids, no seventy days of mourning, no natron and bitumen, no walls carved and artfully decorated in a tomb, etc. But, when it comes down to brass tacks, really, the worship part is what we need to focus on. I think people at large and some Kemetics in part get caught up in the pretty pictures in all of the books. I’ve been guilty of it, but I’ve decided that just because I am recon-slanted doesn’t necessarily mean I have to lament the things I don’t have that are like ancient Egypt and celebrate the things I do have that are unlike ancient Egypt.

What is akhu veneration?
Specifically, akhu is the special word that Kemetics use to denote their ancestors, which actually translates as “shining ones.” It can also be translated to mean “spirit,” “ghost,” or “transfiguration.” (The last because when an akh is created, then it has been transfigured – passed the weighing of its heart and allowed, in ancient Egyptian belief, the ka and ba to merge to form the akh.) Each Kemetic is more or less specific about what akhu means, but when we are getting together and the word pops up, each of us speaking of our genetic heritage, the ancestors who created us to bring us into being today.

Now, when we venerate our akhu, it can either be intimated that we worship them as one does with the gods or that we revere them. Specifically, “venerate” is defined as to revere while “worship” is defined as reverent honor or homage paid. In a very technical sense, we could go so far as to say that I’m using a pretty fancy word here, veneration, when I could just as easily use worship. However, worship is a dirty word in post polytheist circles, so I tend to refrain from using it on a regular basis. It may, in fact, be what I do with the gods, but I cannot say that I worship my akhu.

My staples for feeding them are a mix of Kemetic staples and some things I’ve picked up in my research from Vodou. Obviously, you don’t need to follow my list exactly, but it’s a good start for anyone freaking the hell out. From the Kemetic side of things, I will leave flowers, bread, water, whole fruits, incense, booze, and candle light. The candles are usually the small tea lights and I will usually light it early on so I can make sure that grass fires don’t happen, but occasionally, I will leave one of those glass enclosed seven-day candles. From the Vodou side of things, I will leave roasted corn in the form of corn nuts – the spicier the better – and tobacco.

Who would be chosen as one’s akhu to venerate?
This is one of those questions that can be problematic and/or inherently personal.

Personally, when it comes to taking care of my Blessed Dead, I associate them with people who are my genetic ancestors, people who have absolutely no bearing on my genetic heritage but are still part of my family in some way, and people who I have never met, but who forged the area where I live into the metropolitan urbane area it is today. While I’m a rarity in choosing to include the graves I tend regularly as a part of my akhu, I’m not so rare in choosing to include those who are part of my genetic heritage and those who married into my family (and did not add to my genetic heritage). To me, all akhu are my akhu in a way – I do not pick and choose people from my family and if I were to research the histories of the people whose graves I tend, I would not pick and choose them, either.

You see, quite often in Kemetic circles, there will be specific people who are part of a person’s akhu who are left out. The reasoning behind why various Kemetics will leave people out is personal. They either will or will not share their reasoning, but I can tell you that the people who they leave out tend to be “assholes.” That’s a rather broad term for some souls who should have been killed off in the Duat with the horrors they inflicted upon their families, but it’s the best. Those people could be muuet (demonic beings) or their souls could have been dispersed. In either case, it is in the living person’s best interest to not interact with them at all.

I completely agree with this. In fact, I heartily support anyone who says that they cannot or will not add X to their akhu because of Y. As I said, these decisions are very personal for each practitioner. Who chooses whom is not an easy question and it really comes up to making the decision after – pardon the pun – a lot of soul-searching. But, all in all, when it comes to determining who you are or are not going to add to the list, you really need to think about it on your own. You need to decide if these are the ones you want to interact with and if not, you should know why so that you can tell that spirit – if they are an akhu and not a muuet – why you’ve made that decision.

Can pets be considered akhu?
I absolutely and one hundred percent believe that my pets are part of my akhu. Pets are a delicate thing for a lot of people, at least in America. There are people who view them as part of the family – as I do – and people who view them as “furniture” or “decorative pieces.” Since my pets have always been a part of my family, a four-footed sister or brother, daughter or son, they are absolutely honored when I venerate my akhu. To each their own, and all of that, but they’re part of my practice. While I don’t leave offerings for them as often as I do my human akhu, they’re included when I do rituals for my akhu.

How do you venerate the akhu?
Each person’s practice is going to be different when it comes to the how. We are no longer limited, in this country, by a heritage universally shared or similar. In ancient Egypt, this was never up for debate because they were all the same: if you were rich, you’d get a place to go to when you died and if you were poor, you may be able to work some fields on behalf of those rich people after you died. How the layman, or the poor man, was honored by their family has not come down to us [like everything else], but how it was done for the upper crust is not something we can emulate. We don’t have pyramids or tomb niches cut out of rock to visit. We can go to graves, but the grandeur of the Valley of the Kings is a far cry from the gravestones we may visit.

So, how? How do you go about this if you’re recon-slanted and trying to rebuild a modern practice?

You do whatever the hell feels accurate to you.

For example, I know a Kemetic, Zenith, who has Philippine ancestry and in honoring them, she tries to emulate veneration of the akhu from a Philippine perspective. When I work with my genetic ancestors, as they are all French and English, I tend to pull items from both sides to coalesce them into a single, cohesive, veneratin’-full unit. Some people who venerate their akhu do not take the racial or genetic history into account and just go to town. But others, such as myself and the Kemetic I mentioned above, will look to the heritage for answers to questions as well as suggestions on how to go about honoring our akhu.

While utilizing the heritage that your akhu stems from is a very simple matter, what it comes down to is a simple what feels right. If you feel it’s right to honor them based on where they come from in the world, then do so. If you’re a full-fledged American who doesn’t really see themselves as anything other than American, then go your own way. In either case, the how isn’t as important as the doing.

What do you offer the akhu?
In all actuality, when it comes to the leaving of offerings, it is highly dependent on where I am and what I am doing. What I offer when I am tending graves is similar to what I may offer when doing ritual to my akhu at home, but it’s not specifically the same. When I’m tending graves of either my genetic ancestors or the graves of my beautiful cemeteries, my first and only real purpose (especially if it is a cemetery where I have not built a connection yet) is to feed their souls. One hundred and thirty percent, my main goal besides cleaning, taking pictures, and telling them all who I am and what my purpose is* then my next goal is to make sure they are fed enough to be active when I come back for a visit.

* If you are entering a cemetery with the intention of grave tending and you have never, ever, ever, ever been there before, you have no connection with that place or those people. You need to announce what you are doing or else. The last time I failed to do that, my camera went to the big Scrap Pile in the sky. So, you absolutely announce to everyone – first thing – who you are, why you are there, and how you are not going to harm anything because you’re only goal is to please them.

Now, as far as leaving offerings, I have quite a few standard staples that I leave. Most of my staples stem from my Kemetic practice, but I have one or two that I leave from the snippets I’ve learned with my vodou practice. From the Kemetic perspective, I will leave flowers, whole fruit, incense, bread, water, booze, and candle light. The candles I usually leave as an offering are tea lights and white, for purity. I will usually try to light my candle earlier in my grave-tending, well before I am ready to feed their souls fully, so that I can be sure I do not cause a grass fire. Occasionally, I will leave the glass-enclosed seven-day candles but rarely. From my vodou practices, I will leave the spiciest damn corn nuts you ever did find – as a replacement for roasted corn, which appears to be a well-loved treat of the Guédé – and some tobacco. The Bawon and many Guédé prefer cigars, but I’m not so perfect and pay attention to the ecosystem, so I’ll leave a few tobacco leaves if I have any.

Where do you venerate them?
Quite often, people will build a shrine or altar space to their akhu, which is where most of the offerings, prayers, and communication happens. It’s easiest, really, to build a general place in your house so that you aren’t forced to use gas and go to graves to venerate. It’s all right there and you don’t have to go anywhere to get what you want done. This is easiest, not just because of the economy, but also because not a lot of people will live in the same area as their akhu. Pagan Pickle has told me that he lives to far away to visit graves on a regular basis and in the case of Zenith, her family members are in the Philippines, which isn’t exactly a hop, skip, or jump away from her in the United States.

All in all, an altar in your home is the easiest and fastest way to get started.

I’m lucky, however. I can go to the graves of my akhu with very little gas money wasted in the process. Literally, my father’s grave is right down the street. My paternal grandparents and paternal step-great grandparents are in the city next door. The myriad of family members on my mother’s side all tend to reside in the largest Catholic cemetery in my city. My maternal grandmother is in the local veteran’s cemetery (which is about a half hour from me) waiting for my grandfather to join her. Not everyone is as lucky as me, though. I can jump in the car on a Saturday (my chosen day for akhu work) and visit any one of them. And if I’m really inclined, I can drive the few hours to New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts, or New Jersey to finish the larger array of ancestors I have.

However, I don’t just go to the cemeteries where my family members have been left. I also go to all of the older cemeteries in my area and tend those graves. I do this because, as I’ve said, my akhu is a bit more complicated than most in that I also honor the pioneers who cut out our swath of the country. While the things they did to the locals are horrific and unbearable in the eyes of [many] modern Americans, they are still to be honored for the sacrifices they made in creating this country, either for fighting for its independence or merely for creating a township that is still extant today. So, again, I go to the cemeteries and that’s how I get my veneration on.

What would you put on an altar for the akhu?
Altars to the akhu vary from person to person. You can go on to Fuck Yeah Altars on Tumblr and usually see an akhu shrine if you scroll back far enough. I’m uncertain but Shrine Beautiful may also have some akhu shrines thrown in there. All in all, if you look at someone else’s altar porn, then you may be able to get a few thoughts on what to add. If not, here are my recommendations.

If and when I do the altar thing for my akhu, the entire thing will be a shrine of pictures. Be careful that the picture only shows the person who you are honoring and no one living. (I can’t really remember the reason behind why we don’t add living people to our altar except that it’s “bad juju.”) If you don’t have access to pictures without other people in them – as I have found with my father – then get an item that reminds you of that person and place it on the altar as them. For my father, I would place a white-and-black plaid shirt as this was the type of shirt I associated with him. For my grandmother, I would use a replica kitchen table because she “ruled the world from the kitchen table.” (No, seriously.) Aside from that, an offering plate or bowl, a cup for libations, and some candle light should top it off.

When should you venerate the akhu?
As based on the Kemetic lunar calendar, there appears to have been miniature festivals for the akhu once a month. I haven’t integrated the lunar calendar into my Kemetic calendar, as yet, but it may happen in future. Aside from that, there are a few minor festivals of the akhu throughout the solar calendar that can also be celebrated. As my studies in regards to the Kemetic calendar have been put on hold while I get other projects done, I cannot say conclusively if there were larger festivals held in ancient Egypt that were for the akhu. I believe the Wag Festival is associated with the ancestors, but it later became conflated with a festival of Djehuti. The information I have pulled has been mostly based off of the Djehuti association.

I also celebrate Fet Guédé, which is on the second of November every year. My celebrations for this are for my ancestors, obviously, but I mostly go out to a cemetery and do a very private celebration. Not as fun-filled as the Bawon would like, but what to do when you are a solitary Vodouisant? From what I’ve read and from what I’ve seen in videos, this is a very large celebration for Haitians and my, herm, rather sedate celebration is not up to par.

Aside from those minor festivals and Fet Guédé, I actually celebrate my akhu fairly regularly. I go to the cemetery every Saturday when the weather is not snow or oppressive heat to spend time with either my genetic ancestors or the graves that I tend. They are always on my lips, always in my heart, and I spend a good deal of time each week talking to them and honoring them as I see fit. Not everyone can be as obsessive, I suppose, as I can be when it comes to my akhu, so I recommend looking to your calendar and integrating some festivals of the akhu to get into the swing of things.

Why do you venerate the akhu?
I’ve thought about this answer a lot since I began having thoughts that I needed to write this entry. I’ve discussed why we have the relationships we do with our gods, but I’ve never really thought about why we would venerate our akhu. From an outsider’s perspective, it may appear that we spend as much time thinking and discussing and celebrating our akhu because, well, that’s what the ancients did. And since a lot of us are recon-slanted or full-blown reconstructionists, then by golly, we’re going to recon the whole damn thing, ancestor veneration included. And in some circles, this may actually be the case. It may just be that someone has decided that the ancient Egyptians did it, so you know, it should be a part of their practice, whether they feel strongly about it or not.

In my practice, it really wasn’t a huge aspect for the longest time. I would go and visit and I’d think about things I wanted to do for my akhu, but my plans always fell apart or they fell short of the goal I had intended. It wasn’t until I began working with the Bawon and Papa that I began to realize that it wasn’t just about me and what I wanted, but it was about my akhu and what the fuck they wanted. And as silly and ridiculous and trite as it may sound, they just really don’t want to be forgotten. They want someone to tell others stories about them. They want someone to tell others about who they were. They want someone to tell others about what they liked. They want someone to just fucking make them live, however briefly, in stories, anecdotes, and in those people’s thoughts.

And that’s what it comes down to; that’s the why.

Interesting Things!

After connecting with someone else’s Deadz, I ignored everything around me for a while. Getting back from that particular energy drain is pretty difficult. It took some serious snuggles with my little man while watching mind-numbing television before I felt remotely able to do more than laze around. In all honesty, I was not back to normal from that and I’m still not, actually. I realized this yesterday when my new found cheerful attitude was exceptionally flagging. I was tired. I was cranky. I was snarky. I was bitchy. And while it’s coming up to that time of the month, the energy flag that I was feeling didn’t have the same ring and feel as when it’s that time of the month. There was definitely something different going around and it was only today after INTERESTING THINGS clicked in my brain pan that I realized I hadn’t bounced back from the Deadz chatter.

Then INTERESTING THINGS happened to me.

I received an E-mail from Amazon letting me know that my skull beads and Legba-lovin’ cowrie shell bracelet were going to be shipped sooner as opposed to later. I just figured that this was Legba’s doing. He’s pretty good about getting shit that may take forever to ship to come to him faster. (NOT JOKING. TWO WEEK WAIT ON HIS COFFEE CUP AND IT CAME IN LESS THAN A WEEK.) So, I ignored the whole thing and was just like, “Cool. Thanks Legba. I can wear you with me all the time once you solidify your relationship in the bracelet.” And he was all chortle-chortle. No big deal. And then something more interesting happened this morning and now I wonder what his chortling was about.


It looks like he fell out of the tree in the middle of the night. Or maybe he was shoved out. Or maybe one of the two feral cats got to him in the night. It doesn’t matter. He’s in my life because he’s on my property, beneath one of my favorite trees.

I woke up to that this morning. I took my old dog out to go to the bathroom and noticed that she was sniffing more intently around the tree in the “front” yard than normal. So, I wandered over there, still bleary-eyed from sleep when I happened upon the dead body of this little guy. I immediately had a flash back to when I was very young and my older next door neighbor boy showed me the maggot-infested body of a bird similar to this. I shuddered and I felt tears in my eyes. I didn’t want to touch it. I didn’t want to do anything other than cry for the death of this creature. This is the first real animal death on the property since I moved here nearly four years ago and it’s been a long while since I’ve had to stare animal death in the face. And by long while, I mean since I was 18 and just before I moved to Texas. So, over ten years. And while I’ve seen dead baby birds on the sidewalk as I’ve walked and in the backyard at TH’s parents’ house, this… was different. It was raw. It was more in my face and I felt sorrow.

I’m not sure what all this means.

It could be coincidence, but it feels like more. That’s the thing – it’s only after the fact that you begin to connect the dots.

I’m going to bury this little guy beneath the tree where he lies. I will give his soul water and incense. I will bury him and see him into the next world… and hope that this isn’t some new path I have to tread but only the symbolic ending of shit in my mundane life.

Here’s to hoping.

Talking With Some Deadz With the Tarot of the Dead.

Today, I got kind of conned into seeking out a Deadz for a friend of a friend. (She’s actually a high school friend’s current girlfriend who has gotten a few Tarot readings from me.) Originally, she wanted to know a general reading and said something about her dead grandfather. I figured she wanted some kind of comfort or something. I wasn’t really sure what it was she wanted to know about her grandfather and she even mentioned that she doubted I could get anything from him or about him or anything. And that’s when I thought about my Tarot of the Dead deck that’s been languishing in my Deadz basket since I tried to use it. And I began to wonder… well, why not?

You see, I’ve tried to use these cards with my father twice now. However, he keeps getting in the fucking way. (Amusing, right?) In life, my father was not a fan of any “woo-woo” stuff. He threw out my mom’s Tarot cards and Ouija board. He didn’t want any of that kind of thing in his house or whatever. And apparently, this has pretty much crossed over to encompass him, even in death. I could practically hear his eyeballs rolling in his head when I pulled them out the first time. “Dad. I know you don’t like this stuff, but it’s an easy way to communicate.” I’m pretty sure he had his arms folded over his chest, a petulant pout on his face, and was noisily tapping his foot against the ground when I did this. But, after a little bit of push on my half, he did end up using them… for a second or two. That’s when the reading wonked out on me and I figured I was fucking shit up. I’ve only come to the conclusion after the fact that he was fucking shit up. In either case, I know that I managed to connect with him, however briefly, via these cards. And I knew that I could use them in other instances with Deadz.

So, when this girl mentioned wanting something about her dead grandfather, I figured I could at least give it a shot. I needed to calm down from the general reading we had done together. I was hyped up from that one since it was one of the few readings I’ve ever done with the person practically right there. Yeah, we were communicating via FB messaging and whatnot, but it was a lot different from my usual readings: pull the cards, type up a message, and get questions after the fact. I had to try and puzzle out her reading with her RIGHT THERE, so I needed to cool off before I could even remotely think about trying to communicate with her grandfather. And while I was cooling off, I got the image of a distinctively Italian old man with thinning white hair, a reddish shirt, a substantial paunch, and the usual thick gold chain around the neck.

Now, I didn’t describe this Deadz to her. I didn’t think it was an actual image of her grandfather but my mind’s association with the little bit that I had gleaned from him. She said he was “stereotypical Italian.” And that’s the image that comes to mind. So, whether I actually saw her grandfather is a whole different ball game, but I know I tapped into him. Pretty much, he just wanted her to stop grieving for him. It’s been nearly a year since his death and she’s still really torn up about it. He also wanted her to believe that he was there, watching over her and all of the family. He seems to be filling a roll similar to my father, which is a guardian of sorts. Not so much a guardian angel that’s protecting us, but is just there to watch out for us. If he feels the need to step up and communicate, he’ll find a way. The thing is that the girl comes from an atheistic background so after I told her all of this stuff – and I had a beautiful moment with this particular Deadz – she told me she was pretty sure she didn’t believe it. And that’s when I felt the Deadz sadness so resolute and absolute. He said good-bye to me with a heavy sigh and walked right out of my head.

And I was upset.

It wasn’t so much that I was upset because she didn’t believe me, but that she didn’t believe her grandfather was around. “Well, wouldn’t I know that he was there? Wouldn’t he send me a sign?” She says. I held my breath for ten seconds while I tried to shake off the old man’s hurt and sadness. One of the things that we don’t realize is that for them to manifest, we have to put the energy back into them. They’re dead so they don’t have the same abilities they had in life. That’s why people leave offerings like flowers and candles and whatnot on their graves. They’re focusing the energy those Deadz need to manifest. If you even occasionally light a candle to him, that could be enough to give him some energy to manifest for you in some way or another. But you have to be open to this stuff. And she waffled for a good twenty minutes before I finally explained that I had to go.

I understand how hard it is when you have someone who has died and you are an atheist. My dad was still just as dead as he is now when I was a full-fledged atheist. (Or whatever I really was.) And I think it was worse for me when I was an atheist than it is today. Now, I just know that he is around and watching. Now, I just know that I have to think of him and I’ll have him nearby. Now, I just know that if I feed his ka with all the things that I can, he’ll appear. But it wasn’t like that when I was an atheist – he was just dead. And that’s where this girl is and I think that’s where the grief really comes from… and her doubt.

Skeptics are good and healthy, but sometimes, when it comes to things that are tearing us apart, we have to toss aside the skepticism and just have a little faith.