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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, maybe not quite like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Festival of Wag 2013.

I received a notification on Thursday that I was looking at a two-day festival for the akhu and I had no clue. My feelings regarding this were two-fold: on the one hand, I was really excited to start digging into various rites and services from the layman perspective but I was also terrified because I had a festival to prepare for with barely a day’s notice. (This is actually why I really need a desk calendar or something that I have hanging on my wall because before I know it, something like this happens and I’m just like, “Shit.” This happens to me a lot by the way.) So, instead of running around like a crazy person on the start of the festival, I decided to put off doing anything until Saturday.

Throughout the quiet moments on Friday, of which there were many that night, I tried to think of what I could do that would be something common in ancient Egypt. There really isn’t a lot of akhu related items from the poor man’s perspective. We see all of these really fantastic tombs for the kings and their families, the priests and their families, and for the nobleman and their families. While there are graves for people who did not belong to any of the above three buckets in ancient Egyptian society, we have very little to nothing relating to how they went about celebrating their dead. Did they have a shrine in their home? Did they go to their graves? Did they leave offerings for them? Or did they just assume that all of the stuff the priests were doing was enough for them? Unfortunately, John Doe-hotep hasn’t come out of the wood work to explain to me what he wanted for his family or for his soul. Hell, maybe they weren’t even transfigured like all the rich people were and they’re just roaming around the Duat, right now, wondering what the next step is.

The problem here is that I don’t know and chances are, I’ll never know.

I was getting pretty desperate for ideas, so I ended up moseying on over to Wepwawet Wiki. This is a Kemetic Orthodox specific site, which is rife with UPG. I don’t necessarily dislike it, but I do not recommend it as a source unless that person is KO. Nothing against one of the largest established Kemetic orders out there, but I don’t want newbies who are interested in a solitary path, like me, to get caught up in others’ unverified personal gnosis in their path. They could end up with a bastardized version of Kemetic Orthodoxy and it could cause problems for those solitary neophytes later.

According to the KO site, there was a lot of offerings left (pretty obvious) and the priests did a bunch of stuff. And that’s pretty okay. I could definitely see that as being a major part to the celebration.

Back then, the priests were the go-to guys for all such things. In this day and age, however, we don’t have the same time of need for an established priesthood as there was back then. We are all literate. We are all fully capable of providing for ourselves. We are no longer living in a society where the be-all, end-all was a human-turned-god on the throne and the myriad of priests who maintained ma’at through daily ritual. We emulate this in many cases with our daily rites and offerings on an individual basis, so I honestly don’t think an established priesthood is overly necessary nowadays. However, I also don’t want to emulate things that are obvious bastions of an ancient priesthood. I’m not here as a priest; I’m here as the laity, damn it.

The KO site offered a few suggestions for the modern practitioner,

  • Visits to local cemeteries, cleaning the tombs, and making offerings to the deceased
  • Sharing a picnic in the cemetery with friends, family, and Akhu
  • Folding paper boats and re-enacting the ancient tradition

I thought about all of those suggestions and ended up tossing them over my shoulder. I go to local cemeteries to do my grave-tending every Saturday. And since the weather is finally changing away from the oppressive snit it has been in this summer, I will be dedicating every Saturday until winter hits to doing just that. Besides, I attempt to visit my genetic akhu on birth and death days. I didn’t want to do something that I always do to honor the celebration. The second suggestion actually kind of creeps me out, which is hilarious. I spend hours at a time in cemeteries, taking pictures and talking to all of the akhu within, but having a picnic inside of one bothers me? I actually think it’s more of a situation where it would seem disrespectful, to me, to eat in front of souls who can’t eat like I do anymore thing, but it’s still a little weird to me. And lastly, the paper boats thing hearkens back to what the priests did and again, I don’t want to encroach on an area that my practice isn’t willing or ready to go in.

So, what the hell does a layperson do on a holiday to celebrate their akhu?

I gave serious consideration into pulling out my copy of The Pyramid Texts and The Book of the Dead as translated by R.O. Faulkner and going to town. However, this nagged at me. The idea of saying words from ancient Egypt are very well and good, but again, this may not have been something common to the very peoples’ practice I am trying to emulate. Later generations were more than capable of finding a copy of the BotD for their own use, but I’m not really a “later period” kind of recon. As I grow further and further into this recon-slanted/historically informed area of my practice, I’ve come to realize that a lot of the stuff I’m looking for are from the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom. The New Kingdom, for me, is great to study and read about the various pharaohs, but it’s really the older religious practices that interest me (right now, at least). So, I had to think that, maybe, reading some words on a page wasn’t the best idea.

So, again, what to do?

I went back to the basics. I sat down last night, in between doing various chore like items, and asked myself what the point in this celebration was about. To some extent, the celebration is about me and my intense desire to connect with my akhu. While, obviously, the main focal point is the akhu and all things related, it isn’t just about them. We don’t go to graves, go to funerals, tell stories just to keep the memory of our akhu alive, but also to give us closure and to keep them with us and our future generations. So, while this is definitely something that they need, it’s also something that I need. So, if that was the case, what would I want to do to make me feel better?

That is my kitchen table. It's boring, right? Shit. Yeah, probably. But it was nice!

That is my kitchen table. It’s boring, right? Shit. Yeah, probably. But it was nice!

I put a nice little buffet style spread on my kitchen table. I bought a nice dozen roses that were on sale and a small bunch of various white flowers to offset all the red. I brought the candle that sits on my mini-shrine to Anup over as the kind of center piece. Since I burn this candle every Saturday (or try to) when I can’t get out to go grave-tending to honor my akhu, it was practically mandatory. I offered water, soda, and a shot of vodka. I don’t normally offer alcoholic beverages when it comes to my akhu celebrations since many of my family members tended toward alcoholism, but thought it couldn’t hurt too badly. It’s also a slight nod to Bawon (as we are out of rum) because he was a little miffed he was being left out of a celebration for the realm he governs. I set out freshly baked bread (purchased, not baked). I then sliced up a pepper and an apple to leave out, as well as adding a bowl of blueberries and a bowl of baby carrots. I added some of the organic ginger snaps I had purchased for Wep Ronpet this year and some chocolates I had laying around.

Over all, I have to admit that I’m fairly pleased with how this little shindig turned out.

I didn’t want anything flashy and over-the-top. I rarely do anyway, but with my renewed commitment to this whole laity thing, it would seem as kind of a slap in the face to go in that direction. It was simple and moving. When the candle was lit, while I couldn’t see or necessarily feel the akhu feasting away on my meager spread, I did feel like I had accomplished something and I was fully capable of accomplishing said something again in future. Though I have no confirmation that the akhu are pleased, it [almost] doesn’t matter because I am pleased. Sure, I’d like to know that they showed up and hung around for a bit with what I had given them. But, at this [still tender] stage of the game, it’s really all about what I’m doing, how I’m doing, and where I’m going with it.

While I can’t say, clearly, if what I have done and what my aims were are in line with my recon-slanted layperson practice, I think that what I did provide and what I did do could very well be in keeping with how John Doe-hotep did it way back then. It’s simple. It’s small. It’s in my home. And it was done with love and affection, not just for my akhu but for myself as well. And if that’s not the important part, then what is?

This Shit Is Hard.

This shit is hard.

This shit is hard.

There are moments where I look back to those heady days of beginning this Kemetic path of mine and I have to wonder why no one took me aside and said, hey. Hey. This shit is hard. I don’t think that would have actually deterred me from the path that I am on now, but I would like to think that if someone had given me a little bit more forewarning than I had, which was to say precisely none, then I may have at least paid closer attention to the book learning and to what those people who could be deemed as “older and wiser” were saying. I knew, technically, that going into this would be difficult. After all, I’m historically informed and recreating a religious tradition that hasn’t been actively practiced from a layman’s perspective in thousands of years. However, the reality is that I spend more time crying and blubbering about how I don’t know what the hell I’m doing versus actively attaining the homeostasis I think I see brewing in practices that have been around longer than mine. Even though I am quite aware that appearances aren’t everything, I seriously have some rather nastier moments where I’m pretty sure everyone is doing this so much easier than I am and having so much more success. And in those dark moments, I wonder if they got that warning I never got. You know, the one: this shit is hard.

With each new ask that I get and each new convert I see entering the scene, I tend to have this intense desire to take them aside and say, “Back the train up, Johnny. There’s something you really need to know about all of this.” And then, with a furtive glance over my shoulder, I want to shake them like a rag doll and scream, this shit is hard – run the other way because this shit is so damn hard. There’s no manual to turn to. As many books as I own and as much reading as I’ve done, there’s no big, huge book that I can turn to for the answers. When I’m having an internal debate about spoon management or about boat paddling, I can’t turn to a Kemetic version of the Bible and read a passage, learn a thing, and move on with my life. I have to continue those internal debates. I have to make a mistake, pass the test with flying colors, or scrape by barely. There’s no priesthood that can say a prayer for me – I have to do that on my own. There’s no right way or wrong way, really, because I’m practically make it up as I go along. There is nothing in any book that will be able to adequately tell me the things I need to know: what the people thought of the gods, how they believed in things, what they thought of the priesthood, how they felt living in ma’at and how they functioned in their daily life. And even if we did have those things handed to us, even if the ancient Egyptians actually wrote down what the lay people said and thought and believed, it wouldn’t matter. We get to recreate an ancient religion not just removed by time and geography, but also based on morality and history.

I often wonder if people think I joke when I talk about those times that I wind up curled around an altar, crying my little heart out. Frankly, I never am. If I’m going to joke about something, I’ll joke about dicks. I’ll make half-serious remarks about not being a dick. But, when it comes to how often I spend whining at my gods or how often I’ve curled into a ball on the floor, banging my head against the tiles, and just blubbering about how I don’t know what I’m doing? I never joke about those things. I’m incredibly serious. There is nothing more difficult than trying to recreate a religious tradition that is as far removed from us than the other side of the universe is from our galaxy (and that other side keeps expanding, so never the twain shall meet). Those images I’ve posted over and over again with the tag, “this is me” about kicking and screaming? I never joke about those, either. Those go hand-in-hand with the hours, the days, the weeks, and the months where I’ve wound up crying on the floor because everything is just so fucking hard. I’m not just kicking and screaming because I am being forced into something that I don’t think I’m ready to work on – see: shadow work – but I’m also kicking and screaming because this shit is hard.

The worst part about it all is that it doesn’t matter how well read you are or how active you are in your practice. It really doesn’t matter if you are more of the armchair persuasion or if you are more of the active persuasion. It will always be difficult to sit up and say, “I’m doing well,” with pride in your voice. I’m not saying that you won’t have moments like that. You will. I do. There are days where I’m like, “fuck yeah, man; I know what I’m doing.” And then something will come out of left field and I’ll end up on the floor again, crying about how I don’t know what I’m doing and how much I suck at this. As often as you go hunting for the religious equivalent of homeostasis with your practice, there will always be some other task, some other item that is lurking in the corners like some religious-related robber or something, ready to steal all of your good deeds, hard work, spoon management, and boat paddling away from you. And when that happens, the ghost of the voice in the back of your mind will be whispering, this shit is hard.

We can always turn to one another, to each other Kemetic in those moments, and talk it out. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of my community players’ blow ups about these kinds of things. They’ve been on the receiving end of my version of a blow up because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and I must be screwing everything up in some way or another. That’s the point, I think, in community anyway. It’s a place where you can go and not feel like you’re being judged. And it helps in the Kemetic community – hell, in any of the polytheistic communities – because there are other people who have gone through or are going through the same damn thing that you are. But sometimes, you are so embarrassed by whatever setback you’ve hit that you can’t really bring yourself to mention it. So, you curl around your altars or around your icons or around your pain or around your misery and you cry about it. You cry about how you suck and you’re anxious and how very, very difficult this whole religion shtick is. In those moments, the only thing that we can really do is just let it run its course. Just like there are times where relying on other people to discuss what you perceive as your failures or your hardships, sometimes there are times where you just can’t bring yourself to talk about it with other people. In those moments, of which I have frequently because I’m a lot more socially awkward and anxious than I let on, is when I end up crying, this shit is hard.

For those of you who have these moments more frequently than me, let me just say that you can and will get over it. For those people who have them rarely, let me just say that I am incredibly jealous. And for everyone in between, everyone who is thinking about Kemeticism and what it will be like… let me put it to you this way: there will be moments where it is freeing and exhilarating and thrilling. And then there are moments where it is like you are being tortured by some unknown, all-consuming thing that you can’t fight against but you have to keep going because turning back is not an option. With moments like that, I can assure you that crying about how difficult this path you’ve chosen is quite all right. It won’t solve anything. It may not even make you feel better. But, it’s an option and it’s the best option in many cases.

And it’s quite all right to tell yourself, this shit is hard.

And it’s equally as all right to warn others, this shit is hard.

Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Finding Balance.

Seriously. This is me, in front of my laptop, like every day.

Seriously. This is me, in front of my laptop, like every day.

Every day, I open up my laptop with the intention of adding a bit to any number of my various drafted blog entries. I wake up in the morning, full of ideas and insights that weren’t there the night before. And I have the intention – the good, good intention – of adding yet more food for this blog and its readers. When nothing gets accomplished in the morning for all very good reasons, like my son waking up too early or the ideas not coming to fruition for whatever reason or feeling like warmed over death, I decide that I will come home and do all the things that I need to do. But, when I get home there are yet more very good reasons as to why I can’t get the time in to write a new blog entry or add to the ones that I have planned. All of these reasons are wonderful and fantastic and they are legitimate in many instances – such as the day before yesterday when I came home and snuggled with my not-feeling-so-hot son and then fell asleep for nearly twelve hours. That’s a pretty good reason, but it doesn’t help me or what I’m trying to accomplish. And as I sit here with The Breakfast Club in the background, I am still faced with the exact same issue I had yesterday, the day before that, the day before that, and the day before that. I have content that I want to get out there – whoosh – but I just have all of these very good reasons as to why nothing comes of it.

While pondering this lack of energy this morning, I began to wonder if I was getting sick with something. My son was ill with a kind of stomach bug the last two days that left him listless, cranky, and napping throughout the day. Some of my symptoms were similar: listless, cranky, and desiring to sleep a lot. This line of thought made me, jokingly, decided I was suffering from mono or something. However, I have to admit that I don’t really get sick. I have a bi-yearly chest cold that comes around because I am a smoker. (Yes, everyone; I kill myself one nicotine-filled drag at a time.) But aside from that, I really don’t get sick very often. And I have to, also, admit that I have no way to actually contract mononucleosis so that’s definitely not an adequate cause to whatever listlessness has been plaguing me in recent weeks.

My thought train, on the way to work, shifted back to the thought that perhaps I am suffering from depression. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to do and after my weekend-filled fit Memorial Day Weekend, things have been pretty much on the up-and-up. All in all, if this is a depression thing, I legitimately can’t figure out what the cause would be. I can usually, after a bit, figure out what the cause is. I’m fairly good at doing reviews over my mental health and figuring out what any cause to any oddity in emotional output or mental output that I may have. Years of suffering from depression have aided me here in being able to pinpoint, fairly quickly, what it is that is happening to me at any given moment. And I have to admit that while I did my minute check this morning on the drive to work, I had to come up empty-handed. Things aren’t perfect in my life – not by a long stretch – and there are bits of connections that have been burned to keep myself sane enough to salvage things at a later date in time. However, even without those intense connections, I can say that depression isn’t the cause of all of this.

Whatever it is that has been causing my lackadaisical practice lately has nothing to do with depression or illness. While blogging isn’t necessarily a key portion to my religious practice it is, in fact, a decent part of it. I have a compulsive need to get the information out there, not just for my own records but also for the edification of everyone who reads this blog. It was something I had decided on when I began working on this religious path to begin with, when I decided to start a blog for that path, specifically. So, really, the issue here isn’t a matter of not having the energy, not having enough spoons, not being able to get the words to come forth and whoosh into the world for myself and others. There’s an issue with the religious path itself or something related to it in some form. If I can’t get the words out to discuss what I’m doing or to instruct others in things, then there’s got to be some bigger picture thing that is impacting me.

I have to admit that I think one of the most difficult aspects to having a new religious practice is that you don’t necessarily turn to that religious practice when either your life massively implodes with all of the things that can make it do so or when your life is calm, cool, and quiet. I know that I am guilty of this and I also know that I am not the only one. I’ve gone on, and recently, about how we need to prevent major hiccups in our lives from allowing us to continue our practice. The thing is that just because you know you should continue to turn to your gods – even as the Christians can and will do – it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to maintain it. There’s a lot of hard work and energy one must put into the relationships we have with the gods and in some instances, we don’t think that maintaining our relationships when things are too huge is necessary. Or, in same vein, we don’t have the energy or drive. Or, we are too distracted by those major hiccups to even give the time of day to the gods. Or, in this particular instance, when things are so even-flow and quiet, we need to remember that the gods are around and what we do to maintain those relationships with those gods is just as important now as it was a week ago, two weeks ago, last year…

We just need to stop getting complacent, I think. And I think it’s complacency that is my problem here. I’ve been so complacent with my practice and what I do to maintain it that I always just figured it would just, well, be there. I could have major hiccups and minor hiccups or no hiccups at all and everything – the gods, the practice, the fulfillment – would just be there, waiting, for when I was ready to come back.

The problem is that there is no guide book, no manual on how to do these things. Many of us will look to the ancients for some kind of indication of what we need to do and how we need to do it. (Obviously, not everyone does this because not everyone is recon-oriented.) We will comb through our sources and try to find some indication of exactly what living in ma’at is all about and how we can bring this remote, un-American, un-English, un-Western idea into a land of possibilities, of realizations, of actualities. The thing is that we can look to the ancients as much as we want. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be some ah-ha moment and everything will click into place. And point of fact, many of us are trying to utilize this whole living in ma’at concept from the layman’s perspective. For the layman ancient Egypt, it wasn’t a philosophical practice; it wasn’t something to be discussed. It just was. But we modern-day practitioners are not so lucky in being able to accept it just being and therefore, doing it. We have to think, to ponder, to decide, to theologize, to philosophize, and to finally decide what it is to each one of us. When we finally get to the point where we can finally say, it is this thing, to us, then we get to enter the realm of magically putting it into practice.

And for me, living in ma’at is what I’ve been discussing in these range of posts: it is doing before thinking; it is action items; but above all, it is a balancing act. And there in lies the very issue, the very point to this post: I’m not balance. I have found an imbalance and this particular one has to do with my religious practice – the blogging, the grave-tending, the rituals, the heka, the celebrations, the educating – taking a significant down swing.

And it shouldn’t.

I can come up with a rash of excuses off of the top of my head to explain why it is my religious life that is the down swing now. I can tell you about how busy my life is, which it is. My work life has taken off to the point where I am exceptionally busy every second that I am at work. There are many, many new projects that have finally come down the ever looming pipe line to plop into my life. I’ve taken on more responsibility now and that is also a part of it. My relationship nearly dissolved because of a lack of communication and a lack of spending time with one another (among other personal items) and that was just not okay. My personal life, specifically the life I am weaving with my significant other, has taken on a more important role and cuddling, talking, bonding, and making stupid jokes with one another has taken a seriously important place in my life as well. I am constantly busy, thinking of ways to keep our relationship on track with an ever-present fear that things will go back to the way they were and I will be alone. All of these items could be considered acts of my religious life and if I’m looking into what living in ma’at actually is then they are all aspects of it. But they don’t feel like they are part of my religious life: my significant other does not share my religious life with me in any way (being an agnostic) and my work life is difficult to incorporate into my religious practice (even with Djehuty being the de facto god of telecommunications) because my boss is very, very Christian.

What have I laid out here, folks?


I have to admit that they are pretty good ones, but it comes right on down to being yet more excuses for something that is a problem.

And let’s face it, this whole imbalance is a complete problem. If it’s so prevalent that it is preventing me from being able to spend time with my blog – my beautiful, wonderful, heartfelt project – then I have a very serious issue. But, what makes this issue even worse is that I didn’t realize there were problems coming down the turnpike until I had begun to manifest issues with my blogging. This says to me that while I may inculcate that ma’at is a form of balance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have been able to work on exactly how that balance works. And this is something that not only do I have to start working on, but I think there are other Kemetics who have been in similar situations or who are currently in similar situations who also need to figure out exactly how to balance one part of our lives with the other.

The first step, I would say, would be to stop disassociating the two, three, or four aspects of our lives. Somehow, Christians have been able to incorporate their beliefs into their work lives, their personal lives, the educational lives, and their religious lives. While not every single one of them are successful in melding them into a functional format, I know that there are some who have easily been able to overcome this task – maybe not easily, but at least have done it – and are living fulfilling lives across the board. So, how does a person who belongs to a very minor religious movement begin to balance out everything and mesh into something workable, functional, and in some cases, quietly so as to prevent being fired or ostracized?

I haven’t figured that part out yet. But, when I do, I’ll be sure to tell you.

Related Posts

  1. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at.
  2. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at II.

That’s Faith.

One of the things that no one will ever tell you about having a religion is that it is easy. They will never sit down and tell you that if you do X,Y, and Z then everything will work out perfectly, the way you hope it will. This is because religion, no matter the flavor, is not easy. Instead of a pretty path, walking through the forest with flowers in bloom and birds flying overhead, you will end up in a rocky outcropping and be forced to climb a cliff face. The thing is that it’s a matter of maintaining a certain status quo between constantly doubting that this all is really happening to you and constantly believing that this is all really happening to you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about doubt lately because lately, I’ve been doubting. Since Hetheru showed up to talk to me about beauty, I’ve been doubting everything. I’m always doubting, anyway, but there are days where that doubt is stronger than others. Don’t get me wrong because I honestly think doubting is a good idea. I tend to equate it along the lines with discernment, the fun and exciting word that consistently makes its rounds amid the pagan blogs. If you throw yourself wholeheartedly into a religious practice, then part of that wholehearted toss will end up being doubt. I think we, as pagans and polytheists, go through this right alongside the Christians and the Jews. I think they doubt, just as we do. None of us happen to know what’s right and what’s wrong concretely and we probably will never have concrete proof of things.

That’s faith.

The thing about faith is that it can be very difficult to maintain. Sometimes, I think that what we term as “faith” is really like a flowering plant. And sometimes, the flowers are full and in bloom and you just know that everything you are going through is incredibly real. But, on other days, the blooms don’t open in the sunshine and maybe it starts to look a little wilted because you haven’t been paying as much attention to it lately. And that’s when the doubt really starts to eat away at you, both your mind and your soul. It can get kind of heavy – doubt – and then it comes down to what the next step is. You can continue to doubt or you can get right back in there and start maintaining your plant of faith again in the hopes that everything will go back to how it used to be.

A while back, I was reading a post on Dver about how when things turn really bad, we tend to turn away from our religion. That post, Do Not Stop Your Devotions, is something that I think about a lot, especially as I’m in the middle of one of my heavy doubt sessions. I can be in the middle of doubting every single ounce of my religion, but if I can just keep doing all the things that I do on a daily and/or weekly basis while I’m doubting, then I think I will get through it. I used to, I’ll admit, just stop doing everything whenever doubt would overpower me and I would lie, crying, on the floor about how I’m obviously insane and everything I think, feel, and know is actually a product of my imagination. After reading that post, though, I realized that it didn’t matter how much doubt I was going through: I had to keep going.

That’s faith.

I know this is from a movie, but it always stayed with me. I don’t remember what movie this is from (so if anyone else knows, can they let me know?), but there was discussion about those who have the deepest faith in something can sometimes be afflicted with the worst doubt. That’s not really how it was portrayed or discussed in the movie, but that’s the message I gleaned from whatever the hell the conversation was about. (Is this from Stigmata, maybe?) I just remember sitting back and thinking for a long time about how having faith can be intertwined so heavily with doubt and that the more faith you have, the more you can be racked with heart-wrenching doubt.

Ask any one who knows me on a personal level – I have a large influx of faith. The faith that I had eschewed in high school and beyond has filled me up, ten to fifteen years later. I can remember not having any faith in anything and never really doubting. Now, though, I have faith in my gods, in my religious path, in my astral life, in the lessons I’m learning. And in this constant faith, I am now constantly and horrifically assailed with this doubt. Though I am not like the saint who decided to probe the wounds of Jesus Christ on the cross, in a way, it could be said to be similar. Only instead of probing wounds inflicted upon the living son of the Christian god, I am probing my own wounds in not having concrete evidence that what I do, what I learn, and what I believe is true.

That’s faith.

Just as putting together a stack of blocks can be a process, so too is having faith. While my son will build huge, large, flying structures across the living room carpet for me, I am busy building the faith that I have in everything that I do and everything that I believe in. My blocks may fall over, just as my son’s do. And that process is one of doubt. In that moment, I will have to rebuild whatever it is that I was building in the first place, just as my son does. And it can be frustrating, irritating, and a back-breaking process. As the screams and stamps of frustration of my son suppose, building the structure of blocks back up to what we had in our mind’s eye is something that is not even remotely easy. Especially when you place that one last block in the absolute perfect place, only to have it tumble down around your feet [again].

But, having faith is a process. It’s a long process. It’s a hard process. You are assailed on all sides by things that would tear down your sturdy structure. Sometimes the things that assail that faith is yourself. Sometimes the things that assail that faith are outsiders, peering in. Sometimes the things that assail that faith are personal tragedies. Sometimes the things that assail that faith are personal goals achieved. Whatever it is that is scaling your fortress of solitude’s walls in an attempt to cause doubt doesn’t really matter. What does matter is, even amid the frustration and anger, you are still willing to attempt to build that wall, that structure back up again. What does matter is, even amid all the frustration and anger, you are still willing to give that little faith-plant love and tender care as you try to nurse it back to health.

That’s faith.

Akhu Veneration for the Recently Deceased: Deities To Help Deal With Grief.

As I’ve tried to remain the stalwart island of calm for the last six days amid the grief of TH’s family at the loss of his maternal grandfather, I’ve been thinking about this in relation to my veneration of my akhu. As everyone has attempted to handle their grief in the ways that are socially acceptable – most notably, drinking a lot more than usual – I’ve been having those thoughts about how, one day soon, I am going to be the person who requires an island of radiating calm when my maternal grandfather goes into the West. As I sat in the chapel at the veteran’s cemetery, fervently praying that the netjeri in the Duat would grant the deceased a reprieve for not knowing the proper spells and incantations and names, I realized that one day, I will be hoping and praying for that for my grandfather. And it is quite possible that those prayers will be sooner as opposed to later, for me, as my grandfather is older than both of TH’s grandfathers were when they past. I knew, as I prayed and as I thought, that what I’ve been doing for my akhu has no equal to what I will have to do when it is my turn to cry in front of family at the loss of my patriarch.

My akhu veneration has little to do with the intense grief that can impact people when they have a loss. I found this out, acutely, at the loss of Sweet Pea. I was the only one who was really upset with her loss. I was, also, the only person who has grieved for her. No one else has thought of her with fondness or with sadness. No one else has called out to a dog who will not answer me [on this plane of existence] anymore. No one else can even remotely claim that they fell to the floor, wracked with sobs at her loss. When I went through that first touch of grief the week, or so, after her death, I spent a lot of my time on the floor, curled into a ball and sobbing in that ugly way while trying to prevent my current dog from licking my face. (I will give this to Jasmine: she sure knows how to pull you out of ugly sobs.)

With the loss of Sweet Pea, I felt that I had nothing and nowhere to turn to with my grief. I did not have anyone, really, around me who would understand or care how I felt. I didn’t have a god, ready to go, for just such an occasion. I walked around in a daze of pure emotion, being unable to reconcile the overwhelming pains of guilt, grief, and horror at the loss of a dog who had been my closest companion for the last nine years. And I know, deep down, that the loss of my maternal grandfather will elicit about the same amount of emotional gulag as the loss of Sweet Pea had done.

It’s difficult for me, working as heavily as I do with the akhu of this area and remaining in semi-constant contact with my into-the-west family members, to admit that at the actual moment of loss, of grief, I don’t know where to turn. I know exactly who I need to speak with and in regards to what when I’m in the graveyards. I know how to pass honor to and who to leave some offerings for when I’m there. I know what to do and when to do when someone is already dead, but when they’ve only just recently become that way…? When someone you love, whether of the animal or human persuasion, is gone from you… who do you turn to?

I’ve been looking into the mythologies a little bit in an effort to solidify this portion of my practice. While turning to any one deity will not be the totality of akhu veneration for the recently deceased, it’s a good place to begin. Plus, not only would I like to be able to handle my grief willingly and capably and constructively by turning to deities adequate to handle such things, but I’d also like to have this benefit put together if and when my son has to go through loss of this nature. I would like to also be able to give people somewhere to turn when they are going through these losses and feelings. So, as I’ve looked into some of the mythologies, I’ve compiled a sort of go-to list of various deities who would be able to assist us with grief specifically borne out by the loss of a loved one.

I think one of the best deities we, as humans, can turn to in our hourweeks of grief would be Aset. Of all the deities in the Kemetic pantheon, there are very few deities who have had to contend with grief on the level that she has. Not only did she have to suffer the loss of her husband and the desecration of his corpse, she also had to hide the birth of her son only to finally watch both her son and her brother duke it out, so to speak, over who would rule the land of Kemet. To know grief is to live with that grief and while she is a goddess, and perhaps far more capable of handling her feelings than we, she must have still known such intense emotions at all of the happenings in her life. Aset is a goddess who knew grief and managed to come out of the other side of her grief to become mother to the ruler of Egypt.

In same vein, we could easily turn to her sister, Nebt-het, in our time of grief, as well. While she would also be a good goddess to go to for difficulties with the spouse – as she must have had numerous difficulties, lying to Sutekh while she helped her sister raising Heru without his knowledge – she was also there to aid her sister with her grief over the loss of Wesir and the finding of Wesir. Both she and Aset are depicted on either end of a deceased’s bier, attending to them prior to their resurrection. Professional mourners in ancient Egypt were associated with Nebt-het as she was a goddess of mourning. She knows what it is like to have pain and grief mixed together, and she, along with her sister, would be ample in assisting in the dealing with one’s grief.

Sutekh could be a deity to turn to when the grief is in relation to, possibly, the loss of a brother. Even though he is the reason he lost that brother in the first place, he still had to have felt some grief at the loss, itself. While I’ll not air my thoughts on Sutekh’s role in the Osirian Myth Cycle or the Contendings, he knows grief even if he is the cause of said grief. Not only would he be an appropriate deity while in mourning for the loss of a family member, but many of his followers tend to see him as a deity who oversees the grief-stricken and the lost. In this capacity, he can easily be a deity to turn to while in the thick of things, barely able to function because you’ve lost someone whom you love so very much.

Heru-sa-Aset would also be an appropriate choice to work with in the stages of grief. While he may specialize in the grief one feels over the loss of a parent, he would still be an appropriate choice for any type of grief. And as a deity who lost his father, and yet was able to overcome that grief in order to overtake his uncle and become king, he may be one of the best choices, right along side Aset. While we do not see a constructive and healthy way of maintaining our grief and working through it in relation to Sutekh and Nebht-het, we do see it with both Heru-sa-Aset and his mother. They were both able to feel the deep, ragged hole of loss and overcome it to live their lives as they should have been lived without the loss that triggered the myth cycle.

UPG Alert Sekhmet is, also, a goddess who would be capable of helping to aid one through the grief cycle. While personal experience has shown that she’s not always the type of person who will pat you on the back or curl up around you when you’re having those ugly sobs due to loss, she is capable of helping to teach you how to transmute your pain into a healing experience. There have been, as I’ve said before, numerous times where I have curled up around the base of her altar, crying for the things that I have lost over the years. While these items aren’t necessarily related to death and dying, it is still grief that I have shown her. And even though she hasn’t done the things I’ve requested – made me feel better with attentive pats on the back or curled into a lion pile of pain – she has still assisted me, gladly, in the process of my grief. /UPG

You will notice that I have left out the two gods we oft associate with the Duat and death: Anup and Wesir. Both of these deities are intimately involved in the Duat and the rebirth of the deceased. And while I think it is completely possible and probable that these two deities would be helpful in grief management, I tend to view them in other roles that I will discuss in future posts.

And besides, these five deities are only recommendations and suggestions.

Each Kemetic has a set group of deities that they turn to. And I do not deny that turning to the gods that you work with the most would be another appropriate response when in mourning. However, these suggestions are for those of us who, maybe, freeze up and feel a little lost when it comes to handling grief. These are possibilities for forging new relationships when in need. These are possibilities for that moment when, after you learn that someone has gone into the west, you freeze and are unable to think properly. Even though I work with two out of the five suggestions, I still have felt like I’ve been unable to walk over to the appropriate altars and say, “Help me.”

While that is an issue I’ve discussed in “Grief of an Akhu Venerator” and an issue that I am still working on, personally, it is something to keep in mind for future moments when I will be put into this situation again. I have gods that I work with who are both capable and probably willing to assist me when I call out, in need of some assistance. And there are other deities to turn to, should I feel the need to find a deity who has felt as I do because they have gone through similar circumstances. Freezing up and not reaching out to gods is not a solution – it is a problem. And hopefully, with an arsenal at my disposal, I’ll be less likely to do so in future.

The Hermit.

Recently, my Radiant Rider-Waite deck and I have been in a hate-hate relationship. It started requiring a lot more energy than usual in order to use them. I’m pretty sure it’s my fault that this ended up happening, but it happened. So, I put them up and away for a while, telling them that they needed to behave themselves when I use them. And everything was fine until a friend of mine requested a reading. This friend has asked me a couple of times since I put the deck up and away for a reading and yesterday, I decided to pull them out. I tend to bring my deck with me to TH’s family get-togethers as a way to obviously ignore people. (Since apparently my reading means that everyone has to come over and see what I’m reading and ask questions, but not with Tarot cards – I don’t fucking get it.) And I figured if I was in public, the deck would behave itself properly. And it did. On a whim, I began shuffling and “lololol” asked it about my religious life. The first two cards of the reading were unimportant as I’m passed that, but my current phase? It’s the Hermit.

At first, I thought that this was entirely based on my community mongering. I’ve been so intent with community building and the project therein that I’ve written about needing one no less than once a month in the last year (or more). And in all that time, I’ve been so focused on the community that I’m having issues in my personal practice. The thing is that we are working with a religious framework that, while it is community based, is also outside of our normal framework. Many of us solitary Kemetics are coming into this religion from a monotheistic background, which may or may not have a communal backbone as Kemeticism does. (I know my childhood monotheistic practices were not community based, though there was a community within it.) And to compound the appearance of getting nowhere fast with the community posts that we’ve had going around, I’m rather tired of people as a whole and Kemetics, in minor. I go through phases where I am an extreme introvert, which is usually categorized as my “I hate everyone” or “let’s nuke the planet and start over” phases.

I said it was excessive, didn’t I?

The thing is that this is only part of the whole Hermit-ting the card is getting at. I can look at it in one aspect and see, “ah yes. I’m using too many spoons on that when I need to be conserving them for this.” However, I tend to view my divination practices as more than just simply two-dimensional readings. The card wasn’t just simple about having to pull back my spoons and pulling away from my community for a while. It was more about worrying about me, about my practice, and what that actually happens to be. I’ve become so complacent with my practice that I’m beginning to worry about everyone else and what they are doing and what sort of drama-mongering Tumblr is up to that I’m forgetting I have gods who need/want me, I have lwa that require me, and I have a life to lead.

On a whole, I think this is something that all people, of polytheistic, Kemetic, and-or pagan stock, need to pay attention to. If you send things out on the Internet all the time, what does your practice look like? How often are you online, worrying about what others think about you? How often are you online, calling someone else out on what you perceive to be a slight or injustice? Is your relationship with your gods suffering because you’re so focused on things that have no impact on you? Is your practice suffering because you’re so focused on “teaching a thing” to people who have absolutely no part in your life aside from having seen them in passing online?

I was so focused on what other people were thinking about me and worrying about not saying things that I felt because of how other people would react that I was forgetting the most important thing in my entire practice. I was at the point where I was so focused on coming home from work to see the latest drama on Tumblr or to see who was pissed off at whom on Facebook that I was forgetting about the most important facet in my entire practice. And that most important thing is me. There is no one else here who can pick up my mantle should I fall. There is no one else around who will be able to write the guide I’m planning for Sekhmet. There is no one else here who can do the work Papa Legba has asked of me should I get caught up in outsiders’ drama.

And frankly, what is the point in all the things that I’m doing with my practice if I’m focused on other people?

My practice, as I’ve been harping on lately, is orthopraxic. I don’t have to sit around and debate theology with anyone about anything (although I will, occasionally). My religion has nothing to do with what I’m thinking or what Joe Blow Tumblr is thinking. This practice is about what I’m doing. And if I’m focusing on other people and other things, then all of the shadow work, SVP entries, grave-tending, and devotional acts go down the drain. They all end up failing the ultimate test, which is to create a functional, cohesive practice on a solitary level so that, maybe one day, we can create a functional, cohesive practice on a community level.

As Sekhmet said to my earlier,

Being a hermit isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing. It’s not an act of selfishness to lock yourself away from other people. It is an act, as you are already aware, of unconditional love. And sometimes, those acts of love require you to step away from the whole and work on the one. I haven’t been working so hard on you for all these years for you to be of no use to me now.

Kemetic Round Table: Little People.

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

A lot of people get stuck on the dream of becoming a big name pagan (BNP). I think the reason behind this is because they have ideas and those ideas are good ones, and so, those good ideas should make them famous while they enact them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually a good choice of person to look up to or to have been made famous. Since they put on the air of solicitous BNP while in public, we just can’t know what that person’s daily devotions and personal practice is like. Just because they were able to publish a book doesn’t necessarily mean they really are what’s good for the community; they’re just the loudest. The thing is that we get so focused on what the big names are doing that we forget that every Kemetic is just as important in the grand scheme of things. Just because someone has a name that you’ve heard thrown around the forums a few times doesn’t necessarily mean that they are living in ma’at and effecting a lifestyle of living that way.

I think pagans, and Kemetics in our little sliver of it, get caught up in the glitter and polish of BNPs. Maybe it’s the fact that, individually, we all have fandoms that we obsess over. And we bring that to the table of our Kemetic practices. So, in a way, we bring our obsessive fandom qualities to our religion and we obsess over the people who spout out the things we think and feel. Thing is, as I said, we don’t know what their practices are really like. None of us have a bird’s-eye view of how they practice. We can only see glimpses of those practices in blog posts and in the books that they publish or discussions at the ‘cons that they go to. We can only guess if they really are as they portray themselves to be or if they are big, fat liars. Besides, just because they were able to publish words that make you go, “hey, this is what my religion is about,” doesn’t make them an expert. It just makes them more qualified at writing things down and more qualified to talk at those ‘cons.

The thing is that we’re forgetting that the whole population of our religion is important. We forget that it’s not just about the people who have their names on books and have the most followers on Tumblr. This religion is about all of us – it is a communal affair. While community is an issue, in an of itself, for numerous reasons I’ve already complained about, the one thing we can all do to make sure things are going smoothly is to say, “fuck that noise,” and stop quasi-worshiping those who have spoken the loudest. We can look up to them. We can ask them for advice. But, in the grand scheme of things, they are as important in this religion as everyone else, perhaps less so because they are louder. This isn’t just a religion of people who are de facto pharaoh and the priesthood, but it is also a religion about the people. And we – the little people – are those people.

In a way, perhaps, we are even more important than the priesthood and the pharaohs because, it is through us and our actions that things begin to solidify to form a cohesive practice. It is through us that people are made aware that this religion is alive again. It is through us and our questions, our comments, and our thoughts that the gods are remembered, the gods are seen again. And while the priesthood and the pharaoh were all the rage back in the day, things had changed to include the little people and their practices into the fold. Their belief, their actions, their devotions had become part of the practice and so, too, our devotions become part of the revivivalist and reconstructionist movements. And in same vein, you can possibly begin to see that while the big people and their huge acts may be what keeps the sun from falling out of the sky and may prevent the Nun from destroying creation, it is through us that things are finally getting done.

The one thing we need to constantly remind ourselves about in this practice, to remind people that its the little people as well as the big people that are important, is that it is the act of doing and not thinking the keeps this religion alive. It’s nice and wonderful to have philosophical discussions on texts we find regarding our gods. It is nice and wonderful to randomly plan possible future events in which a bunch of Kemetics get together to stomp some mud in a devotional act. It is wonderful and beautiful to be able to bond with people, usually over the Internet, who have similar desires and beliefs as you, as well as to be able to get a perspective that may be a little different. All of these things are lovely and nice, but they go against the point in the religion.

Our religion is an orthopraxy, which means we need to have correct action. Or as I’ve said above, and I’ve said elsewhere, we need to stop thinking about and we need to actually do it. We need to step away from the computer screen, step away from the meet ups, step away from the blogs, step away from the BNP books, and step away from one another to create a practice. And in so doing, instead of constantly debating and thinking and wondering, it means you are actually going to have to get up and do. It means that you’re going to have to actively worship your ancestors. It means you are going to have to actively worship your gods. It means you are going to have to pray, cry, rage, and laugh with you gods. It means you are going to execrate. It means you are going to get off of your ass for five minutes and toss a pre-made bread into the oven as a devotional act or that you are going to go outside, lay on the ground, and think about Geb and Tefnut for a while. Whatever it is to you to get out and do, then that is what this religion is all about.

And that’s something that the BNPs don’t necessarily tell. That’s something that those of us who have been at this for a while may discuss amongst ourselves, but we may not tell the new people about. And that’s something we need to stop. This isn’t a stand back and see what happens kind of religion while you profess beliefs on the Internet. This is a get up, go out, and go do some fucking devotional work for fifteen minutes to all day kind of a religion. And it’s in that: the telling of the neophytes as well as our just doing that can make this whole thing a lot easier. It would leave out the need for those people who talk the loudest and it would make this religion about the people, about us. And really, if that’s not the point to having a religion, then what is?

Calming manatee is a messenger from the gods. Source.

Calming manatee is a messenger from the gods. Source.

If you need suggestions, I’m here. I’ll give you some. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m here. I’ll tell you. If you’re worried you’re going to do it wrong, stop it. We could all be doing something wrong and does it matter? The point of this religion is the acts themselves and the belief that goes into those acts – the belief that you are maintaining ma’at, using appropriate heka, and just doing something – that is the most important aspect here. The doubt and worry can come out later and you know what? I’ll be here with my Tumblr fanmail open or my asks open or you can E-mail me or send me a comment. And I’ll tell you what calming manatee will want you to know and we can laugh about it later.

This Is What Grave-Tending Is.

With dirt-covered fingers and broken fingernails, I know that I succeeded, somewhere.

With dirt-covered fingers and broken fingernails, I know that I succeeded, somewhere.

As I sat in my car, leaning my head back against the head rest and my eyes shut against the bright sunshine, I felt the ache in my muscles. My shoulders and my forearms were calling out for a warm soak and stiffened fingers needed cleaning. As I opened my eyes and glanced down, I marveled at the change in my hands. The few nails that had grown out in the last two weeks were broken and dirty. There were pockmarks left from when I had buried my hands, to the wrist, in blackened soil and overgrown grass roots. On my forefinger, I had somehow managed to rip open the cuticles around the base of my nail and was only feeling the pain from that injury as I looked down at my marvelous, work-soaked hands. And as I marveled at my hands and all of the hard work they had done, as well as all the injury they had received, I knew I had succeeded in doing a job well done. The ache in my muscles, the dirt on my hands, the injuries I was cataloging were all clear signs that I had succeeded in the sacrifice and I could go home pleased.

I don’t really discuss grave-tending overmuch right now. It’s become so habitual that I honestly forget to discuss it outside of a few pointed comments here and there. It’s also become such a devotional and sacred act that, occasionally, the act of writing about it or the act of speaking about it feels, sometimes, to detract from the works that I am doing. It is with glee and joy, with excitement and happiness that I do these things for the land, those interred, my family, and the surrounding area. But, there are some days in which I want to speak even less about the work and more about the act itself. In same vein, there are days where I don’t want to do much more than come home and weep for the destruction the elements cause and that time causes. On days like that, I don’t want to say or do anything to bring it back into focus because it hurts. But some days, all I want to do is snap pictures of my once beautifully manicured hands and say, this is what it is to tend graves.

Yesterday, I went to family graves. I go to them, sometimes, because I need the quick release I’ve come to associate with grave-tending. The act, in and of itself, is like a trip to the mall for someone who needs retail therapy. Only, instead of buying clothes and shoes to fill a closet I don’t have, I snap pictures of the things that I do and of the people that I meet. Some days, I go with an intention bigger than life – to photograph a cemetery with hundreds of headstones and it becomes a project for a few weeks. And soon, I will begin another project like that, but first, I wanted to see to all of my favorites and all of my family before I begin the big things again. So, yesterday, I went to see my father’s family members who are buried nearby. I haven’t seen my grandmother since last year and her grave was covered over for the most part.

It took me a while to clear it of the grass. Roots are tenacious buggers and the grass or sod used in cemeteries is a pain. There are days where I rip off all of my nails as I clear off headstones from the detritus of time and being forgotten. My grandmother was another one of those casualties and I couldn’t even read her name or her dates. I could read the epithet clearly, her laughter was as warm as our memory of her. But, I couldn’t see who she was anymore and I couldn’t remember the important dates anymore. I cut off the grass with spade and chisel, carefully clearing the extraneous dirt into one of the jars I have to hand for such instances. I cut a worm in half, accidentally. I fought the roots. I took a toothpick and cleared away the roots that had infested the etchings. And then I sat back and marveled at my handiwork.

I looked down at my hands and said, this is what it means to grave-tend.

The acts that I provide are a consummate sacrifice. If I’m not sacrificing skin and cuticles, nails and muscles, then I’m sacrificing other things, too. I sacrifice my Saturday mornings to do these things. I sacrifice the rest of my day, actually, so that I can rest up and have a day all to myself – a novelty, really, when you have a five-year-old at home. I sacrifice the money I earn from my job in gas and offerings. Some of these places are a stone’s throw away, so to speak, but many of them are not. And they all deserve my love and my attentiveness. I take that sacrifice to heart and I feel the joy that my heart sings at having done so. Sometimes, sacrifice is easy and other times it is not. In either case, all that matters is that I am willing to patiently do what I can every week to see that these people, biological family and otherwise, are remembered and fed well.

On days like yesterday, I sit in my car for a while and let the stiffened muscles relax for a bit. I left them settle themselves after being put to use. And in those quiet moments, before I’m quite ready to start the trek back home, I wonder. I wonder at my hands, as I’ve shown. I wonder at the graves I have yet to photograph or get to know. I wonder at the things I’ve seen – like yesterday, I saw a hawk soaring above me for 15 minutes – that are outside my normal frame of reference. But mostly, I wonder if there are other people out there like me. I wonder if there are other people who are aware of the heartache and sacrifice that these acts actually are. And I wonder if the people who make noises about being interested in what I do would give it the respect it so honestly deserves.

On days like yesterday and days still yet to come, I sit in my car and I smile with joy at the broken nails, the new wounds, and the dirt encrusting my hands. I smile for the devotional act I can do and willingly do. I smile and laugh and relax. I smile for all the things but nothing so much more than the physical reminder of what I do and why I do it.

This is what grave-tending is.

Faith Is a Dirty Five-Letter Word.

One of the things that really irritates me about paganism in general is the fact that you can’t use the word “faith” without someone climbing all over you. It’s almost as if people, and by people, I mean pagans, think that the word only belongs in Christian, Islamic, and Jewish religions. And that’s something that bugs me so much, I can’t even formulate words to explain how irritating it is. When did we start drawing our metaphorical lines in the sand about words that we can and cannot use? Do we not practice religions? Do we not believe that they are real? Do we not cry in joy and in sorrow as other religious people do? Then, why is it suddenly taboo to utilize a word that encompasses everything that we do just as awesomely as it does when in relation to monotheistic religions?

The thing is that people tend to just think that faith is a word derived to only include monotheistic faiths, or at least that is the appearance. There are people who openly and actively scoff at people who claim to have faith. In some cases, scoffing could be warranted. But, it’s not our place to sit around and act high-and-mighty to pagans who are saying, clearly, “I have faith. I believe in things I can’t prove. I trust that they are real.” You can have issues with the things going on around you, whether your life is burning down around you or whether everything is going smoothly, but by sneering at someone who falls under the same umbrella category as you for having faith and saying so out loud? Well, honestly, that seems to me like not following the first rule of ma’at: don’t be a dick. And it also smacks a bit of jealousy and childishness.

Now, I will admit that there are a lot of people who cannot define the word or perhaps, do not understand the meaning behind the word. I can’t be the only person in human history who has had difficulty trying to convey the emotional level of believing in things that we will never be able to prove adequately to anyone but ourselves. I’ll admit, I’ve looked up the etymology of words for as long as I can remember because I like knowing where words come from. In this situation, I’ve done the same. And in this context, the word faith comes from the root, Latin word fider, which means to trust.

And if we aren’t putting our trust in the fact that all of these things we do and see and think and hear and believe and go to are real, then what the fuck are we doing? What are we actually doing in all of this anyway? What’s the point in having a religion if you don’t have faith? What’s the point in working with the gods, that you can’t prove, if you don’t have faith? Why are you bothering gods in the first place if you don’t have faith that they are real? Why are you going to the astral if you don’t have faith that you’re honestly going? Why are going talking with the fae and think you’re an otherkin if you don’t trust, just a little bit, that all of these things you are seeing and doing and thinking are real?

All of those questions? Everything I’ve just said?

In even thinking it, without having concrete evidence that it is real, then that is all faith.

One day, when I was trying to talk with TH about all of this, I couldn’t even define faith to him. I couldn’t explain to him that I just believed that I will meet up with my ex-Chistian friend in the next life and we will move on from our past hurts. I believe in reincarnation. I have no evidence that it is real. I have fragmented memories from a past that I do not currently own. But, being able to describe moments of someone else’s life isn’t proof positive in anything. It may just mean that, as a history major, I remember inane details. Be that as it may, I absolutely believe that it is as real as you and me and the couch that I’m sitting on. I have faith that these things will happen. And in that next life, I hope that I have the faith to believe in them again.

I could not, for the life of me, explain to him the emotional responses I get when I work with my gods in any context. If I think about it enough, I will begin to cry. It’s not that there is anything wrong with it or with me or with the work we do together, but that I have no words and it frustrates me enough to cry. This should tell people that I am exceedingly more devout than I make myself out to be. Surprise. Aubs has faith. Aubs believes fully in what she does and who she is doing it with. And surprise of all surprises (not least of all me), it actually hurts when people get up in arms when I start using the word “faith.”

I don’t think that things I am going through or working toward are for any other purpose than the Bigger Picture, aka living in ma’at. The art form that is maintaining ma’at, especially from a deity perspective, means that good shit and bad shit happens. It means that sometimes, you get the shaft end of the stick and lose your job. But, for whatever reason, it’s an act of ma’at and we are people who cannot question, but we must continue. If we want to prevent isfet from overtaking the world, then we sit down and shut the fuck up. We have faith in the fact that, while not good things are happening, then at least the Bigger Picture is maintained and that’s all that should matter to any of us who are Kemetic.

The world will go on.

Life will go on.

Psst. Believing that those things will go on?

That’s another act of faith.